near Sedalia to join General Curtis at Lebanon. This will make his effective force over 15,000.
This winter campaign will be a hard one on account of the weather and roads, but they will either beat Price or drive him from the State. Of the two divisions left at La Mine I purpose sending one across the Missouri at Booneville to march through the secession counties of Howard, Boone, Callaway, and Montgomery to saint Charles and this city for transportation to Cairo. They cannot be brought here by railroad, and the road north of the river is much the best. Moreover, their presence in the counties named is important to break up secession bands and to assist the Union men in organizing as State Militia. The condition of ice in the river is such that I have been able to send only three of the five regiments ordered from here to Cairo. I hope to dispatch some more this week. I hear nothing of the two regiments ordered from North Missouri to Cairo more than a week ago. It is very probable that they cannot cross the river at Hannibal. General Schofield hopes to be able to spare me two regiments from his command on the North Missouri Railroad in a week or two. These will also be sent to Cairo.
I have received no formation in respect to the general plan of campaign, and I therefore fell much hesitation in recommending any line of operations for these and other troops which I may be able to withdraw from Missouri. Of course this line must be subordinate to some general plan. I take it for granted, general, that what has heretofore been done has been want of success on our part is attributable to the politicians rather than to the generals.
So far it seems to me the war has been conducted upon what may be called pepper-box strategy-scattering our troops so as to render them inferior in numbers in any place where they can meet the enemy. Occupying the circumference of a great circle, with the enemy within that circumference and near the center, we cannot expect to strike any great blow, for he can concentrate his forces on any one point sooner than we can ours. The division of our force upon so many lines and points seems to me a fatal policy. I am aware that you, general, are in no way responsible for this, these movements having been governed by political expediency and in many cases directed by politicians in order to subserve particular interests; but is it not possible with the new Secretary of War to introduce a different policy and to make our future movements in accordance with military principles? On this supposition I venture to make a few suggestions in regard to operations in the West.
The idea of moving down the Mississippi by steam is, in my opinion, impracticable, or at least premature. It is not a proper line of operations, at least now. A much more feasible plan is to move up the Cumberland and Tennessee, making Nashville the first objective point. This would turn Columbus and force the abandonment of Bowling Green. Columbus cannot be taken without an immense siege train and a terrible loss of life. I have thoroughly studied its defenses; they are very strong. But it can be turned, paralyzed, and forced to surrender. This line of the Cumberland or Tennessee is the great central line of the Western theater of war, with the Ohio below the mouth of Green River as the base and two good navigable rivers extending far into the interior of the theater of operations. But the plan should not be attempted without a large force, not less than 60,000 effective men.