Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 19, 1863: Confederate disinformation



This message from Stephen A. Hurlbut to Henry W. Halleck is a perfect illustration of the kind of "fog of war" that existed during the Civil War. In hindsight, we know that Grant had won several victories and was preparing to assault Vicksburg, but the Confederate rumors that reached Hurlbut in Memphis seemed to indicate otherwise. It took days for accurate accounts of the fighting to reach Washington, DC.
MEMPHIS, TENN., May 19, 1863.

Major General H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief:

The secessionists in this city have dispatches purporting to be received from Senatobia, 17th and 18th, which state that our forces at Raymond were beaten on the 16th by [W. W.] Loring; that 12,000 to 13,000 re-enforcements had arrived near Jackson from Brandon; that Pemberton, with 30,000 men, was advancing on Jackson by the Clinton road, and Maxey from Port Hudson, with 7,000, at Crystal Springs; that General Grant's forces commenced falling back from Jackson to Port Gibson on 16th.

Later, 18th. - The main Federal army at Jackson has surrendered, except cavalry, which escaped across Pearl River. Said to be two DIVISIONS surrendered.

Much of this is inconsistent with last known relative position of the two forces. If Pemberton has taken any such force out of Vicksburg, it is evacuated. The main army has not been at Jackson, and before Pemberton could reach Clinton he must have engaged General Grant. The steamer Express, just up, left Young's Point on Sunday; reports Vicksburg still occupied in force by the enemy, but brings no dispatches.

From all accounts I am satisfied that from 10,000 to 15,000 troops have re-enforced the enemy near Jackson-perhaps more.

S. A. HURLBUT.

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