HEADQUARTERS POLK'S CORPS, ARMY OF TENNESSEE, February 4, 1863.
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS,
President Confederate States of America:
MY DEAR SIR: I know that you have been apprised of a correspondence which has taken place between General Bragg and the corps and division commanders of Hardee's corps, of this army, following upon the retreat from Murfreesborough. As the same circular which was answered by the officers of Hardee's corps was received by those of mine, I think it proper to send you a copy of the correspondence which passed between General Bragg and myself. You will find it inclosed with this, as follows:
Numbers 1. General Bragg's circular.
Numbers 2. Generals Cheatham's and Withers' note.
Numbers 3. My indorsement on same.
Numbers 4. My reply of 30th, asking an explanation of his circular.
Numbers 5. His letter in reply.
Numbers 6. My answer to the question he proposed.
This correspondence has been very unfortunate, and its inauguration ill-judged; but it is now a part of the history of the times, and I feel it to be my duty to transmit to you copies of the letters which have passed between the general and myself. That correspondence speaks for itself. I thought, with the officers of Hardee's corps, that he desired an opinion on two points. Some of my subordinate commanders had thought, and others then thought, that he desired us to reply to but one. As he desired us to consult our subordinates before answering, the difference of opinion as to the construction of his note made it plainly proper to ask him which was the proper construction. To have this was necessary to an intelligible and satisfactory reply. It will be seen what the reply was, which made my final answer plain and easy. I think it would not be difficult from the form of my note for him to have inferred what my answer would have been if he had asked. It was waived and declined. Under the circumstances it would seem to have been natural for him to desire to know the opinions of all, as he had been forced to know those of half of his subordinates of the highest grade, but, as I have said, it was declined. I feel it a duty to say to you that had I and my division commanders been asked to answer, our replies would have coincided with those of the officers of the other corps. You have known my opinions on this subject since my visit to Richmond.
I have only to add, if the were Napoleon or the great Frederick he could serve our cause at some other points better than here. My opinion is he had better be transferred. I remember you having said, speaking of his being transferred from this command, "I can make good use of him here in Richmond." I have thought that the best disposition for him and for the service of the army that could be made. His capacity for organization and discipline, which has not been equaled among us, could be used by you at headquarters with infinite advantage to the whole army.
I think, too, that the best thing to be done in supplying his place would be to give his command to General Joseph E. Johnston. He will cure all discontent and inspire the army with new life and confidence. He is here on the spot, and I am sure will be content to take it. If General Lee can command the principal army in his department in person there is no reason why General Johnston should not. I have, therefore, as a general officer of this army, speaking in behalf of my associates, to ask, respectfully, that this appointment be made, and I beg to be permitted