previous next

[583] be found his views on that point. The dispatch of June twenty-second from General Johnston, rendered it painfully apparent that the siege could not be raised (to cross the Mississippi River, as suggested, in the face of the enemy's gunboats and land batteries, was an impossibility), and unless this was effected, the defence which had been so long and gallantly maintained, ceased to be of any practical utility.

Proud as I was of my brave troops, honoring them as I did and do for the courage, fortitude and constancy they had so nobly displayed, I felt that it would be an act of cruel inhumanity to subject them longer to the terrible ordeal to which, for so many days and nights, they had already been exposed. Brain and sinew will alike wear out, the bravest may be overpowered by numbers, and I saw no advantage to be gained by protracting a hopeless defence, which I knew must be attended with a useless waste of life and blood. I had then to choose between such favorable terms as I might be able to obtain and an unconditional surrender, or subject the garrison and the citizens, including hundreds of women and children, to the horrors of an assault which I could no longer hope to repel.

Much (and, I think, unmerited) obloquy has been cast upon me, by a large portion of the public press, for an imputed failure to provide adequately for the subsistence of the garrison of Vicksburg and Port Hudson. The government and my immediate military superior, perhaps better informed of facts, have, so far as I am aware, refrained from censure, reserving a decision until a full investigation shall have determined to what extent, if any, it is deserved. Immediately on assuming command of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, on the fourteenth of October, 1862, I gave my earnest and unremitting attention to the reorganization of the several staff departments, and to the great question of supplies. It is unnecessary to speak of the great confusion and general want of system which prevailed. I found most of the district commanders exercising the authority which pertained only to the department commander, or to a General commanding an army in the field; each appeared in a great measure to be acting independently of the other. To some considerable extent this seemed necessary, under the existing circumstances. Major-General Van Dorn was in immediate command of the army at Holly Springs, and it naturally engaged most of his attention. General Bragg, to whose department the geographical districts, just organized into a separate department, had been attached, was too far removed to permit him to give his personal supervision. It resulted almost necessarily from this state of things, that but little attention had been given to the accumulation of supplies. No depots of importance existed within the limits of the department, nor had any measures been taken to establish them. Much of the season best suited to the collection of stores from the Trans-Mississippi had gone by; they were undoubtedly abundant there, but my command did not embrace that district of country; I had no control over the steamboats in Red River. It was one thing to purchase supplies, but another to transport them. Most of the boats were engaged in carrying sugar, molasses and salt, either for private parties, or for the government. There was great opposition on the part of owners at every attempt to divert them from these purposes. The government was appealed to against what was styled, the violation of the rights of citizens, by the military authorities. It required time to ascertain what was needed to be done, and time to acquire the means of its accomplishment. On the twenty-fifth of October, the necessary orders were issued to procure and transport supplies from the parishes of Point Coupee, Concordia, and Tensas. Major Caney, then chief commander, was directed to confer with Lieutenant-Colonel Broadwell, agent of the commanding General, then in the Trans-Mississippi Department; but to make arrangements for supplying the department without relying upon him. Major Dillon, Commissary for the army, with Major-General Van Dorn, was directed to use every effort to subsist it from the northern and north-western counties. For several months after I entered upon duty in the department, there was not water enough to admit of the passage into the Mississippi of the larger boats which had been run up the Yazoo or Red River for safety. As early as the latter part of October, I authorized the opening of the raft in the Yazoo, that the smaller boats might pass out. Notwithstanding the violent opposition of private parties, very many of these were immediately taken either into the permanent employ of the government, or chartered as supplies could be obtained. The transportation of sugar and molasses owned by the government and by speculators interfered materially with the rapid accumulation of other supplies. When, however, about the eighteenth of January, the larger boats were able to enter the Mississippi, a sufficient number was at once put into requisition for government transportation, and a large amount of corn and bacon was thrown into Vicksburg and Port Hudson from the Trans-Mississippi Department. I regret, however, to say that, from want of proper care and energy upon the part of those responsible for its safe keeping, a large quantity of corn which had been landed on the shore was removed so slowly, and so little precaution taken to secure it from the effects of the heavy rains of the season, that much was destroyed by that cause, and much was carried off by the rapid rise of the river. It happened that just at this time, about the tenth of January, I made an official visit to Port Hudson, and was myself a witness of the consequence of this neglect at that point. On the fourteenth of January, I addressed the following letter to Lieutenant-Colonel Broadwell, agent of the Commissary-General, and also for my department, under my immediate instructions:

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.
Earl Dorn (2)
W. A. Broadwell (2)
J. E. Johnston (1)
Dillon (1)
Concordia (1)
Caney (1)
Braxton Bragg (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.
October 14th, 1862 AD (1)
October 25th (1)
October (1)
June 22nd (1)
January 18th (1)
January 14th (1)
January 10th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: