elsewhere. But should we advance, one of two events would almost certainly ensue: First, the enemy would not consider himself strong enough to fight us; in which case he would rapidly withdraw his entire army from Middle Tennessee, and his numerous cavalry would give him an early intimation of our advance, as well as cover his retreat, when his whole army would be free to go to Johnston's assistance; or, secondly, he would be strong enough to accept the proffered battle; in which case, owing to his advantage of position, we should probably be defeat. In the latter case, the enemy could hold his ground in Middle Tennessee with a much less force than at present, and either make detachments to re-enforce Johnston or invade Kentucky, as he might elect.
To the third question, which is, "Do you think an immediate advance of our army advisable?" I answer, unhesitatingly, no.
In answer to Question 1, I have attempted briefly to show that in an advance our success would by no means be certain. Our final success at Vicksburg, however probable, is not a certainly. With this army defeated, and Grant's also, the whole valley of the Mississippi would be at once under rebel occupation and control, as well as the country to the Ohio River, including the whole of Kentucky. Through might fall back, and, under cover of our fortifications, save the remnant of an army, the enemy, flushed with success, would be strong enough to hazard a flank movement to invade Kentucky, where there is now no adequate force to meet and repel him. We are informed the best and most reliable part of the force in Kentucky has been sent to re-enforce General Grant. We have heretofore relied on this force to co-operate with us in an advance against the enemy in our front.
West Tennessee has been stripped of troops to re-enforce Grant. Should he be defeated, the whole country to Columbus, Ky., will be opened to the enemy.
After the most mature reflection on our position, considered in its entirety, and with the most anxious desire to determine what is our duty, I am clearly of the opinion that an immediate advance of our army is not advisable, and would not be judicious. Battles should be fought, except under the pressure of an absolute necessity, only when there is a very reasonable prospect of success, to be followed by lasting and substantial advantages. An advance of our army at this time would not, in my opinion, be attended by this condition.
I also hold if of the utmost importance that this great army, centrally situated, be held intact, and ready for any and every emergency, till after the fate of Vicksburg is decided.
This army is now an impregnable bulwark to the State of Kentucky. The conscription is soon to be enforced in the State, and in a few weeks the State and National elections for State officers and members of Congress will be held. A defeat, or even a serious reserve, to this army would probably lose us the conscript from Kentucky, and place the political machinery of the State in the hands of Copperheads and rebel sympathizers. I retreat that the lateness of the hour at which your communication in great haste, prevent me from being more full in facts and information, as well as prevent me from elaborating more fully my opinions and conclusions, and the arguments on which they are based.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
TH. J. WOOD,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.