previous next

[572] the flank and rear of the enemy, with the view of cutting off his supplies in that direction. Colonel Adams's force was, however, very inadequate to this purpose.

During the night of the seventeenth, nothing of importance occurred. Most of the artillery was speedily placed in position on the lines, and immediate measures were taken to arm all men, who had either unavoidably lost, or who had thrown away, their arms on the retreat. General Johnston was notified, on the seventeenth, of the results of the battle of Baker's Creek and Big Black, and informed that I had in consequence been compelled to evacuate Snyder's Mills. About noon of the eighteenth May, whilst engaged in an inspection of the intrenchments, with Major Lockett, my Chief Engineer, and several of my General officers, the enemy was reported to be advancing by the Jackson road. Just at this moment the following communication was received by courier:

Camp between Livingston and Brownsville, May 17, 1863.
Lieutenant-General Pemberton:
Your dispatch of to-day, by Captain Henderson, was received. If Haines' Bluff is untenaable, Vicksburg is of no value, and cannot be held. If, therefore, you are invested in Vicksburg, you must ultimately surrender. Under such circumstances, instead of losing both troops and place, we must, if possible, save the troops. If it is not too late, evacuate Vicksburg and its dependencies, and march to the north-east.

Most respectfully,

Your obedient servant,


J. E. Johnston, General.

The evacuation of Vicksburg! It meant the loss of the valuable stores and munitions of war collected for its defence; the fall of Port Hudson; the surrender of the Mississippi River, and the severance of the Confederacy.

These were mighty interests, which, had I deemed the evacuation practicable, in the sense in which I interpreted General Johnston's instructions, might well have made me hesitate to execute them. I believed it to be in my power to hold Vicksburg. I knew and appreciated the earnest desire of the government and of the people that it should be held. I knew, perhaps better than any other individual, under all the circumstances, its capacity for defence.

As long ago as the seventeenth of February last, in a letter addressed to his Excellency the President, I had suggested the possibility of the investment of Vicksburg by land and water, and for that reason the necessity of ample supplies of ammunition, as well as of subsistence, to stand a siege. My application met his favorable consideration, and additional ammunition was ordered. With proper economy of subsistence and ordnance stores, I knew that I could stand a siege. I had a firm reliance on the desire of the President and of General Johnston to do all that could be done to raise a siege. I felt that every effort would be made, and I believed it would be successful. With these convictions in my own mind, I immediately summoned a council of war, composed of all my General officers. I laid before them General Johnston's communication, but desired them to confine the expression of their opinions to the question of practicability. Having obtained their views, the following communication was addressed to General Johnston:

headquarters Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, Vicksburg, May 18, 1863.
General J. E. Johnston:
General: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your communication in reply to mine, by the hands of Captain Henderson. In a subsequent letter of same date as this letter, I informed you that the men had failed to hold the trenches at Big Black Bridge, and that, as a consequence, Snyder's Mills was directed to be abandoned.

On the receipt of your communication, I immediately assembled a council of war of the General officers of this command, and having laid your instructions before them, asked the free expression of their opinions as to the practicability of carrying them out. The opinion was unanimously expressed that it was impossible to withdraw the army from this position with such morale and material as to be of further service to the Confederacy. While the council of war was assembled, the guns of the enemy opened on the works, and it was at the same time reported that they were crossing the Yazoo River at Brandon's Ferry, above Snyder's Mills. I have decided to hold Vicksburg as long as is possible, with the firm hope that the government may yet be able to assist me in keeping this obstruction to the enemy's free navigation of the Mississippi River. I still conceive it to be the most important point in the Confederacy.

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

J. C. Pemberton, Lieutenant-General.

The development of the intrenched line from the extreme right of Major-General Stevenson's position to the left of Major-General Smith's was about eight miles, the shortest defensible line of which the topography of the country admitted. The plan was submitted to me immediately after I assumed command of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, in the latter part of October, 1862--was approved and ordered to be carried out with the utmost dispatch. Similar instructions were about the same time given for fortifying the strong position at Snyder's Mills; and the line of defence of Port Hudson was also ordered to be commenced at once. The line of defence around the city of Vicksburg consisted, as is shown on the map accompanying the report of Major Lockett, Chief Engineer, of a system of detached works (redans, lunettes and redoubts), on the prominent

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
J. E. Johnston (5)
J. C. Pemberton (2)
Samuel Lockett (2)
Joseph E. Johnston (2)
Thomas Henderson (2)
C. S. Stevenson (1)
E. K. Smith (1)
Wirt Adams (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
17th (2)
May 18th, 1863 AD (1)
May 17th, 1863 AD (1)
October, 1862 AD (1)
May 18th (1)
February 17th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: