taneously with myself, or perhaps interpose a heavy force between me and that city. Under these circumstances nothing remained but to retire the army within the defenses of Vicksburg, and to endeavor as speedily as possible to reorganize the depressed and discomfited troops.
Orders were accordingly issued at 10 a. j., and Major-General Stevenson directed to conduct the retreat, which was executed without haste and in good order. I myself proceeded at once to Vicksburg to prepare for its defense.
I think it due to myself, in bringing this portion of my report to a conclusion, to state emphatically that the advance movement of the army from Edwards Depot on the afternoon of May 15 was made against my judgment, in opposition to my previously expressed intentions, and to the subversion of my matured plans. In one contingency alone I had determined to move toward Jackson; the safety of Vicksburg was of paramount importance; under no circumstances could I abandon my communications with it. A sufficient force must also be left to defend the river front of the city, the approaches by Chickasaw Bayou, by Snyder's Mill, and Warrenton against a coup de main. My effective aggregate did not exceed 28,000. At least 8,000 would be required for these purposes; it would also be necessary to hold the bridges across the Big Black, on the line of the Southern Railroad. With these deductions my movable army might reach 18,500. I give this number as the maximum.
In the event, therefore, of the enemy advancing with his whole force east of the Mississippi River against Jackson, my communications by the shortest line being open would have enabled me to move upon his rear. General Johnston's forces and my own might have formed a junction or have attacked simultaneously in front and rear. But I did not think it would be wise to attempt to execute this plan until the arrival of expected re-enforcements at or near Jackson. Hence I received General Johnston's instructions on the morning of the 14th to move to Clinton with all the force I could quickly collect with great regret; and I well remember that in the presence of one or more of my staff officers I remarked in substance, "Such a movement will be suicidal. " Nevertheless, notifying General Johnston of the fact, I took measures for an advance movement at once; not, it is true, directly toward Clinton, but in the only direction which, from my knowledge of the circumstances surrounding me, I thought offered a possibility of success. Had I moved directly to Clinton, the enemy would not have given me battle in front, but would have interposed a force greater than my own between me and Vicksburg. It is only necessary to refer to the maps accompanying this report* to see how feasible was such a movement.
I have already given in the body of this report the two letters of instructions from General Johnston, dated respectively May 13 and 15, 1863. In obedience to the instructions contained in the former, which was received on the morning of the 14th, I lost no time in putting my army in motion in the direction already stated and for the reasons given.
About 7 a. m. on the 16th, I received the latter, which reiterated the previous instructions. I had in no measure changed my views as to the propriety of the movement therein indicated, but I no longer felt at liberty to deviate from General Johnston's positive orders. He had been made aware of my views and did not sustain them. The order of march was at once reversed, but the army was hardly in motion before it became necessary to form line of battle to meet the greatly superior forces of the enemy.
*To appear in Atlas.