Richmond, Va., February 18, 1865.
The joint resolution of Congress and other manifestations of a desire that General Josehg E. Johnston should be restored to the command of the Army of Tennessee have been anxiously considered by me, andit is with sincere regret that I find myself unable to gratify what I must believe to have become quite a general desire of my countrymen. The expresion of this desire has come to me in forms so imposing and from sources so fully entitled to my respect and confidence that I feel it to be due to the people, to justice, and to myself to take the unusual step of discussing matters which would otherwise for public consideration have been passed over in silence, and of presenting the reasons which make it impossible for me to assign him again to an important and independent command.
At the commencement of thepresent war there were few person in the Confederacy who entertained a more favorable opinion of General Johnston as a soldier than I did. I knew him to be brave and well informed in his profession. I believed that he possessed high capacity for becoming a successful commander in the field. Our relations under the former Government were of a frienly nature and so continued in the new sphere of duty opened to both by the change in the political condition of the country. At different times during the war I have given to General Johnston three very important commands, and in each case experience has revealed the fact that with the high qualities above refered to as prossessed by him are united defect which unfit him for the conduct of a campaign. When he was relieved from command in July last it was believed that this action on my part would be accepted inits plain and only raeal significance, as an indication that his conduct of the campaign was disapproved, and that apptertained that the grave losses already sustained would be followed by still further disasters if he continued in command. Any criticism on this action, however harsh and unjust to me personally, I was prepared to bear in the same silence which the interest of my country has imposed on me, as a duty, in many other instances during the war. The disclosure of the ground of my conduct it would have been preferable to postpone to a future and more fitting occasion. But it has recently been apparent that there exists in some quarters a purpose, not simply to criticise the past, but to arraign me before the bar of public opinion, and compel me to do what my judgment and consciense disapproved, or to destroy my power of usefulness by undermining the confidence of my fellow-citizens. It is better to lose that confidence than to retain it at the expense of truht and duty. Yet no man can conduct public aflairs with success in a Government like ours unless upheld be the trust and willing aid of the people. I have determined therefore, now to make the disclosure of the causes which have forced on me the unpleasant duty of gratify the desire of a large a portion of the people, as well as the expressed wish of Congress.
General Johnston, on his entering into the Confederate service, was assigned to the command of the Army of the Valley of Virginia, which was then confronted by the enemy in position on the north side of the Potomac. At Harper's Ferry there was a large quatity of materials and machinery for the manufacture of small-arms of the greatest value to the Confederacy. Their removal to places of greater safety was commenced as soon as the necessary arrangements could be made. During the progress of the work General Johntston insisted upon the evacuation