Lot 382

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Joseph Johnson War Date ALS with Great Content 

Fascinating autograph letter signed by Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, "J. E. Johnston", written from Chattanooga, Tennessee on January 26, 1863, shortly after Johnston assumed command of the Department of the West. Four-page letter measures 4.75" x 8.875" as folded. Separation starting along folds, else near fine condition.

Johnston writes to his close ally, Confederate Senator Louis Wigfall, revealing how he believes he is essentially positioned for failure in his command. It's an intimate letter, with Johnston even writing, "I have never been so garrulous before - & won't be so again", and then plainly asking Wigfall for help, "If you can help me out of my present place I shall love you more than ever. It will require diplomacy & cunning". 

The letter, in full, "My dear Wigfall, I have asked the government by telegraph if any additional troops new or old, can be furnished for Bragg's army - but have had no reply. Will you suggest to Mr. Seddon [CSA Secretary of War] that we are in a very critical condition in Tennessee & the enemy has fully supplied his losses, I am officially informed - While our army has received stragglers & exchanged prisoners amounting to about a third of our killed & wounded. Such being the case, if there is any truth in arithmetic another battle most [?] as still farther back. If driven across the Cumberland Mountains we can not hold East Tennessee & once in possession of that country Rosencranz [sic] may choose his point on our Southeastern or Eastern frontier - from Richmond to Mobile. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, to reinforce Bragg. The conscription is operating very slowly - can no mode of expediting its enforcement be adopted? I can not draw upon Pemberton, for his force is far too small now - I proposed the bringing to him 18000 or 20000 troops from Arkansas, none of whom ever came. The enemy is again at Vicksburg, too, in heavier force - & doubtless with a different plan- probably to attempt to attack from below instead of from the Yazoo.
Bragg has done wonders, I think. No body of troops has done more in proportion to numbers, in the same time. At Murfreesboro he killed wounded & took 17000 men - & within the three weeks preceding 7500. His own loss in all that time about 9000.

My own official position does not improve on acquaintance. It is little, if any, better than being laid on the shelf. I have endeavoured to explain this to the president - but he thinks it essential to have one here who can transfer troops from this department to [?] & vice versa. That would be extremely well if either dept could possibly spare troops, even for a short time - but that is not the case. Each having too few for immediate purposes - & the distance & character of the intermediate country is completely prevent[ing] them from aiding each other - except an occasional cavalry movement. It is an attempt to join things which cannot be united. It would require at least a month to send 10000 men from one of the two armies to the other. Each department having its own Commander, & requiring - indeed having room for but one, you perceive how little occupation I can find. I can not unite the two armies - because they are too far apart - & each is required where it is. Nor can I take command of one, because each has its proper commander & yet the country may hold me responsible for any failure between N. Carolina & Georgia & the Mississippi - for I am supposed to be commanding in all that country. After commanding our most important & I may add best army for a year, it is hard to lose that command for wounds in battle - & to receive a [?] one. I must confess i can not help [?] at this position. The president, however, evidently intends that I shall hold a high position - & important one, but I think he mistakes the relation between Tennessee & Mississippi.

I flatter myself that I have never been so garrulous before - & won't be so again. We rarely see Richmond papers - so I don't know what you are doing for us./ My cordial regards to Mrs. W. & the young ladies." Johnston then adds two additional notes, written in the margins, "I left Mrs. J. in Jackson a week ago" and "If you can help me out of my present place I shall love you more than ever. It will require diplomacy & cunning, however, & I don't think you strong in the latter."

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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