HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF LIBERATION,
New Madrid, Mo., August 5, 1861.
Your dispatch of the 30th ultimo is acknowledged. From its contents I infer that you are of the opinion that any movement into the interior should be suspended. If such is your opinion, it occurs to me that it should never have been made. I have never been in favor of occupying this place, except as a base of operations for movements into the interior, looking to substantial relief to Missouri.
As a strategical point, this is not a strong position. If the enemy contemplate an early movement down the river, our position here is not favorable for arresting it. It would have been better, in this view of the case, to have occupied the position indicated before at Randolph and Fort Pillow, and not have extended our line of posts so far forward. As we extend our line of posts forward we necessarily weaken our means of protecting them. I would never have consented to occupy and garrison this place. Indeed, I did not understand you as wishing or expecting it. I do not know the information you have from General Hardee, but my information here is, that General Hardee has already advanced with 3,000 men to Greenville, and that he was moving upon Ironton. I do not think there is a doubt about his being there now.
I am satisfied the enemy are not now in condition to advance, neither do I think he will attempt to do so before fall. He is hard at work fortifying his position at Bird's Point, and alarmed at the prospect of an early attack. I am in receipt of news from his positions almost every day. If we are to move at all, we should do so promptly. If we are to await his pleasure and the accumulation of his forces, then this is not the proper place to meet him. If I am to move forward, my force must be strengthened. If I am not to go forward, it is certainly a very unfortunate movement. If the enemy should determine to make a move down the river in strength, the force here has no advantage of position, whereas at Fort Pillow and Randolph they could repel three times their number. With additional force and united with Hardee's command, we could cut our way anywhere; we could certainly expel the enemy from the interior even if we left the river infested with their forces. Destroy the railroad running into the interior, and you at once cripple the enemy's movements to such an extent that the country could organize and protect itself. I am clearly of the opinion that we should advance promptly or abandon this place.
There is no room here for troops, and miserable water where we are forced to encamp. There is no alternative but to go forward or fall back. If I am to be held in command of this position or to go forward abandoning my base of operations, I would prefer the latter course, though such a measure would be fraught with peril. If this place is to be held, there should be not less than 10,000 men here; our present force held here would invite attack. A small force would be much safer in the interior than it is here. The river furnishes such means of approach, that they can throw upon this place in three hours any amount of force at their disposal, whereas in the interior they would be obliged to resort to our mode of transportation. You promised me the co-operation of Hardee's force. He is clear out of reach. My views are fully before you, and I shall await your decision.
Your obedient servant,
GID. J. PILLOW,