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Just below is transcript of a communication (likely sent by special courier) from Confederate Secretary of War, Judah Benjamin to Major General Braxton Bragg (then commander of the Army of Pensacola, based at Fort Barrancas). Why is this 27 DEC 1861 letter important to the study of Shiloh? reveals "the intended mission of General A.S. Johnston, when he was sent West" confirms "a dispute" of some nature, between Generals Price and McCulloch; stresses intention for Missouri to be the primary scene of Confederate operations in the West; compares the skills of commander: Fremont vs. Halleck; provides a proposal to Major General Bragg (and recognizes his achievements in Florida). < Private and Confidential > Confederate States of America, War Department -- Richmond, 27 DEC 1861 My Dear Sir When we sent Genl A. S. Johnston to take command of the Western Department, it was believed that he would proceed at once to the west of the Mississippi and conduct the Campaign in Arkansas and Missouri. The obtaining possession of the latter State is of such supreme importance that I need not say to you a word on the subject. Before however Genl Johnston reached the Mississippi, the threatened invasion of Tennessee, and the advance of the Federal forces into Kentucky rendered it necessary to detain him in this latter State equally important as Missouri to the Confederacy, and threatening more immediate danger, especially when considered in connection with the menaced attack on our lines of communication by rail road through East Tennessee. At that time too, the Department of Missouri was committed by the enemy to Genl Fremont, whose incompetency is well known to us, was a guarantee against immediate peril. All this is now changed: Missouri is under command of an able and well instructed military commander. [Dispersions] exist between General Price and General McCulloch which prevent their cordial cooperation. We are threatened with grievous disaster: McCulloch has put his army (of about 9000 excellent troops) into Winter quarters in north western Arkansas, while Price has advanced alone, and we fear with fatal rashness, into a district of country where he is likely to be surrounded and cut off by overwhelming forces. And the Army of Missouri is represented to be a mere gathering of brave but undisciplined partisan troops, coming and going at pleasure, and needing a master mind to control and reduce it into order and to convert it into a real army. After long and anxious consultation with the President, we can find no one but yourself in whom we feel we could rely with confidence as Commander in Chief of the trans-Mississippi Department. Yet we do not know how to fill your place at Pensacola. Missouri must not be lost to us, even at some risk of misfortune at Pensacola. You have so thoroughly and satisfactorily prepared the defences at the latter point that we scarcely believe another attempt will be made on your defences, and we hope that by sending Kirby Smith to take your place, if you should leave, that important point will be successfully defended. You see already that my purpose is to ask you if you would consent to go to the West: in that event Genl Johnston's command would be divided by the Mississippi River, giving him as much even then as he can efficiently attend to; and your command would embrace everything west of the Mississippi, except the coast defences. Your Campaign would comprehend the States of Arkansas and Missouri, (together with northern Texas and the Indian Territory. Genl Price will probably be continued in the command of the Missouri troops when mustered with our service, and their number, of course, I cannot approximate. But we could scarcely have less than twenty or twenty-five thousand men from that state. For Arkansas and the Indian Territory, our forces amount to about 12,000 -- a number of other regiments are now nearly organized in Texas and Arkansas, and we would find means of assigning two or three of the new regiments to Pensacola, and these disengaging for your command the two best Mississippi regiments. With all these resources, aided of course by our hearty and cordial cooperation, it seems to me that we may confidently look for brilliant results. If the tide of battle should turn towards the Mississippi River, your operations would be conducted in cooperation with Genl Johnston's, and of course in that event he would rank you, but unless in case of joint operations on the river, your command would be entirely independent, and such joint operations would only be undertaken by special order of the President, and by your own concert with Genl Johnston. Will you undertake this work? I tell you frankly I believe you owe it to your Country, in this her hour of peril, but it will not be urged on you against your will. If we cannot now make available your name and reputation as a soldier, I confess I know not where else to look at this time. The President and myself have anxiously scanned every name on our Army List, and under all the circumstances (many of which it is not possible to communicate in this letter) we invariably fell back on yours as the name. The circumstances are pressing -- I could not say all that was important for your consideration by telegraph, but I must beg you as soon as it is possible to answer me by telegraph, "I accept," if that be your conclusion. If you say in reply, "I refuse," I must see what next best can be done. I am Yours very truly J. P. Benjamin [to Major Genl Braxton Bragg, at Pensacola.] Made available online by Missouri History Museum -- St. Louis Civil War Project http://cdm.sos.mo.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/CivilWar/id/1302/rec/2 Ozzy
The following letter written by Major General Braxton Bragg to his wife, Eliza, and sent from Corinth on 29 MAR 1862 reveals the mindset of Confederate leaders in the build-up to Battle of Shiloh. Discussed in the letter: the importance of the Mississippi River to the Confederacy; incompetence responsible for the loss of New Madrid; Bragg's recommended strategy for Arkansas (and use of Van Dorn) Confederate evaluation of Union force (under C.F. Smith) and Smith's likely objectives; Bragg compares his Army of Pensacola to the forces under A.S. Johnston and Leonidas Polk; Bragg evaluates the current state of affairs, and offers suggested remedies; Letter concludes with "personal matters" (acquiring provisions for his family; and answering questions in Eliza's last letter.) Corinth, March 29th 1862 Dearest Wife, Your letters are all coming to hand since they have found me out, and yesterday I had one only three days old, written on my birthday, tho' you probably did not know it. You write under great excitement and despondency, and I must acknowledge, with much reason, but still I hope and trust a change for the better is about to occur. The rapid movement from Jackson to Bethel, and thence to this place, was to prevent the very movement you seem so much to fear. The enemy in large force ascended the Tennessee River, with a view no doubt of striking at or near this point, by which he would divide the forces of Polk and myself from those of Johnston coming west on the rail road. He landed in force and made two assails [against] our stations, one against Bethel, and one here. But finding us not only prepared to receive him, but arranging to attack him, he fell back, crossed the river with his main force, and now confronts us with only a brave few thousand, under cover of his gun boats. Desirous as I was, and Genl Beauregard was for sure, to bring on an action, it became utterly impossible. We could not cross the river; and they would not. In the mean time events have gone on very disastrously on the Mississippi River in Genl Polk's command, not from any immediate fault of his, but from a bad commander [McCown] and the unfortunate result of bad discipline, and too much whiskey. Under orders from Genl Beauregard to hold the place [New Madrid] until the last extremity, they had driven the enemy [Pope] back in New Madrid with a heavy loss. We were supplied, were fortified, and had force enough to hold out until we could reinforce them. But a big stampede got hold of them. Whiskey got into them, and a few, a false alarm that Genl Siegel, who was in front of Van Dorn in north west Arkansas, was upon them with 20,000 additional men... all was disgracefully abandoned. On the 23rd Genl Johnston reached here, Genl Beauregard came down [from Jackson] to mesh up, and a conference has resulted in changes I hope will save the Mississippi, though time is precious, and much needed. I insisted on a change of subordinate commanders of Island No.10 and Fort Pillow, which is the next point to defend if the first falls. All said they had nobody to put there, their best having been done. I offered my whole force, saying I could put any of my generals there and know they would never be stampeded. Being allowed to designate, I have sent Genl Jones to Island No.10 and Genl Villepique to Fort Pillow. I ought to have the whole command there [of Mississippi River defences] myself, and take my Pensacola and Mobile troops there. But that point I could not urge, of course, as Genl Polk, who commands, is my senior. I thought my Mobile Army was a mob, but it is as far superior to Polk's and Johnston's as the Army of Pensacola was to it. The commander of the disgrace at New Madrid [General McCown] I insist shall be arrested and tried. There is want of nerve to do it, but I shall insist, and hope yet to accomplish it. Stern, dictatorial measures are necessary, and as far as my influence goes, will be adopted. The enemy will operate on both our flanks, striking us here [at Corinth] whenever he is ready. Sooner one could not make him do it, as he is on the other side of the [Tennessee] River, which he controls by gun boats. But it is not so on the Mississippi: we control that below them, and can throw our forces at any point there by steamer. Had my opinion prevailed, we should have assailed him at New Madrid and defeated him there about the time we moved here. But fears were felt for this position, by which Genl Johnston would be divided from us. Swift measures would have saved both [New Madrid and Corinth] but that is now too late. To hold the Mississippi River is my primary object; the loss of its use be about fatal to us, and I shall unceasingly urge its importance. I find my opinions have some weight with both Johnston and Beauregard, and I shall not cease to urge my point. Johnston almost embraced me when I met him, saying, "Your prompt and decisive move, Sir, has saved me, and saved the country. But for your arrival [at Corinth] the enemy would have been between us." A change is to be made today in our organization. I believe the Army here, between the Mississippi and the Tennessee, will be called the Army of the Mississippi, as at present, but largely increased by Johnston's forces. This will all be commanded by Beauregard, and be divided in turn into two grand divisions under Polk and Bragg. Say 25,000 men each. Johnston to command all. And East Tennessee and Missouri. Under my urgent advice, supported by Polk and Beauregard, Johnston has decided to withdraw the forces of Van Dorn from Arkansas, and unite them to ours on this side of the river. This, you may recollect, I advised in January from Pensacola. Where he is, Van Dorn can do nothing; nor can he subsist his army. Arkansas is a wilderness the enemy will never penetrate. And should we unfortunately lose the Mississippi, Van Dorn there would be lost. With his addition, 20,000. If we do our duty, and work our men into soldiers, we shall be able to turn the tide, and redress our losses. But, great labor is before us, and we need not conceal the fact that great danger also threatens us. Our people, our generals, with a few exceptions, are not up to the emergency. Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri are lost to us. Such has been the outrageous conduct of our troops that the people generally and very voluntarily prefer seeing the enemy. Polk and Johnston do nothing to correct this. Indeed, the good Bishop sets the example by taking whatever he wishes -- requiring it to be paid for, it is true. But, every man is not willing to give up his house, his necessities, servants, provisions, etc., etc., even though our Government is required to pay for it. The provision question is embarrassing to us publicly and privately. Financing the great difficulty in New Orleans. And hearing such accounts from Mr. Urquhart, I bought 20,000 pounds of bacon in Mississippi which was offered me as a favor. It will be shipped to Mr. Urquhart and by him one half to you and the other half to Towson. It will be more than either will require, or ought to use. Half of it ought to suffice. The other I thought it prudent to take as we might supply Pierce and your Mother. We face weeks more, not a pound of meat can be had in the country. The money you speak of for the girls, I paid to Towson in cash. He tells me he deposited it to your Mother's credit with Mr. Urquhart for the girls to draw on. That makes it all right. She is charged with it, but look on the other side and see if she is also credited? That might make it all right. Towson and Robert are well. My own health is good, besides a cold. The meantime -- Write. God Keep you Darling Wife Braxton. [The original hand-written Letter of 29 MAR 1862] is on file with Missouri History Museum -- Missouri Digital Heritage -- in the "St. Louis Civil War Collection" and accessible online at the following: http://cdm.sos.mo.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/CivilWar/id/1261/rec/20 Thanks to Missouri History Museum for making the original letter available online. Ozzy