Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20, 1863: Arthur J. Fremantle meets Joseph E. Johnston

General Joseph E. Johnston, C.S.A.

After spending a few days with Major General States Rights Gist, British Lieutenant Colonel Arthur J. Fremantle managed to find his way to General Joseph E. Johnston, C.S.A.
20th May (Wednesday).—At 3 a.m. we were awoke by a great bombardment going on at Vicksburg, which lasted about three hours.

The assembly was beaten at 7 a.m. by an old nigger, performing on a cracked drum, and its sound was hailed by the soldiers with loud yells.

General Gist, his Staff, and I, breakfasted with Mr Robinson, whose house is charming, and beautifully furnished, and had not been visited by the Yankees.

We had a crazy old planter, named ——, with us, who insisted upon accompanying the column, mounted on a miserable animal which had been left him by the enemy as not being worth carrying away. The small remains of this poor old man's sense had been shattered by the Yankees a few days ago; they cleaned him115 completely out, taking his horses, mules, cows, and pigs, and stealing his clothes and anything they wanted, destroying what they could not carry away. But what "riled" him most was that he had been visited by a Federal officer, disguised in the Confederate uniform. Poor old ——, full of rebel zeal, had, on being invited to do so, mounted en croupe behind this officer, and unbosomed himself to him; his fury and rage may be imagined at finding himself shortly afterwards in the very midst of the Federal camp; but the Yankee General M'Pherson ordered him to be released; and it appears that the reason of his being kidnapped, was to extract from him a large quantity of gold, which he was supposed to have hidden somewhere.

This Mr (or Major) —— took a great fancy to me, and insisted on picking some of the silk of Indian corn, which he requested I would present to Queen Victoria to show her how far advanced the crops were in Mississippi. It was almost painful to hear the manner in which this poor old man gloated over the bodies of the dead Yankees at Jackson, and of his intense desire to see more of them put to death.

The column reached the village or town of Livingston at 11 a.m., where I was introduced to a militia general and his pretty daughter; the latter had been116 married two days before to a wounded Confederate officer, but the happy couple were just on the point of starting for the Yazoo river, as they were afraid of being disturbed in their felicity by the Yankees.

I now heard every one speaking of the fall of Vicksburg as very possible, and its jeopardy was laid at the door of General Pemberton, for whom no language could be too strong. He was freely called a coward and a traitor. He has the misfortune to be a Northerner by birth, which was against him in the opinion of all here.

General Gist and I cantered on in front of the column, and reached General Johnston's bivouac at 6 p.m.

General Johnston received me with much kindness, when I presented my letters of introduction, and stated my object in visiting the Confederate armies.

In appearance General Joseph E. Johnston (commonly called Joe Johnston) is rather below the middle height, spare, soldierlike, and well set up; his features are good, and he has lately taken to wear a greyish beard. He is a Virginian by birth, and appears to be about fifty-seven years old. He talks in a calm, deliberate, and confident manner; to me he was extremely affable, but he certainly possesses the power of keeping people at a distance when he chooses, and his officers evidently stand in great awe of him. He lives very117 plainly, and at present his only cooking-utensils consisted of an old coffee-pot and frying-pan—both very inferior articles. There was only one fork (one prong deficient) between himself and Staff, and this was handed to me ceremoniously as the "guest."

He has undoubtedly acquired the entire confidence of all the officers and soldiers under him. Many of the officers told me they did not consider him inferior as a general to Lee or any one else.

He told me that Vicksburg was certainly in a critical situation, and was now closely invested by Grant. He said that he (Johnston) had 11,000 men with him (which includes Gist's), hardly any cavalry, and only sixteen pieces of cannon; but if he could get adequate reinforcements, he stated his intention of endeavouring to relieve Vicksburg.

I also made the acquaintance of the Georgian General Walker, a fierce and very warlike fire-eater, who was furious at having been obliged to evacuate Jackson after having only destroyed four hundred Yankees. He told me, "I know I couldn't hold the place, but I did want to kill a few more of the rascals."

At 9 p.m. I returned with General Gist to his camp, as my baggage was there. On the load we were met by several natives, who complained that soldiers were quartering themselves upon them and eating everything.118

The bivouacs are extremely pretty at night, the dense woods being lit up by innumerable camp fires.

No comments: