War of the Rebellion: Serial 025 Page 0810 Chapter XXIX. WEST TENN. AND NORTHERN MISS.

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VICKSBURG, December 29, 1862.

General JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON:

The enemy are endeavoring to throw two pontoon brigade across the lake.

J. C. PEMBERTON,

Lieutenant-General, Commanding.

HEADQUARTERS TRANS-MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT,

Little Rock, Ark., December 29, 1862.

General JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON,

Commanding Department of the West:

GENERAL: The President has referred to me your letter to him dated at Vicksburg, December 22; also Major General M. L. Smith's letter to you of the same date; both in reference to the defenses of Vicksburg. These communications are accompanied by one from the President on the same subject, and expressing the hope that the condition of affairs it this State would justify me it detaching some portion of my forces for the purpose of re-enforcing the garrison of that city.

Fully concurring with all that has been urged as to the great importance of holding Vicksburg, which can scarcely be exaggerated, you can understand how inexpressibly painful it has been to me to have failed, from whatever cause, to render the desires assistance, and how imperative I considered it to retain all my small force for the defense of the valley of the Arkansas. The belief as to my ability to render such assistance I must believe has grown out of very erroneous impression of my strength, which my repeated reports to the War Department it seems have not been able to correct. At no time have I had more than 22,000 effective men in this State, and several regiment of these were Indians, upon when no reliance can be placed. This small force, now reduced by an alarming amount of sickness, by desertions and the casualties of battle, to but little over 16, 000 men, not including the troops in the fortifications, is my entire dependence to resist largely superior forces of the enemy threatening us in the north, west, and east. At the time the demand was first made upon me for troops to reenforce Vicksburg the enemy was moving with a heavy force upon Van Buren and Fort Smith. General Hindman, taking the initiative, had crossed the Boston Mountains to attack him. The forces of the enemy were so superior that it seemed too much to expect a favorable result and I could not think it justifiable in me to send General McCulloch's division, my only reserve, toward Vicksburg, with it would require nearly a month in reaching, during which time the enemy might be quietly taking possession of the valley of the Arkansas, the key of the department. Under such circumstances I do not believe that either the President or Yourself would have desires me to send away nearly one-half of my entire effective strength could you have known all the circumstances.

General Hindman met the enemy at Prairie Grove and fourth them with very favorable results; and I had hoped and confidently expected that, in consequence of his losses in battle and the utter destitution of the northwestern counties of this State os all supplies for supporting him army, the enemy would not make an attempt to advance again this winter. Yesterday, however, I received information from General Hindman that the enemy were advancing in force upon Van Buren, and at noon were with 20 miles of the Arkansas River. General Hindman's whole force, reduced by sickness and casualties to about 10,000 men, is