In my previous letter I set down three divisions (say 30,000 effective men) as the force that would be required for East Tennessee, two to penetrate the country and one to keep open communications. I believe that is the least force that will suffice, and it ought to be able to establish itself promptly before it can be anticipated by a force of the enemy sufficient to make the result doubtful. With railroads converging from the east, west, and south, it ought not to be difficult for them to get a pretty formidable force in that country in ten days. The people of East Tennessee are loyal, and will remain so, though submitting to the power that has subjugated them. They will rise whenever they can see themselves properly supported and we can put arms in their hands, but not before in any efficient manner. It would be cruel to induce them to do so on other conditions.
For the reasons I have stated I have ben forced reluctantly to the conviction that an advance into East Tennessee is impracticable at this time on any scale which will be sufficient. I have ordered General Carter's brigade to move on the Gap, but I fear very much that even that will be compelled to fall back for supplies, such is the condition of the roads over which they have to be hauled.
Having stated to you candidly the difficulties in the way of the object you have so much at heart, you will naturally expect to know what I propose to do in the mean time. It is to move at once against Bowling Green, in combination with an attack up the Tennessee and Cumberland and an effective demonstration against Columbus, each in sufficient force to do its work with the enemy's force divided. Any operations which depend on celerity with the roads in their present condition are out of the question. The object must be accomplished by hard knocks. The enemy is strongly fortified at Bowling Green and is daily increasing his strength along the whole front, of which that place and Columbus are the flanks. It is dangerous to allow him to continue the work of preparation. I believe he will rate the importance of his positions along his front in this order: First, the rivers, including Nashville; second, Bowling Green; third, Columbus. His center is now the most vulnerable point, as it is also the most decisive. The attack on it should be made by an adequate force,a nd should be determined and persistent. Twenty thousand men might commence it, and these should probably be increased very soon to 30,000. The first object should be to carry Fort Henry, Dover, and Clarksville, destroying the bridges; in fact the latter ought to be effected by the gunboats by surprise while the rivers are swollen, as suggested in my letter yesterday. These objects accomplished and Nashville in danger, the resistance at Bowling Green will give way; otherwise the struggle at that point will be protracted and difficult. An examination of the accompanying map, made up from the best information we can obtain, will satisfy you of this.* Besides being strongly fortified, the river in front is a formidable barrier. You are aware that by means of locks it is navigable for steamers to the city; above that it is fordable in low water, but not now. You will see from this that the attack must commence and be carried on to a considerable extent with heavy artillery. As far as that goes, inequality of numbers will not matter much; but after a while the river must be crossed, and then if they are allowed to swell their force, as they can do if not occupied at other points, we might have more than we could attend to. It is possible also that we may have to fight before we get possession of the heights that will enable us to use heavy artillery. I have certain notions as to the plan of attack, but so much depends on