CAMP BEFORE VICKSBURG, April 26, 1863.
My Dear Brother:
To-morrow I start with my corps to bring up the rear of the movement against Grand Gulf, and, maybe, Jackson, Miss. I feel in its success less confidence than in any similar undertaking of the war, but it is my duty to co-operate with zeal, and I shall endeavor to do it. ...
Grant came down by river, and his entire army, about seventy thousand, is now near here, but the whole country is under water, save little ribands of alluvial ground along the main Mississippi and all parallel bayous. One month ago my proposition was to fall back upon our original plan, modified by the fact that Yazoo River could be entered by its head and could be used as far down as Greenwood, which is the mouth of Yolobusha. If our gunboats could have passed that point, a real substantial advantage would have been gained, for it would have enabled the army to pass the Yolobusha, whereas now it is a serious obstacle like the Rappahannock, and will have to be fought for. . . .
McClernand’s corps marched from Milliken's Bend along a narrow road to Carthage. McPherson has followed, and I start to-morrow. Sixty thousand men will thus be on a single road, narrow, crooked, and liable to become a quagmire on the occurrence of a single rain. We hope to carry ten days’ rations with us. Seven iron-clad gunboats and seven transports have run the Vicksburg batteries; with these we can reach Grand Gulf below the mouth of Black River, whence there is a road to Raymond sixty-five miles, and Jackson. The destruction of this road isolates Vicksburg. Now if we can sustain the army it may do, but I know the materials or food, forage or ammunition, cannot be conveyed on that single precarious road. Grant has been opening a canal from the Mississippi to Willow Bayou, three miles, and Willow Bayou roundaway and Bayou Vidal form a connected channel for forty-seven miles, terminating at Carthage, but it is crooked, narrow, and full of trees. Large working parties are employed in removing trees, but at best it is only calculated that it can be used by scows drawn by small steam tugs. It is not even contemplated that the smallest transports can navigate it. The canal itself is far from being done. I went through it yesterday in a small boat, and estimate it will take one month to give it eight feet of water with the present stage, but the water in the river is now falling rapidly. We count on another rise in June from the Missouri, but these rises are accidental and may or not come. The great difficulty will be to support an army operating from Grand Gulf. ...
Between the two choices open to him I far prefer Grenada. One is sure and natural, the other is difficult and hazardous in the extreme. There is no national or political reason why this army should be forced to undertake unnecessary hazard. It is far in advance of Hooker, Rosecrans, or Curtis. We have done far more than either of these armies, but have encountered more calumny and abuse than all. . . .
Banks is afraid even to attempt Port Hudson, and from all I can hear is more likely to be caged up in New Orleans than to assist us against Vicksburg. . . .
Affectionately your brother,
W. T. SHERMAN.
SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman letters: correspondence between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 201-3