Jefferson Davis' Speech at Jackson, Miss.
House Chamber, Mississippi Capitol, December 26, 1862
Friends and Fellow-Citizens, Gentlemen of the House of Representatives and Senate of the State of Mississippi:
After an absence of nearly two years I again find myself among those who, from the days of my childhood, have ever been the trusted objects of my affections, those for whose good I have ever striven, and whose interest I have sometimes hoped I may have contributed to subserve. Whatever fortunes I may have achieved in life have been gained as a representative of Mississippi, and before all, I have labored for the advancement of her glory and honor. I now, for the first time in my career, find myself the representative of a wider circle of interest; but a circle in which the interests of Mississippi are still embraced. Two years ago, nearly, I left you to assume the duties which had devolved on me as the representative of the new Confederacy. The responsibilities of this position have occupied all my time, and have left me no opportunity for mingling with my friends in Mississippi, or for sharing in the dangers which have menaced them. But, wherever duty may have called me, my heart has been with you and the success of the cause in which we are all engaged has been first in my thoughts and in my prayers. I thought when I left Mississippi that the service to which I was called would prove to be but temporary. The last time I had the honor of addressing you from this stand, I was influenced by that idea. I then imagined that it might be my fortune again to lead Mississippians in the field, and to be with them where danger was to be braved and glory won. I thought to find that place which I believed to be suited to my capacity: that of an officer in the service of the State of Mississippi. For, although in the discharge of my duties as President of the Confederate States, I had determined to make no distinction between the various parts of the country--to know no separate State--yet my heart has always beat more warmly for Mississippi, and I have looked on Mississippi soldiers with a pride and emotion such as no others inspired. But it was decided differently. I was called to another sphere of action. How, in that sphere, I have discharged the duties and obligations imposed on me, it does not become me to constitute myself the judge. It is for others to decide that question. But, speaking to you with that frankness and that confidence with which I have always spoken to you, and which partakes of the nature of thinking aloud, I can say with my hand upon my heart, that whatever I have done, has been done with the sincere purpose of promoting the noble cause in which we are engaged. The period which has elapsed since I left you is short; for the time, which may appear long in the life of man, is short in the history of a nation. And in that short period remarkable changes have been wrought in all the circumstances by which we are surrounded. At the time of which I speak, the question presented to our people was "will there be war!" This was the subject of universal speculation. We had chosen to exercise an indisputable right--the right to separate from those with whom we conceived association to be no longer possible, and to establish a government of our own. I was among those who, from the beginning, predicted war as the consequence of secession, although I must admit that the contest has assumed proportions more gigantic than I had anticipated. I predicted war not because our right to secede and to form a government of our own was not indisputable and clearly defined in the spirit of that declaration which rests the right to govern on the consent of the governed, but because I foresaw that the wickedness of the North would precipitate a war upon us. Those who supposed that the exercise of this right of separation could not produce war, have had cause to be convinced that they had credited their recent associates of the North with a moderation, a sagacity, a morality they did not possess. You have been involved in a war waged for the gratification of the lust of power and of aggrandizement, for your conquest and your subjugation, with a malignant ferocity and with a disregard and a contempt of the usages of civilization, entirely unequalled in history. Such, I have ever warned you, were the characteristics of the Northern people--of those with whom our ancestors entered into a Union of consent, and with whom they formed a constitutional compact. And yet, such was the attachment of our people for that Union, such their devotion to it, that those who desired preparation to be made for the inevitable conflict, were denounced as men who only wished to destroy the Union. After what has happened during the last two years, my only wonder is that we consented to live for so long a time in association with such miscreants, and have loved so much a government rotten to the core. Were it ever to be proposed again to enter into a Union with such a people, I could no more consent to do it than to trust myself in a den of thieves.
You in Mississippi, have but little experienced as yet the horrors of the war. You have seen but little of the savage manner in which it is waged by your barbarous enemies. It has been my fortune to witness it in all its terrors; in a part of the country where old men have been torn from their homes, carried into captivity and immured in distant dungeons, and where delicate women have been insulted by a brutal soldiery and forced to even to cook for the dirty Yankee invaders; where property has been wantonly destroyed, the country ravaged, and every outrage committed. And it is with these people that our fathers formed a union and a solemn compact. There is indeed a difference between the two peoples. Let no man hug the delusion that there can be renewed association between them. Our enemies are a traditionless and a homeless race; from the time of Cromwell to the present moment they have been disturbers of the peace of the world. Gathered together by Cromwell from the bogs and fens of the North of Ireland and of England, they commenced by disturbing the peace of their own country; they disturbed Holland, to which they fled, and they disturbed England on their return. They persecuted Catholics in England, and they hung Quakers and witches in America. Having been hurried into a war with a people so devoid of every mark of civilization you have no doubt wondered that I have not carried out the policy, which I had intended should be our policy, of fighting our battles on the fields of the enemy instead of suffering him to fight them on ours. This was not the result of my will, but of the power of the enemy. They had at their command all the accumulated wealth of seventy years- -the military stores which had been laid up during that time. They had grown rich from the taxes wrung from you for the establishing and supporting their manufacturing institutions. We have entered upon a conflict with a nation contiguous to us in territory, and vastly superior to us in numbers. In the face of these facts the wonder is not that we have done little, but that we have done so much. In the first year of the war our forces were sent into the field poorly armed, and were far inferior in number to the enemy. We were compelled even to arm ourselves by the capture of weapons taken from the foe on the battle-field. Thus in every battle we exchanged our arms for those of the invaders. At the end of twelve months of the war, it was still necessary for us to adopt some expedient to enable us to maintain our ground. The only expedient remaining to us was to call on those brave men who had entered the service of their country at the beginning of the war, supposing that the conflict was to last but a short time, and that they would not be long absent from their homes. The only expedient, I say, was to call on these gallant men; to ask them to maintain their position in front of the enemy, and to surrender for a time their hopes of soon returning to their families and their friends. And nobly did they respond to the call. They answered that they were willing to stay, that they were willing to maintain their position and to breast the tide of invasion. But it was not just that they should stand alone. They asked that the men who had stayed at home--who had thus far been sluggards in the cause--should be forced, likewise, to meet the enemy. From this, resulted the law of Congress, which is known as the conscription act, which declared all men, from the age of eighteen to the age of thirty-five, to be liable to enrolment in the Confederate service. I regret that there has been some prejudice excited against that act, and that it has been subjected to harsher criticism than it deserves. And here I may say that an erroneous impression appears to prevail in regard to this act. It is no disgrace to be brought into the army by conscription. There is no more reason to expect from the citizen voluntary service in the army than to expect voluntary labor on the public roads or the voluntary payment of taxes. But these things we do not expect. We assess the property of the citizen, we appoint tax-gatherers; why should we not likewise distribute equally the labor, and enforce equally the obligation of defending the country from its enemies? I repeat that it is no disgrace to any one to be conscribed, but it is a glory for those who do not wait for the conscription. Thus resulted the conscription act; and thence arose the necessity for the exemption act. That necessity was met; but when it was found that under these acts enough men were not drawn into the ranks of the army to fulfill the purposes intended, it became necessary to pass another exemption act, and another conscription act. It is only of this latter that I desire now to speak. Its policy was to leave at home those men needed to conduct the administration, and those who might be required to support and maintain the industry of the country--in other words, to exempt from military service those whose labor, employed in other avocations, might be more profitable to the country and to the government, than in the ranks of the army.
I am told that this act has excited some discontent and that it has provoked censure, far more severe, I believe, than it deserves. It has been said that it exempts the rich from military service, and forces the poor to fight the battles of the country. The poor do, indeed, fight the battles of the country. It is the poor who save nations and make revolutions. But is it true that in this war the men of property have shrunk from the ordeal of the battle-field? Look through the army; cast your eyes upon the maimed heroes of the war whom you meet in your streets and in the hospitals; remember the martyrs of the conflict; and I am sure you will find among them more than a fair proportion drawn from the ranks of men of property. The object of that portion of the act which exempts those having charge of twenty or more negroes, was not to draw any distinction of classes, but simply to provide a force, in the nature of a police force, sufficient to keep our negroes in control. This was the sole object of the clause. Had it been otherwise, it would never have received my signature. As I have already said, we have no cause to complain of the rich. All of our people have done well; and, while the poor have nobly discharged their duties, most of the wealthiest and most distinguished families of the South have representatives in the ranks. I take, as an example, the case of one of your own representatives in Congress, who was nominated for Congress and elected; but still did a sentinel's duty until Congress met. Nor is this a solitary instance, for men of the largest fortune in Mississippi are now serving in the ranks.
Permit me now to say that I have seen with peculiar pleasure the recommendation of your Governor in his message, to make some provision for the families of the absent soldiers of Mississippi. Let this provision be made for the objects of his affection and his solicitude, and the soldier engaged in fighting the battles of his country will no longer be disturbed in his slumber by dreams of an unprotected and neglected family at home. Let him know that his mother Mississippi has spread her protecting mantle over those he loves, and he will be ready to fight your battles, to protect your honor, and, in your cause, to die. There is another one of the governor's propositions to which I wish to allude. I mean the proposition to call upon those citizens who are not subject to the Confederate conscription law, and to form them into a reserve corps for the purpose of aiding in the defense of the State. Men who are exempted by law from the performance of any duty, do not generally feel the obligation to perform that duty unless called upon by the law. But I am confident that the men of Mississippi have only to know that their soil is invaded, their cities menaced, to rush to meet the enemy, even if they serve only for thirty days. I see no reason why the State may not, in an exigency like that which now presses on her, call on her reserved forces and organize them for service. Such troops could be of material benefit, by serving in intrenchments, and thus relieving the veteran and disciplined soldiers for the duties of the field, where discipline is so much needed. At the end of a short term of service they could return to their homes and to their ordinary avocations, resuming those duties necessary to the public prosperity.
The exemption act, passed by the last Congress, will probably be made the subject of revision and amendment. It seems to me that some provision might be made by which those who are exempt from enrollment now, might, on becoming subject to conscription, be turned over by the State to the Confederate authorities. But let it never be said that there is a conflict between the States and the Confederate government, by which a blow may be inflicted on the common cause. If such a page is to be written on the history of any State, I hope that you, my friends, will say that that State shall not be Mississippi. Let me repeat that there is much that the reserved corps can do. They can build bridges, construct fortifications, act as a sort of police to preserve order and promote the industrial interests of the State and to keep the negroes under control. Being of the people among whom they would act, those misunderstandings would thus be avoided which are apt to arise when strangers are employed in such a service. In this manner the capacity of the army for active operations against the enemy would be materially increased. I hope I shall not be considered intrusive for having entered into these details. The measures I have recommended are placed before you only in the form of suggestions, and, by you, I know I shall not be misinterpreted.
In considering the manner in which the war has been conducted by the enemy, nothing arrests the attention more than the magnitude of the preparations made for our subjugation. Immense navies have been constructed, vast armies have been accumulated, for the purpose of crushing out the rebellion. It has been impossible for us to meet them in equal numbers; nor have we required it. We have often whipped them three to one, and in the eventful battle of Antietam, Lee whipped them four to one. But do not understand me as saying that this will always be the case. When the troops of the enemy become disciplined, and accustomed to the obedience of the camp, they will necessarily approach more nearly to an equality with our own men. We have always whipped them in spite of disparity of numbers, and on any fair field, fighting as man to man, and relying only on those natural qualities with which men are endowed, we should not fear to meet them in the proportion of one to two. But troops must be disciplined in order to develop their efficiency; and in order to keep them at their posts. Above all, to assure this result, we need the support of public opinion. We want public opinion to frown down those who come from the army with sad tales of disaster, and prophecies of evil, and who skulk from the duties they owe their country. We rely on the women of the land to turn back these deserters from the ranks. I thank the Governor for asking the legislature to make the people of the State tributary to this service. In addition to this, it is necessary to fill up those regiments which have for so long a time been serving in the field. They have stood before the foe on many hard fought fields and have proven their courage and devotion on all. They have won the admiration of the army and of the country. And here I may repeat a compliment I have heard which, although it seems to partake of levity, appears an illustration of the esteem in which Mississippians are held. It happened that several persons were conversing of a certain battle, and one of them remarked that the Mississippians did not run. "Oh no!" said another "Mississippians never run." But those who have passed through thirteen pitched battles are not unscathed. Their ranks are thinned, and they look back to Mississippi for aid to augment their diminished numbers. They look back expecting their brothers to fly to their rescue; but it sometimes seems as if the long anticipated relief would never come. A brigade which may consist of only twelve hundred men is expected to do the work of four thousand. Humanity demands that these depleted regiments be filled up. A mere skeleton cannot reasonably be expected to perform the labor of a body with all its flesh and muscle on it. You have many who might assist in revivifying your reduced regiments--enough to fill up the ranks if they would only consent to throw off the shackles of private interest, and devote themselves to the noblest cause in which a man can be engaged. You have now in the field old men and gentle boys who have braved all the terrors and the dangers of war. I remember an instance of one of these, a brave and gallant youth who, I was told, was but sixteen years of age. In one of those bloody battles by which the soil of Virginia has been consecrated to liberty, he was twice wounded, and each time bound up the wound with his own hands, while refusing to leave the field. A third time he was struck, and the life-blood flowed in a crimson stream from his breast. His brother came to him to minister to his wants; but the noble boy said "brother, you cannot do me any good now; go where you can do the Yankees most harm." Even then, while lying on the ground, his young life fast ebbing away, he cocked his rifle and aimed it to take one last shot at the enemy. And so he died, a hero and a martyr. This was one of the boys whose names shed glory on Mississippi, and who, looking back from their distant camps, where they stand prepared to fight your battles, and to turn back the tide of Yankee invasion, ask you now to send them aid in the struggle--to send them men to stand by them in the day of trial, on the right hand and on the left.
When I came to Mississippi I was uncertain in which direction the enemy intended to come, or what point they intended to attack. It had been stated indeed in their public prints, that they would move down upon Mississippi from the North, with the object of taking Vicksburg in the rear, while their navy would attack that place in front. Such was the programme which had been proclaimed for the invasion and subjugation of your State. But when I went to Grenada, I found that the enemy had retired from our front, and that nothing was to be seen of them but their backs. It is probable that they have abandoned that line, with the intention of reinforcing the heavy column now descending the river. Vicksburg and Port Hudson are the real points of attack. Every effort will be made to capture those places with the object of forcing the navigation of the Mississippi, of cutting off our communications with the trans Mississippi department, and of severing the Western from the Eastern portion of the Confederacy. Let, then, all who have at heart the safety of the country, go without delay to Vicksburg and Port Hudson; let them go for such length of time as they can spare--for thirty, for sixty, or for ninety days. Let them assist in preserving the Mississippi river, that great artery of the country, and thus conduce more than in any other way to the perpetuation of the Confederacy and the success of the cause.
I may say here that I did not expect the Confederate enrolling officers to carry on the work of conscription. I relied for this upon the aid of the State authorities. I supposed that State officers would enroll the conscripts within the limits of their respective States, and that Confederate officers would then receive them in camps of instruction. This I believe to be the policy of your Governor's arguments. We cannot too strongly enforce the necessity of harmony between the Confederate Government and the State Governments. They must act together if our cause is to be brought to a successful issue. Of this you may rest assured, whatever the Confederate government can do for the defense of Mississippi will be done. I feel equal confidence that whatever Mississippi can do will likewise be done. It undoubtedly requires legislation to cause men to perform those duties which are purely legal. Men are not apt to feel an obligation to discharge duties from which they may have been exempted. Ours is a representative government, and it is only through the operation of the law that the obligations toward it can be equally distributed. When the last Congress proclaimed that a certain number of men were required to fill up the ranks of the army, that class of men who were already in the field and who were retained in service, would not have been satisfied had there been no conscription of those who had remained at home. I may state also, that I believe this to be the true theory for the military defense of the Confederacy. Cast your eyes forward to that time at the end of the war, when peace shall nominally be proclaimed--for peace between us and our hated enemy will be liable to be broken at short intervals for many years to come--cast your eyes forward to that time, and you will see the necessity for continued preparation and unceasing watchfulness. We have but few men in our country who will be willing to enlist in the army for a soldier's pay. But if every young man shall have served for two or three years in the army, he will be prepared when war comes to go into camp and take his place in the ranks an educated and disciplined soldier. Serving among his equals, his friends and his neighbors, he will find in the army no distinction of class. To such a system I am sure there can be no objection.
The issue before us is one of no ordinary character. We are not engaged in a conflict for conquest, or for agrandizement, or for the settlement of a point of international law. The question for you to decide is, "will you be slaves or will you be independent?" Will you transmit to your children the freedom and equality which your fathers transmitted to you or will you bow down in adoration before an idol baser than ever was worshipped by Eastern idolators? Nothing more is necessary than the mere statement of this issue. Whatever may be the personal sacrifices involved, I am sure that you will not shrink from them whenever the question comes before you. Those men who now assail us, who have been associated with us in a common Union, who have inherited a government which they claim to be the best the world ever saw-- these men, when left to themselves, have shown that they are incapable of preserving their own personal liberty. They have destroyed the freedom of the press; they have seized upon and imprisoned members of State Legislatures and of municipal councils, who were suspected of sympathy with the South. Men have been carried off into captivity in distant States without indictment, without a knowledge of the accusations brought against them, in utter defiance of all rights guaranteed by the institutions under which they live. These people, when separated from the South and left entirely to themselves, have, in six months, demonstrated their utter incapacity for self-government. And yet these are the people who claim to be your masters. These are the people who have determined to divide out the South among their Yankee troops. Mississippi they have devoted to the direst vengeance of all. "But vengeance is the Lord's," and beneath his banner you will meet and hurl back these worse than vandal hordes.
The great end and aim of the government is to make our struggle successful. The men who stand highest in this contest would fall the first sacrifice to the vengeance of the enemy in case we should be unsuccessful. You may rest assured then for that reason if for no other that whatever capacity they possess will be devoted to securing the independence of the country. Our government is not like the monarchies of the Old World, resting for support upon armies and navies. It sprang from the people and the confidence of the people is necessary for its success. When misrepresentations of the government have been circulated, when accusations have been brought against it of weakness and inefficiency, often have I felt in my heart the struggle between the desire for justice and the duty not to give information to the enemy--because at such times the correction of error would have been injurious to the safety of the cause. Thus, that great and good man, Gen. A. Sidney Johnston, was contented to rest beneath public contumely and to be pointed at by the finger of scorn, because he did not advance from Bowling Green with the little army under his command. But month after month he maintained his post, keeping the enemy ignorant of the paucity of his numbers, and thus holding the invaders in check. I take this case as one instance; it is not the only one by far.
The issue then being: will you be slaves; will you consent to be robbed of your property; to be reduced to provincial dependence; will you renounce the exercise of those rights with which you were born and which were transmitted to you by your fathers? I feel that in addressing Mississippians the answer will be that their interests, even life itself, should be willingly laid down on the altar of their country.
By the memories of the past; by the glories of the field of Chalmette, where the Mississippians, in a general order of the day, were addressed as the bravest of the brave; by the glorious dead of Mexico; by the still more glorious dead of the battle fields of the Confederacy; by the desolate widows and orphans, whom the martyrs of the war have left behind them; by your maimed and wounded heroes--I invoke you not to delay a moment, but to rush forward and place your services at the disposal of the State. I have been one of those who, from the beginning, looked forward to a long and bloody war; but I must frankly confess that its magnitude has exceeded my expectations. The enemy have displayed more power and energy and resources than I had attributed to them. Their finances have held out far better than I imagined would be the case. But I am also one of those who felt that our final success was certain, and that our people had only to be true to themselves to behold the Confederate flag among those of the recognized nations of the earth. The question is only one of time. It may be remote but it may be nearer than many people suppose. It is not possible that a war of the dimensions that this one has assumed, of proportions so gigantic, can be very long protracted. The combatants must be soon exhausted. But it is impossible, with a cause like ours, we can be the first to cry, "Hold, enough."
The sacrifices which have already been made, have perhaps fallen heavily upon a portion of the people, especially upon the noble little city of Vicksburg. After Memphis and New Orleans had fallen, two points which were considered to be admirably defended, two points which we had no reason to believe would fall, Vicksburg became the object of attack. A few earthworks were thrown up, a few guns were mounted, and Vicksburg received the shock of both fleets; the one which, under Commodore Foote had descended the river, and the one which, under [David G.] Farragut, had achieved the capture of New Orleans. Nobly did the little city receive the assault, and even the women said, "Rather than surrender let us give them the soil, but with the ashes of our dwellings upon it."
This was the heroic devotion of a people who deserve to be free. Your Governor left his chair, and went himself to the scene of danger. Nothing more profoundly touched me amid my duties in a distant land, than to hear that the chief magistrate of my own State was defending the town which the enemy had made the object of his attack, and that the defense was successful. Now we are far better prepared in that quarter. The works, then weak, have been greatly strengthened; the troops assigned for their defense are better disciplined and better instructed, and that gallant soldier who came with me, has been pouring in his forces to assist in its protection. Himself the son of a Revolutionary hero, he has emulated his father's glorious example upon other fields, and comes to Mississippi to defend, and, as I believe, to protect you.
In the course of this war our eyes have been often turned abroad. We have expected sometimes recognition and sometimes intervention at the hands of foreign nations, and we have had a right to expect it. Never before in the history of the world had a people for so long a time maintained their ground, and showed themselves capable of maintaining their national existence, without securing the recognition of commercial nations. I know not why this has been so, but this I say, "put not your trust in princes," and rest not your hopes in foreign nations. This war is ours; we must fight it out ourselves, and I feel some pride in knowing that so far we have done it without the good will of anybody. It is true that there are now symptoms of a change in public opinion abroad. They give us their admiration--they sometimes even say to us God speed-- and in the remarkable book written by Mr. [James] Spence, the question of secession has been discussed with more of ability than it ever has been even in this country. Yet England still holds back, but France, the ally of other days, seems disposed to hold out to us the hand of fellowship. And when France holds out to us her hand, right willingly will we grasp it.
During the last year, the war has been characterized by varied fortunes. New Orleans fell; a sad blow it was to the valley of the Mississippi, and as unexpected to me as to any one. Memphis also fell, and besides these we have lost various points on the Atlantic coast. The invading armies have pressed upon us at some points; at others they have been driven back; but take a view of our condition now and compare it with what it was a year ago--look at the enemy's position as it then was and as it now is; consider their immense power, vast numbers, and great resources; look at all these things and you will be convinced that our condition now will compare favorably with what it was then. Armies are not composed of numbers alone. Officers and men are both to be disciplined and instructed. When the war first began the teacher and the taught were in the condition of the blind leading the blind; now all this is changed for the better. Our troops have become disciplined and instructed. They have stripped the gunboat of its terrors; they have beaten superior numbers in the field; they have discovered that with their short range weapons they can close upon the long range of the enemy and capture them. Thus, in all respects, moral as well as physical, we are better prepared than we were a year ago.
There are now two prominent objects in the programme of the enemy. One is to get possession of the Mississippi river and to open it to navigation in order to appease the clamors of the West and to utilize the capture of New Orleans, which has thus far rendered them no service. The other is to seize upon the capital of the Confederacy, and hold this out as a proof that the Confederacy has no existence. We have recently repulsed them at Fredericksburg, and I believe that under God and by the valor of our troops the capital of the Confederacy will stand safe behind its wall of living breasts. Vicksburg and Port Hudson have been strengthened, and now we can concentrate at either of them a force sufficient for their protection. I have confidence that Vicksburg will stand as before, and I hope that [Joseph E.] Johnston will find generals to support him if the enemy dare to land. Port Hudson is now strong. Vicksburg will stand, and Port Hudson will stand; but let every man that can be spared from other vocations, hasten to defend them, and thus hold the Mississippi river, that great artery of the Confederacy, preserve our communications with the trans-Mississippi department, and thwart the enemy's scheme of forcing navigation through to New Orleans. By holding that section of the river between Port Hudson and Vicksburg, we shall secure these results, and the people of the West, cut off from New Orleans, will be driven to the East to seek a market for their products, and will be compelled to pay so much in the way of freights that those products will be rendered almost valueless. Thus, I should not be surprised if the first daybreak of peace were to dawn upon us from that quarter.
Some time since, for reasons not necessary to recapitulate, I sent to this State a general unknown to most of you [John C. Pemberton], and, perhaps, even by name, known but to few among you. This was the land of my affections. Here were situated the little of worldly goods I possessed. I selected a general who, in my view, was capable of defending my State and discharging the duties of this important service. I am happy to state, after an attentive, examination, that I have not been mistaken in the general of my choice. I find that, during his administration here everything has been done that could be accomplished with the means at his command. I recommend him to your confidence as you may have confidence in me, who selected him. For the defense of Vicksburg, I selected one from the army of the Potomac [Stephen D. Lee], of whom it is but faint praise to say he he has no superior. He was sent to Virginia at the beginning of the war, with a little battery of three guns. With these he fought the Yankee gunboats, drove them off, and stripped them of their terrors. He was promoted for distinguished services on various fields. He was finally made a colonel of cavalry, and I have reason to believe that, at the last great conflict on the field of Manassas, he served to turn the tide of battle and consummate the victory.
On succeeding fields he has won equal distinction. Though yet young he has fought more battles than many officers who have lived to an advanced age and died in their beds. I have therefore sent Lee to take charge of the defenses of Vicksburg. I can say then that I have every confidence in the skill and energy of the officers in command. But when I received dispatches and heard rumors of alarm and trepidation and despondency among the people of Mississippi; when I heard even that people were fleeing to Texas in order to save themselves from the enemy; when I saw it stated by the enemy that they had handled other States with gloves, but Mississippi was to be handled without gloves, every impulse of my heart dragged me hither in spite of duties which might have claimed my attention elsewhere. When I heard of the sufferings of my own people, of the danger of their subjugation by a ruthless foe, I felt that if Mississippi were destined for such a fate, I would wish to sleep in her soil. On my way here I stopped at the headquarters of Gen. Johnston. I knew his capacity and his resolution. I imparted to him my own thoughts and asked him to come with me. I found that his ideas were directed in the same channel. He came in the shortest time for preparation; but whatever man can do will be done by him. I have perfect confidence that with your assistance and support he will drive the enemy from the soil of Mississippi. After having visited the army--after having mingled among the people of the State--I shall go away from among you with a lighter heart. I do not think the people of Mississippi are despondent or depressed; those who are so are those on whom the iron tread of the invader has fallen, or those who, skulking from their duty, go home with fearful tales to justify their desertion.
Nor is the army despondent; on the contrary, it is confident of victory. At Grenada I found the only regret to be that the enemy had not come on. At Vicksburg, even without reinforcements, the troops did not dream of defeat. I go, therefore, anxious but hopeful. My attachment to Mississippi, and my esteem for her people, have risen since the war began. I have been proud of her soldiers. I have endeavored to conceal my pride, for I wished to make no distinction between the States of the Confederacy; but I cannot deny that my heart has warmed with a livelier emotion when I have seen those letters upon the boy's cap that have marked him for a Mississippian. Man's affections are not subject to his will; mine are fixed upon Mississippi. And when I return to where I shall find Mississippians fighting for you in a distant State, ween I shall tell them that you are safe here, that you can be defended without calling upon them, and that they are necessary to guard the capital and to prevent the inroads of the enemy in Georgia and Alabama, I shall be proud to say to them for you that they are welcome to stay.
As to the States on the other side of the Mississippi, I can say that their future is bright. The army is organized and disciplined, and it is to be hoped that at no distant day it may be able to advance into that land which has been trodden under the foot of despotism, where old men have been torn from their homes and immured in dugeons, where even the women have been subjected to the insults of the brutal Yankee soldiery--that under the flag of the Confederacy Missouri will again be free.
Kentucky, too, that gallant State whose cause is our cause, the gallantry of whose sons has never been questioned, is still the object of the ardent wishes of Gen. [Braxton] Bragg. I heard him say in an address to his troops, that he hoped again to lead them into Kentucky, and to the banks of the Ohio river.
I can then say with confidence that our condition is in every respect greatly improved over what it was last year. Our armies have been augmented, our troops have been instructed and disciplined. The articles necessary for the support of our troops, and our people, and from which the enemy's blockade has cut us off, are being produced in the Confederacy. Our manufactories have made rapid progress, so much is this the case that I learn with equal surprise and pleasure from the general commanding this department, that Mississippi alone can supply the army which is upon her soil.
Our people have learned to economize and are satisfied to wear home spun. I never see a woman dressed in home spun that I do not feel like taking off my hat to her; and although our women never lose their good looks, I cannot help thinking that they are improved by this garb. I never meet a man dressed in home spun but I feel like saluting him. I cannot avoid remarking with how much pleasure I have noticed the superior morality of our troops, and the contrast which in this respect they present to those of the invader. I can truly say that an army more pious and more moral than that defending our liberties, I do not believe to exist. On their valor and the assistance of God I confidently rely.
From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 8, pp. 565-84. Transcribed from the December 29, 1862, edition of the Memphis Appeal, which was being published in Jackson at that time.