previous next

[594] the advancing columns of a superior and unobserved enemy, but to his evident determination to be besieged in Vicksburg, instead of manoeuvring to prevent a siege.

Convinced of the impossibility of collecting a sufficient force to break the investment of Vicksburg should it be completed, appreciating the difficulty of extricating the garrison, and convinced that Vicksburg and Port Hudson had lost most of their value by the repeated passage of armed vessels and transports, I ordered the evacuation of both places. General Gardner did not receive this order before the investment of Port Hudson, if at all. General Pemberton set aside this order, under the advice of a council of war, and, though he had in Vicksburg eight thousand fresh troops not demoralized by defeat, decided 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;” but, “to hold Vicksburg as long as 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.” Vicksburg was greatly imperilled when my instructions from Tullahoma to concentrate were neglected; it was lost when my orders of the thirteenth and fifteenth of May were disobeyed. To this loss were added the labor, privations, and certain destruction of a gallant army, when my orders for its evacuation were set aside.

In this report I have been compelled to enter into many details, and to make some animadversions upon the conduct of General Pemberton.

The one was no pleasant task; the other was a most painful duty. Both have been forced upon me by the official report of General Pemberton, made to the War Department instead of to me, to whom it was due.

General Pemberton, by direct assertion and by implication, puts upon me the responsibility of the movements which led his army to defeat at Baker's Creek and the Big Black Bridge — defeats which produced the loss of Vicksburg and its army.

This statement has been circulated by the press, in more or less detail, and with more or less marks of an official character, until my silence would be almost an acknowledgment of the justice of the charge.

A proper regard for the good opinion of my government has compelled me, therefore, to throw aside that delicacy which I would gladly have observed towards a brother officer, suffering much undeserved obloquy, and to show that in his short campaign General Pemberton made not a single movement in obedience to my orders, and regarded none of my instructions; and, finally, did not embrace the only opportunity to save his army — that given by my order to abandon Vicksburg.

Most respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

J. E. Johnston, General.

Letter from Professor Ewell.

Williamsburg, June 25, 1866.
To the Editor of the Rebellion Record:
The following is an extract from Dr. Craven's diary:

Pemberton made a splendid defence of Vicksburg, and might have been relieved if the officer commanding the army sent to relieve him (General Johnston) had not failed to obey the positive orders to attack General Grant, which Mr. Seddon, then Secretary of War, had sent. If the same officer, who was upheld in command by the anti-administration party, had vigorously attacked Sherman at Atlanta when directed, the fortunes of war would have been changed, and Sherman hurled back to Nashville over a sterile and wasted country — his retreat little less disastrous than Napoleon's from Moscow. He did not do so, and was relieved; General Hood, a true and spirited soldier, taking his place. But the opportunity then was gone; and to this delay, more than to any other cause, the Southern people will attribute their overthrow whenever history comes to be truly written.

In the statement this extract contains, that General J. E. Johnston failed to obey “positive orders” or directions to attack General Grant at Vicksburg, in 1863, or General Sherman at Atlanta, in 1864, there is a mistake, caused, no doubt, by Dr. Craven having misapprehended his distinguished patient, with whom, in his misfortunes, I know no one sympathizes more truly than General Johnston. I venture to make this correction, in justice to a war-worn veteran who freely shed his blood in defence of the Southern cause, and who is too good a soldier to wilfully disregard an order of his military superior. The only approach to an order to attack General Grant in 1863, was given in a telegram from the Secretary of War, and this was modified, and virtually revoked, by a second telegraphic communication, received the same day. The gentleman who was at the time Secretary of War of the Confederate States, had too much wisdom and practical sense to give a “positive order” to General Johnston to attack with his army of about twenty-three thousand men General Grant's army, numbering some eighty thousand, covered, in a position of great natural strength, by the unfordable Big Black River, and by formidable lines of intrenchments, defended at all points by powerful artillery.

In like manner, no such orders were given during the Atlanta campaign, and the disasters that befell the Army of Tennessee after General Johnston was relieved, clearly demonstrated that they ought not to have been given. My position on General Johnston's staff, and my relations to him, caused all his correspondence with the authorities in Richmond, by mail, by telegraph, or by messengers, from January, 1863, to July, 1864, at which time he was relieved, to pass through my hands. Any assertion

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. C. Pemberton (6)
J. E. Johnston (5)
U. S. Grant (4)
William T. Sherman (3)
Joseph E. Johnston (2)
Craven (2)
James A. Seddon (1)
J. B. Hood (1)
James Gardner (1)
Benjamin S. Ewell (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.
1863 AD (2)
June 25th, 1866 AD (1)
July, 1864 AD (1)
1864 AD (1)
January, 1863 AD (1)
May 15th (1)
May 13th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: