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Chapter 7

I set out for Mississippi on the first train that left Tullahoma, after the order of the Secretary of War was received. It was in the morning of the 10th of May.

The intelligence of the assassination of the gallant Van Dorn had been received, and General Bragg and myself joined in recommending General Forrest as his successor.

At Lake Station, in Mississippi, on the 13th, a dispatch from Lieutenant-General Pemberton, dated Vicksburg, May 12th, was sent to me from the telegraph-office.

I was informed in it that “the enemy is apparently moving in heavy force toward Edwards's Depot, on Southern Railroad.1 With my limited force I will do all I can to meet him. That will be the battle-field, if I can carry forward sufficient force, leaving troops enough to secure the safety of this [175] place. Reinforcements are arriving very slowly — only fifteen hundred having arrived as yet. I urgently ask that more be sent. Also that three thousand cavalry be at once sent to operate on this line. I urge this as a positive necessity. The enemy largely outnumbers me; and I am obliged to keep a considerable force on either flank of Vicksburg out of supporting distance.”

This telegram contained the first mention of the Federal army made to me by Lieutenant-General Pemberton, since that he dispatched while the contest at Port Gibson was going on.

In the mean time, Lieutenant-General Pemberton had ordered Gregg's brigade coming from Port Hudson to Raymond, and W. H. T. Walker's, just arrived at Jackson, from General Beauregard's department, to join him there. On the 12th, McPherson with his corps encountered Gregg near Raymond, and drove him back, after a spirited resistance, considering that it was made by a brigade against a corps.2 He fell back to Jackson, in conformity to General Pemberton's instructions for such a case, accompanied by Walker, whom he met at Mississippi Springs. They reached the place with their brigades on the evening of the 13th.

General Gregg, the senior of the two, reported to me on my arrival at night.3 He informed me that he had learned from Colonel Wirt Adams, who [176] with his cavalry was observing the enemy's movements, that Lieutenant-General Pemberton's active forces were at Edwards's Depot, and his headquarters at Bovina; that McPherson's corps had marched from Raymond to Clinton; and was thus interposed between the Army of Mississippi and ourselves, and but ten miles from us. General Maxey's brigade, he added, was expected to reach Jackson in the course of the next day, from Port Hudson. I had learned, on the way, that reenforcements were coming from General Beauregard's department, and that the foremost of them, under Brigadier-General Gist, might join us next day, and, with Maxey's brigade, would raise the force at Jackson to eleven or twelve thousand men.

Under the impression given me by General Pemberton's dispatch of the 12th, that the main body of General Grant's army was to the south of Edwards's Depot, I inferred that McPherson's corps had been detached to Clinton to hold the Confederate line of communication, and prevent the junction of reenforcements with the army. I therefore sent a note4 to that officer by Captain Yerger, who happened to be in Jackson and volunteered to bear it, informing him of the position of McPherson's corps between us at Clinton; urging the importance of reestablishing his communications, that reenforcements might join his army, and ordering, “if practicable come up on his rear at once. To beat such a detachment would be of immense value. The troops here could cooperate. All the force you can quickly assemble should be brought. Time is all-important.” [177]

Early next morning it was reported that another Federal corps, Sherman's, was on the Raymond road, twelve miles from Jackson; and, soon after, intelligence was received that both it and McPherson's were marching toward the place, one on each road. A brigade was sent forward to meet each corps, to delay the enemy's approach by skirmishing with the heads of the two columns. The resistance offered in this way so impeded the progress of the Federal troops as to give ample time for the evacuation of the place, and the removal of such military property as we had the means of transporting.5 Fortunately, Major Mims, the chief quartermaster of the department, was in Jackson; and, foreseeing, from the intelligence received the day before, that a movement was inevitable, had begun at once to prepare for it.

Orders were sent to Brigadier-Generals Gist and Maxey, for the security of the troops under their respective commands. The train, loaded, left the town by the Canton road before two o'clock; and the two brigades were called in, and followed it, and encamped about five miles from the town. This road was chosen because its direction was more favorable than that of any other for effecting a junction with the Army of Mississippi.

While Sherman's and McPherson's corps were moving upon Jackson, McClernand's divisions were [178] ordered to Raymond, Mississippi Springs, and Clinton.

From the events of the 14th, I supposed that General Grant intended to occupy Jackson aid hold it, to prevent the troops then there, and those coming from the East, from joining Lieutenant-General Pemberton's army. That army, including the garrison of Vicksburg, was probably about thirty-two thousand men.

In the evening of that day a letter was addressed to General Pemberton, to inform him of the events of the day, and of the instructions given to Brigadier-Generals Gist and Maxey. The hope was also expressed in it that those troops would be able to prevent General Grant's forces, in Jackson, from obtaining supplies from the East; and that the troops on the Canton road might keep those of the country to the north from them. He was asked if he could close their communication with the Mississippi, and, above all, if he could beat them, should they be compelled, by want of supplies, to fall back. He was told, also, that prisoners reported that the force in Jackson constituted half of Grant's army, and that it would decide the campaign to beat it; which could be done only by concentrating, especially when the troops expected from the East should arrive.

This letter was not answered. I found the explanation of this in Lieutenant-General Pemberton's report. It was not delivered to him until after the battle of Baker's Creek-too late to influence his action.

On the 15th the march of Gregg's and Walker's troops was continued ten miles, to Calhoun Station. [179] While on the way, at ten o'clock A. M., a letter to me, from General Pemberton, was delivered by Captain Yerger. It was dated Edwards's Depot, 5.40 P. M., May 14th, and contained no reference to mine of the 13th, carried to him by that gentleman, and delivered, he told me, about 7 A. M., on the 14th. In this note General Pemberton announced that he would “move as early as practicable on the 15th, with a column of seventeen thousand men, to Dillon's, on the main road from Jackson to Port Gibson,” for the purpose of “cutting the enemy's communications,” and compelling them to attack him, as he did not think his force sufficient to justify him in attacking.

The fact that this letter was written almost eleven hours after my order had been delivered, and announced continued inaction for many more, when every hour was so important, was very discouraging, especially when the movement for which the preparations seemed to be made so deliberately would greatly increase the difficulty of our junction. In a reply, written and dispatched without delay, General Pemberton was told that the only mode by which we could unite was by his moving directly to Clinton and informing me, that I might meet him there with about six thousand men.

As the brigadier-generals represented that their troops required rest after the fatigue they had undergone in the skirmishes and marches of the last five or six days, and we wanted such intelligence from General Pemberton as would enable us to meet him, we were stationary on the 16th.

In the afternoon of that day, a reply to my first dispatch to General Pemberton was received, dated [180] Bovina, 9.10 o'clock A. M., of the 14th. It was to inform me that he would move at once, in obedience to my order, with his whole available force. He said, in conclusion: “In directing this move, I do not think you fully comprehend the position that Vicksburg will be left in.6 But I comply at once with your order.” General Pemberton's letter of a later date, received the day before, showed that my order, referred to, had been set aside.

In the evening, a reply to my dispatch of the 15th was received from General Pemberton, dated four miles south of Edwards's Depot, eight o'clock A. M., May 16th, saying that my note was received at 6.30 A. M., and that it found the army on the middle road to Raymond, and that the order to countermarch had been given. Then followed a minute and clear description of the route he intended to take, to direct my course in marching to meet him. He added, in a postscript, “Heavy skirmishing is now going on in our front.”

General Grant had been told in Jackson, on the 14th, that Lieutenant-General Pemberton had been ordered peremptorily to march from Edwards's Depot to attack him in rear. He determined, therefore, to concentrate his own forces and fall upon General Pemberton's. For that object, McPherson with two divisions at Jackson, McClernand with three at Raymond, Hovey with one at Clinton, and Blair with one at New Auburn, were ordered, on the 15th, to march to Bolton's Depot, eight miles from Edwards's. [181]

After receiving, at Bovina, early in the morning of the 14th, my order of the night before, directing him to march upon Clinton, General Pemberton rode to the camp of his army just south of Edwards's Depot, and convened a council of war, composed of his general officers, to which he exhibited my note, making a long argument against obedience to the order expressed in it.7 A majority of the members of the council voted for moving upon Clinton in obedience to orders. A minority advocated a plan for seizing the enemy's communications by placing the army on the road from Jackson and Raymond to Port Gibson, to compel General Grant to attack it. Although averse to both opinions, General Pemberton adopted that of the minority of his council,8 and determined to execute a measure which he disapproved, which his council of war opposed, and which was in violation of the orders of his commander.

Twenty-four hours after the adoption of this resolution, in the afternoon of the 15th, the army commenced its march, and, after crossing Baker's Creek, encamped near Champion Hill, some three miles from the ground it had left. It had been compelled to march twice as far, however, by the destruction of a bridge by a flood in Baker's Creek.

General Pemberton was informed at night, that the camp of a strong body of Federal troops was near, in the direction of Bolton.9 The fires were distinctly visible. It was that of Hovey's division, of the Thirteenth Corps.

Early in the morning of the 16th, Lieutenant. [182] General Pemberton received my order of the day before, and prepared to obey it10 by directing Major-General Stevenson to have the baggage-train turned and moved as rapidly as possible across Baker's Creek on the road by which they had advanced the day before. While the troops were waiting for the clearing of the road by this movement, that they might take the same direction, Colonel Wirt Adams's cavalry-pickets were attacked by the skirmishers of the Federal division; upon which Lieutenant-General Pemberton formed his three divisions for battle on a line extending from the Raymond to the Clinton road-Loring's division on the right, Bowen's in the centre, and Stevenson's on the left.

In this position the Confederate troops remained passive before a single division of the enemy some five hours 11-until near noon-when they were attacked by General Grant, who had then completed the concentration of his forces, uninterrupted by his adversary.

When McPherson, with two divisions, had come up, and McClernand with four, including Blair's of Sherman's corps, was within an hour's march of the field, the action was begun by Hovey's division, which assailed the left and centre of Stevenson's. Logan's division, moving by the right of Hovey's, passed the left of Stevenson's line as if to take it in reverse. Stevenson transferred Barton's brigade from his right to the left rear to meet this movement, while with Cumming's and Lee's he opposed Hovey's attack. [183] This opposition was so effective that General Hovey called for aid, and McPherson's other division, Quimby's, was sent to his assistance. In the mean time Logan had engaged Barton, and Stevenson's three brigades were forced back by the three Federal divisions; and at two o'clock they had lost the ground on which they had just stood, many men, and much of their artillery. Lieutenant-General Pemberton restored the fight by bringing Bowen's division, unemployed till then, to the assistance of Stevenson's.

In the mean time, General McClernand, with his four divisions, had been confronting Loring — not venturing to attack, on account of the strength of the Confederate position, while Loring felt himself well employed in holding four divisions of the enemy in check with his single one.

After bringing Bowen's troops into action, General Pemberton directed Loring to join in it with at least a part of his. That officer, for some time, did not obey, from the consideration that his movement would be followed by that of the corps that he had been keeping out of action, and our defeat thus made certain.

Stevenson's and Bowen's troops, and the reserve artillery, well placed and served under the direction of Colonel W. E. Withers, its commander, maintained the contest until four o'clock; then the battle seemed to be so completely lost that retreat was ordered. The withdrawal of the troops that had been engaged was covered by Loring with his division; Featherston's and Buford's brigades protecting Stevenson's and Bowen's divisions in their retreat; and Tilghman's [184] resisting the advance of the enemy by the Raymond road. Tilghman himself fell in this duty, while encouraging his troops, when hardest pressed, by his brave example.

By the time that Stevenson's and Bowen's divisions had crossed Baker's Creek, the Federal troops were so near the stream as to render its passage by Loring's division impracticable; so that officer marched southward, and, after passing entirely beyond the enemy's left, turned to the east and led his division to Jackson.

Lieutenant-General Pemberton directed the retreat of Stevenson's division across the Big Black to Bovina, near which it bivouacked about one o'clock; but he halted Bowen's troops at a line of rifle-pits, three-quarters of a mile in advance of the railroad-bridge; this line had been occupied for several days by Vaughn's brigade, which Bowen's troops found in it.

The object of this measure was to defend the bridge to enable Loring's division to cross the Big Black.

In the morning of the 17th the Confederates were attacked in these lines by General Grant, with McPherson's and McClernand's corps. His vigorous assault was scarcely resisted, either because the Confederates had become disheartened by recent events; or else, feeling the danger of fighting a victorious enemy with a river behind them, each was eager to secure his own escape by being the first to reach the bridge. Sixteen or eighteen field-pieces were abandoned. After crossing the river on the railroad-bridge and a temporary one near it, these troops were conducted [185] to Vicksburg by Major-General Stevenson, with his own division. They left the west bank of the Big Black about ten o'clock A. M., after destroying the bridges. This was by Lieutenant-General Pemberton's command.

The Federal army crossed the river on the 18th; McPherson's and McClernand's corps on floating-bridges, constructed by them near the railroad, and Sherman's, which left Jackson on the 16th, on a pontoon-bridge laid at Bridgeport. Its advanced troops skirmished in the afternoon with those in the fieldworks of Vicksburg,12 and the investment of the place was completed on the 19th.13

On the 17th the two brigades with me marched fifteen or eighteen miles in the direction pointed out in Lieutenant-General Pemberton's note of the day before, and bivouacked on the road leading from Livingston to Edwards's Depot. Supposing that the Army of Mississippi had marched the day before by the route the general had described, I was confident that we should meet it that day, or early in the next. At night, however, Captain Henderson, who was the commander of General Pemberton's scouts, brought me a letter from that officer, written at Bovina in the morning, in which he said: “I notified you, on the morning of the 14th, of the receipt of your instructions to move and attack the enemy toward Clinton. I deemed the movement very hazardous, preferring to remain in position behind the Big Black, and near to Vicksburg. I called a council of war composed of all the general officers who were then with my movable army, and, placing the [186] subject before them (including your instructions) in every view in which it appeared to me, asked their opinions respectively. A majority of the officers expressed themselves favorable to the movement indicated by you. The others, including Major-Generals Loring and Stevenson, preferred a movement by which this army might endeavor to cut off the enemy's supplies from the Mississippi. My own views were expressed as unfavorable to any movement which would remove me from my base, which was, and is, Vicksburg. I did not, however, see fit to place my own judgment and opinions so far in opposition as to prevent the movement altogether; but, believing the only possibility of success to be in the plan proposed, of cutting off the enemy's supplies, I directed all my disposable force, say seventeen thousand five hundred, toward Raymond or Dillon's, encamping on the night of the 15th at Mrs. Ellison's, on the main Raymond and Edwards's Depot road, at a fork from which I could advance either to Raymond or Dillon's.” Then came a brief account of the circumstances of the battle of Baker's Creek, and his retreat to the Big Black River, after which he continued: “I am, for the present, holding the Big Black bridge, where a heavy cannonading is now going on. There are so many points by which I can be flanked that I fear I shall be compelled to withdraw; if so, the position at Snyder's Mill will also be untenable. General Tilghman was killed yesterday. I have about sixty days rations in Vicksburg and Snyder's Mill. I respectfully await your orders.”

Soon after reading this letter, I received, from good but unofficial sources, intelligence that the army [187] had abandoned the line of the Big Black River, and fallen back to Vicksburg. On this information my fourth order to Lieutenant-General Pemberton was dispatched. It was this: “If Haynes's Bluff is untenable, Vicksburg is of no value and cannot be held; if, therefore, you are invested in Vicksburg you must ultimately surrender. Under such circumstances, instead of losing both troops and place, we must, if possible, save the troops. If it is not too late, evacuate Vicksburg and its dependencies, and march to the northeast.”

I should have joined Lieutenant-General Pemberton's “movable army,” and taken command of it, if at any time after my arrival in Jackson I had been strong enough to attempt such a ride.

In the hope that my order for the evacuation of Vicksburg would be obeyed, I directed that the two brigades with me should move to the northwest, to expedite their junction with Lieutenant-General Pemberton's troops. When about to mount my horse next morning, for the day's march, I received a dispatch from General Pemberton, dated Vicksburg, May 17th, in which he reported that the army had been driven from its position on the Big Black River, “owing to the demoralization consequent upon the retreat of yesterday,” and “fallen back to the line of intrenchments around Vicksburg.” In concluding his note the writer said: “I greatly regret that I felt compelled to make the advance beyond the Big Black, which has proved so disastrous in its results.” This sentence, and the similar one in his previous dispatch of the same day, seemed designed to convey the impression that I “compelled him to cross the Big [188] Black River from the west.” His telegram of the 12th,14 dispatched before I entered Mississippi, and his official report,15 prove that before I reached Jackson, where my first order to him was written, he had established his “movable army” six or seven miles “beyond” the river; and a large detachment (two brigades) near Raymond, twelve or fourteen miles still farther east. Those papers prove, also, that he had crossed the Big Black to give battle to the enemy, and expected Edwards's Depot to be the battle-field.

Early on the 19th, when near Vernon, I received Lieutenant-General Pemberton's reply to my note, conveying to him the order to evacuate Vicksburg. It was dated May 18th. After acknowledging the receipt of that order, General Pemberton said: “On the receipt of your communication, I immediately assembled a council of war of the general officers of this command, and having laid your instructions before them, asked the free expression of their opinions as to the practicability of carrying them out. The opinion was unanimously expressed that it was impossible to withdraw the army from this position with such morale and material as to be of further use to the Confederacy. While the council of war was assembled, the guns of the enemy opened on the works.... I have decided to hold Vicksburg as long as possible, with the firm hope that the Government may yet be able to assist me in keeping this obstruction to the enemy's free navigation of the Mississippi River. I still conceive it to be the most important point in the Confederacy.”

Such an estimate of the military value of Vicksburg, [189] expressed five or six weeks earlier, might not have seemed unreasonable; for then the commanders of the United States squadrons believed, apparently, that its batteries were too formidable to be passed by their vessels-of-war. But, when Lieutenant-General Pemberton wrote the letter quoted from, those batteries had been proved to be ineffective, for Admiral Porter's squadron had passed them, and in that way had made “the severance of the Confederacy,” before the end of April, that General Pemberton apprehended would be permitted, if he obeyed my order, to save his army by withdrawing it to the northeast, on the 18th of May.

In my reply to this letter, dispatched promptly, I said: “I am trying to gather a force which may attempt to relieve you. Hold out.”

On the same day instructions were sent to Major-General Gardner, both by telegraph and by courier, to evacuate Port Hudson, and march toward Jackson.

After General Pemberton's investment in Vicksburg, there was no longer an object for moving to the northwest; Gregg's and Walker's brigades were, therefore, ordered to march to Canton, that they might be joined by the reenforcements expected from the East, and where, while being equipped for the field, they might have the advantage of railroad transportation.

On the 20th and 21st, Gist's brigade, sent by General Beauregard, and Ector's and McNair's, from General Bragg's army, joined me. Loring's division, separated from the army in the retreat, after the battle of Baker's Creek, reached Jackson on the [190] 20th, and Maxey's brigade, from Port Hudson, on the 23d. On the 3d of June we had been reenforced, in addition to these, by Evans's brigade from South Carolina, and Breckenridge's division, and about two thousand cavalry from the Army of Tennessee.16 This body of cavalry was commanded by Brigadier-General W. H. Jackson.

The Federal army was receiving considerable additions in the mean time, estimated by our scouts at not less than twenty thousand men.

The Confederate forces enumerated above, not equal to a third of the Federal army, were almost without artillery and field transportation, and deficient in ammunition for all arms; and could not, therefore, have been moved, with any hope of success, against that powerful army, already protected by lines of counter and circumvallation.

All the supplies that had been collected in the department were, of course, with the troops in Vicksburg and Port Hudson.

The troops coming from the East, by railroad, had brought neither artillery nor wagons. Frequent drafts upon the country had so much reduced the number of horses and mules, that it was not until near the end of June that artillery and wagons, and draught-animals enough for them, could be procured, generally from long distances-most of the artillery and wagons from Georgia. Some twelve pieces, found without carriages, were mounted on such as could be made in Canton.

There was no want of provision and forage in the department, but they were still to be collected; [191] and we had small means of collecting them, and none of transporting them with a moving army.

On the 23d, a dispatch was received from Major. General Gardner, dated 21st, informing me that all the Federal forces that had been assembled at Baton Rouge were now before Port Hudson, and asking for reinforcements. In reply to this, I repeated my order to him to evacuate the place, informed him that he could not be reinforced, and told him to march toward Jackson. This dispatch was never delivered, Port Hudson being invested before the arrival of the courier who bore it.

On the 24th such demonstrations were made by the enemy, beyond the Big Black and along the Yazoo, that Walker was sent with his division to Yazoo City, with orders to fortify that point. And these demonstrations being repeated, Loring's division was sent to Benton on the 31st. In order to superintend the preparation necessary to enable the troops to march as far as to the position of the army investing Vicksburg, and at the same time be ready for military operations near the Yazoo, I divided each day between Jackson and Canton.

I can give no better account of the siege of Vicksburg than that contained in Lieutenant-General Pemberton's dispatches to me during its operations, of which I had ten, and occasional verbal messages by the officers who bore them.

On the 24th two were received, dated the 20th and 21st. In the first he wrote: “The enemy assaulted our intrenched lines yesterday at two points, centre and left, and was repulsed with heavy loss. Our loss small. I cannot estimate the enemy's force [192] now engaged around Vicksburg at less than sixty thousand It is probably more. At this hour (8 A. M.) he is briskly cannonading with long-range guns. That we may save ammunition, his fire is rarely returned. At present, our main necessity is musket-caps. Can you not send them to me by hands of couriers and citizens? An army will be necessary to relieve Vicksburg, and that quickly. Will it not be sent” The bearer of the note gave a verbal message to the effect that a million caps were required.

In the second dispatch General Pemberton wrote: “The enemy kept up incessant sharp-shooting all yesterday, on the left and centre, and picked off our officers and men whenever they showed themselves. Their artillery-fire was very heavy-ploughed up our works considerably, and dismounted two guns in the centre. The works were repaired and the guns replaced last night. The great question is ammunition. The men credit, and are encouraged by, a report that you are near with a strong force. They are fighting in good spirits, and their organization is complete.” At two o'clock he added: “Brisk musketry and artillery fire to-day on centre. Three guns dismounted. These will be replaced as far as possible... . Incessant mortar-firing from the river, and last night three gunboats engaged our lower batteries.”

I wrote to General Pemberton on the 25th: “My last note was brought back by the messenger. Two hundred thousand caps have been sent. It will be continued as they arrive. Bragg is sending a division. When it comes I will move to you. Which do you think the best route? How and where is [193] the enemy encamped? What is your force?” It was supposed then that artillery and means of transportation would be procured before the arrival of those troops. I wrote on the 29th: “I am too weak to save Vicksburg. Can do no more than attempt to save you and your garrison. It will be impossible to extricate you unless you cooperate, and we make mutually-supporting movements. Communicate your plans and suggestions, if possible.”

Lieutenant-General Pemberton replied on the 3d of June: “Have not heard from you since the 29th; enemy continues to work on his intrenchments, and very close to our lines; is very vigilant. I can get no information from outside as to your position and strength, and very little in regard to the enemy. I have heard that ten messengers with caps have been captured. In what direction will you move, and when? I hope north of the Jackson road.”

In replying to this dispatch on the 7th, I said: “Cooperation is absolutely necessary. Tell us how to effect it, and by what routes to approach.”

Lieutenant-General Pemberton wrote on the same day:

I am still without information from you, or of you, later than your dispatch of the 25th. The enemy continues to intrench his position around Vicksburg. I have sent out couriers to you almost daily. The same men are in the trenches constantly, but are in good spirits, expecting your approach. The enemy is so vigilant that it is impossible to obtain reliable information. When may I expect you to move, and in what direction? My subsistence may be put down for about twenty days.

On the 10th General Pemberton. wrote:

The [194] enemy bombards the city day and night from seven mortars on opposite side of peninsula; he also keeps up constant fire on our lines with artillery and sharpshooters; we are losing many officers and men. I am waiting most anxiously to know your intentions. Have heard nothing from you nor of you since 25th of May. I shall endeavor to hold out as long as we have any thing to eat....
On the 12th he said in a brief note: “... Very heavy firing yesterday, from mortars and on lines,” and on the 15th: “The enemy has placed several very heavy guns in position against our works, and is approaching them very nearly. His firing is almost continuous. Our men are becoming much fatigued, but are still in pretty good spirits. I think your movement should be made as soon as possible. The enemy is receiving reinforcements. We are living on greatly-reduced rations, but, I think, sufficient for twenty days.”

In dispatches dated 14th and 15th I told General Pemberton that our joint forces could not compel the enemy to raise the siege of Vicksburg, and therefore that we could attempt no more than to save the garrison, but that for this exact cooperation was indispensable; that my communications could best be preserved by my operating north of the railroad; and inquired where an attack upon the enemy by me would be most favorable to him. He was also informed that Major-General Taylor, with eight thousand men, would endeavor to open communications with him from Richmond, Louisiana.

He replied on the 21st:

.... I suggest that, giving me full information in time to act, you move by the north of the railroad, drive in the enemy's [195] pickets at night, and at daylight next morning engage him heavily with skirmishers, occupying him during the entire day; and that on that night I move by the Warrenton road by Hankinson's Ferry; to which point you should previously send a brigade of cavalry, with two field-batteries, to build a bridge there and hold that ferry; also Hall's and Baldwin's, to cover my crossing at Hankinson's. I shall not be able to move with my artillery and wagons.

I suggest this as the best plan, because all the other roads are too strongly intrenched, and the enemy in too heavy force for reasonable prospect of success, unless you move in sufficient force to compel him to abandon his communication with Snyder's Mill, which I still hope we may be able to do....

Captain Saunders, who brought the dispatch, told me that he was directed to say, from Lieutenant-General Pemberton, that I ought to attempt nothing with less than forty thousand men.

This dispatch was answered on the 22d: “General Taylor is sent by General E. K. Smith to cooperate with you from the west bank of the river, to throw in supplies, and to cross with his forces if expedient and practicable. I will have the means of moving toward the enemy in a day or two, and will try to make a diversion in your favor; and, if possible, communicate with you, though I fear my force is too small to effect the latter. I have only two-thirds of the force you told Captain Saunders to tell me is the least with which I ought to make an attempt. If I can do nothing to relieve you, rather than surrender the garrison, endeavor to cross the river at the last moment, if you and General Taylor communicate.” [196]

In a dispatch dated 22d, Lieutenant-General Pemberton suggested that I should propose terms to General Grant, the surrender of the place but not of the troops, adding, however:

I still renew my hope of your being, by force of arms, enabled to act with me to hold out, if there is hope of our ultimate relief, for fifteen days longer.... Federals opened all their batteries on our lines about half after three this morning, and continued the heaviest fire we have yet sustained, until eight o'clock; but did not assault our works.... The enemy's works are within twenty-five feet of our redan, and also very close on the Jackson and Baldwin's Ferry roads. I hope you will advance with the least possible delay. My men have been thirty-four days and nights in the trenches without relief, and the enemy is within conversation distance. We are living on very reduced rations....

In replying, on the 27th, to Lieutenant-General Pemberton's last dispatch, I said that the determination manifested by him, and General E. K. Smith's expected cooperation, encouraged me to hope that something might yet be done to save Vicksburg; but that if it should become necessary to make propositions to General Grant, they must be made by him, as my making them would be an impolitic confession of weakness.

Whatever may have been written subsequently by Lieutenant-General Pemberton, was intercepted or lost. The last dispatch received from him while in Vicksburg was that of the 22d.

The only intelligence I received from Port Hudson, during the siege, was given by a dispatch from [197] Major-General Gardner, dated June 10th: “I have repulsed the enemy in several attacks, but am still closely invested. I am getting short of provisions and ammunition of all kinds, and should be speedily reenforced.” This was received in Jackson on the 15th. In my reply, he was informed that we had not the means of relieving the place; that General Taylor, on the opposite side of the Mississippi, would give him all the assistance in his power, and that it was of the greatest importance that Port Hudson should hold out as long as possible, to keep General Banks's army employed in the South. This was repeated on the 20th.

In the mean time, my telegraphic correspondence with the President and Secretary of War had kept them informed of the condition of military affairs in Mississippi, especially of the inadequacy of the forces they had collected to break the investment of Vicksburg. In a telegram of the 24th of May, the President said : “.... I hope you will soon be able to break the investment, make a junction, and carry in munitions....” I replied on the 27th: “.... General Pemberton estimates Grant's force at not less than sixty thousand. When all reenforcements arrive, I shall have about twenty-three thousand. Tell me if additional troops can be furnished.”

On the 28th he wrote by telegraph: “The reenforcements sent you exceed, by say seven thousand, the estimate of your dispatch of the 27th instant. We withheld nothing which it is practicable to give. ...” And on the 30th : “.... . Added to the forces you have from Pemberton's army, he” (the Secretary of War) “states your whole force to be thirty-four [198] thousand exclusive of militia.” 17 I replied on the 1st of June: “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's, nine thousand seven hundred; of Bragg's, eight thousand four hundred; of Beauregard's, six thousand; not including irregular cavalry, nor Jackson's command18 (cavalry), the strength of which I do not know....” In a telegram to Mr. Seddon (Secretary of War), dated June 2d, I said: “Your letter of the 25th, and a telegram from the President, show that you are misinformed as to the force at my disposal. The effective force, infantry and artillery, is, from Lieutenant-General Pemberton, nine thousand eight hundred and thirty-one; from General Bragg, seven thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine; from General Beauregard, six thousand two hundred and eighty-three. Brigadier-General Jackson's cavalry not arrived, and irregular troops protecting Northern and Southern frontiers, not included. Grant is receiving continual accessions. Tell me if it is your intention to make up the number you gave the President as my force, or if I may expect more troops. With the present force we cannot succeed, without great blunders by the enemy.”

In a telegram of the 3d, Mr. Seddon explained his estimate of my force; asked what his mistake was; expressed great anxiety concerning my “plans,” and desired me to inform him of them as far as I [199] might think it safe to do so. To this I replied on the 4th: “The mistake on your part is, that all your numbers are too large; in reference to General Beauregard, nearly as ten to six. The troops you mention, including Jackson's, just arrived, are less than twenty-six thousand. My only plan is to relieve Vicksburg. My force is too small for the purpose. Tell me if you can increase it, and how much. Grant is receiving reinforcements. Port Hudson is closely invested. The great object of the enemy in this campaign is to acquire possession of the Mississippi. Can you collect here a force sufficient to defeat this object?”

In Mr. Seddon's next dispatch, dated June 5th, he said: “.... I regret my inability to promise more troops, as we have drained resources even to the danger of several points. You know best concerning General Bragg's army, but I fear to withdraw more. We are too far outnumbered in it19 to spare any. You must rely on what you have, and the irregular forces Mississippi can afford.” On the 8th he asked, on the same subject, “Do you advise more reenforcements from General Bragg?” I replied on the 10th: “I have not at my disposal half the number of troops necessary. It is for the Government to determine what department, if any, can furnish the reenforcements required.” The Secretary's dispatch, in cipher, could be only partially deciphered. On the 12th, something more being understood, the answer was continued: “To take from Bragg a force that would make this army fit to oppose Grant's, would involve yielding Tennessee. It is for the Government to [200] decide between this State and Tennessee.” A duplicate of this dispatch of the 8th was deciphered and answered on the 15th:

I cannot advise as to the points from which troops can best be taken, having no means of knowing. Nor is it for me to judge which it is best to hold, Mississippi or Tennessee--that is for the Government to determine. Without some great blunder of the enemy, we cannot hold both. The odds against me are much greater than those you express (two to one). I consider saving Vicksburg hopeless.

Mr. Seddon replied on the 16th:

Your telegram grieves and alarms me. Vicksburg must not be lost without a desperate struggle. The interest and honor of the Confederacy forbid it. I rely on you still to avert the loss. If better resources do not offer, you must attack. It may be made in concert with the garrison, if practicable, but otherwise, without-by day or night, as you think best.

I wrote in answer to this on the 19th:

I think that you do not appreciate the difficulties in the course you direct, nor the probability and consequences of failure. Grant's position, naturally very strong, is intrenched, and protected by powerful artillery, and the roads obstructed. His reenforcements have been at least equal to my whole force. The Big Black covers him from attack, and would cut off our retreat if defeated. We cannot combine operations with General Pemberton, from uncertain and slow communication. The defeat of this little army would at once open Mississippi and Alabama to Grant. I will do all I can, without hope of doing more than aid to extricate the garrison.

Mr. Seddon rejoined on the 21st: “Consequences are realized and difficulties recognized as being very great. But I still think, other means failing, the course recommended should be hazarded. The aim, in my judgment, justifies any risk, and all probable consequences.” In another telegram of the same date, he added: “Only my conviction of almost imperative necessity for action, induces the official dispatch I have just sent you. On every ground I have great deference for your superior knowledge of the position, your judgment, and military genius, but feel it right to share — if need be, to take — the responsibility, and leave you free to follow the most desperate course the occasion may demand. Rely upon it, the eyes and hopes of the whole Confederacy are upon you, with the full confidence that you will act, and with the sentiment that it is better to fail nobly daring, than, through prudence even, to be inactive. I look to attack in the last resort, but rely on your resources of generalship to suggest less desperate modes of relief. I can scarce dare to suggest, but might it not be possible to strike Banks first, and unite the garrison of Port Hudson with you, or to secure sufficient cooperation from General Smith, or to practically besiege Grant by operations with artillery, from the swamps, now dry, on the north side of the Yazoo, below Haynes's Bluffs I rely upon you for all possible to save Vicksburg.”

I explained, on the 24th: “There has been no voluntary inaction. When I came, all military materials of the department were in Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Artillery had to be brought from the East; horses for it, and field transportation, procured [202] in an exhausted country; much from Georgia, brought over wretched railroads; and provision collected. I have not had the means of moving. We cannot contend with the enemy north of the Yazoo. He can place a large force there in a few hours-we, a small one, in ten or twelve days. We cannot relieve Port Hudson without giving up Jackson, by which we should lose Mississippi....”

The want of field .transportation was then delaying an expedition toward Vicksburg. That want made it impossible, then, to march the much longer distance to Port Hudson, even if it had been expedient to do so. But such an expedition, by us, would have enabled General Grant to destroy our army, for, by the help of his strong lines, two-thirds of his forces could have been sent to intercept us, while the other maintained the investment of Vicksburg.

On the 28th, the necessary supplies and field transportation having been procured, the equipment of the artillery completed, and a serviceable floating-bridge finished (the first constructed having proved a failure), the army20 was ordered to march next morning toward the Big Black River. In the afternoon of July 1st, Loring's, French's, and Walker's divisions bivouacked near Birdsong's Ferry, on that river, and Breckenridge's, with the floating-bridge, near Edwards's Depot. The cavalry, under General W. H. Jackson, was placed in observation along the river.

This expedition was not undertaken in the wild spirit that dictated the dispatches from the War Department, of the 16th and 21st of June. I did not [203] indulge in “the sentiment” that it was better for me to waste the lives and blood of brave soldiers, “than, through prudence even,” to spare them; and therefore intended to make such close and careful examination of the enemy's lines as might enable me to estimate the probability of our being able to break them; and, should the chances of success seem to justify it, attack in the hope of breaking them, and rescuing the army invested in Vicksburg. There was no hope of saving the place by raising the siege.

In providing the means necessary for this expedition, I had looked to the employment of at least three days in reconnaissance, and thought it necessary to provide food and wagons for the Vicksburg troops, who, if the attempt to extricate them should prove successful, might be expected to join us with no other supplies than the ammunition in their cartridge-boxes.

Reconnaissances, to which the 2d, 3d, and 4th of July were devoted, convinced me that no attack upon the Federal position, north of the railroad, was practicable. They confirmed the previous reports of our scouts, that the besieging army was covered by a line of field-works, extending from the railroad-bridge to the Yazoo; that the roads leading to this line had all been obstructed with felled trees, and that strong bodies of Federal infantry and cavalry observed and guarded the river. This observation of ours, however, was not extended below the railroad.

I determined to move on the morning of the 5th, by Edwards's Depot, to the south of the road-thinking, from the reports of the officers who had reconnoitred on that side, that the Federal works there [204] were less strong, and the river unguarded, and the chances of success, therefore, much better on that side; although the consequences of defeat would have been more disastrous, as General Sherman's troops, in the line between the bridge and Yazoo, might have intercepted retreat.

On the 3d a courier from Vicksburg arrived, but without dispatches from General Pemberton. He had been in such danger of capture, he said, as to think it necessary to destroy the letter he was bringing. He had left Vicksburg on the 28th of June, and the letter had that date. In a note dispatched at night General Pemberton was informed of this; and told that we were about to attempt to create a diversion, to enable him to cut his way out of the place, and hoped to attack the enemy, for this object, on the 7th.

But, in the evening of the 4th, intelligence of the surrender of Vicksburg was received; in consequence of which the army fell back to Jackson, which it reached on the afternoon of the 7th.

1 McClernand's Thirteenth Corps was apparently mistaken for the “heavy force.”

2 In the Northern official statement, this affair is greatly exaggerated. Its effects were trifling, on the numbers as well as on the spirits of Gregg's brigade, which joined me less than two days after it. The loss of Colonel Randal McGavock, Tenth Tennessee regiment, who fell gallantly in this action, was much regretted.

3 See telegram to Secretary of War, Appendix.

4 See the note in Appendix.

5 In the Federal official report, their skirmishing with Gregg's and Walker's brigades is exaggerated into a heavy engagement of two hours, in which the Confederate main body was badly beaten and pursued until night. On the contrary, the skirmishing was trifling, and there was nothing like pursuit-into Jackson even. And no body of Federal soldiers was discovered by our rear-guard and reconnoitring-party between Jackson and our camp.

6 It had a garrison of more than two divisions, quite sufficient to make it safe, while a Confederate army was employing that of General Grant, and was between it and Vicksburg.

7 Lieutenant-General Pemberton's official report.

8 Lieutenant-General Pemberton's official report.

9 Lieutenant-General Pemberton's official report.

10 At sunrise. (See General Stevenson's report.)

11 General Grant says the action commenced at eleven o'clock-Lieutenant-General Pemberton says about noon.

12 General Grant's report.

13 General Grant's report.

14 See page 174.

15 See General Pemberton's report, page 33.

16 General Bragg's report.

17 I had no militia, and supposed that the State had none; for the Confederate military laws put the whole population fit to bear arms under the President's control.

18 About two thousand, by General Bragg's report.

19 In Mr. Davis's quotation, in his letter of July 15th, this word is “Virginia.” In the dispatch to me it is a word of two letters.

20 The “effective force” was a little above twenty thousand infantry and artillery, and two thousand cavalry.

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