it is only to-day that I can reply. I think the enemy's great effort will be in the West, and we must concentrate our strength there to meet them. I see no possibility of mounting your command without stripping all others of animals and rendering them immovable. If horses could be obtained for you, where are the forage and equipments to be procured? The former is not to be had nearer than Georgia. It could not be furnished by the railroad, and I do not think equipments could be impressed through the country. If you and Johnston could unite and move into Middle Tennessee, where I am told provisions and forage can be had, it would cut the armies at Chattanooga and Knoxville in two and draw them from those points where either portion could be struck at in succession as opportunity offered. This appears to me at this distance the most feasible plan. Can it be accomplished? By covering your fronts well with your cavalry, Johnston could move quietly and rapidly through Benton, across the Hiwassee, and then push forward in the direction of Kingston, while you, taking such a route as to be safe from a flank attack, would join him at or after his crossing the Tennessee River. The two commands upon reaching Sparta would be in position to select their future course; would necessitate the evacuation of Chattanooga and Knoxville, and by rapidly and skill unite on either army. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the country to do more than indicate the general plan. The particular routes, passages of rivers, &c., you and Johnston must ascertain and choose. The condition of roads, &c., may oblige you to pass through the western portion of North Carolina, but this you can soon ascertain, if you do not already know, as well as the distances each column would have to traverse before uniting, their point of junction, time of marching, &c. The agents of the commissary department tell me there is an abundance of provisions and forage in Middle Tennessee, which is corroborated by individuals professing to know that country. But this should be investigated, too. It is also believed by those acquainted with the people that upon the entrance of the army into that country that its ranks will be recruited by the men from Tennessee and Kentucky who have left it. A victory gained there will open the country to you to the Ohio.
Study the subject, communicate with Johnston, and endeavor to accomplish it, or something better. We cannot now pause. I will endeavor to do something here to occupy them if I cannot do more. I hope Alexander has joined you with his new commission. The promotion of the other officers of artillery was ordered, as proposed during my last visit to Richmond. Walton retains his former position in the Washington Battalion.
Wishing you all success and happiness, I am, very truly,
R. E. LEE,
RICHMOND, VA., March 8, 1864.
Brigadier General J. A. SMITH,
Commanding Brigadier Texas Vols., Cleburne's Div., Army of Tenn.:
GENERAL: In response to a memorial of the officers of the Texas brigade under your command, praying to be returned to their commands in the Trans-Mississippi Department, submitted by the Texas