Richard Taylor, the Confederate commander in western Louisiana, sends a report to John C. Pemberton, Confederate commander at Vicksburg. Taylor offers to help Pemberton, but admits he has little real help to offer.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF WESTERN LOUISIANA, Alexandria, La., February 20, 1863.
Lieutenant General J. C. PEMBERTON,
Comdg. Dept. of Mississippi, &c.:
GENERAL: I seize the first opportunity of advising you of the state of affairs here. Every facility was afforded to Lieutenant Colonel [W. S.] Lovell to enable him to equip the Webb and Grand Duke. He will report to you in person. The cost of the Grand Duke will be paid, I suppose, by your department, as I will send the boat to you. The Federal ram Queen of the WEST was scarcely injured in her engagement with my battery on the Red River. Struck thirteen times; only one shot affected her by cutting a steam-pipe. She left here last night to attack the Federal boat now lying at or near the mouth of Red River. One of my staff is in command, with orders to attack at all hazards. I confidently expect to hear of the capture or destruction of the enemy's boat. The Queen of the WEST will then proceed to Vicksburg, to attempt to destroy the enemy's battery, if it be not already removed. We must maintain our communications at any cost. You have doubtless learned from General Gardner that I have succeeded in throwing several car goes of supplies into Port Hudson since the first boat passed Vicksburg; he was probably in great need of them. I have several boats loaded for him, which will go out, taking our gunboat. My battery on the Atchafalaya at Butte-a-LA-Rose is ready for action. On the 16th, a large gunboat from Berwick Bay attempted to pass, loaded with troops. Her decks were swept in ten minutes by our sharpshooters posted on both sides of the river. [H. H.] Sibley reports over 50 of the enemy killed. We could have captured the boat had our men had the means of pursuing her. These means are now rapidly preparing, and I hope before many days to give a good account of the Yankee fleet at Berwick Bay. Accounts from above report the enemy cutting a canal from the river to Lake Providence, thence to the Bayous Macon and Tensas. The object is to pass small transports. I have sent a staff officer to examine and issue necessary orders to counteract these designs. The detachments of Tennesseeans and artillery sent by you, as well as a battalion of Texans en route for Port Hudson, will be sent to your side of the river as soon as the way is clear. I trust, general, you will forgive this hasty scrawl. My only apology is complete physical prostration. For many weeks, I may say, I have been in the saddle day and night, menaced, at different points remote from each other, by a largely superior force. I have been constantly on the move.
To defend Western Louisiana, I have not an effective aggregate today of 4,000 men. Let me know what I can do for you in the way of supplies, and I will cheerfully and promptly respond to the extent of my means.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,