From Steele's perspective I can see why he would want no part of it, he already had probably the largest district of rugged, inhospitable, terrain that was largely hostile, as it was Confederate commands could pass through it largely at will, with Union forces seldom able to even provide their intentions.....moving to the Red River would just make it worse...... especially if one of the intents was to then strip the Union forces even more.....
It did not come out of left field - Halleck had been talking about it for months
nor did it revert back to Mobile right away since Halleck pushed for Canby to continue the effort to the west. Canbys first instructions from Halleck when he took over were to figure out how to restart the campaign.
I agreee that Steele in Arkansas was not enthusiastic about advancing to the Red, but it was what Halleck wanted of him and had been pushing for since late 1863
it is not true that everything was originating in the Gulf. I even provided a quote from Halleck to Steel in an earlier post
I seem to be the only one actually citing the historic record while everyone else speculates
Steele was so disinterested he suggested a demonstration instead of an advance......in what logically would have been handed to his district, he knew it pointless.
His district already encompassed a huge rugged and inhospitable region with a largly hostile populace......little wonder he was not enthusiastic to greatly increase its size on the premise he could then be stripped of troops that was already inadequate. It would have done little for the T-M or the war.
The Confederates were content to huddle on the Red River, the war in the T-M was already won. An occasional raid by Indian or Mo cavalry wasn't going to do much. All the RR campaign could accomplish was profiteering essentially.
Seems like the evidence might be the enormous effort made to abolish slavery in fact, and through the constitution, in 21 months following the conclusion of the siege of Vicksburg. That seemed to have been President Lincoln's primary motivation for everything. In the absence of an obvious military justification, that seems fairly convincing to most of us.
From War Along the Bayous: The 1864 Red River Campaign in Louisiana by William Brooksher
"Political considerations began to play an ever more important role in the Union view of the territory west of the Mississippi also . . . Hence, Lincoln and his partisans searched the landscape for opportunities to enhance his chances. There was political hope in Louisiana and Arkansas also. If these states could be substantially returned to Union control, then it was possible to gain sufficient support from their citizens to establish a free-state government and bring them back into the Union. This would, of course, add electoral votes that could be anticipated to go to Mr. Lincoln."