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[114] Va. Since December 20, 1862, he had been constant in his endeavors to render the place impregnable. The conduct of his men on March 14th, in meeting the passage of the fleets, had greatly pleased him as a commander. Their increased hopefulness since that event had augmented his own confidence that he would be able to hold Port Hudson against the combined attack, which had been canvassed so loudly between Grant and Banks that he had not failed to hear some of the whispers.

During May and June, he had joined in a plan of receiving mail from Vicksburg. The Mississippi—half friend, half foe to the Confederates—had consented to become a medium of news to the commander of Port Hudson. Communication by land being unsafe and exposed to constant danger, Pemberton, at Vicksburg, had hit upon the plan of sending his military mail down the river. In the darkness—in the silence of death, hugging the shore farther, still farther from the Hartford and Albatross, and always floating by shaded places, his messengers passed from point to point, finally to deliver their dispatches under the guns of Port Hudson. Generally these brought questions from Pemberton to Gardner, frankly put, but not always sure of a reply. The latter, much concerned in his own charge, had been utterly unprepared for Johnston's ultimatum.1

The more sudden seemed this order of evacuation by reason of a hope which had, in the last days of June, sprung up from the known presence of Richard Taylor, back on his old fighting ground in lower Lousiana. Taylor, in this campaign, had a variety of reasons. One of these was the gathering of beef cattle for the relief

1 Two telegrams of Gen. J. E. Johnston from Jackson, Miss., may be cited here. No. 1, to Pemberton at Vicksburg, January 1, 1863: ‘General Gardner is full of confidence.’ No. 2, to Gardner, January 2, 1863, ‘I am told you are confident with your present force. I hope that is so, for we cannot afford more men than you want’ Gardner retained this confidence until May 10th, when a letter from General Johnston instructed him that his duty lay in evacuation rather than heroism.

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