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a long time from public notice. His confinement was tedious and full of suffering. His affliction was a frightful bruise, involving the fracture of several ribs, producing an obstinate adhesion of the lungs to the side, and a constant tendency to pleurisy. His symptoms required the most active treatment with bleedings, blisterings and depletions of the system. Long after he had apparently recovered, and felt himself restored to normal health, exposure or exertion would produce a recurrence of unpleasant symptoms in the weakened parts. It was not until late in the year that he could venture to report himself for duty, which he did with distrust. Even as late as March in the following year, he had to decline the personal command of Gen. Bragg's Army of Tennessee, from frail health ; and as late as May 7, just before going from Tullahoma to Mississippi, he
In the latter part of 1863, when Gen. Bragg had retreated from Kentucky, much popular dissatisfaction was felt with that officer. There was also a general feeling that the Confederate affairs had been wretchedly managed throughout the West; and there was a wide-spread desire that some officer of ability and reputation should be assigned to that important theatre, who might restore the fortunes of the Confederacy from the dilapidation into which they were falling. Public opinion soon became so pronounced in favour of the assignment of Gen. Johnston to the West, that it could no longer be deferred.
His appointment was not agreeable to Mr. Davis, but was made under the coercion of public opinion. Orders were given to Gen. Johnston, on assigning him to that field, of a peculiar and unusual character. He was deputed on a mission, not assigned to a command. As to the Army of Tennessee, he was instructed to look into the condition of affairs there, and to relieve Bragg if the public service should require it. As to the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, and that of Alabama, embracing the army at Mobile, his mission likewise was supervisory. In his own language, expressed shortly afterwards, in a private letter not until now published, “Never was a General in a more unsatisfactory position than that assigned to me. A sort of supervisory command of three departments, each too
weak to take care of itself; of course, therefore, they cannot help each other, being all pressed or threatened by greatly superiour numbers. Each department has its peculiar commander. The object of the government was, to have some one at hand to unite the forces in Mississippi and Tennessee in whichever might be first attacked. To transfer any body of troops of useful number would require at least a month, yet the government seems to have intended to operate in Napoleon's manner, without considering the difference between the extent of front upon which he manæuvred and the distance from Tullahoma to Vicksburg. Yet the President had a lesson in December which should have taught something. When Pemberton was falling back in Mississippi, he transferred three brigades to his army from Bragg's. They arrived in Mississippi after Grant had been compelled to fall back by our cavalry operating in his rear. But while they were on the way, Rosecrans attacked Bragg at Murfreesboro. So, these troops left Tennessee too soon, and reached Mississippi too late; a sort of thing that may always happen when it is expected that armies a month apart shall reinforce each other on emergencies.”
Gen. Johnston was thus put in the West, not with a command, but simply as an officer superiour in rank to each of those respectively commanding, in order to do, on an emergency, just what should be done before the happening of the emergency. True, he had authority to assume the command of Bragg's army, but it was to be done under circumstances so invidious as not to be thought of. Up to that time Gen. Bragg had simply been unfortunate, and had done his duty according to the best of his ability. It was unusual for one General to pass condemnation upon another by relieving him of command and assuming that command himself. It was to be both judge and executioner. Johnston was incapable of performing a part so unchivalrous, ungenerous, and invidious, and of such hurtful precedent and evil tendency. When he reached Bragg's army he reported creditably of him, and disdained to rob him of his command.
Thus his new appointment was a mission, and not a military command. There were three armies in an equal number of departments in his new jurisdiction: one at Mobile, under Gen. Maury; another at Murfreesboro', under Gen. Bragg; and the third about Vicksburg, under Gen. Pemberton. He was nominally the superiour officer, as the Secretary of War was the chief of all the Generals; but his real control was naught. He could not withdraw the armies from the points they defended, and consolidate them; he could only reinforce one of them by detachments from another. They were each commanded by the respective Generals placed over them by the President; and as every reader of the newspapers saw each morning, they reported their actions, not through Gen. Johnston, but directly to Richmond. Being each favourites to whom the President was partial, they could each disobey Johnston's orders with impunity, as was sadly and conspicuously proven by that disobeyal of Pemberton which resulted in shutting up his army in Vicksburg and losing twenty-three thousand men to the Confederacy. Johnston went to the West somewhat in the character of a local Secretary of War.
Before receiving the formal order assigning him to that anomalous service, he was invited to a conference with the then Secretary of War, Mr. Randolph, in his chambers. * He here freely developed his opinions on the situation of the West. He thought the entire Mississippi Valley should be one department, under one command. The Valley was a unit; nor did the river affect its unity. The measures for its defence ought to comprehend the whole Valley and both sides of the river. It ought to be under one command and one head. The proper defense of Vicksburg would require the coöperation of troops on both sides of the river; and this could not be efficient unless both armies were under the direct orders of one superiour officer. These should
* The interview with Secretary Randolph occurred about the middle of November, 1862. The orders assigning Gen. Johnston to the West were dated on the 24th November, 1862. In his letter acknowledging the reception of these two orders, he recommended that Gen. Holmes' troops in the Trans-Mississippi should be ordered to the Department of Mississippi. Secretary Randolph had issued such an order, and President Davis, on hearing of it, had written a note to Mr. Randolph, directing a suspension or revocation of it. Secretary Randolph soon resigned; it is believed on account of the disagreement. Gen. Cooper, Adjutant-General, had reported the effective force under Gen. Holmes at over fifty thousand men. Grant was then invading North Mississippi, and there were no Federal troops of importance known to be in Holmes' department but the garrison at Helena. The orders of Gen. Johnston for the West, as signed by Secretary Seddon (Secretary Randolph having resigned before they were issued), directed him to make his headquarters at Chattanooga.
proceed from a General in the field, and near to the scene of action. He thought that, by concentration, the offensive should be assumed in Tennessee. In these views Secretary Randolph expressed himself as fully concurring; but, unfortunately, the services of that sterling officer were in a few days lost to the Confederacy by his resignation and retirement from the War Department. Immediately after this conference, Johnston proceeded on his Western mission.
After visiting Bragg's army, and advising the retention of that General in command, he proceeded to Alabama and Mississippi for the purpose of looking personally into the condition of the service; spending at first most of his time at Jackson. The subject here invites to a description of the country which he was to supervise, the armies which he was to look after, and the complicated dangers of which he was to admonish. But that task belongs to regular history, and exceeds the province of a memoir; which concerns itself more immediately with the man, and the impress he made upon his times. With the details of military operations he had little to do. Nor were there any very important occurrences that marked the interim of winter and early spring between his arrival in the West and his assumption of command in the field before Jackson in the succeeding May, under the painful circumstances about to be reviewed.
While in Mobile, on the 12th March, 1863, he received an order to repair at once to Tullahoma, in Middle Tennessee, thence to order Gen. Bragg to Richmond, and to take command of that army. He iminediately proceeded to Tullahoma. His own state of health proved to be such as to unfit him for field-service, and for this and other reasons, Gen. Bragg could not be spared. These facts he reported in Richmond.
From the time of his arrival at Tullahoma, until the 14th April, the reports of Gen. Pemberton from Vicksburg, all by telegraph, indicated quietude in that direction, and a belief that the efforts of the enemy were directed against Gen. Bragg rather than himself. He seemed to share the then prevailing popular impression, that the operations of Gen. Grant against Vicksburg, which had been unsuccessful at Milliken’s Bend, above the city, had been suspended. By April 15, this impression had become so fixed that Pemberton telegraphed to Johnston :—“I am
satisfied Rosecrans will be reinforced from Grant's army. Shall I order troops to Tullahoma ?” By the 17th, Grant had reappeared in another quarter, had changed his position from above Vicksburg, and gone below, where he had recommenced operations. Big Black River, a deep sluggish river, flanked by marshes, runs in the rear of Vicksburg, and empties into the Mississippi below it at Grand Gulf. Off from Grand Gulf, in a south-east direction, on a bayou, is Port Gibson, at more than a day's march distance from the Mississippi. On the 29th, advices came from Pemberton that Grant was at Hard Times, on the west, with an apparent purpose of crossing to Bruinsburg, on the east bank of the Mississippi. On the 1st May, Pemberton advised by telegraph, that "a furious battle was going on since daylight, just below Port Gibson.” He continued, “I should have large reinforcements. Enemy's movements threaten Jackson, and if successful (will] cut off Vicksburg and Port Hudson." Gen. Johnston at once urged him to concentrate and to attack Grant immediately on his landing. On the next day the order was repeated in the following memorable words: “If Grant crosses, unite all your troops to beat him. Success will give back what was abandoned to win it.” Gen. Johnston remained at Tullahoma long enough to correspond by telegraph with the government at Richmond, informing them that reinforcements could not be spared from Bragg s without giving up Tennessee,” and urging as many brigades to be spared from the East as possible. Hearing by the 5th nothing of the battle at Port Gibson, from Pemberton, he asked by telegraph, " what is the result, and where is Grant's army ?” but received no reply, and knew nothing of what was transpiring until he reached Jackson, on May 13; whither he repaired with all speed immediately on receiving orders to that effect from Richmond, dated on the 9th May. In a private letter written at Tullahoma on May 7 the same letter from which an extract has been given on a preceding page, and which should now be referred to as deriving a greater significance from the circumstances which surrounded him—he wrote: “Mississippi is invaded by an army fifty per cent. greater than ours, and our General can't comprehend that by attempting to defend all valuable points at once, he exposes his troops to be beaten everywhere. I have urged him to concentrate to fight Grant; but