In addition to the foregoing, you are requested to direct Brigadier General Bushrod R. Johnson to make a full and detailed report as promptly as possible; also to require a like report of Colonel Forrest, and to ask Colonel Forrest to detail particularly in his report the time and manner of his escape, the road he took, the number of enemies he met or saw in making his escape, the difficulties, if any, which existed to prevent the remainder of the army from following the route taken by himself in his escape with his command.
You are further requested to make up a report from all the sources of information accessible to you of all the particulars connected with the unfortunate affair which can contribute to enlighten the judgement of the Executive and of Congress, and to fix the blame, if blame there be, on those who were delinquent in duty.
I am, your obedient servant,
J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War.
RICHMOND, VA., March 12, 1862.
[To General A. SIDNEY JOHNSTON?]
MY DEAR GENERAL: The departure of Captain Wickliffe offers an opportunity of which I avail myself to write you an unofficial letter. We have suffered great anxiety because of recent events in Kentucky and Tennessee, and I have been not a little disturbed by the repetition of reflection upon yourself. I expected you to have made a full report of events precedent and consequent to the fall of Fort Donelson. In the mean time I made for you such defense as friendship prompted and many years' acquaintance justified, but I needed facts to rebut the wholesale assertions made against you to cover others and to condemn my administration. The public, as you are aware, have no correct measure for military operations, and journals are very reckless in their statements. Your force has been magnified and the movements of an army [measured?] by the capacity for locomotion of an individual. The readiness of the people among whom you are operations to aid you in every method had been constantly asserted, the purpose of your army at Bowling Green wholly misunderstood, and the absence of an effective force at Nashville ignored. You have been held responsible for the fall of Donelson and the capture of Nashville. 'Tis charged that no effort made to save the stores at Nashville and that the panic of the people was caused by the army. Such representations, with the sad foreboding naturally belonging to them, have been painful to me and injurious to us both; but, worse than this, they have undermined public confidence and damaged our cause.
A full development of the truth is necessary for future success. I respect the generosity which has kept you silent, but would impress upon you that the subject is not personal but public in its nature; that you I might be content to suffer, but neither of us can willingly permit detriment to the country.
As soon as circumstances will permit it is my purpose to visit the field of your present operations; not that I should expect to give you any aid in the discharge of your duties as a commander, but with the hope that my position would enable me to effect something in bringing men to your standard.
With a sufficient force, the audacity which the enemy exhibits would no doubt give you the opportunity to cut some of his lines of communi-
17 R R-VOL VII