previous next

Chapter 14

In the winter of 1866-67, I learned in Jackson, Mississippi, that a paper had been seen by my three or four friends there, purporting to be a message from the President of the Confederacy to the two Houses of Congress, explaining why his Excellency could not conscientiously restore me to military command. This explanation was, ostensibly, a narrative of my military service to the time of my removal from the command of the Army of Tennessee, with comments.

My friends endeavored, but unsuccessfully, to obtain a copy of the paper for me. They gave me, however, the name of the gentleman to whom they supposed that it had been committed.

When informed of Mr. Davis's address, or rather, how I could send a letter to him, I requested him to instruct the gentleman my friends had named to me, to give me a copy of the document. He replied promptly that, although he had written no such message, he desired the gentleman named, by that mail, to give me a copy of any paper written by him in relation to me, that might be in his possession. In due time that gentleman informed me that he had not the paper, but told me who had it in his keeping. [431] I then wrote to Mr. Davis again, explaining my mistake, and requesting him to instruct the gentleman who really had the message to give me a copy. As Mr. Davis had gone to Mississippi in the mean time, this letter was sent to a gentleman in Jackson, who was his friend as well as mine. In that way I know it was received, although never acknowledged; nor was the copy asked for given; I am therefore compelled to believe that the instructions so promptly received by one who had not the paper described, were not given to him to whom it had been intrusted.

The fact that this document was shown to the only gentlemen of Jackson whom I was well acquainted with, gives me reason to think that it has been exhibited freely, while the care with which it is preserved, and the language of him who has it in his keeping, indicate that it is so preserved for publication. Having waited for that event as long as one at my time of life can afford to do, I now defend myself against these accusations as given in the following synopsis — the only form in which I have been able to see them. I am confident of its accuracy, from the best evidence — that of gentlemen of intelligence and honor, who are well known in Mississippi. It is given in the following letter:

Vicksburg, Miss., January 10, 1870.
Dear General:
Your letter of 26th December last was received while I was confined to my bed with catarrh-fever, which is my excuse for the delay in answering it.

I have carefully read the synopsis (furnished you by a friend and sent to me) of the paper read to me [432] by General T. J. Wharton, in the Executive Office at Jackson in 1866, purporting to be a message prepared by President Davis, to be sent to Congress, giving his reasons for withholding from you any further command in the Confederate Army. I find it to agree wonderfully with my recollections of the contents of that paper. The synopsis is somewhat meagre in elaboration and detail, but, with some few omissions, it is substantially correct, I think. First, in the charges stated in regard to your conduct and course in the Valley before the battle of Manassas; then of what is said of your movement from Manassas and preliminary to it; then the accusations against you at Yorktown, at Seven Pines, and at Vicksburg; and the alleged misconduct in Georgia, are all given substantially correct. As to the omissions I allude to, I think it is stated in the original paper that you were ordered to take command of Bragg's army in January, 1863, if it appeared to you to be advisable, but that you sustained Bragg, expressed confidence, etc., in him. Then you are taken to task for remaining in Tennessee instead of going to Mississippi, where you ought to have been, and where you did not go until expressly ordered. I think another omission is, that you were charged with the loss of rolling-stock on the railroad above Big Black, in July, 1863, which could have been saved easily by making a temporary bridge at Jackson. I think, if the original paper ever sees daylight, it will show the synopsis and these omissions to be substantially given as stated.

Very truly, your sincere friend, (Signed) Benj. G. Humphreys. To General J. E. Johnston, Savannah, Ga.


Savannah, Ga., October 8, 1873.
Dear General:
I have carefully examined the paper which you submitted to me, claiming to be an abstract of a certain manuscript message purporting to have been prepared by Mr. Davis, during his presidency of the Confederate States, but which was not submitted to the Confederate Congress, in which he gives his reasons for not reinstating you to command after your removal before Atlanta.

This latter document was in my possession for a while, and I read it very carefully, and according to my recollection the abstract or synopsis in your possession is, as far as it goes, correct. I don't think that the points as stated therein are as strong as made in the original, while some are not embraced in it. Without referring to other omissions, I well remember the original as containing some strictures upon you for failing to provide against the heavy loss of rolling-stock on the railroad about Big Black, in July, 1863, which it was claimed could have been done by building a temporary bridge over Pearl River; and another, your failure to take command of Bragg's army in 1863, as ordered.

Yours truly, (Signed) L. Mims.
General J. E. Johnston, Savannah, Ga.

1.1 It is stated in this paper that, at the beginning of the struggle, he (the President) had entire confidence in General Johnston's ability, and as soon as active operations commenced placed him in [434] command of the troops covering and defending, as was then thought, the most important strategical point in Virginia-Harper's Ferry; that in his letters that officer fully sustained the opinions of others in regard to this point, and estimated its importance as very great, considered either as a place from which to operate against General McClellan, coming from the West, or Patterson, or McDowell; that suddenly he changed his tactics, and represented that the position was untenable, etc., etc., although it had been fortified; and that, abandoning at Harper's Ferry much valuable machinery, he took a new position at or near Winchester, where for several days, if not weeks, he remained in front of Patterson with the avowed object of crushing him-replying to suggestions and orders from Richmond to reenforce General Beauregard at Manassas, that it was essential that he should keep between McClellan and Patterson, to prevent their junction; and that when, finally, he obeyed an imperative and repeated order from Richmond to reinforce General Beauregard at Manassas, he managed so badly as to arrive barely in time to save General Beauregard from a defeat which would have brought great disaster upon our arms.

2. That, as ranking officer, General Johnston was assigned to the command of the army, and his plan was to assume the defensive, fortify Centreville Heights, and recruit the army there. His communications to the Richmond authorities, made voluntarily, and in reply to questions, indicated perfect satisfaction with the excellence and strength of the position and army, which was further shown by the concentration of a vast amount of stores and material of [435] war in and about Manassas. But, to the astonishment of the authorities, he indicated an intention to fall back; and when, in their surprise, they desired to know to what point he would retreat and stop, he confessed his total ignorance of the country behind him, and could give no satisfactory answer. Surprised and alarmed at this intelligence, engineer officers were sent from Richmond to sketch the topographical features of the country, to furnish General Johnston with information which, as commanding general of the army, he should have given to the Richmond authorities. The matter was deemed of sufficient importance to call him to Richmond for consultation; and, when he left that place to return to the army, no such thing as a hasty retreat was anticipated; but preparations for a rapid movement by the army, as circumstances might direct, were agreed upon. Suddenly, however, he put the army in motion, after destroying vast quantities of supplies, which should have been removed; and halted only when imperative instructions from Richmond commanded him to do so.

3. McClellan having changed his base to Fort Monroe, it then became necessary to face him at Yorktown, involving long marches, and much suffering, and the occupation of a country in which it was very difficult to procure supplies and feed an army. Here General Johnston's judgment was strongly in favor of his position, the strength of his works, and the qualities of his troops. But, just when public confidence was beginning to be restored, he suddenly evacuated his position, destroying quantities of supplies, and refusing the gage of battle, although the [436] disparity of numbers did not seem to justify it. To check his retreat short of Richmond, orders were finally sent to him to halt; and the line of the Chickahominy was occupied. As soon as McClellan came up, however, he again broke up his camps, and fell back to Richmond, to whose small natural defensive advantages he added nothing by fortification, although he remained in front of the city several weeks.

4. When McClellan, emboldened by Johnston's want of enterprise, placed a division on his side of the Chickahominy, which a rain, sweeping away the bridges, put completely at his mercy, his dispositions were so faulty, and his knowledge of the country so imperfect, that the combat which followed was barely rendered successful as a feat of arms, and was barren of results, that should have been tangible and important. His wound in this battle having disabled him, it became necessary to intrust the command to another, who had the confidence of the army and people. General Lee was selected. When General Johnston recovered, it was deemed impolitic to remove General Lee at a time when his plans for future operations were maturing, the policy of which was in accordance with the views of the Government, and to substitute one whose plans would have to be matured, and whose dispositions might cause such delay as to seriously threaten the fair prospects of the army and country.

5. Although the President's confidence in General Johnston's ability was somewhat shaken by that officer's conduct, he determined to place him in command of the most important department of the Confederacy. [437] Johnston's friends were confident of his ability, and the President thought that his own judgment should not be put in opposition to so many good, judicious, and intelligent men. He was therefore assigned to the command of the Department of the West; his headquarters at Chattanooga; with full and complete control over the armies operating in Tennessee and Mississippi. After assuming that command, he was directed to go to Tullahoma, to ascertain if General Bragg had so lost the confidence of his troops as to render it expedient to remove him. After reporting in favor of that officer, he remained in Tullahoma, instead of returning to Jackson, where his presence was required by the imminence of General Grant's invasion; and, even in such a crisis, he went to Mississippi only in consequence of a positive order from the Secretary of War.

On arriving in Jackson, instead of leading his troops to join Lieutenant-General Pemberton's, or going to his headquarters, which was feasible, and assuming command in person, he retired with the troops he had, in the direction of Canton, without striking a blow, or endeavoring to impede the progress of the enemy in any manner whatever; and remained inactive for three weeks, although all the troops that could possibly be sent had been directed to reenforce him, swelling his numbers to a respectable army, strong enough to have cut through Grant's lines and relieve Pemberton. Finally, he did move; but only in time to reach the banks of the Big Black River to hear of Pemberton's surrender. This caused him to fall back to Jackson; which [438] place he represented to be of importance, and worth defending at all hazards. But after remaining there for — he telegraphed to the Government that the works were feeble, badly arranged, etc., and Jackson indefensible; although he had first telegraphed that it was well fortified. Losses of stores, army dispirited, confidence of people weakened, followed the evacuation.

After this, while his troops were unemployed, a brigade of Federal cavalry destroyed the portion of the rolling-stock of the Mississippi Central Railroad kept in Grenada. The loss of these cars and engines was much felt in the latter part of the war, when they would have been very valuable, to transport provisions to Lee's army. Their preservation would have been easy. It would have required nothing more than the construction of a temporary bridge over Pearl River at Jackson.

6. After this the President's confidence in Johnston's ability as a general was so far destroyed, that he determined not to intrust him again with the command of an important army. He remained in command at Morton and Meridian until December, and in his department nothing of importance occurred. After the battle of Missionary Ridge, public clamor and the army demanded a change in the command of the Army of Tennessee. General Bragg's repeated applications to be relieved were finally granted, and, upon the earnest, repeated, and urgent appeals of many of the best and foremost men of the country, the President was induced, contrary to his judgment, to assign General Johnston to that command. That officer was immediately notified of the arrangement [439] (as soon as made) for a campaign, and also of the troops that would be sent him. A plan of campaign was also transmitted to him by the War Department. To this plan he objected, without proposing a better one, and, while the correspondence was going on, Sherman commenced his movement which induced Johnston to retreat.

7. That, at the opening of the campaign, Johnston had subject to his orders between sixty and seventy thousand men, and the disparity of forces between Sherman and him was so much less than between Lee and Grant, that constant hope was entertained of a great and glorious victory; but he only kept on retreating, refusing all the advantages which an able general would have seized; that the positions taken up by him were almost impregnable by Nature, and but little art was necessary to make them quite so to Sherman's onward progress; that, as Sherman would extend his flanks to envelop him, instead of concentration and battle, it was a retreat and a new position, and so on until he arrived at Atlanta; that his losses, when he arrived there, amounted to twenty-five thousand; that his army was dispirited and broken down by the immense fatigue they had undergone; and the confidence in his ability to check Sherman's onward progress entirely destroyed.

8. That, upon direct interrogatory as to his ability to hold Atlanta, Johnston failed to impress the Department with the belief that he entertained any hope of doing so. It was then determined to change the tactics of the campaign, and put in command one who not only would command the confidence of the army, [440] but one who would not surrender territory without disputing its possession.

He (the President) adds that upon no consideration could he be induced, over his own signature, to intrust Johnston again with the command of an army.

1. My opinion of Harper's Ferry was thus expressed in my report to the Administration:

Its garrison was out of position to defend the Valley, or to prevent General McClellan's junction with General Patterson. These were the obvious and important objects to be kept in view. Besides being in position for them, it was necessary to be able, on emergency, to join General Beauregard.

The occupation of Harper's Ferry by our army perfectly suited the enemy's views. We were bound to a fixed point. His movements were unrestricted. These views were submitted to the military authorities. The continued occupation of the place was, however, deemed by them indispensable.

The practicable roads from the west and northwest, as well as from Manassas, meet the routes from Pennsylvania and Maryland at Winchester. That was therefore, in my opinion, our best position.

General E. Kirby Smith wrote to me as follows, May 28, 1867:

From the date of assuming command at Harper's Ferry to your evacuation of the place, you always expressed the conviction that, with the force under your command, the position was weak and untenable.... My recollection is that, after assuming command, you reported to General Lee against the occupation of Harper's Ferry, and that authority [441] for its evacuation was received about the time the position was abandoned.

It is evident from General Lee's letters,2 of June 1st and 7th, that mine of May 26th and 28th, and June 6th, expressed opinions decidedly unfavorable to Harper's Ferry as a military position, and proposed its evacuation. General Smith's testimony is direct and positive to the same effect; and the extract above, from my official report of the events in question, is conclusive as to the opinion of the intrinsic strength and strategical value of Harper's Ferry that I expressed to the Administration. And all combine with the narrative, from page 6 to page 16, to prove that, from the first, my language and conduct were consistent, and that I abandoned the place from no sudden change of opinion, but in conformity with that officially expressed in the first two days of my command, and reiterated.

The movement to Winchester was indispensable, and so regarded by the President himself. For, in the first passage quoted from General Cooper's letter3 of June 13th, he authorized it, as well as the evacuation of Harper's Ferry. That authority had been anticipated, however. But for that movement, the battle of Manassas would have been lost; for, if our troops had escaped capture in Harper's Ferry, they could not have reached that field from it, in time to take part in the action.

The place was not fortified, unless mounting two heavy naval guns in battery on Furnace Ridge made it so. No valuable machinery was left there. Even wood for gunstocks4 was brought away. [442]

Between the middle of June, when we moved from Harper's Ferry, to the 18th of July, when we moved from Winchester to Manassas, nine regiments5 were sent to the army in the Valley, and the President thought more urgently required. If I had been professing to be able to crush Patterson, those regiments would not have been sent to me, nor would the President have explained6 so earnestly why he did not send more. This when Beauregard needed them greatly.

Not even a suggestion to move to Manassas was sent to me before the telegram of July 17th, received on the 18th. On the contrary, the President's instructions to me in General Cooper's letters of June 13th, 18th, and 19th, and in his own of June 22d, and July 10th and 13th, prove that he had no such thought. And these letters prove that in all the time between the march from Harper's Ferry to Winchester, and that to Manassas, the intended that the Army I commanded should be employed in the defense of the Valley. In the letter quoted, General E. K. Smith wrote: “As second in command and your adjutant-general, possessing your confidence, my position was one that made it exceedingly improbable that any orders could have been received at headquarters without my cognizance. No order in my recollection was received, either authorizing or directing you to join General Beauregard, other than that of July 17th, which was promptly complied with.”

No imperative and repeated order to reinforce [443] General Beauregard was given to me; no dispatch on the subject came to me but that given on page 33, which is not “imperative.” General E. K. Smith testifies that I received no other; and that that one was acted upon promptly.

I am accused of arriving at Manassas barely in time to save General Beauregard from defeat. If the Army of the Shenandoah had actually come upon the field too late, the President would have been responsible, not I. For, instead of giving me information of McDowell's advance on the 16th of July, as should have been done, he dispatched his telegram on the subject in the night of the l7th, after the Federal army had encamped at Centreville, but three and a half miles from Beauregard's line, the Army of the Shenandoah being then at least four days march, for such undisciplined troops, from that position. The operations so criticised secured the concentration that, for the time, saved the Confederacy, by enabling us to gain the battle of Manassas. At the time, the Government and people of the South were satisfied with the Army of the Shenandoah, because it came upon the field soon enough, and fought manfully after coming upon it. Now, the novel charge is made that it arrived almost too late. 2. The two armies were equally on the defensive at the time apparently referred to. The result of the conference7 at Fairfax Court-House terminated our hope of assuming the offensive, and, in consequence, the army was placed at Centreville and intrenched.

So far from expressing satisfaction with the [444] strength and excellence of the army, I urged, at Fairfax Court-House, that it should be increased by at least fifty per cent., and my only letter8 on the subject expressed the strongest dissatisfaction with the condition in numbers and discipline to which the army was reduced by the interference of the War Department with its interior management. The concentration of a vast amount of stores and material of war in and about Manassas was made by the Government itself against my repeated remonstrances,9 expressed through my proper staff-officer, Major R. G. Cole, chief commissary. Fifteen days were devoted by the army to the removal of the public property that had been recklessly collected at Manassas. It would have been very dangerous to the public safety to employ it longer in that way; for, on the eve of a formidable invasion, it was of great importance that it should be so placed as to be able to unite promptly with other available forces, to repel this invasion.

I indicated no intention to “fall back” before the “consultation” on the 20th of February. The condition of the country made military operations on a large scale impossible, so that the most timid could have imagined no cause for hasty retreat. And in the “consultation” later, when the country was somewhat less impracticable, I opposed10 any movement on account of the difficulty, which indicates that I could not have intended one when the difficulties would have been much greater. [445]

I was not ignorant of the country. I had studied it carefully, and had selected and prepared a position for the army behind the Rappahannock. But, if it had been otherwise, I had the usual resource of generals — a good map, which would have shown me by what routes to march, and where to halt.

Engineers were not sent to the army at the time (before the consultation) nor for the object asserted, but in consequence of an application by me, repeated after the consultation,11 and they reported about the 3d of March, when an attempt by them to make a map of the country would have been absurd, if they had been competent to such work. On that subject, Captain Powhatan Robinson, their commander, wrote to me October 6, 1869: “I reported to you on the 1st or 2d of March. The rest of the topographical corps reported to me afterward. As regards the efficiency of the party, Lieutenant Heinrichs and myself were the only ones who had any experience in sketching topography, and, this being our first essay in the military line, we were ridiculously minute, and consequently very slow. I left Manassas March 3d, on my reconnaissance to the Rappahannock; I taking the upper route, and sending Lieutenant Randolph, who had just reported, by the lower. I reported to you on the 6th, at Centreville; received orders on the 7th to prepare Rappahannock Bridge for the passage of trains. The bridge was completed Tuesday morning (11th), just as the trains came up.”

In the consultation, the President seemed to think that the army was exposed, and desired its [446] removal. I thought the object of change of position ought to be, facility of uniting all our forces promptly, when McClellan's designs should be developed. It terminated with informal verbal orders to me to fall back as soon as practicable. Nothing was said of positions or routes-proof that the President had not then discovered my ignorance of the country.

The movement was not “hasty.” We were preparing for it fifteen days; in which I wrote to the President five times in relation to those preparations. It would not have been proper to bestow more time upon the preservation of commissary stores. The “vast quantities” (rather more than a sixth of the whole supply) destroyed ought not to have been removed. It would have been too hazardous.

The army was not halted by the President's command. It left Centreville and Bull Run to take position on the south bank of the Rappahannock; and had reached that line before the President knew that it had moved. The position had been prepared by field-works near the railroad-bridge, and a depot of provision. The Chief Commissary was informed early in the winter that, when the army left its present position, its next would be behind the Rappahannock. When the orders to remove public property were given on the 22d of February, the principal staff-officers were informed that the new position of the army would be the south bank of the Rappahannock. The right wing, ordered to Fredericksburg, had taken its position before the main body moved. The President certainly did not stop it.

Colonel A. H. Cole, of the Quartermaster's Department, [447] wrote to me on the 30th of March, 1872: “In reply to your questions in relation to the withdrawal of the army from Centreville and Bull Run in March, 1862, I will state that, when you ordered the removal of the military stores from Manassas, February 22d, your principal staff-officers were informed that the position of the army would be on the south side of the Rappahannock, near the railroad-bridge. I accompanied you from Manassas to this position, and in such official and personal relations to you as to give me full knowledge of your correspondence, and I am sure that you received no dispatches from Richmond on the way. You could have received no telegram, for there was no telegraph-office on our route.”

We reached the Rappahannock before noon of the 11th, and the troops bivouacked immediately. A telegraph-office was established afterward in a house near the bridge.12 If “imperative instructions” to halt ever came to me from Richmond, it must have been when the army was established in its new position; so that they had no effect, and therefore made no impression on my memory. The representatives of Northern Virginia, in Congress, were greatly excited by the withdrawal of the army from Centreville, and saw the President on the subject. This may have drawn from him an order to me to halt — after the fact. 3. The allegations of this paragraph are completely refuted by the narrative, from page 113 to page 116, the first part of my official report presented [448] to the Executive, May 19th, and the testimony of Generals Wigfall and Longstreet.

In the report I said: “Before taking command on the Peninsula, I had the honor to express to the President my opinion of the defects of the position then occupied by our troops.”

After taking command, I reported that the opinion previously expressed was fully confirmed.

Some of my objections were: that its length was too great for our force; that it13 prevented offensive movements, except at great disadvantage; and that it would be untenable after the guns of Yorktown should be silenced — a result admitted to be inevitable by all our officers, from the enemy's great superiority in artillery. York River being thus opened, a large fleet of transports and several hundred batteaux14 would enable him to turn us in a few hours.

General Longstreet wrote to me, March 21, 186 :

I cannot remember, at this late day, the particular reasons that were given for and against the move of the army to Yorktown in 1862, in our council held in Richmond while the move was going on. Mr. Davis, Mr. Benjamin, 15 and General Lee, seemed to favor the move to Yorktown-you to oppose it, and I think, General G. W. Smith.

The effort to represent you as favoring the move of the army to Yorktown is untrue and unjust, if such an effort is being made.

General Wigfall wrote to me on the 29th of March, 1873:

I know, from conversations at the [449] time with Mr. Davis, that you did propose to him the concentration of all available forces at Richmond, for the purpose of giving battle to McClellan there, instead of concentrating and fighting at Yorktown. These conversations occurred immediately after I learned from you that your plan had been rejected, and when the matter was fresh in my memory. And I found the President fully possessed of your views as previously explained by you to me. I can not give you the precise date. It was the last time I saw you before the battle of Williamsburg, when you were in Richmond on your way from the Rapidan to take command at Yorktown.

These three papers prove that I earnestly maintained opinions precisely opposite to those ascribed to me in the “message.”

The movement from Yorktown was not made “suddenly.” The President was informed of the determination to make it on the 27th of April. It was begun about midnight of May 3d and 4th. The time of traveling from Richmond was not more than ten hours. So that there was ample time to forbid the measure if it had been disapproved.

No supplies were lost, except some hospital stores left on the wharf at Yorktown by the negligence of a surgeon, who was arrested for the offense, and some intrenching-tools.16 In a memorandum on the subject, Colonel R. G. Cole stated: “To sum up, then, the amount of loss sustained by the department, from the withdrawal from Yorktown by the army, I regard as so inconsiderable [450] in comparison with the number of troops as to justify me in stating that it was nothing.”

We refused no “gage of battle,” but were ready to repel the enemy's attack each day of the sixteen during which we confronted him near Yorktown; and fought him successfully at Williamsburg, and drove him out of our way at Barhamsville.

As to disparity of numbers, it was a hundred and thirty-three thousand17 to fifty thousand; far greater than existed when General Lee took command of that army on the first of June, or than that against us in Mississippi in December, 1862, or in Middle Tennessee in 1863. Yet General Lee was justly sustained by the Administration and people for postponing his attack upon McClellan four weeks, that he might make it with a force adequate to win; and Lieutenant-General Pemberton's course was approved when he refused Grant's “gage of battle,” and retired from the Tallahatchie; and General Bragg's when he refused Rosecrans's “gage of battle” in the valley of Duck River, and retreated rapidly across the Cumberland Mountains and Tennessee River.

After the battle of Williamsburg the Federal army did not approach us; although our march thence to the Baltimore cross-roads, thirty-seven miles, occupied five days and we remained there five more. We waited for the enemy in that position because it was a good one--the first we had found not liable to be turned by water, while it was accessible by railroad from Richmond. We halted there [451] not only without the President's orders, but without his knowledge. The line of the Chickahominy was not taken, nor would the President's order have compelled me to take it; for, by offering our right flank to the enemy, it would have put us at his mercy.

We did not “fall back to Richmond” because McClellan “came up,” but took that position in expectation of his transferring 18 his base to James River. We crossed the Chickahominy on the 15th--he not until the 22d.

I did not add to the fortifications of Richmond, because they were sufficient-planned and constructed by the ablest engineer in the Confederacy, Colonel Andrew Tallcott.

4. McClellan placed not a division, but two corps of his army, “on our side of the Chickahominy.” We attacked them, and were successful until night interrupted the action. That the combat was successful is evidence that the dispositions for it were not very faulty. “Tangible results” were not secured, because the action was not continued19 next day, as it would have been, but for my desperate wound. In Alfriend's20 “Life of Jefferson Davis,” there is an elaborate attempt to show that Mr. Davis took an active part in the battle. If so, it could have been in no secondary one, but only as commander. This would make him responsible for the want of results.

General Lee had not acquired the confidence of the army and people, then. His great fame was acquired subsequently, at the head of that army. Mr. Davis can claim no merit for the selection, for [452] General Lee was the only general available; and was then, as he had been previously, in a position inadequate to his rank.

5. When the President assigned me to the command of Generals Bragg, Pemberton, and Kirby Smith, he fixed my headquarters in Tennessee. Before the end of December I transferred them to Mississippi. On the 23d of January he ordered me to Tennessee on special service. When I was returning to Mississippi after having performed it, he ordered21 me to return to Tullahoma and take personal command of General Bragg's army. This made it officially impossible for me to return to Jackson; so that all my absence from Mississippi, in 1863, was compelled by the President. I went to Mississippi in May “only in consequence of a positive order,” because I had been deprived by the President of the power to go without one. On arriving at Jackson, I took the promptest22 measure to unite the troops in Jackson with those immediately under General Pemberton. The measure was defeated23 by disobedience of my orders. The troops in Jackson rendered the only service possible, by delaying the approach of the Federal forces long enough to enable Major Minis, chief quartermaster of the department, to save such public property as he had the means of removing. To attempt to strike a blow upon at least two corps,24 with two brigades, would have been gross folly.

We were not inactive25 during the siege of Vicksburg, nor were my forces adequate to cut through Grant's lines. General Pemberton, as much [453] interested as any one could be in bold measures for the relief of Vicksburg, thought forty thousand men a minimum for the attempt. Governor Pettus, Honorables A. G. Brown, D. F. Kenner, E. Barksdale, and W. P. Harris,26 thought thirty thousand more troops necessary, they being on the spot. For the causes of Confederate disasters in Mississippi, the reader is referred to pages 204-211.

The assertions concerning the little siege of Jackson are contradicted by the very correspondence27 referred to, and in pages 207 and 208. On the first day, July 9th, I telegraphed to Mr. Davis that I should endeavor to hold the place. On the 11th: “It” (the intrenched line) “is very defective; cannot stand a siege, but improves a bad position against assault.” On the 13th: “The enemy's rifles (cannon) reached all parts of the town, showing the weakness of the position, and its untenableness against a powerful artillery. . . . If the position and works were not bad, want of stores, which could not be collected, would make it impossible to stand a siege.” These were my only dispatches to the President on the subject.

Stores were not lost, for we had none in Jackson. We were supplied by the railroad from the East, and our depot was at its terminus east of Pearl River, so that its contents were easily saved. The soldiers were not dispirited by finding that their lives and blood were valued; but their confidence in the Government, as well as that of the people of the State, [454] was weakened by the disasters at Baker's Creek and the Big Black, the loss of Vicksburg, and capture of its brave garrison.

These disasters were caused by the hesitation of the Government to reinforce the Army of the Mississippi. About eighteen thousand men were sent to it from Beauregard's and Bragg's departments between the 12th and the end of May. This could have been done as easily between the middle of April, when General Grant's plan became distinctly known, and the 1st of May, when he crossed the Mississippi. With such an addition to his strength, General Pemberton would certainly have enabled Bowen to meet McClernand's corps, near Bruinsburg, with a superior force, and probably decide the campaign by defeating it.

The only proper measures in my power were taken to rebuild the railroad and bridge at Jackson, after their destruction by the Federal army in July. As many laborers, wagons, and teams, as the engineers of the railroad companies required, were impressed for their use. It was with such assistance that one company repaired its road and the other was repairing its bridge, after.their destruction in May by General Grant's orders. As that course was not disapproved in the first case, it was reasonable to follow it in the second; especially as we had not seen Confederate troops employed on such work.

The rolling-stock of the Mississippi Central Railroad Company, referred to, was destroyed partly in Grenada by a Federal raiding-party, and partly at different places near the railroad, by a brigade of Confederate cavalry sent to protect it; but enough [455] for the business of the road escaped. This was not a military loss, however, and was not felt by the transportation department. If the railroad-bridge had not been burnt or had been repaired in a few days, it is very unlikely that the engines and cars of the Mississippi Central Railroad would have been taken from it for use in the East; for there was a gap in each of the two railroad routes through Alabama, as difficult to pass as that I am censured for not having closed. A strong proof of this is the fact that the unused cars and engines of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, in far greater numbers than the Mississippi Central ever had, lay in the company's places of deposit from the time in question until the end of the war. If such means of transportation had been required in the East by the Government, these would have been taken in preference to those more distant, in Mississippi.

6. I may reasonably claim that the earnest, repeated, and urgent appeals of many of the best and foremost men of the country, furnish respectable evidence for me against the President's very unfavorable judgment. I was notified of arrangements to be made, not made, and not immediately, but about the middle of March,28 when they should have been completed. The troops referred to were to be sent to Dalton when all preparations for a long march should be concluded. This made it almost certain that we should be attacked at Dalton29 and probably forced back before the arrival of these [456] reenforcements, and the “plan of campaign” defeated before being begun. That was my first objection to it.30 I did propose what seemed to me a better one-to assemble at once all the troops promised, that we might defeat the enemy when he should attack us, that attack being inevitable, and then assume the offensive. Instead of sixty or seventy thousand men, I had forty thousand four hundred and sixty four infantry and artillery and two thousand three hundred and ninety-two cavalry fit for service, subject to my orders at the opening of the campaign. This is shown by the only authentic statement on the subject — the return sent to the Confederate War-Office, prepared by Major Kinloch Falconer of the Adjutant-General's Department, from the reports of Lieutenant-Generals Hardee and Hood, and Major. General Wheeler. General Sherman states in his report that he commenced the campaign with above ninety-eight thousand men. But, as three of his four divisions31 of cavalry, probably not less than twelve thousand men, are not included in his estimate, it is not impossible that some infantry may have been omitted also. The Army of Tennessee was certainly numerically inferior to that of Northern Virginia, and General Bragg asserted32 that Sherman's was superior in fighting force to Grant's. But if the disparity of force was greater in General Lee's case than in mine, I submit to the Southern people that to condemn me alone of all those who served them in the field, for [457] not coming up to their highest standard, is a harsh judgment. If the troops33 enumerated by General Bragg had reinforced the army at Dalton, the President might have had a right to hope for such a victory as would have opened the way for us into Middle Tennessee. But as the case actually was-odds of almost three to one against that army-he had no reason to entertain such a hope. If the writer was informed of opportunities “refused” by me, he should have named them. As he has not done so, I have a right to claim that he knew of none. If the Federal general gave us favorable opportunities to attack him, they were discovered by no one in our army. We neither occupied nor saw positions almost impregnable. None such are to be found between Dalton and Atlanta. Wherever the two armies confronted each other, the ground occupied by one was as favorable for defense as that held by the other. Both armies depended on intrenchments; not on the natural strength of their positions. General Sherman never extended his flanks in the manner described. As we were able to hold our intrenchments against his greatly superior forces, it was evident that we could not attack those forces in fieldworks equally strong, with reasonable chances of success. We were compelled to abandon Dalton, not by the extension of a flank, but by the march of the Federal army itself toward Resaca — that march being completely covered by the mountain, Rocky-Face. And at Resaca, after intrenching his army so strongly as to make it secure from assault, General Sherman availed himself of the course of the [458] Oostenaula, almost parallel to our railroad, to extend his line, protected by it, to the neighborhood of Calhoun, which compelled us to pass to the rear of that point, to avoid being cut off from Atlanta. At New-Hope Church, where the armies were parallel to each other almost two weeks, General Sherman gradually extended his intrenchments toward the railroad. When he reached it, we established ourselves in front of Marietta, and held that ground about four weeks until the Federal numbers enabled General Sherman to extend his works parallel to our railroad, and five or six miles beyond our left. This made it necessary to draw back again; to place ourselves nearer than the enemy to Atlanta. In all this, I was sustained by General Lee's similar course in Virginia. The difference between the two campaigns was but that of the characters of the two Federal commanders-General Grant attacked repeatedly, with all his strength, and suffered great losses in battles, but reached his destination in about a month. General Sherman, who was cool and cautious, made one general and several partial attacks the latter to be followed up if successful-but drew off his forces in each case, when he found his opponents ready and resolute. He sought for weak points in our lines daily, and with that object skirmished incessantly. Those engagements, as he expresses it, occasionally swelling to the dimensions of battles. My part of this campaign continued seventy-four days; the Federal army being two days from Atlanta when I was removed from my command. In comparing the operations in Upper Georgia with those in Virginia, it is to be considered that [459] Sherman's condition became more hazardous as he approached Atlanta, and that of the Confederate army absolutely safe, when it reached the place, in which, as I have already said,34 it could neither be assailed nor invested. General Grant, on the contrary, found a secure base on James River. The assertion that the Army of Tennessee lost twenty-five thousand men while under my command is an enormous exaggeration. The only authentic statement of that loss is in the reports of Surgeon A. J. Foard, medical director. According to them,35 it was nine thousand nine hundred and seventy-two killed and wounded. We had good reason to think the enemy's loss six times as great. It is a calumny to say that the Army of Tennessee was dispirited or broken down. It had never before been in finer condition — the men in a high state of discipline, and full of confidence from uniform success in their engagements with the enemy, and the horses of the cavalry and artillery, and the mules of the trains, in fine order for service-much better than when the campaign was begun. As for fatigue, they but once made more than a half-day's march in one day,36 and never two half-days' marches in two consecutive days. I was never questioned as to my ability to hold Atlanta. General Bragg, who undoubtedly visited the [460] army in that connection, saw the most efficient preparations to hold it in progress — the industrious strengthening by me of the intrenchments made by General Gilmer's wise foresight, and the mounting of heavy rifle-cannon, just brought from Mobile, on the front toward the enemy.

As to the almost impregnable character of the available positions; General Hardee wrote in his letter of April 10, 1868, already quoted: “The country between Dalton and Atlanta is, for the most part, open, intersected by numerous practicable roads, and readily penetrable. In some portions it is rugged and broken, but the ridges and ranges of hills, where they occur, are neither continuous nor regular enough to afford material advantage for defense. It offers no advantage to one side not shared by the other. There are no strongholds in that section, and no positions effectual for defense against largely superior numbers.” For the manner in which the progress of the enemy was resisted, the dispirited condition of the army, and its want of confidence in me, the reader is referred to General Hardee's testimony in the letter on pages 365, 366, and General Stewart's in that on pages 367-369.

Mr. Davis's official course toward me, from the commencement of the war to the 17th of July, 1864, strongly contradicts all his statements in the “message.” If he had believed, when McDowell was near Manassas, that I had been exhibiting at Harper's Ferry, and elsewhere in the Valley, the singular incapacity for war he describes in the first part of this paper, he could not have ordered me to Manassas to command in a battle the result of which was to decide [461] the fate of the Confederacy, for the time, at least. If, from the time of that action until the Army of Northern Virginia was ordered to Yorktown, my conduct had more than confirmed previous bad impressions, it is impossible that the President could have so forgotten his obligations to the country as to leave me in the most important military command of the Confederacy. Still more so, that he could have greatly enlarged that command by adding two armies to it, and this when General Lee, whom he regarded (though illegally) as my senior, was in a mere staff-office in Richmond. And if in the fall of 1862 he had thought of my conduct at Yorktown, and in the battle of Seven Pines, as he wrote of it in 1865, his oath of office would not have permitted him to place me in command of the most important department of the Confederacy. And, although he terminated this message with an assurance to the Confederate Congress that nothing would induce him to assign me to an adequate command, the paper was not sent to Congress, and I was ordered to report to General Lee (who had just been appointed commander-in-chief), and assigned to the command of the second department of the Confederacy in importance.

In war, the testimony of an enemy in one's favor is certainly worth more than that of a friend, as he who receives a blow can better estimate the dexterity of the striker than any spectator. I therefore offer that of one of the most prominent officers of the United States Army, who was conspicuous in this campaign, in the following letter: [462]

New York City, October 21, 1873.
General M. Lovell: My Dear General:
Your letter of the 15th inst., requesting my professional opinion concerning the conduct of the retreat of the Confederate army in 1864, while commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston, and also of the impression produced in the Union army on being informed of the removal of that officer from his position, was received. I have no possible objection to communicating to you my views on this subject, briefly, of course (as I have not my notes and maps of the campaign near me to refer to), and, besides, I wish it to be understood, in advance, that my opinions on this subject are expressed in no ostentatious manner, but merely to comply with your request, and to do justice, as far as lies in my power, to a brother officer toward whom I have always felt the highest admiration for his superior military accomplishments.

I was familiar with his services in the Seminole War, and also in our war with Mexico.

During the campaign to which you refer, I served in the army opposed to him, in command of a corps, on which, as you intimate, much of the heavy work of the campaign devolved — I mean the retreat of the Confederate army from Buzzard's Roost Pass to near Atlanta, Ga., embracing the period from May 6th to July 27th. At the former point Johnston found himself too weak to cope with our army with any prospect of success, and it became his problem to weaken the Union army by drawing it from its base of operations and seeking opportunities in the mean time to attack and destroy it whenever occasions presented [463] themselves to do so advantageously. Our vast superiority in numbers enabled us to divide our army, and turn all his positions without risk from any quarter.

General Johnston, however, as he abandoned his intrenched positions, conducted his retreat, in my judgment, in a prudent and consummate manner, both in strategy and tactics. All the positions chosen for making a stand were selected with the utmost sagacity and skill, and his defenses were thrown up and strengthened with the exercise of marvelous ingenuity and judgment. This was the case near Dalton, Resaca, Cassville, New-Hope Church, Kenesaw Mountain, Peach-Tree Creek, and other points which I do not now remember. Considering that Johnston's army was on the retreat, I think it remarkable that we found no deserters, no stragglers, no muskets or knapsacks, and no material of war. Johnston's troops also covered and protected the citizens living in the vast district in which we were operating, in carrying off all their property from before us. In fact, it was the cleanest and best-conducted retreat, as was remarked by every one, that we had seen or read of. Wherever we went we encountered a formidable line of battle which all commanders were inclined to respect; I know that this was my feeling, and other officers in command of armies and corps appeared to feel as I did. Indeed, this retreat was so masterly that I regard it as a useful lesson for study for all persons who may hereafter elect for their calling the profession of arms. After having given the subject a good deal of reflection, I unhesitatingly state as my conviction that this retreat was the most [464] prominent feature of the war, and, in my judgment, reflects the highest credit upon its author. The news that General Johnston had been removed from the command of the army opposed to us was received by our officers with universal rejoicing.

.... One of the prominent historians of the Confederacy ascribes the misfortunes of the “Lost cause” to the relief of General Johnston; I do not think this, but it certainly contributed materially to hasten its collapse.37

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, J. Hooker, Major-General.

In the Adjutant-General's office in Richmond, in December, 1864, on referring to my report of the campaign of the previous summer in Upper Georgia, I found and read an indorsement on it by the President, to the effect that my narrative differed essentially from statements that he had seen, “contemporaneous” with the events described I immediately wrote him the following note, through the Adjutant-General, which that officer promised to put into his hands next morning. He also promised to obtain a reply as soon as possible.

Richmond, December 21, 1864.
In referring to my report of October 20th, in your office, I saw and read the President's indorsement upon it.

I respectfully ask his Excellency to permit the substance, at least, of the communications referred [465] to by him, to be furnished to me, as well as the names of their authors. My object is to meet, as fully as possible, whatever in those letters differs from the statements in my report.

I regret the want of fullness in the report, but am gratified to find that the President understands the cause of it.

Most respectfully, your obedient servant, J. E. Johnston, General. General S. Cooper, A. & I. General.

No reply to this note was ever received, so that I now have no more knowledge of the statements in question than that gained by reading the President's indorsement.

1 The numbers are mine, for clearness of reference.

2 Page 20.

3 See page 24.

4 See page 25.

5 About six thousand effective men.

6 See his letters on pages 29 and 31.

7 See pages 75 and 76.

8 See those especially of February 1st to the acting Secretary of War, page 91; and March 1st, to the President, page 100.

9 See note page 98, including Colonel Cole's letter of February 7th, 1871, and pages 104 and 105.

10 See fifth paragraph, page 106.

11 February 22d.

12 The railroad-bridge.

13 Being covered by inundations.

14 Spies reported five hundred.

15 General Randolph, who had lately succeeded Mr. Benjamin in the War-Office.

16 A manuscript narrative by General Early is my authority.

17 Report of Adjutant-General of the United States Army to committee on conduct of the war.

18 See pages 127, 128.

19 See page 138.

20 See page 408.

21 See page 163.

22 See page 176.

23 See page 181.

24 General Grant's report.

25 See pages 191-203.

26 See their dispatch, pages 212, 213.

27 See it as published by Confederate Congress, and in Appendix, pages

28 See correspondence, pages 287-300.

29 It is admitted in the “message” that this occurred: “While the correspondence was going on, Sherman commenced his movement.”

30 For others, see pages 297, 298.

31 Stoneman's, McCooks, and Garrard's. The other, Kilpatrick's, exceeded five thousand; it had been with the army since the previous year.

32 See page 364.

33 See page 293.

34 Page 358.

35 Less than a sixth of the number were killed. At Dalton, and thence to the Etowah, four hundred and forty-four were killed, and two thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight wounded. Near New. Hope Church three hundred and nine were killed and one thousand nine hundred and twenty-nine wounded. Thence, to the Chattahoochee, five hundred and thirty-five were killed, and three thousand nine hundred and thirty-five wounded. Cavalry are not included.

36 From Allatoona to New-Hope Church.

37 I find this letter in a late circular of the Messrs. Appleton, of New York, announcing the publication, at an early day, of this book.

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)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Jackson (Mississippi, United States) (18)
Yorktown (Virginia, United States) (13)
Mississippi (Mississippi, United States) (12)
Harper's Ferry (West Virginia, United States) (12)
Atlanta (Georgia, United States) (11)
Dalton, Ga. (Georgia, United States) (8)
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (6)
Centreville (Virginia, United States) (6)
Winchester, Va. (Virginia, United States) (5)
Vicksburg (Mississippi, United States) (4)
Tullahoma (Tennessee, United States) (3)
Savannah (Georgia, United States) (3)
Resaca (Georgia, United States) (3)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (3)
Virginia (Virginia, United States) (2)
Richmond (Virginia, United States) (2)
Rappahannock (Virginia, United States) (2)
Grenada (Mississippi, United States) (2)
Bull Run, Va. (Virginia, United States) (2)
York (Virginia, United States) (1)
Williamsburg (Virginia, United States) (1)
United States (United States) (1)
Tennessee River (United States) (1)
Seven Pines (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Seven Pines (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Peach Tree Creek (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Morton (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Mobile, Ala. (Alabama, United States) (1)
Mexico (Mexico, Mexico) (1)
Meridian (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (1)
Marietta (Georgia, United States) (1)
Kenesaw Mountain (Georgia, United States) (1)
Furnace Ridge (Ohio, United States) (1)
Fredericksburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Fortress Monroe (Virginia, United States) (1)
Duck River (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Chattanooga (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Cassville (Georgia, United States) (1)
Calhoun, Ga. (Georgia, United States) (1)
Bruinsburg (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Big Black (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Barhamsville (Virginia, United States) (1)
Bakers Creek (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Allatoona (Georgia, United States) (1)
Alabama (Alabama, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: