In connection with this movement I would move a small column of, say, 10,000 men from Ironton on Pocahontas and Jacksonport in Arkansas, to cut the armies of Price and McIntosh from their depots of supplies at these places. Price would be thus compelled to fall back on Fort Smith or to advance to the relief of these towns. In either case Southwestern Missouri would be relieved of his presence. The forces I have sent against him will drive him out of this State, but they cannot pursue him into Arkansas on the line of his retreat; that would be folly on our part. I would also take and hold New Madrid, so as to cut off river communication from the South with Columbus. The occupation of New Madrid would entirely relieve Cairo, and almost the whole garrison could be withdrawn from that place. This plan would require the occupation of Green River with only a small force. Johnston and Buckner would not venture too cross that river with a large army in their rear on the Cumberland. If they did, their fate would be sealed.
I am ignorant of General Buell's forces or plans. If he is strong enough to fight the enemy at Bowling Green or to turn that place and force him to fall back in the direction of Nashville the same object may be accomplished; but to operate both on Green River and on the Cumberland. If they did, their fate would be sealed.
I am ignorant of General Buell's forces or plans. If he is strong enough to fight the enemy at Bowling Green or to turn that place and force him to fall back in the direction of Nashville the same object may be accomplished; but to operate both on Green river and on the Cumberland with the enemy at Bowling Green is to move on converging exterior lines with the enemy inside of the angle-always a most hazardous operation, unless each of the exterior forces is superior to the enemy. Under any circumstances it is bad stragegy, because it requires a double force to accomplish a single object.
To carry out the plan proposed would make it necessary to suspend all minor operations. I understand troops are being concentrated at Fort Leavenworth to move on Western Arkansas and Texas. Such a project, if it be contemplated, is contrary to every military rule. Troops must be sent to a base hundreds of miles from any enemy at an immense cost of transportation. The line of operation is exterior and beyond relief, and the expense of supplies must be enormous. It can lead to no possible military result, unless made so large as to cripple or paralyze any movement on a truly strategic line. It certainly is not a military operation. It may, however, be intended t gratify some political partisan. If it be intended to check Price's army, that can be much better accomplished by a line parallel to or near to the main one, viz, on Pocahontas and Jacksonport, the depots of his supplies.
The main central line will also require the withdrawal of all available troops from this State; also those in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio, which are armed and still to be armed, and also the transfer to that route or near it of all the Kentucky troops not required to secure the line of Green River.
The force at Cairo and on the Ohio River below the mouth of Green River is now about 15,000. Seven regiments have just been ordered there from Missouri. By the middle or last of February I hope to send about 15,000 more. If 30,000 or 40,000 can be added from the sources indicated there will be sufficient for holding Cairo, Fort Holt, and Paducah, and to form the column proposed. The troops at Ironton could threaten Pocahontas until a sufficient force could be detached from Curtis' army at Springfield to take and hold New Madrid and Jacksonport. So long as the enemy controls the Mississippi below Columbus it might not be safe to attempt the occupation of New Madrid before moving up the Cumberland or Tennessee, as otherwise a large force might at any time be thrown across the river from Columbus to retake that place if once captured by us.