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[549] failure of General Loring to comply with your reiterated orders to attack? And do you feel assured your orders were received by him? His conduct, unless explained by some misapprehension, is incomprehensible to me.

You will, I trust, general, excuse the frankness with which I have presented the foregoing subjects of inquiry. They will doubtless only enable you more fully to explain the movements made by you, and the reasons inducing them, to the satisfaction as well of others interested as of

Yours, with esteem, James A. Seddon, Secretary of War.

Richmond, November 10, 1863.
Hon. James A. Seddon, Secretary of War. Sir:
To your communication of the 1st ultimo, I have the honor to make the following reply, taking the points presented in order as you have placed them: The first order from General Johnston was, I conceived, to move on the rear of the corps of the enemy known by him to be at Clinton, and I believed his intent to be by the most direct route; but as he did not in his dispatch indicate by what route, it was consequently left entirely with my own judgment and discretion-had I seen fit to move to Clinton at all — to decide the most advantageous route, under the circumstances, for the advance.

I deem that to have made the movement to Clinton by any route, but more especially the “most direct or nearest route,” would have been hazardous in the extreme-yes, suicidal; for in that case would my flank and rear have been entirely unprotected, and a large portion of the enemy's force, of whose position General Johnston seemed to be entirely ignorant, could have interposed itself between my army and its base of operations, Vicksburg, and have taken that stronghold almost without a struggle, so small was the garrison after I had withdrawn all my available force for the field.

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