In Mr. Davis
's account of the military operations in Mississippi
their disastrous result is attributed to my misconduct.
My object in the following statement is to exhibit the true causes of those disasters.
The combination of Federal military and naval forces which produced that result was made practicable by the military errors of the Confederate Government in 1862, and was made successful by its repetition of the gravest of those errors in 1863.3
In the first half of July, 1862, General Halleck
was ordered to Washington
Before leaving Corinth
he transferred General Buell
, with his troops, to middle Tennessee
, and left General Grant
in command of those holding in subjection north-eastern Mississippi
and southern West Tennessee
For this object they were distributed in Corinth
, and intermediate places.
They numbered about forty-two thousand present for duty by Mr. Davis
Their wide dispersion put them at the mercy of any superior or equal force, such as the Confederacy
could have brought against them readily; but this opportunity, such a one as has. rarely occurred in war, was put aside by the Confederate Government, and the army which, properly used, would have secured to the South
the possession of Tennessee
was employed in a wild expedition into Kentucky
, which could have had only the results of a raid.
extols the strategy of that operation, which, he says, “manoeuvred the foe out of a large and to us important territory.”
This advantage, if it could be called so, was of the briefest.
For this “foe” drove us out of Kentucky
in a few weeks, and recovered permanently the “large and to us important territory.”
After General Bragg
was compelled to leave Kentucky
, the Federal
army, which until then had been commanded by General Buell
, was established at Nashville
, under General Rosecrans
And General Bragg
, by a very circuitous route through south-eastern Kentucky
and north-eastern Tennessee
, brought his troops to the neighborhood of Murfreesboro
‘. Mr. Davis
says [ “Rise and fall,” p. 384] that “the strength of the Federal
army, as we have ascertained, was 65,000 men.”
Army returns show that it was a little less than 47,000, and Bragg
[See also this volume, p. 30.]
was then in northern Mississippi
, with an army formed by uniting the detachments that had been occupying Corinth
and various points in southern West Tennessee
He was preparing for the invasion of Mississippi
, with the special object of gaining possession of Vicksburg
by the combined action of his army and Admiral Porter
's squadron, which was in readiness.
To oppose him, Lieutenant-General Pemberton
, who commanded the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, had an active army of 23,000 effective infantry and artillery, and above 6000 cavalry, most of it irregular.
There were also intrenched camps at Vicksburg
and Port Hudson
, each held by about six thousand men, protecting batteries of old smoothbore guns, which, it was hoped, would prevent the Federal
war vessels from occupying the intermediate part of the Mississippi
was then encamped near Little Rock
with an army of above fifty thousand men, as General Cooper
, reported to the President
in my presence.
There were no Federal forces in Arkansas
at the time, except one or two garrisons.
In all the time to which the preceding relates I had been out of service from the effects of two severe wounds received in the battle of Seven Pines
[May 31st, 1862]. On the 12th of November, 1862, I reported myself fit for duty.
The Secretary of War
replied that I would be assigned to service in Tennessee
in a few days.
Thinking myself authorized to make suggestions in relation to the warfare in which I was to be engaged, I proposed to the Secretary
, in his office, that, as the Federal
forces about to invade Mississippi
were united in that State, ours available for its defense should be so likewise; therefore General Holmes
should be ordered to unite his forces with General Pemberton
's without delay.
As a reply, he read me a letter of late date from himself to General Holmes
, instructing that officer to make the movement just suggested, and then a note from the President
directing him to countermand his order to General Holmes
A few days after this, General Randolph
resigned the office of Secretary of War
--unfortunately for the Confederacy
On the 24th of November Mr. Seddon
, who had succeeded General Randolph
as Secretary of War
, assigned me to the command of the departments of General Bragg
and Lieutenant-Generals E. Kirby Smith
, each to command his department under me. In acknowledging this order, I again suggested the transfer of the army in Arkansas
The suggestion was not adopted or noticed.
The Government placed my headquarters at Chattanooga
, but authorized me to move them as occasion might require.
On the 4th of December, I received there a telegram from the adjutant-general
, informing me that Lieutenant-General Pemberton
was falling back before a very superior force; that “Lieutenant-General Holmes
has been peremptorily ordered to reinforce him, but that, as his troops may be too late, the President
urges on you the importance of sending a sufficient force from General Bragg
's command to the aid of Lieutenant-General Pemberton
I replied that Lieutenant-General Holmes
's troops could join the army in Mississippi
much sooner than General Bragg
's, and that the latter officer could not give adequate aid to the army in
without exposing himself to inevitable defeat.
And further, that there was no object in our retaining troops in Arkansas
, where they could find no enemy.
For these reasons I declined to weaken General Bragg
without further orders to do so.
About the 9th of December the President
passed through Chattanooga
on his way to Murfreesboro
‘, to decide, at General Bragg
's headquarters, whether the army of Tennessee or that of Arkansas
should furnish the reenforcements necessary to enable the Confederacy
to hold the Mississippi
and its valley.
He returned in two or three days and directed me to order General Bragg
to send ten thousand of his men under Major-General C. L. Stevenson
to report to General Pemberton
The order was given as the President
's. He then set out to Mississippi
, desiring me to accompany him. In Jackson
, which he reached the morning of the 19th of December, he found the Legislature in session.
It had been convened by Governor Pettus
to bring out the remaining military resources of the State
, to aid in its defense.
On the 21st and 22d Mr. Davis
inspected the water-batteries and land defenses of Vicksburg
, which were then very extensive, but slight — the usual defect of Confederate engineering.
He also conferred with the commander, Major-General Martin L. Smith
, and me, in reference to the forces required to hold that place and Port Hudson
, and at the same time to oppose General Grant
in the field.
We agreed (General Smith
and I) that at least twenty thousand more troops were necessary, and I again urged him to transfer the troops in Arkansas
In a friendly note to General Holmes
, which I was permitted to read, Mr. Davis
pointed out to him that he would benefit the service by sending twenty thousand men into Mississippi
, but gave him no order; consequently no troops came.
Thus an army outnumbering that which General Grant
was then commanding was left idle, while preparations were in progress, near it, for the conquest of a portion of the Confederacy
so important as the valley of the Mississippi
visited General Pemberton
's army in the extensive position it was intrenching near Grenada
,--so extensive that it is fortunate for us, probably, that General Grant
was prevented from trying its strength.
In conversing with the President
concerning the operations impending, General Pemberton
and I advocated opposite modes of warfare.
On the 25th the President
returned to Jackson
, and on the 27th information was received from General W. W. Loring
, commanding near Grenada
, that General Grant
's army, which had been advancing, was retiring in consequence of the destruction of the depot of supplies at Holly Springs
by the gallant Van Dorn
's daring and skillfully executed enterprise, surpassed by none of its character achieved during the war. This depot was to have supplied the Federal
army in its march toward Vicksburg
Its destruction frustrated that design.
General Van Dorn
accomplished it on the 20th of December with a brigade of cavalry, attacking, defeating, and capturing a superior force.
The supplies were destroyed by burning the store-houses — to which the consent of the owners was freely given.
The destruction of the stores compelled General Grant
to fall back and gave the Confederate Government abundant time for thorough preparations to meet his next advance.
The most effective, indeed a decisive one, would have required but 12 or 15 days--the uniting Lieutenant-General Holmes
's troops with Lieutenant-General Pemberton
's, in Mississippi
, which would have formed an effective force of little less than 75,000 men.
Before Mr. Davis
returned to Richmond
I represented to him that my command was a nominal one merely, and useless; because the great distance between the armies of Tennessee
, and the fact that they had different objects and adversaries, made it impossible to combine their action; so there was no employment for me unless I should take command of one of the armies in an emergency, which, as each had its own general, was not intended or desirable.
He replied that the great distance of these departments from the seat of government made it necessary that there should be an officer near them with authority to transfer troops from one to the other in emergencies.
I suggested that each was too weak for its object; and that neither, therefore, could be drawn upon to strengthen the other; and that the distance between them was so great as to make such temporary transfers impracticable.
These objections were disregarded, however.
The detaching of almost a fourth of General Bragg
's army to Mississippi
, while of no present value to that department, was disastrous to that of Tennessee
, for it caused the battle of Murfreesboro
‘. General Rosecrans
was, of course, soon informed of the great reduction of his antagonist's strength, and marched from Nashville
to attack him. The battle, that of Murfreesboro
' or Stone's River
, occurred on the 31st of December, 1862, and the 2d of January, 1863, and was one of the most obstinately contested and bloody of the war, in proportion to the numbers engaged.
[See articles to follow.] The result of this action compelled the Confederate army to fall back and place itself behind Duck River
, at Manchester
, and Shelbyville
Early in December Grant
projected an enterprise against Vicksburg
He directed that officer to embark at Memphis
with about 30,000 men, descend the river with them to the neighborhood of the place, and with the cooperation of Admiral Porter
's squadron proceed to reduce it. Sherman
entered the Yazoo
with his forces on the 26th of December, employed several days in reconnoitering, and on the 29th made a vigorous
assault upon the defensive line near Chickasaw Bayou
, manned by Brigadier-General S. D. Lee
's brigade, which repelled the attack.4 General Pemberton
reported that the Confederate
loss was 150, and that of the Federals
The combined land and naval forces then left the Yazoo
, and, entering the Arkansas
, ascended it to Arkansas
Post, which they captured, with its garrison of five thousand Confederate troops.
In the meantime General Pemberton
brought what had been his active forces into Vicksburg
On the 20th of January all the troops destined for the operations against Vicksburg
were ordered by General Grant
to Milliken's Bend
and Young's Point
, where he joined them on the 29th.
These troops were employed until April in cutting a canal through the point of land opposite Vicksburg
, to enable the Federal
vessels to pass it without exposure to the batteries; but the attempt was unsuccessful.
In the meantime Brigadier-General Bowen
was detached with three brigades to Grand Gulf
, to construct batteries there; and Major-General Loring
, with a similar detachment, was sent to select and fortify a position to prevent the enemy from approaching Vicksburg
by the Yazoo
Pass and River.
He constructed a field-work for this object at the head of the Yazoo
A flotilla of 9 United States
gun-boats and 20 transports, carrying 4500 troops, appeared before it on the 11th of March,
and constructed a land-battery, which, with the gun-boats, cannonaded the fort several days; but the steady fire of the little work [Fort Pemberton
] compelled the assailants to draw off and return to the Mississippi
On the 22d of January, while inspecting the works for the defense of Mobile
, then in course of construction, I received orders by telegraph from the President
to go to General Bragg
's headquarters “with the least delay.”
A letter from the President
delivered to me in Chattanooga
told for what service.
It was to ascertain if General Bragg
had so far lost the confidence of the army as to make it expedient to remove him from command.
After making the necessary investigation thoroughly, I came to the conclusion that there was no ground for the general's removal, so reported, and resumed the inspection at Mobile
While so employed, I received a telegram from the Secretary of War
, in which he ordered me to direct General Bragg
to report at the War
Department for conference; and to assume, myself, direct charge of the army in middle Tennessee
On my return to Tullahoma
under this order, I learned that the general was devoting himself to Mrs. Bragg
, who was supposed to be at the point of death.
So the communication of the order to him was postponed, and the postponement and the cause reported to the Secretary
's condition improved, however; but before it became such as to permit General Bragg
to return to military duty, I had become unfit for it, and was compelled to retain him in the command of the Army of Tennessee and put myself under the care of a surgeon.
This sickness continued for weeks, and was reported repeatedly.
The United States
naval officers had already ascertained that their ironclads could pass the Confederate batteries without great danger.
Moreover, as General Pemberton
had reported, the wooden vessels Hartford
had passed Port Hudson
while most of our guns were engaged with the other vessels of Admiral Farragut
This reduced the value of our water-batteries greatly.
Yet, in the first half of April, General Pemberton
became convinced that General Grant
had abandoned the design against Vicksburg
and was preparing to reembark his forces, perhaps to join General Rosecrans
; and on April 11th he expressed the belief that most of those troops were being withdrawn to Memphis
, and stated that he himself was assembling troops at Jackson
to follow this movement.
This was approved.
On the 17th, however, he reported that the Federal
army had resumed its offensive operations.
He also reported that General Grant
was occupying New Carthage, and that there were nine Federal gun-boats between Vicksburg
and Port Hudson
Colonel B. H. Grierson
[Federal] set out from La Grange
on the 17th of April on his noted raid through Mississippi
, terminating at Baton Rouge
, May 2d.
The mischief reported was the burning of some bridges, engines, and cars near Newton
, the destruction of ammunition and cars at Hazelhurst
, and the burning of the railroad depot and cars at Brookhaven
Several brigades of infantry were detached to protect such property; but fruitlessly, of course.
's squadron, and three transports towing barges, passed Vicksburg
on the night of April 16th, and ran down to Hard Times, where the army was; and six more transports and barges followed on the night of the 22d.
On the two occasions, one transport was sunk, another burned, and six barges rendered unserviceable by the fire of the batteries.
's plan seems to have been to take possession of Grand Gulf
, and thence operate against Vicksburg
; for Admiral Porter
's squadron commenced firing upon the Confederate
works early in the morning of the 29th, and the Thirteenth Corps was ready to seize them as soon as their guns should be silenced; but as their fire had slackened but little at 6 o'clock, Grant
changed his plan and sent his troops and transports to the landing-place, six miles from Bruinsburg
, on the east bank of the river.
The four divisions of the Thirteenth Corps were ferried to that point during the day of the 30th.
, at Grand Gulf
, observed this, and led parts of his three brigades (five thousand men) to the road from Bruinsburg
to Port Gibson
, four miles in advance of the latter.
By admirable conduct and great advantages
of ground, this handful delayed the advance of the Thirteenth Corps six or eight hours. Lieutenant-General Pemberton
informed me of this engagement by telegraph during the fighting, adding: “I should have large reinforcements.”
I replied immediately: “If General Grant
's army lands on this side of the river, the safety of Mississippi
depends on beating it. For that object you should unite your whole force.”
And I telegraphed again next day: “If Grant
's army crosses, unite all your forces to beat it. Success will give you back what was abandoned to win it.”
In transmitting General Pemberton
's call for reinforcements to the Secretary of War
, I said: “They cannot be sent from here without giving up Tennessee
On the 3d Bowen
's troops abandoned Grand Gulf
and returned to Vicksburg
On the same day the Seventeenth Corps joined the Thirteenth at Willow Springs
, where the two waited for the Fifteenth, which came up on the 8th.
The army then marched toward Raymond
, the Seventeenth Corps leaving first, and the Fifteenth second.
In the evening of May 9th I received, by telegraph, orders to proceed at once to Mississippi
and take chief command of the forces there, and to arrange to take with me, for temporary service, or to have follow without delay, three thousand good troops.
I replied instantly: “Your dispatch of this morning received.
I shall go immediately, although unfit for service,” and took the first train, which was on the morning of the 10th.
At Lake Station
, on the 13th, I found a telegram from General Pemberton
, dated the; 12th, informing me that the enemy was apparently moving in heavy force on Edwards
's depot, which, as he said, “will be the battle-field if I can carry forward sufficient force, leaving troops enough to secure the safety of this place [Vicksburg].”
This was the first intelligence of the Federal
army received from General Pemberton
since the first of the month.
I arrived in Jackson
at nightfall, exhausted by an uninterrupted journey of four days, undertaken from a sick-room; in consequence of which Major Mims
, chief quartermaster
of the department, the first officer who reported to me, found me in bed. He informed me, among other military occurrences, that two brigades had marched into the town an hour or two before.
, their senior officer, reported to me soon after that he had been ordered from Port Hudson
by General Pemberton
, but had been driven from that place the day before by the Federal
Seventeenth Corps;, and, in obedience to the general's instructions for such an event, had fallen back to Jackson
, accompanied by Brigadier-General W. H. T. Walker
, whom he had met on the way, marching to join him with his brigade.
The latter had just come from General Beauregard
's department [South Carolina, Georgia
,, and Florida
]. There were about six thousand men in the two brigades.
He said further that Colonel Wirt Adams
, of the cavalry, had informed him that General Pemberton
's forces were at Edwards
's depot, 20 miles from Vicksburg
, and his headquarters at Bovina
, 8 miles from that place; that the Seventeenth Corps (McPherson
's) had moved that day from Raymond
, 9 or 10 miles from Jackson
, on the road to Vicksburg
He added that General Maxey
's brigade from Port Hudson
was expected in Jackson
I had passed General Gist
's during that day, on its way from Charleston
The arrival of these troops, and, as I hoped, 3000 from Tennessee
, would increase the force in Jackson
to near 15,000 men. The most important measure to be executed then was the junction of these reinforcements with the army.
For that object, an order in writing was sent without delay to General Pemberton
by Captain Yerger
, who volunteered to bear it, to move to Clinton
at once and attack a Federal.
corps there, the troops in Jackson
to cooperate; to beat that detachment and establish communication, that he might be reinforced.
It was delivered at Bovina
early next morning, and General Pemberton
replied promptly that he “moved at once with his whole available force” ; but in the ride of ten or twelve miles to his camp at Edwards
's depot he determined to disobey my order, and on his arrival assembled a council of war, which he informed of that intention, and consulted upon the measure to be substituted for the movement to Clinton
It was decided to move southward to a point on the road by which General Grant
's forces had advanced, which would have made it impossible for the troops then in Jackson
and other expected reenforcements to join Pemberton
says of this [ “Rise and fall,” II., pp. 404-5]:
When he [Johnston] reached Jackson, learning that the enemy was between that place and the position occupied by General Pemberton's forces, about thirty miles distant, he halted there and opened correspondence with General Pemberton, from which confusion and consequent disasters resulted, which might have been avoided had he, with or without his reenforcements, proceeded to General Pemberton's headquarters in the field.
knew that I had been sick five or six weeks when ordered to Mississippi
, and therefore he had no right to suppose that I was able to make a night ride of thirty miles, after a journey of four days. He knew, too, that my course, which he now condemns, was the only one offering us a hope of success; for he indorsed on a letter of mine, giving a brief account of these events to the Secretary of War
: “Do not perceive why a junction was not attempted, which would have made our force nearly equal in number to the estimated strength of the enemy; and might have resulted in a total defeat under circumstances which rendered retreat or reenforcement to him scarcely practicable.”
It would be doing injustice to Mr. Davis
's intelligence to think that he really believes that I am chargeable with the consequences of the disobedience of my indispensable order, or that he is ignorant that our only hope of success lay in the execution of that order, and that to disobey it was to ruin us.
After the decision of the council of war, General Pemberton
remained at Edwards
's depot at least 24 hours; and instead of marching in the morning of the 14th, his movement was commenced so late on the 15th that he bivouacked at night but three or four miles from the ground he had left.
Here, soon after nightfall, the camp-fires of a division were pointed out to him, but he took no measures in consequence.
Soon after sunrise on the 16th he received an order from me, the second one, to march toward Clinton
that our forces might be united.
He made preparations to obey it, and, in acknowledging it, described the route he intended to follow; but he remained
passive five or six hours, before a single Federal division, until near noon, when General Grant
, having brought up six other divisions, attacked him. Notwithstanding the enemy's great superiority of numbers, General Pemberton
maintained a spirited contest of several hours, but was finally driven from the field.
This was the battle of Baker's Creek
, or Champion's Hill.
The Confederate troops retreated toward Vicksburg
, but bivouacked at night near the Big Black River
, one division in some earth-works in front of the bridge, the other a mile or two in rear of it. Lorina, whose division was in the rear, in quitting the field, instead of crossing Baker's Creek
, turned southward, and by a skillfully conducted march eluded the enemy, and in three days joined the troops from the east, assembling near Jackson
On the near approach of the pursuing army next morning, the troops in front of the bridge abandoned the intrenchments and retreated rapidly to Vicksburg
, accompanied by the division that had been posted west of the river.
Information of this was brought to me in the evening of that day, and I immediately wrote to General Pemberton
that, if invested in Vicksburg
, he must ultimately surrender; and that, instead of losing both troops and place, he must save the troops by evacuating Vicksburg
and marching to
Vicksburg Court House, a Landmark during the siege.
From a photograph taken in 1880. |
The question of obeying this order was submitted by him to a council of war, which decided that “it was impossible to withdraw the troops from that position with such morale
and material as to be of further service to the Confederacy
This allegation was refuted by the courage, fortitude, and discipline displayed by that army in the long siege.
The investment of the place was completed on the 19th; on the 20th Gist
's brigade from Charleston
, on the 21st Ector
's and McNair
's from Tennessee
, and on the 23d Maxey
's from Port Hudson
's and Walker
's near Canton
This force was further increased on the 3d of June by the arrival of Breckinridge
's division and Jackson
's (two thousand) cavalry from the Army of Tennessee, and Evans
's brigade from Charleston
These troops, except the cavalry, having come by railroad, were not equipped for the service before them: that of rescuing the garrison of Vicksburg
They required artillery, draught horses and mules, wagons, ammunition, and provisions, all in large numbers and quantity; the more because it was necessary to include the Vicksburg
troops in our estimates.
According to Lieutenant-General Pemberton
's report of March 31st, 1863 (the only one I can find), he had then present for duty 2360 officers and 28,221 enlisted men. These were the troops that occupied Vicksburg
and the camp at Edwards
's depot when General Pemberton
received my order dated May 13th.
There were, besides, above two thousand cavalry in the northern and south-western parts of the State
I have General Grant
's reports of May 31st and June 30th, 1863.
The first shows a force of 2991 officers and 47.500 enlisted men present for duty: the second, 4412 officers and 70,866 enlisted men present for duty.
The so-called siege of Vicksburg
was little more than a blockade.
But one vigorous assault was made, which was on the third day.
represents that General Pemberton
's operations were cramped by a want of cavalry, for which I was responsible.
He had cavalry enough; but it was used near the extremities of the State
against raiding parties, instead of being employed against the formidable invasion near the center.
accepts that officer's idea that a large body of cavalry could have broken General Grant
's communication with the Mississippi
, and so defeated his enterprise.
had no communication with the Mississippi
His troops supplied themselves from the country around them.
He accuses me of producing “confusion and consequent disasters” by giving a written order to Lieutenant-General Pemberton
, which he terms opening correspondence.
But as that order, dated May 13th, was disobeyed, it certainly produced neither confusion nor disaster.
But “consequent disaster” was undoubtedly due to the disobedience of that order, which caused the battle of Champion's Hill.
When that order was written, obedience to it, which would have united all our forces, might have enabled us to contend with General Grant
on equal terms, and perhaps to win the campaign.
Strange as it may now seem, Mr. Davis
thought so at the time, as the indorsement already quoted proves distinctly.
A proper use of the available resources of the Confederacy
would have averted the disasters referred to by Mr. Davis
If, instead of being sent on the wild expedition into Kentucky
, General Bragg
had been instructed to avail himself of the dispersed condition of the Federal
troops in northern Mississippi
and west Tennessee
, he might have totally defeated the forces with which General Grant
three months later.
Those troops were distributed in Corinth
, and intermediate points, while his own were united, so that he could have fought them in detail, with
as much certainty of success as can be hoped for in war. And such success would have prevented the military and naval combination which gave the enemy control of the Mississippi
and divided the Confederacy
, and would have given the Confederacy
the ascendency on that frontier.
It is evident, and was so then, that the three bodies of Confederate troops in Mississippi
in July, 1862, should have been united under General Bragg
The army of above 65,000 men so formed could not have been seriously resisted by the Federal
forces, not only greatly inferior to it in numbers, but so distributed that the various parts could have been attacked separately, and certainly defeated, probably destroyed.
Even after this failure the Confederates
were stronger to repel invasion than the Federals
By uniting their forces in Arkansas
with those in Mississippi
, an army of above 70,000 men would have been formed, to meet General Grant
's of 43,000.
In all human probability such a force would have totally defeated the invading army, and not only preserved Mississippi
but enabled us to recover Tennessee
But if there were some necessity known only to the President
to keep the Confederate
troops then in Arkansas
on that side of the Mississippi
, he could have put General Pemberton
on at least equal terms with his antagonist, by giving him the troops in April actually sent to him late in May.
This would have formed an army of above fifty thousand men. General Grant
landed two corps, less than 30,000 men, on the 30th of April and 1st and 2d of May; and it was not until the 8th of May that the arrival of Sherman
's corps increased his force to about 43,000 men. The Confederate reinforcements could have been sent as well early in April as late in May; and then, without bad generalship on our part, the chances of success would have been in our favor, decidedly.