Wednesday, June 05, 2013

General Bowen's Reply to Pemberton's inquiry - Can we break out of Vicksburg?

Vicksburg, MISS., July 2, 1863.

GENERAL: In reply to your inquiry of this morning in regard to the condition of my command to force their way through the enemy's lines in case that the necessity should arise to evacuate this position, I have the honor to state that my men are in as good, if not better spirits, than any others in the line, and able to stand as much fatigue, yet I do not consider them capable (physically) of enduring the hardships incident to such an undertaking. Forty-five days' incessant duty day and night, with short rations, the wear of both mind and body incident to our situation, has had a marked effect upon them, and I am satisfied they cannot give battle and march over 10 or 12 miles in the same day.

In view of the fact that General Johnston has never held out the slightest hope to us that the siege could be raised; that his demonstration in our favor to relieve this exhausted garrison would of necessity be sufficient to raise it, I see no alternative but to endeavor to rescue the command by making terms with the enemy. Under the most favorable circumstances, were we to cut our way out, we could not, in my opinion, save two-THIRDS of our present effective strength. No provision could be made for our wounded who fell in the attempt, or those we leave behind in the hospitals, and our army would reach General Johnston (if we should get through) a mere handful of broken-down stragglers.

I would, therefore, recommend that an immediate proposition be made to capitulate. If accepted, we get every thing we have any right to hope for; if rejected, we can still hold out stubbornly for some days, and our enemy may make the proposal to us. When our rations are exhausted, or nearly so, we may accept a surrender with the condition of a general parole instead of imprisonment for the command. If the offer is made at once, we have a better chance of making terms than when we have only one day's resistance in store in case of a refusal. The proposition coming from us, if rejected, will make our men determined to fight to the last; theirs, on the contrary, will feel that after Vicksburg has been offered, their blood is shed to gratify a mere vindictive feeling against its garrison, whose only fault has been the noble defense they have made, and I believe that numbers of the enemy have still enough manhood to admire our courage and determination and urge liberal terms of capitulation.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


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