War of the Rebellion: Serial 033 Page 0915 Chapter XXXIV. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. - CONFEDERATE.

Search Civil War Official Records

[Inclosure Numbers 4.]


Delhi, July 3, 1863

Lieutenant General E. KIRBY SMITH,

Commanding Trans-Mississippi Department, Monroe:

GENERAL: In reference to your inquiry as to the practicability of throwing re-enforcements and provisions into Vicksburg, I am reluctantly compelled to state that, with the force at my disposal, or within my reach. I consider it utterly impracticable. At no time since my arrival in this region has my force amounted to more than 4,700 effective men, and such has been the deleterious effect of the climate and bad weather, that in two weeks' time in the three brigades I had barely 2,500 men fit for duty. Since I have been re-enforced by Tappan's brigade, from Arkansas, my force has not exceeded at any time 4,200 men fit for duty.

To reach a point on the Mississippi opposite Vicksburg, it would be necessary to march for 20 or 30 miles into the narrow peninsula at the eastern extremity of which that city is situated, while on the right and left, only a few miles distant, by practicable roads, overwhelming forces can without difficulty be thrown upon my rear, which could not fail to secure the capture or destruction of my command. Since General Hawes' demonstration on Young's Point, on the 7th of June, that point and the immediate river front of Vicksburg have been largely re-enforced and it would be hopeless to expect that our march could be conducted so secretly that it would be undiscovered until we reached the canal or cut-off. This short line, capable of being perfectly manned by a few thousand men, would present an insurmountable obstacle to our farther progress, and even a delay of two or three hours would be quite sufficient to enable overwhelming forces to be thrown upon the few practicable roads leading toward the rear, and escape would be impossible. In my frequent conferences with Major-General Taylor, while he was conducting in person the operations of my p;resent command, he constantly expressed the utmost anxiety to relieve Vicksburg; but after the 7th of June he considered it so impracticable for my constantly and rapidly diminishing strength to effect this much-desired end that he ordered the withdrawal of the troops. This order was afterward countermanded, and for two weeks I have sought every opportunity to strike an effective blow for the safety of Vicksburg, but such has been the strength of the enemy's forces at Milliken's Bend, Young's Point, and other places along the shores of the Mississippi, that I have been unable to effect anything more than a diversion of a considerable column of the enemy's troops to watch my movements. At Richmond, La., on the 15th of June, I was attacked by a column of about 8,000 infantry and three batteries. The same day three brigades of the enemy's troops crossed the Mississippi from Warrenton, and moved across the Peninsula to Young's Point.

I mention these circumstances to show that my forces have not been idle, and to illustrate the ease and rapidity with which the enemy can throw any required number of troops upon the Peninsula to crush any small force that should attempt to pass into the narrow strip leading to Vicksburg.

The same is true in regard to the establishment of batteries upon the Mississippi, to prevent the passage of re-enforcements to the enemy. I have examined carefully every point from Young's to Lake Providence in order to get such a position, but between those points there is no