Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 18, 1863 (Monday): Pemberton Seals His Fate

Approaches to and Defenses of Vicksburg (Library of Congress)

Vicksburg, May 18, 1863.
General JOSEPH E. Johnston:
    GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication, in reply to mine by the hands of Captain [Thomas] Henderson. In a subsequent letter of same date as this latter, I informed you that the men had failed to hold the trenches at Big Black Bridge, and that, as a consequence, Snyder's Mill was directed to be abandoned. 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 service to the Confederacy. While the council of war was assembled, the guns of the enemy opened on the works, and it was at the same time reported that they were crossing the Yahoo River at Brandon's Ferry, above Snyder's Mill. I have decided to hold Vicksburg as long as is 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.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Lieutenant-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 24, Part 1, Page 273.

This is in response to a letter from Johnston on the 17th which read in part, "...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."  Johnston was undoubtedly correct in his estimation of the situation.  But Pemberton understood how fragile his army was and how poorly it had performed at Big Black Bridge.  He felt they were not capable of cutting their way through the Union lines and escaping.  Pemberton hoped for help which would not come and sealed the fate of his command.  

No comments:

Post a Comment