Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the secretary of war on November 24th assigned Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to command of the region embracing western North Carolina, Tennessee, northern Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and eastern Louisiana, Lieutenant-General Pemberton remaining in command in Mississippi, with Van Dorn in command of the army of West Tennessee, which was mainly Lovell's division, and Price in command of his army of the West, now reduced to some 4,000 men, who were all anxious to recross the Mississippi, but were held under orders which Price loyally supported, though he shared fully the feelings of the soldiers. For the purpose of correspondence and reports, General Johnston was to establish his headquarters at Chattanooga, or such other place as in his judgment would best facilitate ready communication with the troops within his command, and to repair in person to any part of his command whenever his presence might for the time be necessary or desirable.
There was unfortunate confusion in the department at this time—a lack of confidence on the part of the soldiers and citizens; and with many so intense was this feeling that they lost enthusiasm and gave themselves up to hopeless endurance of whatever might come as inevitable. One citizen, at least, at this juncture suggested to President Davis that he give the State his own presence as an encouragement. "Plant your own foot upon our soil; unfurl your banner at the head of your army; tell your own people that you have come to share with them the perils of this dark hour," implored this anxious Mississippian.
Pemberton reported on December 5th the advance of Grant on the Central railroad, the movement of Hovey and starting of Sherman down the Mississippi, adding that at the same time a demonstration was made from below on Port Hudson, La., within his department. He stated that Port Hudson was now held by about 5,500 men