On Wednesday last pamphlet copies of the correspondence between the President and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, together with that of the Secretary of War and the Adjutant and Inspector General, during the months of May, June, and July, 1863, which was submitted in response to a resolution of the House adopted on the 11th of January, were distributed among the members. This correspondence is quite voluminous, embracing as it does over sixty pages, and covering all the letters and telegrams which passed between the Executive and Gen. Johnston, from the time the latter was assigned to the command of the army in Mississippi until the 31st of July, nearly one month after the fall of Vicksburg.

In the early part of the correspondence, the President urged upon Gen. Johnston the necessity of making an effort for the relief of the garrison in Vicksburg, and on the 24th of May he sent him the annexed dispatch, which was in response to one from Gen. J., expressing confidence in Gen. Pemberton's tenacity:

I concur in your reliance on the tenacity with which Gen. Pemberton will defend his position, but the disparity of numbers renders prolonged defence dangerous. I hope you will soon be able to break the investment, make a juncture, and carry in munitions. Gen. Rains, who has made valuable inventions is ordered to you for special service, and will, I think, be useful both on land and river. Gen. Bragg has probably communicated with you. If my strength permitted, I would go to you.

(Signed,) Jefferson Davis.

Again, on the 28th, the President telegraphed that he had withheld nothing from him which it was practicable to give; that numerical equality was not to be hoped for, and that time would probably increase the disparity.

On the same date Gen. J. telegraphed the President from Jackson, Miss., as follows:

To His Excellency the President.
It is reported that the last infantry coming leave Montgomery to night. When they arrive I shall have about twenty three thousand, (23,000.) Pemberton can be saved only by beating Grant. Unless you can promise more troops we must try with that number. The odds against us will be very great. Can you not add seven thousand? Asked for another Major-General. Wilcox, or whoever you may prefer. We want good general officers quickly. I have to organize an army and collect ammunition, provision, and transportation.

With reference to the troops sent to Gen. Johnson, the President telegraphed on the 30th of May at follows:

Your dispatch, of 28th, received. The Secretary of War reports the reinforcement ordered to you as greater than the number you request.--Added to the forces you have from Pemberton's army, be states your whole force to be thirty four [34] thousand, exclusive of militia. Bowen and Walker promoted; French and Breckinridge ordered to you, will. I hope, meet your want of Major-Generals. If another be required S. D. Lee is, I think, equal to that grade. Officers in the field here cannot be sent to you without too great delay. The troops sent to you were so fully organized that I suppose you will have little trouble as to organization, unless it be of militia. Col. Stockton can probably answer your requisitions for ammunition. You an doubt will be embarrassed by deficiency of field transportation. The recent robberies have diminished the amount in the country.

To this Gen. Johnston replied on the 1st June, from Canton, Miss:

To His Excellency the President:
The Secretary of War is greatly mistaken in his numbers. By their own returns the troops at my disposal available against Grant are:

Of Pemberton's9,700
Of Bragg's8,400
Of Beauregard's6,000

Not including a few hundred irregular cavalry for Jackson's command, the strength of which I do not know. Bowen and Lee are in Vicksburg, beyond my reach. In the estimate that garrison is not included.

The total of the above, twenty four thousand one hundred (24,100.)

These are numbers of effectives.

The first point of difference appears to have been with reference to the appointment of a Major-General for the Mississippi Department. General Johnston asked for the appointment of Brigadier-General Cadmus Wilcox, to which the Department responded by sending Maj-Gen. French. On hearing of the assignment of Gen. French to the command of a division in his department Gen. Johnston sent the following dispatch to the President, dated June 10, 1863:

It has been suggested to me that the troops in this department are very hostile to officers of Northern birth, and that, on that account, Major-Gen. French's arrival will weaken instead of strengthenous. I beg you to consider that all the General officers of Northern birth are on duty in this department. There is now a want of Major-Generals.

It is important to avoid any cause of further discontent.

To this dispatch the President replied on the 11th of June, as follows:

Your dispatch received. Those who suggest that the arrival of Gen. French will produce discontent among the troops, because of his Northern birth, are not, probably, aware that he is a citizen of Mississippi, was a wealthy planter until the Yankees robbed him, and, before the Confederate States had an army, was the chief of ordnance and artillery in the force Mississippi raised to maintain her right of secession. As soon as Mississippi could spare him, he was appointed a Brigadier-General in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States, and has frequently been before the enemy, where he was the senior officer. If malignity should undermine him, as it has another, you are authorized to notify him of the fact, and in relieve him, communication it to me by telegram. Surprised by your remark as to the General officers of Northern birth, I turned to the register and had that a large majority of the number are elsewhere than in the Department of Mississippi and Eastern Louisiana.

The next point of difference seems to have been with reference to the geographical limits of Gen. Johnston's Military Department, that officer conceiving that his transfer to Mississippi relieved him from the command of the Confederate forces in Tennessee. On the 12th of June he telegraphed the Secretary of War, from Jackson, Miss:

I have not considered myself commanding in Tennessee since assignment here, and should have not felt authorized to take troops from that department after having been informed by the Exceptive that no more could be spared. To take from Bragg force which would make this army fit to oppose Grant would involve yielding Tennessee. It is for the Government to decide between this State and Tennessee.

This dispatch was replied to by the President, under date of the 15th of June:

Your dispatch of the 12th inst., to Secretary of War, noted. The order to go to Mississippi did not diminish your authority in Tennessee, both being in the country placed under your command in original assignment. To what do you refer as information from me restricting your authority to transfer troops, because no more could be spared? Officers ordered to you for duty generally are, of course, subject to assignment by you.

On the 15th of June, General Johnston telegraphed from Jackson, Mississippi, to the Secretary of War, that he could not advise in regard to the points from which troops could be taken, having no means of knowing; that, it was for the Government to determine which it was best to yield, Tennessee or Mississippi; that without some great blunder of the enemy, both could not be held.

In answer to the President's dispatch of the 15th, Gen. Johnston replied under date of the 16th, from Jackson.

To His Excellency the President:
Your dispatch of 15th received. I meant to tell the Secretary of War that I considered the order directing me to command here as limiting (my) authority to this department, especially when that order was accompanied by War Department orders transferring troops from Tennessee to Mississippi; and, whether commanding there or not, that your reply to my application for more troops, that none could be spared, would have made it improper for me to order more from Tennessee. Permit me to repeat that an officer having task like mine, far above his ability, cannot, in addition, command other remote departments. No General can command separate armies.

I have not yet been able to procure the means of moving these troops. They are too weak to accomplish much. The reinforcements you mention have joined Grant.

At this point in the correspondence, the President wrote a letter to Gen. Johnston in which he reviewed at length all the points at issue between them. He alludes to the latter's assignment to a defined geographical command, by Special Order No. 275, which order described the command as including a portion of Western North Carolina and Northern Georgia, the States of Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, and that portion of the State of Louisiana east of the Mississippi. We make the following extract from this letter:

When I learned that prejudice and malignity had so undermined the confidence of the troops at Vicksburg in their commander as to threaten disaster, I deemed the circumstances such as to present the case foreseen in Special Order No. 275, that you should repair, in person, to any part of said command whenever your presence might be for the time necessary or desirable. "

You were therefore ordered, on the 9th May, to "proceed at once to Mississippi and take chief command of the forces, giving to those in the field, as far as practicable, the encouragement and benefit of your personal direction."

Some details were added about reinforcements, but not a word affecting, in the remotest degree, your authority to command your geographical district.

On the 4th June you telegraphed to the Secretary of War in response to his inquiry, saying "my only plan is to relieve Vicksburg. My force is far too small for the purpose. Tell me if you can in crease it, and how much." To which he answered, on the 5th, "I regret inability to promise more troops, as we have drained resources even to the danger of several points. You know best concerning Gen. Bragg's army; but I fear to withdraw more. We are too far outnumbered in Virginia to spare any." &c., &c.

On the 8th June the Secretary was more explicit, if possible. He said: ‘"Do you advise more reinforcements from Gen. Bragg? You, as commandant of the department, have power so to order, if you in view of the whole case, so determine."’

On the 10th June, you answered that it was for the Government to determine what department could furnish the reinforcements; that you could not know how Gen. Bragg's wants compared with yours; and that the Government could make the comparison. Your statements, that the Government in Richmond was better able to judge of the relative necessities of the armies under your command than you were, and the further statement, that you could not know how General Bragg's wants compared with yours, were considered extraordinary; but, as they were accompanied by the remark that the Secretary's dispatch had been imperfectly deciphered, no observation was made on them till the receipt of your telegram to the Secretary of the 12th inst, stating "I have not considered myself commanding in Tennessee since assignment here, and should not have felt authorized to take troops from that department, after having been informed by the Executive that no more could be spared."

My surprise at these two statements was extreme. You had never been "assigned" to the Mississippi command. You went there under the circumstances and orders already quoted, and no justification whatever is perceived for your abandonment of your duties as commanding General of the geographical district to which you were assigned.

Orders as explicit as those under which you were sent to the west, and under which you continued to set up to the 9th May, when you were directed to repair in person to Mississippi, can only be impaired or set aside by subsequent orders equally explicit; and your announcement that you had ceased to consider yourself charged with the control of affairs in Tennessee, because ordered to repair in person to Mississippi, both places being within the command to which you were assigned, was too grave to be overlooked; and when to this was added the assertion that you should not have felt authorized to draw troops from that department (Tennessee) "after being informed by the Executive that no more could be spared," I was unable to account for your language, being entirely confident that I had never given you any such information.

I shall now proceed to separate your two statements, and begin with that which relates to your "not considering" yourself commanding in Tennessee since assignment "here"--i. c., in Mississippi.

When you received my telegram of the 15th of June, informing you that "the orders to go to Mississippi did not diminish your authority in Tennessee, both being in the country placed under your command in original assignment," accompanied by an inquiry about the information, said to have been derived from me, restricting your authority to transfer troops, your answer on the 16th June was: "I meant to tell the Secretary of War that I considered the order directing me to command here as limiting my authority to this department, especially when that order was accompanied by War Department orders transferring troops from Tennessee to Mississippi."

This is, in substance, a repetition of the previous statement, without any reason being given for it. The fact of orders being sent to you to transfer some of the troops in your department from one point to another, to which you were proceeding in person, could give no possible ground for your "considering" that special order No. 275 was rescaled or modified.

Your command of your geographical district did not make you independent of my orders as your superior officer, and when you were directed by me to take troops with you to Mississippi, your control over the district to which you were assigned was in no way involved. But the statement that troops were transferred from Tennessee to Mississippi by orders of the War Department, when you were directed to repair to the latter State, gives but half the fact; for, although you were ordered to take with you three thousand good troops, you were told to replace them by a greater number, then on their way to Mississippi, and whom you were requested to divert to Tennessee. The purpose being to hasten reinforcements to Pemberton, without weakening Bragg. This was in deference to your own opinion that Bragg could not be safely weakened — say, that he ought even to be reinforced at Pemberton's expense, for you had just ordered troops from Pemberton's command to reinforce Bragg. I differed in opinion from you, and thought Vicksburg far more exposed to danger than Bragg, and was urging forward reinforcements to that point both from Carolina and Virginia, before you were directed to assume command in person in Mississippi.

I find nothing, then, either in your dispatch of the 16th June, nor in any subsequent communication from you, giving a justification for your saying that you "had not considered yourself commanding in Tennessee since assignment here," (i. e., in Mississippi.) Your dispatch, of the 5th inst., is again a substantial repetition of the same statement, without a word of reason to justify it. You say, ‘"I considered my assignment to the immediate command in Mississippi as giving me a new position, and limiting my authority to this department."’ I have characterized this as a grave error, and, in view of all the facts, cannot otherwise regard it.--I must add that a review of your correspondence shows a constant desire on your part, beginning early in January, that I should change the order placing Tennessee and Mississippi in one command, under your direction, and a constant indication on my part, whenever I wrote on the subject, that, in my judgment, the public service required that the two armies should be subject to your control.

In the conclusion of this letter the President says:

‘ In no manner, by no act, by no language, either of myself or of the Secretary of War, has your authority to draw troops from one portion of your department to another been withdrawn, restricted, or modified.

’ Now, that Vicksburg has disastrously fallen, this subject would present no pressing demand for attention, and its examination would have been postponed to a future period, had not your dispatch of the 5th instant, with its persistent repetition of statements which I had informed you were erroneous, and without adducing a single fact to sustain them, induced me to terminate the matter at once by a review of all the facts. The original mistakes in your telegram of the 12th June would gladly have been overlooked as accidental, it acknowledged when pointed out.

The perseverance with which they have been insisted on has not permitted me to pass them by as a mere oversight, or by refraining from an answer to seem to admit the justice of the statement.

The remainder of the correspondence has reference to the operations of our own and the enemy a forces subsequent to the fall of Vicksburg.

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 Places (automatically extracted)
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.
Bragg (11)
Pemberton (8)
James Johnston (6)
Joseph E. Johnston (5)
J. E. Johnston (5)
T. J. Jackson (4)
Grant (4)
French (4)
Jefferson Davis (4)
Cadmus Wilcox (2)
S. D. Lee (2)
James E. Johnston (2)
Bowen (2)
J. N. Walker (1)
Stockton (1)
Rains (1)
Johnson (1)
Gen (1)
President Davis (1)
Breckinridge (1)
G. T. Beauregard (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: