HEADQUARTERS POLK'S CORPS, Shelbyville, January 13, 1863.
General BRAXTON BRAGG:
Since this army commenced falling back from Murfreesborough, I have, upon all occasions, publicly and privately, stated that I, myself, was one of the first to suggest the movement, and fully indorsed it.
B. F. CHEATHAM,
TULLAHOMA, January 13, 1863.
General BRAXTON BRAGG,
Commanding Army of Tennessee:
GENERAL: I have received your communication of the 11th instant,* with inclosures, and will answer candidly, as you desire. I understood the retrograde movement to have been decided upon, and partially executed, before we met in council on Saturday night, the 3rd instant, and the only question presented to me, and the only question before us there, to be, whether the movement should be suspended, as far as practicable, for twenty-four hours. To this I replied that, in my opinion, it could be suspended. I offered advice on no other point. Subsequently, on learning fully the condition of General Polk's corps and General Breckinridge's division, I felt it my duty to say to you that in answering as I had just done I had looked only to the condition of my own division; that I had been successful in the fight, and, notwithstanding its losses and weariness, was still capable of making a firm resistance; that I was also influenced by the fact that my men had had no sleep the previous night, having suffered and repelled a night attack of the enemy, and immediately thereafter been moved from the extreme left to the right of the army, which led me to fear that, in case of a retreat, involving, as it must, the loss of another night's rest, large numbers of my men would fall out by the way, and I might in this manner lose as many as in an attack by the enemy in our then position. I further stated that, in case the enemy attacked us, I believed the chances were in favor of our repulsing him, but that it might turn out otherwise, and that it was for you to decide whether our cause should be risked on a cast the issue of which was doubtful; that I believed the final success of our cause depended in a great measure upon the safety of this army.
I have consulted with all my brigade commanders at this place, as you request, showing them your letter and inclosures, and they unite with me in personal regard for yourself, in a high appreciation of your patriotism and gallantry, and in a conviction of your great capacity for organization, but at the same time they see, with regret, and it has also met my observation, that you do not possess the confidence of the army in other respects in that degree necessary to secure success.
I have, general, the honor to be, respectfully, your obedient servant,
P. R. CLEBURNE,
*See Inclosure Numbers 1, Polk to Davis, February 4, 1863, p. 699.