HEADQUARTERS TRANS-MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT,
Monroe, La., July 4, 1863.
General JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON, Commanding, &c.:
GENERAL: On the 29th ultimo I received at Shreveport a letter from General Elgee,* volunteer aide to General Taylor, conveying information from you of the critical condition of the garrison at Vicksburg. I proceeded immediately to this point. On the road I met Lieutenant Cunningham with your dispatch of the 26th June.+ I find it impossible to do anything from this side for the relief of Vicksburg. When General Taylor, with all the disposable force of the district, was ordered opposite Vicksburg, I believed that much would have been achieved. General Taylor was instructed to spare no efforts in throwing supplies into Vicksburg. His efforts were vain; nothing toward the main object of the expedition (the relief of Vicksburg) was effected. General Taylor reported it impossible to do anything more, and he returned to Alexandria, proposing to conduct in person the operations opposite Port Hudson. I approved of General Taylor's action, as the troops were not withdrawn from opposite Vicksburg, but were left under the command of Major-General Walker, and as General Taylor's presence was needed below, and a communication had just been received from you announcing the investment of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, stating that you were arranging for the relief of the former place, and could do nothing for Port Hudson, but urged me to do all that I could for the relief of its garrison. At the time of General Taylor's arrival here, the force concentrated at his disposal numbered about 7,000. Their operations in the swamps of the Mississippi, have reduced the command, by sickness, to less than 4,000 effective. The enemy have re-enforced and are prepared and on the lookout. The relief of Vicksburg from this side, which General Taylor, with his force, found impossible, with the means at my command is now absolutely impracticable. I inclose you a copy of a communication from General Walker.# I have taken steps for communicating with General Pemberton and for throwing in a supply of caps, which I hope will prove successful. I shall endeavor to communicate to him that he can expect no aid from this side; that his whole hope is in cutting his way through the enemy's lines; that he must by sending out information determine the day when by a simultaneous attack of both your forces on the same point the garrison can be extricated; that on his information I will in advance make a demonstration with the hope of drawing to this side a portion of the investing force. Any escape of the garrison by the river is, I believe, impracticable. It, with the character of the peninsula opposite, is an insurmountable obstacle to success.
Finding nothing is to be done opposite Vicksburg, I have ordered General Walker to occupy a point above Lake Providence, which whilst his flanks are protected,, and his retreat secured, offers advantages for intercepting communication on the river.
Very respectfully, &c.,
E. KIRBY SMITH,
Cam at Russell's Ferry, July 4, 1863
Major HENRY EWING, Asst. Adjt. General Marmaduke's Div.,in the Field:
MAJOR: I have just received very important information from the enemy. My scouts report that the Federals have left Ironton. There
*See p. 914.
+See p. 885