high position, great intelligence, and eminent character, to say nothing of the close relations you sustain to the chosen head of the Government, entitle you to all the facts in the case as they really exist.
Affairs in Mississippi are most critical; the complication the most difficult yet presented in the war. Vicksburg is, as you know, closely invested by a Federal force variously estimated at between 60,000 and 100,000 troops, the actual number leaning more, in my judgment, toward the latter than the former figures. Not content with closely investing the city and its communications, the enemy have exhibited uncommon energy and activity in fortifying their rear against the operations of a succoring army. The naturally defensible country which they occupy has been strengthened to resist the approach of our forces by all the industry, ingenuity, and skill of which the Yankee nation is capable. In a word, the Northern Government has made a point on Vicksburg, and has determined it shall fall, and with it, if in their power to accomplish it, the Mississippi Valley.
In Vicksburg we have an effective garrison, variously computed at between 15,000 and 118,000 men, with probably equipments and arms inclusive for 22,000. At Port Hudson we have a force, say, of 5,000 or 6,000, with probably arms, &c., for 8,000. I am particular in indicating the number of arms, as they are quite as important as the men, and are even more scarce. To save Vicksburg with the army which has been sent to General Johnston to achieve that object, is simply a physical impossibility. It cannot be done, and is not in the matter of hope or calculation. To relieve and extricate from the apparently doomed city its gallant garrison is frankly the only purpose for which operations are intended. True, we may have some miraculous interposition, but in the range of human accomplishment with his present force (barely 24,000), General Johnston does not expect rescue the gallant men within the walls of Vicksburg. There is no question in my mind that the importance of Vicksburg to the Confederacy cannot be overestimated. I will not enlarge on this point. Your clear and comprehensive mind has already anticipated all that could be said on it.
Such is our condition. What is to be done?
Information, supposed to be reliable, leads me to the belief that General Pemberton has supplies and ammunition to sustain himself yet a month longer. His men have already given conclusive evidence of their ability to resist any assault that may be made on their works. Now, suppose General Bragg's army was at once ordered to Mississippi. The bulk of it three weeks. General Johnston with this re-enforcement could not only succor the garrison in Vicksburg, but disperse Grant's army and save the city itself. Why, you will ask, has this not been done before? I anticipate and answer your question frankly. It has not been done by General Johnston for two reasons: 1st. Until the 10th instant, he had no idea that he possessed the power to make such an order, all his antecedent correspondence with the Government having excluded the conclusion that such control over General Bragg's troops was within the chart of his authority in the department. 2nd. When, on the 10th instant, the President, by implication, conferred on him the power to make such a disposition of General Bragg's army, it was very late, and what might have before been a clear military proposition, had then assumed political proportions, which made General Johnston unwilling to take a responsibility involving the possible abandonment of States. General Johnston thought then, and so telegraphed the President, that it was a political question between Middle Tennessee and the Mississippi Valley, which he, as the head of the Government,