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Terms of surrender at Vicksburg--General Pemberton replies to General Badeau

[The following letter has recently appeared in some of the newspapers, but is worthy of a more permanent record. It is feared [407] that General Badeau, in his Life of Grant, took no pains to be accurate.]

Dear Sir — I give you, with pleasure, my version of the interview between General Grant and myself, on the afternoon of July 3, 1863, in front of the Confederate lines at Vicksburg. If you will refer to the first volume of Badeau's Life of U. S. Grant, you will find a marked discrepancy between that author's account of it and mine. I do not fear, however, to trust to the honest memory of any officer then present, to confirm the statement I shall make.

Passing over all preceding events, I come at once to the circumstance that brought about the personal interview referred to.

Feeling assured that it was useless to hope longer for any assistance from General Johnson, either to raise the seige of Vicksburg, or to rescue the garrison, I summoned division and brigade commanders, with one or two others, to meet in my quarters on the night of the 2d of July. All the correspondence that had taken place during the siege between General Johnson and myself was laid before these officers. After much consideration, it was advised that I address a note to General Grant, proposing the appointment of commissioners to arrange terms of capitulation.

The following, having been read to the council, and approved, was sent to General Grant, under a flag of truce, by the hands of Major-General J. S. Bowen, on the morning of the 3d:

Vicksburg, July 3, 1863.
Major-General Grant, Commanding United States Forces near Vicksburg, Mississippi:
General — I have the honor to propose to you an armistice of hours, with a view to arrange terms for the capitulation of Vicksburg.

To this end, if agreeable to you, I will appoint three commissioners to meet a like number, to be named by yourself, at such place and hour to-day as you may find convenient. I make this proposition to save the further effusion of blood, which must otherwise be shed to a frightful extent, feeling myself fully able to maintain my position for a yet indefinite period.

This communication will be handed you, under a flag of truce, by Major-General John S. Bowen. I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant.

John O. Pemberton, Lieutenant-General Commanding.


In due time the following reply was handed to me:

Headquarters Department of the Tennessee, Near Vicksburg, July 3, 1863.
Lieutenant-General John C. Pemberton, Commanding Confederate Forces, etc.:
General — Your note of this date is just received, proposing an armistice for several hours, for the purpose of arranging terms of capitulation, through commissioners, to be appointed, etc.

The useless effusion of blood, you propose stopping by this course, can be ended at any time you may choose, by an unconditional surrender of the city and garrison. Men who have shown so much endurance and courage, as shown now in Vicksburg, will always challenge the respect of an adversary, and I can assure you will be treated with all the respect due to prisoners of war. I do not favor the proposition of appointing commissioners to arrange the terms of capitulation, because I have no terms other than those indicated above. I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant.

U. S. Grant, Major General.

I, at once, expressed to General Bowen my determination not to surrender unconditionally. He then stated that General Grant would like to have an interview with me, if I was so disposed, and would meet me at a designated point between the two lines, at 3 P. M., that day. I was not aware that the suggestion had originated with General Bowen, but acceded to the proposed meeting, at the joint request of my four division commanders.

On reaching the place appointed, accompanied by Major-General Bowen and Colonel Montgomery, then temporarily serving on my personal staff, I found General Grant, and a number of his Generals, and other officers, already arrived and dismounted. To the General himself — with whom my acquaintance dated as far back as the Mexican war — as well as to several of the group who surrounded him, I was formally introduced by General Bowen.

After a few remarks and inquiries on either side, a pause ensued which was prolonged on my part in expectation that General Grant would introduce the subject, the discussion of which I supposed to be the object of our meeting. Finding that he did not do so I said to him that I understood he had expressed a wish to have a personal interview with me. He replied that he had not. I was much surprised, and turning to General Bowen, remarked: “Then there is a misunderstanding. I certainly understood differently.” The matter, [409] however, was satisfactorily explained to me in a few words, the mistake, no doubt, having been entirely my own. Again addressing General Grant, I said: “In your letter this morning you state that you have no other terms than an unconditional surrender.” He answered promptly, “I have no other.” To this I rejoined: “Then, sir, it is unnecessary that you and I should hold any further conversation; we will go to fighting again at once;” and I added, “I can assure you, sir, you will bury many more of your men before you will enter Vicksburg.” General Grant did not, as Badeau represents, reply, “Very well,” nor did he “turn off.” He did not change his position, nor did he utter a word. The movement to withdraw, so far as any movement was made, was on my part and was accompanied by the remark that if he (General Grant) supposed I was suffering for provisions he was mistaken, that I had enough to last me for an indeffinite period and that Port Hudson was better supplied than Vicksburg. General Bowen made no suggestion whatever in regard to a consultation between any parties during this interview, as he is represented to have done by Badeau. But General Grant did at this time propose that he and I should step aside, and on my assenting, he added that if I had no objection he would take with him Generals McPherson and A. J. Smith. I replied, certainly, and that General Bowen and Colonel Montgomery would accompany me. General Grant then suggested that these gentlemen withdraw and see whether on consultation they could not arrive at some satisfactory arrangement. It will be readily understood that I offered no objection to this course, as it was in fact a withdrawal by General Grant from the position he had so unqualifiedly assumed, to-wit, unconditional surrender — and it really submitted as I had desired it should, the discussion of the question of terms to a commission, although that commission was now necessarily an impromptu one.

Pending the interchange of views by the officers named, General Grant and I remained apart from them, conversing only upon topics that had no relation to the important subject that brought us together. The terms which this commission agreed to propose were in the main those that were afterward proffered by General Grant and eventually accepted by me. During this discussion I stated to him that as he declined to appoint commissioners when invited to do so by me, it was now his part to propose the terms. He agreed to this and said I should hear from him by 10 P. M. When about to part I notified General Grant that I held myself in no manner pledged to any agreement, but should consult my division and brigade commanders. He replied that [410] I must understand him in the like manner and that he too should consult his corps commanders. With this our interview ended.

Mr. Badeau's statement is a misrepresentation of the facts as they occurred, and whether intentional or otherwise, conveys a false impression to his readers. If he was present at the interview, he knows; if he was absent, he could readily have ascertained that after General Grant's verbal declaration that he had no terms other than unconditional surrender, all suggestions and all overtures looking to terms arose directly from General Grant himself, and neither directly nor indirectly from me or my subordinates. There was no display of indifference by General Grant as to the result of this interview, nor did he feel indifferent. On the night of the 3d of July a dispatch was intercepted by my signal officer from Admiral Porter to General Grant. The former inquired as to the chances of a surrender on the 4th. General Grant replied through the same medium, mentioning in a general way the terms offered, stating that the arrangement was against his feelings, but that his officers advised it on the ground that it would free his river transportation for other important uses, etc., etc.

No doubt both of these gentlemen remember the circumstance. I am,

Colonel, very truly yours,

Copied February 5th, 1879, for Lieutenant-General John C. Pemberton, from the original manuscript, by John P. Nicholson.

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