Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/355

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General Joseph E. Johnston. 349

poned the communication of the order, reporting to Richmond the reasons for so doing. Once more an act of noble grace ! These are the acts which write their bright light on the human sky. When the particular crisis had passed, Johnston's own debility was such that he could not assume command, and the order was indefinitely post- poned. He had reported for duty all too soon, and too severely taxed the adamant which knew so little how to yield. It was not until the i2th of March that he was able to resume his duties in the field.

Johnston had inspected Vicksburg during Christmas week, and even so early had decided, as he shortly afterwards stated to General Maury, that it was a mistake to keep in an intrenched camp so large an army, whose true place was in the field; that a heavy work should be constructed to command the river just above Vicksburg, "at the turn," with a year's supply for a good garrison of three thousand men. Until April i4th Pemberton's telegrams indicated an effort against Bragg, in whose vicinity Johnston was, and not against Vicksburg. On the 1 6th of April the Union fleet passed the batteries of Vicksburg. To the mind of Johnston it was clear that, when this could happen Vicksburg ceased to be of any more importance than any other place on the river. On the 2gth of April and ist of May, Pemberton an- nounced a movement upon Grand Gulf, with a view to Vicksburg. Johnston replied on the instant, telling Pemberton to unite all his troops from every quarter for the repulse of Grant, while the latter was crossing the river, and to move at once for the purpose, adding, " success will give you back what was abandoned to win it." On the gth of May a dispatch was received by Johnston, at Tullahoma, in middle Tennessee, directing him to " proceed at once to Missis- sippi to take chief command of the forces there." He replied, " I shall go immediately, although unfit for field service." From the shell which had unhorsed him at Seven Pines he had not yet so far rallied as to be able to ride into the field. But the orders he forth- with gave reflect the warrior grasp which nothing could relax. Three things were clear to Johnston : First, that the time to attack was when the enemy was divided in the passage of the river; sec- ond, that the invading army must be defeated in the field, and that Vicksburg must fall if besieged ; third, that Vicksburg ceased to be of exceptional importance, after the junction of the upper and lower fleet. In coincidence with these views were his orders to the officer