HEADQUARTERS BRECKINRIDGE'S DIVISION, Tullahoma, Tenn., January 12, 1863.
General BRAXTON BRAGG, C. S. Army:
GENERAL: In answer to your letter of yesterday,* I have the honor to state that, in a council at your headquarters, on the evening of the 3rd of January, at which Lieutenant-Generals Polk and Hardee and Major-General Cleburne were the other officers present, I advised you to retire from before Murfreesborough the same night. About 12 o'clock of that day, Lieutenant-General Hardee informed me that a retrograde movement had been resolved upon, and as my division was to cover the movement of his corps, he authorized me to make preliminary arrangements, but directed me not to give a final order; and also desired me to be present at your headquarters at 7 o'clock in the evening. During that afternoon the baggage and ordnance trains were moved down the Shelbyville and Manchester turnpikes, as I understood, by your order. The question at the conference on the evening of the 3rd was, not whether the army should fall back (that movement had been determined on, and in part executed, before I was called into council), but whether the movement of the troops should be postponed for twenty-four hours, to communicate with General Wheeler (then supposed to be near La Vergne), and more thoroughly to close up our rear. I advised that the movement should take place that night; and it is just to you to add that if I had been in consultation on the morning of that day, when it was resolved to retire, I would have approved the movement. I do not enter into the reasons which governed my advice, since your communication does not ask for them, but confines itself to the necessity of the retreat at the time it was commenced.
In obedience to your wishes, I have this day had a conference with the brigade commanders of my division, Generals Pillow and Preston and Colonels Trabue and Gibson. These gentlemen were not sure as to the points upon which you desired their views, since they were not called into council on the question of retiring the army. But, after carefully reading your letter, they supposed that you desired their opinion in regard to the retreat, and to the confidence, or want of it, in you as a commander, on the part of the officers and troops. Accordingly, acting with the candor which you invoke, they request me to say that, in their opinion, the conduct of the military operations in front of Murfreesborough made it necessary for our army to retire. They also request me to say that while they entertain the highest respect for your patriotism, it is their opinion that you do not possess the confidence of the army to an extent which will enable you to be useful as its commander. In this opinion I feel bound to state that I concur.
You state as within your own knowledge that staff officers of your generals have persistently asserted that our retreat was made in opposition to the wishes of their chiefs. I can speak only for my own staff, and have the honor to state that, after thorough inquiry, I have reason to believe that representations of the character to which you refer have not been made by any member of my staff.
In closing, general, I have the honor to state that the brigade commanders of my division spoke of yo throughout in terms of high personal respect, and to add that in this regard I fully share their feelings.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN C. BRECKINRIDGE,
*See Inclosure Numbers 1, Polk to Davis, February 4, 1863, p. 699.