Even as Major General Ulysses S. Grant coordinated the Union offensive against Vicksburg, Mississippi, he had to take time out to deal with a wide variety of "housekeeping" issues. In this message to his subordinate Stephen A. Hurlbut, Grants issues instructions about the regulation of trade with occupied Southern areas, the sale of seized cotton, censorship of Northern Democratic newspapers, intelligence about the size and location of enemy forces, and the possibility of a cavalry raid to be led by Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE,
Lake Providence, La., February 13, 1863.
Major General STEPHEN A. HURLBUT,
Comdg. SIXTEENTH Army Corps:
GENERAL: The steamers Rose Hamilton and Evansville are reported for violating my orders regulating trade. Not being at headquarters, I have not got access to orders to give you number and date of the order referred to, but it was published about the 20th of January, and prohibits boats landing at other than military ports, or under the protection of gunboats.
Trade is not opened below Helena, and, therefore, vessels landing at all below there, except for Government, without special authority, are liable to seizure. I wish you would refer this matter to the provost-marshal for investigation.
I have seen your General Orders, Number 4, February 8, prohibiting the circulation of the Chicago Times within your command. There is no doubt but that paper, with several others published in the North, should have been suppressed long since by authority from Washington. As this has not been done, I doubt the propriety of suppressing its circulation in any one command. The paper would still find its way into the hands of the enemy, through other channels, and do all the mischief it is now doing.
This course is also calculated to give the paper a notoriety evidently sought, and which probably would increase the sale of it. I would direct, therefore, that General Orders, Number 4, be revoked.
Information which I have just received and which undoubted, shows that Van Dorn, with his force, went over to the Mobile road, to Okolona. Price is at Grenada with 6,000 or 7,000 men only. North of that point there is no large force on the Mississippi Central Railroad. Our cavalry can go to the Tallahatchee without difficulty. The enemy have not got the road repaired yet north of Water Valley. I would like to have the road destroyed as much as possible south of Holly Springs.
It seems to me that Grierson, with about 500 picked men, might succeed in making his way south, and cut the railroad east of Jackson, MISS. The undertaking would be a hazardous one, but it would pay well if carried out. I do not direct that this shall be done, but leave it for a volunteer enterprise.
General Hamilton countermanded or suspended an order of mine directing the sale of some captured cotton. I wrote to him saying that the sale should proceed. I wish you would direct Captain Eddy, if he has not already done so, to proceed in accordance with my order in this matter.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,