GRANT, Ulysses S. (1822-1885), General of the Army, President. Autograph letter signed ("U. S. Grant"), as Maj. General, to Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, Head Quarters, Dept. of the Tenn., Vicksburg, Miss., 16 July 1863. WITH A LATER AUTOGRAPH ENDORSEMENT SIGNED BY CONFEDERATE GENERAL JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON ("J. E. Johnston"), n.d. 3 pp, 4to, signature page inlaid; Johnston's endorsement and signature along left edge of signature page.
GRANT AND SHERMAN CHASE JOHNSTON AFTER VICKSBURG--WITH JOHNSTON'S OWN COMMENTARY ADDED TO THE LETTER
A fascinating letter just 12 days after the Vicksburg surrender as Grant discusses the removal of rebel prisoners and Sherman's pursuit of Joe Johnston's retreating force to the east. The letter is made even more exceptional by the addition of Johnston's own signed comment (evidently made sometime after the war). "The wounded and sick rebels in hospital here," Grant writes, "have proven themselves so troublesome that I acceded with great promptness to the proposition from Gen. M. L. Smith (rebel) to remove them all who may be unable for land carriage to Mobile, Alabama and then to La. [Louisiana] I send Col. Lagow of my Staff with the first batch. I have nothing but ordinary river steamers to send these Mobile prisoners...All my force except a portion of the 17th Army Corps are with Sherman after Johnston. As soon as Johnston learned of the surrender of Vicksburg he commenced a retrograde movement. All his beef cattle and a large part of his wagon train are understood to have fallen back by way of Canton with orders to push on to the Mobile and Ohio road. This would look as if he had not intended to stop short of that road. He has however drawn all his forces, supposed to be about 45,000 in number, inside the fortifications at Jackson and seems determined to make a stand there." Here Johnston interjects a correction, written across the left margin, mistakenly adding a dollar sign: "The strength of the Army given me to break the siege of Vicksburg was about $20,000. J. E. Johnston." Grant's letter resumes: "Sherman has entrenched himself outside and now has Jackson invested from the river above the city below. I sent you all the steamers that could be got ready as soon as your requisition was received. More can go now as soon as a convoy can be had. Any of the steamers going down with wounded men suitable to your purposes can be retained if you wish."
After destroying Confederate control of the Mississippi and capturing some 32,000 rebel prisoners, Grant wanted to rout Johnston's fleeing force at Jackson, and then move on and capture Mobile. He accomplished neither. Johnston slipped out of Jackson under cover of darkness on the very night that Grant wrote this letter, 16 July, destroying roads and bridges as he went. Sherman was unable to pursue. Johnston's postwar comment here that his force numbered 20,000 would have galled Grant and Sherman all the more, since portions of three Union divisions and two corps were thrown against the town. Grant, however, continued to press Washington about his Mobile plans, only to be thwarted by the General-in-Chief. "Halleck disapproved of my proposition to go against Mobile," Grant writes acidly in his Memoirs, "so that I was obliged to settle down and see myself put again on the defensive as I had been a year before in west Tennessee" (Library of America edition, 388).
How Johnston came in possession of this letter can only be conjectured. Most likely he consulted Banks when compiling material for his Narrative of Military Operations (1874) or for one of the many articles he wrote for the Battles and Leaders series. He died of pneumonia in 1891, reportedly contracted after standing bareheaded in the driving rain that fell on Sherman's funeral.