fails before Vicksburg, it would be unfortunate if this army is then found entangled in the interior of Tennessee.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. M. PALMER,
HDQRS, FOURTH (LATE FIFTH) DIV., FOURTEENTH A. C.,
June 9, 1863 - 1.30 a. m.
Lieutenant-Colonel GODDARD, Assistant Adjutant-General:
I reply to the first question in the negative. The only weakening that I can feel satisfied the enemy in our front has suffered is some three brigades (called Breckinridge's), said to number 5,000 to 7,000. Other diminutions of strength, to the extent of two divisions, number not stated, are reported, but the evidence before me on this point is so conflicting that I discard the whole as a basis of action. To offset the weakening above, I am convinced from various sources, such as captured mails, concurrent testimony of individuals, deserters, spies, &c., and my own observation during expeditions through the country, that the enemy has received considerable accessions of strength from conscription since the 10th January, 1863. If we advance on the enemy, we do so through his own country, comparatively unknown to us in spite of our best exertions to inform ourselves. I place the enemy from Shelbyville to Beech Grove; fortified at Shelbyville. If we advance upon him directly, our left not extending farther east than the road from Murfreesborough, through Liberty Gap to Bellbuckle, we cover our communications, but must attack the enemy behind his fortifications, and must presume that he will there concentrate.
If we move by this left, with a view of turning his fortified position at Shelbyville, and, by threatening his communications and his depot of supplies at Tullahoma, force him to leave his entrenchments at Shelbyville, we give him the shortest route to Tullahoma, which is fortified, and also expose our own communications. In case any reserve should happen us in this advance, however, we have a good country in which to operate and regain our base.
If we advance to turn the enemy's right, direct to Manchester, we again force him to abandon Shelbyville and also secure to ourselves the shortest route to Tullahoma. We here, too, expose our communications, and if, instead of attempting to retire on Tullahoma, the distance being now in our favor, the enemy should attack us, interrupt our communications, and worst us, we are thrown into a rough country, and one in which large bodies of troops can be handled only with great difficulty; the chances of regaining our base are not favorable. Either of these attacks is practicable, provided we sufficiently outnumber the enemy. In my judgment, we do not outnumber the enemy enough to "advance on him at this time with strong reasonable chances of fighting a great and successful battle."
I answer the second question in the negative. The enemy cannot send any considerable re-enforcements against Grant unless he intends to abandon Middle Tennessee. I have no reason to believe that such is his intention. The event that would warrant the enemy in sending forces against Grant, assuming that we could not be successfully attacked here, is that we had re-enforced Grant from this army, in which case an advance on our part would be out of the question.
As to the third question, an "immediate" advance of our army is not