they can raise, invade the State, either as a formidable raid or for an attempted occupation. That they will endeavor to do this I have no manner of doubt. They should do it, and, it is fair to presume, they will. Not only this, but we know that they have already a considerable force, variously reported from 6,000 to 12,000 men, in East Tennessee, brought together for this avowed object. These are said to be mounted men, and we know that their cavalry force is large and active, much superior to our own in numbers.
To absolutely prevent the invasion of the State is difficult, probably impossible, except by offensive movements. The enemy can come in at a great number of points along the southern border. Commencing at Cumberland Gap, there are west of this several other gaps nearly as practicable, through two of which Kirby Smith entered last fall, and as the mountain range recedes and becomes less and obstruction, the avenues of approach multiply.
It is hence impossible to thoroughly guard this frontier against invasion by attempting to stop these avenues, especially against an active mounted force, without more troops than are likely to be assigned for that purpose. We must, therefore, resort to other means for the protection and quiet of the State in the possession of which the rebels take so much interest. First is the plan of offensive. It has been said that it is as easy to march south as north, for us to invade from Kentucky as for the rebels to invade that State. It this so? The rebels in such an attempt enter a country capable of sustaining them as soon as they reach the blue-grass region, and they can stay an indefinite time, so far as supplies of forage and subsistence are concerned. We, on the contrary, on leaving that region find no such supplies as we advance, and are compelled to sustain our army by wagon trains. Even on reaching Knoxville nothing can be had in amount adequate to the supply of a considerable force. The country has been already swept by the rebels of its vegetable products, and they supply themselves from the rear by means of their railroads.
From Danville or Richmond to Knoxville is nearly 200 miles, over a country of bad roads, nearly destitute of forage and subsistence, and where everything is to be supplied by wagons from the rear. I need not say that in such a march, over so long a route, a wagon will scarcely take the forage necessary for its teams, leaving nothing for subsistence, ammunition, camp equipage, &c.
I look upon an invasion of East Tennessee by any of the direct routes through Kentucky as an impossibility, for the reasons above assigned, certainly before the season becomes advanced enough to supply some green forage. Raids by a mounted force are practicable, being only for limited occupation, and constitute all that can be accomplished in the offensive way.
For the defensive, two policies may be adopted. First, to close all the entrances. This I have said was impossible with any force likely to be provided for the purpose. Second, by taking up a line just within the edge of the blue-grass country, where the force can be readily supplied, where it can watch the entrance of the enemy, and concentrate against him, after he has been forced to a long march over the intervening mountains and sterile country, with his men and animals broken down by their toilsome journey, and when they will be taken at a disadvantage by comparatively fresh troops, always keeping to the front scouting parties to give early intelligence of the enemy, who shall return frequently, to be replaced by fresh parties. This has been the policy adopted thus far with the slender force available.
10 R R-VOL XXIII, PT II