War of the Rebellion: Serial 036 Page 0219 Chapter XXXVI. GENERAL REPORTS.

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Richmond, Va., May 23, 1863.

General JOSEPH E. Johnston,

Commanding, &c.:

DEAR SIR: I have no official communications or instructions to send you, but cannot omit the opportunity afforded by a courier going to you, to offer the encouragement of my full confidence and best wishes in the trying circumstances in which you are placed.

I regretted deeply, when I received the telegram announcing your arrival at Jackson, that you had not been ordered to that vital field of operations at an earlier period, but I could not think or feel that you were too late. Indeed, events since have made your presence of even greater moment than I had anticipated, and now, to retrieve our grave disasters, and save, if practicable, the all-important command of the Mississippi River, is felt to be dependent on the presence and inspiration of your military genius.

All aids and facilities in the power of the Department to render you will be promptly and heartily given, but they are felt to be far less adequate than we would gladly furnish. Guns and artillery have been forwarded from the nearest points we could find them, and, in addition to the 10,000 men previously ordered from Charleston, since your departure General Bragg, under suggestions from the President, has forwarded you 2,500 cavalry and 6,000 infantry. Unfortunately these latter re-enforcements may not reach you in time for the decisive struggle, but such despondent anticipations will not be entertained. I am altogether too remote and too uninformed as to your own resources and forces or those of the enemy, even if I had the requisite military experience or knowledge, to venture on instructions, or even counsel, as to your operations. I can only assure you of my full appreciation and confidence, and cheer myself under the darkening aspect of our late reverses by unabated reliance on your zeal, fertility of resource, and generalship.

I venture, with diffidence, only one suggestion, and that not strictly applicable to your own field of operations. It is, that should opportunity of communication with General Holmes or General Price occur, it might be well to urge they should make diversions for you, or, in case of the fall of Vicksburg, secure a great future advantage to the Confederacy by the attack on and seizure of Helena, while all available forces of the enemy are being pushed to Grant's aid. Had I command of communication, this suggestion would be directly addressed and pressed by the Department. Its policy is so apparent that it is hoped it will be voluntarily embraced and executed.

With my best wishes, most cordially, yours,


Secretary of War.

JACKSON, MISS., May 25, 1863.

General S. COOPER:

It is important that I should know what troops to expect. Please inform me and have them urged on; they come too slowly.

J. E. Johnston.


*This letter was not transmitted to the Confederate Congress.

An extract embracing all that follows was transmitted to E. Kirby Smith. See Series I, VOL. XXII, Part I, p. 407