HEADQUARTERS WESTERN DEPARTMENT, Bowling Green, Ky., December 24, 1861.
His Excellency JOHN J. PETTUS,
Governor of Mississippi:
SIR: On assuming command of this department it was my chief object to collect a sufficient force to shield the valley of the Mississippi from the enemy and assure its safety. Calls were made by me upon the Governor of Mississippi and other States of the
Confederacy for troops, but, notwithstanding the patriotic efforts of the Governors, the response has not been such as the emergency demands, and in consequence there is not now a force at my disposition equal to the exigency of my situation.
It was apprehended by me that the enemy [would] attempt to assail the South not only by boats and troops moving down the river, to be assembled during the fall and winter, but by columns marching inland, threatening Tennessee by endeavoring to burn the defenses at Columbus. Further observation confirms me in this opinion, but I think the means employed for the defense of the river will probably render it comparatively secure.
The enemy will energetically push towards Nashville the heavy masses of troops now assembled between Louisville and this place.
The general position of Bowling Green is good and commanding, but the peculiar topography of the place and the length of the line of the Barren River as a line of defense, though strong, requires a large force to defend it.
There is no equally defensible position as this place, nor line of defense as the Barren River, between the Barren and the Cumberland, at Nashville, so that this place cannot be abandoned without exposing Tennessee and giving vastly the vantage ground to the enemy.
It is manifest that the Northern generals appreciate this, and by withdrawing their forces from Western Virginia and Eastern Kentucky they have managed to add them to the new levies from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and to concentrate a force in front of me variously estimated at from 60,000 to 100,000 men and which I believe will number 75,000.
To maintain my position I have only about 17,000 men in this neighborhood. It is impossible for me to obtain additions to my strength from Columbus. The generals in command of that quarter consider that it would imperil that point to diminish their force and open Tennessee to the enemy.
General Zollicoffer cannot join me, as he guards the Cumberland and prevents the invasion and possible revolt of East Tennessee. Notwithstanding these adverse circumstances, relying upon the firm purpose that animates the hearts of my troops to maintain the cause of the country, I will not relinquish my position without a battle, and your excellency can well conceive the momentous importance of my situation. If troops are given to me, if the people can be made to feel how much suffering and calamity would be avoided by the presence now in my camp of 10,000 and 15,000 more brave men, so that I could attack the enemy, and not from a disparity of force be compelled to await it, it seems to me that the same generous ardor that induced them to embark in the great struggle for our independence would give me such success that victory would be certain. I therefore ask that for the coming struggle every man should be sent forward. A decisive battle will probably be fought on this line, and a company on that day will be more than a regiment next year. If the enemy does not attack, the North, embarrassed at home and menaced with war by England, will shrink, foiled,