HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,
Murfreesborough, February 12, 1863.
Commander-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: The occupation of the points indicated in my telegram will not, of course, be advisable permanently, nor in such manner as to leave the posts as baits for rebel enterprise. I wish to so occupy them as to give me the means of preventing the enemy's enterprises on our communications, and exclude him from using its forage and conscripting its men, without being cut to pieces.
I don't think any troops from Virginia have arrived here, nor do I think any have gone from here, unless very recently. They have three divisions near Shelbyville, and the remainder of the infantry at Wartrace, Manchester, and Tullahoma. Their cavalry is over all the country - right, left, and front of us.
The roads are now impassable for wagons or artillery, except where macadamized. Our railroad is now open to Nashville.
We have about fifteen days' supplies on hand here. At Nashville we have already nearly sixty days' subsistence. Forage will next demand our attention. By throwing in needful stores, to rescue us from want for sixty or ninety days, we can afford to disregard all our lines of communication, except from the Nashville base. Our next point will be to take advantage of the fall freshest to throw provisions up the Cumberland and Tennessee, to meet our prospective wants in those directions. Stores up the Cumberland are necessary to the occupation of East Tennessee. Stores up the Tennessee are requisite for operations south of it. A moderate demonstration up the Tennessee would probably dislodge the rebels from this side of the river; but if we could get another blow at them near here, it would be better for us. Mountain roads and natural obstacles consume forces. They have an enormous cavalry force. Van Dorn is coming to swell it, by 6,000 or 7,000 more, at least. They are preparing to mount 4,000 of their infantry.
Thus endeavoring to mobilize their army, they will endeavor to strike our flanks or rear, isolated posts, and control the subsistence and population of the country. Our best solution of the problem is to move them up near us, and then fight them.
Had not the direction and extension of our right wing been so faulty, there would have been one day to the battle of Stone's River, and no organized rebel army left after it. You will be satisfied of this when you see the plan and read the report. I moved with Crittenden and the center, because more planning and experience were requisite on that side. I trusted General McCook's ability as to position, as much as he knew I could his courage and loyalty. It was a mistake. But you will see the whole report. I only allude to it here in connection with the idea of fighting the rebels near our base, if possible. Should we be compelled to fight them in the mountains of Georgia, starvation may answer our purpose as well as pursuit. You, no doubt, think now as always. I believe the most fatal errors of this war have begun in an impatient desire of success, that would not take time to get ready; the next fatal mistake being to be afraid to move when all the means were provided.
W. S. ROSECRANS,