Wednesday, June 05, 2013

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


GENERAL: Your note of yesterday desires of me a reply on two points, viz: The condition of my troops, and their ability to make the marches and undergo the fatigue necessary to a successful evacuation of this place. The length of the marches and the amount of fatigue necessary to a successful evacuation not being indicated, I confine myself to giving the following information and opinions: There are about 3,000 men in my DIVISION, including State troops, in a condition to undertake a march of 8 or 10 miles a day in this weather, if there is an opportunity of resting at intervals. Out of these 3,000, only about 2,000 are considered reliable in case we are strongly opposed and much harassed. A secret evacuation I consider almost impossible, on account of the temper of many in my command, who would, of necessity, be left be hind, not to mention their natural timidity when left alone, which would induce them to at once get into communication with the enemy for their own fancied safety. I would really expect the enemy to become aware of the movement before my command had cleared the right of our line. It is proper to mention that the 2,000 alluded to have suffered severely in the loss of field officers during the siege; and while their individual bravery remains the same, they will be more readily thrown into confusion from want of officers to handle them, if forced to halt and go through any formation to oppose an enemy. In other words, while under the impression that the troops will to-day resist an assault as obstinately, or perhaps more so, as when they first manned the trenches, I do not think they would do as well out of them and in the field.

I believe that General Johnston either has or will fight Grant, and my hope has been that he would be successful and in time to relieve us. At present, however, I see no chance of timely relief from him, and him dispatches have never indicated a hope of being able to raise the siege. Under these circumstances, I deem it best to propose terms of capitulation before forced to do so from want of provisions.

The following, although not called for by your note, is respectfully stated on account of a personal conversation had some days since. In regard to evacuating with or without entering into terms of agreement with the enemy, I should much prefer the former. There is to my mind no practical difference between giving up a place openly or secretly.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

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