Friday, December 21, 2012

December 22, 1862 (Monday): Saving Mississippi

General John Pemberton

VICKSBURG, MISS., December 22, 1862.
    From such information as I have been able to obtain, I think that we shall require, to hold this department and the Mississippi River, an active army of about 40,000 men to oppose the troops of Grant and Banks, and garrisons Vicksburg and Port Hudson capable of holding those places against combined attacks until succored by the active army.
    Major-General Smith has about 5,900 artillery and infantry for duty, to defend a line of 10 miles, exclusive of the position of Snyder's Mills, which requires three of his eight regiments. Should the enemy attack by land as well as by water, which is highly probable, almost certain, we would require at least eight more regiments, of 500 or 600 men each.
    I have not seen Port Hudson, but map of the ground gives me the opinion that it requires a garrison as strong as that necessary here. It now amounts to about 5,500 of all arms, so that an addition of as many more will be required there, in all 11,000 or 12,000.
    For the active force, we have now 21,000 men near the Yalabusha.  About 9,000 have been ordered to this department from Lieutenant-General Smith, and it is supposed that an equal force is on its way from Arkansas.
    No more troops can be taken from General Bragg without that danger of enabling Rosecrans to move into Virginia, or to re-enforce Grant. Our great object is to hold the Mississippi. The country beyond the river is as much interested in that object as this, and the loss to us of the Mississippi involves that of the country beyond it. The 8,000 or 10,000 men which are essential to safety ought, therefore, I respectfully suggest, to be taken from Arkansas, to return after the crisis in this department. I firmly believe, however, that our true system of warfare would be to concentrate the forces of the two departments on this side of the Mississippi, beat the enemy here, and then reconquer the country beyond it, which he might have gained in the mean time. I respectfully as Your Excellency's attention to the accompanying letter* of Major-General Smith in relation to the inadequacy of the garrison of Vicksburg, begging you to take his estimate of the force needed, instead of mine, as his is based upon accurate calculation.#
    Most respectfully, your obedient servant,


*Not found.

#Copy was referred by Mr. Davis to General Holmes. See Holmes to Johnston, December 29, 1862, Series, I, Vol. XXXII, Part I. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 20, Part 2, Pages 459-460.

Johnston here espouses the entirely logical viewpoint that a)the Mississippi must be held (specifically Vicksburg), and b)the forces needed cannot be supplied by taking them from Bragg in Tennessee.  His best, and only, option was to take men from Arkansas to supply the deficit in Mississippi, the thinking being if Vicksburg was lost Arkansas would soon follow.

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