Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 13, 1863: The Confederacy prepares to abandon western Mississippi


On August 13, 1863, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston reported on the situation in Mississippi. That same day, in Atlanta, Georgia, plans were underway to evacuate the remaining Confederate railroad material stranded west of the Pearl River by the burned railroad bridge in Jackson, Mississippi. The plan was to rebuild the bridge, recover as much rolling stock from the west bank of the Pearl as possible, and then tear out the iron rails for use elsewhere.  With the railroads gone, the Confederacy would be unable to support a major army in Mississippi west of the Pearl River.
MORTON, August 13, 1863.

General S. COOPER,

Adjutant and Inspector General:

GENERAL: The condition of military affairs in this department, according to the reports of our scouts, is almost unchanged since the enemy fell back from Jackson.

McPherson's corps is said to be encamped around Vicksburg; Ord's between Bovina and the railroad bridge; and Sherman's west of the Big Black, near Messinger's Ferry; Ransom's brigade and 600 cavalry at Natchez. We have various reports of troops sent to New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, but they are conflicting.

Colonel Logan's command (mounted) is operating in front of Port Hudson and Natchez. Brigadier-General Jackson's division is at Raymond and Livingston protecting the undevastated country from Federal marauders. Two of his regiments are between the Yazoo and the railroad.

The troops in the northern part of the State are nearly as arranged by Lieutenant-General Pemberton.

A brigade of infantry is at Meridian in readiness to protect Selma and Demopolis in case of raids, and there are two at Enterprise in readiness to join the garrison of Mobile should that place be threatened.

Being unable to find good ground for the encampment of the three divisions together, I have been compelled to separate them; two are near this place and the third is between Lake Station and Newton.

Should the Vicksburg troops soon be exchanged and reorganized, I propose to put all the troops, except those at Enterprise and Meridian, west of Pearl River.

Most respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. E. JOHNSTON,

General.

WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A., ENGINEER BUREAU, Richmond, Va., August 13, 1863.

Captain L. P. GRANT,

Corps of Engineers, Atlanta, Ga.:

CAPTAIN: Under instructions from the honorable Secretary of War I have to request that you will proceed, at the earliest moment that you can leave the works on which you are now engaged for the defense of Atlanta to the temporary direction of your civil assistants, to the headquarters of General Joseph E. Johnston, at Morton, Miss., and confer with him as to the practicability of rebuilding in a short time the railroad bridge over Pearl River, at Jackson, Miss., with a view to securing the rolling-stock on the Mississippi Rail-road and as much of the iron rails as possible in the vicinity of Jackson. Your absence from the works at Atlanta must be as short as possible, but the importance of saving all the rolling-stock from railroad abandoned is so great that the Secretary of War urges that no effort be spared to collect all that can be reached. I must, therefore, call on you as an engineer of many years' experience in all railroad constructions to go for a few days to the locality to advise as to the most expeditious method of accomplishing the much desired results.

The engineers serving with General Johnston can then with his authority execute the work. I will send a copy of these instructions to General Johnston with a letter asking his full assistance and support. It is believed that you can engaged, if you have not already done so, such assistants at Atlanta as can direct the works the during the short period of your absence.

Very respectfully,

J. F. GILMER,

Colonel of Engineers and Chief of Bureau.

The course of the Pearl River.

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