Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/358

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


352 Southern Historical Society Papers.

frustrate us to their own cost and by their sacrifice ; times when it would look as if some sardonic deity had been unbound to baffle calculation ; to poison the springs of action ; to shake from their centre faith and duty; to perplex reason and conscience, and to the death-call of a true endeavor be the mocking Mephistopheles.

Something akin to this must have been present to Johnston when he saw the strength of the West hewed in two by movements which seemed to solicit the fortified line of the enemy to enter like a wedge of steel between Vicksburg and his own exterior force, when he saw the relatively strong force retire behind works because of inability to meet the enemy in the open field, and then from their walls call upon the relatively weak force to storm that same enemy in his forti- fications. In such catastrophe all that man can do is to oppose duty to dejection, make clear the record of responsibility, and follow with unfaltering step the light left in the sky. This done, the result is with the great Captain of events, who makes and unmakes life and its aims. It was the destiny of Johnston to be the unhearkened Cassandra of his time, the sageness of whose counsel history will measure by the fatality of not receiving it.

It is marvellous that after such a calamity as that at Vicksburg the small army which had been gathered by Johnston was pursued by no worse disaster. While Vicksburg and Port Hudson stood and there was hope that either might be succored Jackson was essential to the manceuvering army the key to the position. When they fell the military value of Jackson ended. Nevertheless, John- ston drew up in front of it, inviting an assault, and only when his adversary showed he again intended to resort to the sure course of investment did he withdraw. I believe there is no dispute that Johnston's management here was one of signal ability. One of his officers, who in the later history of the war took sides with Hood, in speaking of Johnston's masterly management at this point, added this commentary: "I may say I never saw Johnston do anything which did not seem to me better done than anyone else could do it. My only criticism is that there was not more of it." The faculty to do whatever is done better than anyone else can do it is one which is never redundant, and therefore one which a community struggling in the death grips for existence can ill-afford to part with and invite to do nothing.

During the remainder of the year the operations of the Union army in Mississippi were limited to predatory expeditions. Nothing