[Inclosure Numbers 2.]
JACKSON, June 3, 1863
Lieutenant General E. KIRBY SMITH:
MY DEAR GENERAL: I inclose you with this an extract from a letter just received from the Secretary of War,* and hope that you may be able to direct action upon the principle of the suggestion. Port Hudson is invested. Whether it is possible for you to do anything in aid of the garrison I do not know, not knowing where your troops are nor their strength. The investing force is said to be 20,000 Northeastern troops. I need not tell you what a service to the Confederacy would be performed by relieving the place; one which I am not in a condition to render; Grant's position makes it impossible. The Secretary's suggestion to take Helena may be practicable; if so, it is well worth doing. The most important object you can have is the maintaining communication with this side of the Mississippi and preventing the enemy's possession of its bank. I know that you will do all in you power, but do not know the amount of that power.
As ever, yours, truly,
J. E. JOHNSTON
[Inclosure Numbers 3.]
HARRISONBURG, June 22, 1863
Major General RICHARD TAYLOR,
Commanding District of Western Louisiana, Alexandria:
GENERAL: I have just returned from my mission to General Johnston. I shall proceed to General Walker's headquarters and communicate to him the information received from General Johnston. I regret to inform you that he considers the situation of Vicksburg eminently critical. Grant is being heavily re-enforced by Burnside's corps, and this, added to his strength of position, renders the condition of Vicksburg, in General Johnston's opinion, almost hopeless. The greatest success he anticipates is the withdrawal of the garrison and its safety, but the difficulties in the way of accomplishing even this are very great.
General J. [Johnston] has 25,000 men; Grant has certainly 80,000, probably 100,000. General Johnston's troops are far from being the best owing to causes which you may easily conjecture. Grant is intrenched in a naturally strong position, where he ought to whip an attacking force of double his numbers. To accomplish anything it is extremely important that General Johnston should communicate with General Pemberton. He receives communications from him by men floating down the river at night, but can get none to him. He requests every effort to be made on this side to that end. He also desires that he may have a ready means of communication with you by way of Natchez, to which point the telegraph extends. He suggests no other mode of your rendering him assistance than that already contemplated in your orders to General Walker and Colonel [Isaac F.] Harrison.
General Johnston has news both from General Pemberton and General Gardner up to Saturday, the 14th instant. The former reports some sickness in the garrison, twenty days' provisions, and a want of percussion caps. The latter reports a scarcity of provisions and ammunition. General Johnston expressed himself highly gratified at your courtesy in sending to him your offer to co-operate with him in any manner he might desire, and requested me to assure you of his high personal regard.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. LeD. ELGEE
*See Part, I, p. 407.