MET AT RICHMOND, VA., DECEMBER 7, 1863. ADJOURNED FEBRUARY 17, 1864.
Richmond, Va., December 7, 1863.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the Confederate States.
The necessity for legislative action arising out of the important events that have marked the interval since your adjournment, and my desire to have the aid of your counsel on other matters of grave public interest, render your presence at this time more than ordinarily welcome. Indeed, but for serious obstacles for convoking you in extraordinary session and the necessity for my own temporary absence from the seat of government, I would have invited you to an earlier meeting than that fixed at the date of your adjournment.
Grave reverses befell our arms soon after your departure from Richmond. Early in June [July] our strongholds at Vicksburg and Port Hudson, together with their entire garrisons, capitulated to the combined land and naval forces of the enemy. The important interior position of Jackson next fell into their temporary possession. Our unsuccessful assault upon the post at Helena was followed at a later period by the invasion of Arkansas, and the retreat of our army from Little Rock gave to the enemy the control of the important valley in which it is situated.
The resolute spirit of the people soon rose superior to the temporary despondency naturally resulting from these reverses. The gallant troops, so ably commanded in the States beyond the Mississippi, inflicted repeated defeats on the invading armies in Louisiana and on the coast of Texas. Detachments of troops and active bodies of partisans kept up so effective a war on the Mississippi River as practically to destroy its value as an avenue of commerce.
The determined and successful defense of Charleston against the joint land and naval operations of the enemy afforded an inspiring example of our ability to repel the attacks even of the ironclad fleet on which they chiefly rely, while on the northern frontier our success was still more marked.