of our cavalry, our commissariat has derived but little benefit from the supplies of the country we have overrun; and to occupy the country between Duck and Tennessee Rivers would require many isolated posts.
To attack the enemy's present position, two methods may be adopted: First, we may attack him directly in front or turn his immediate line of battle at Shelbyville - an operation safe enough to us, but without any material fruits if we beat the enemy. We certainly cannot fight the enemy for the mere purpose of whipping him, and after battle most likely find ourselves as badly crippled as he is, and unable to follow up our success. To whip him would grafity our just pride, and delight the country, but what have we gained if we beat the enemy at Shelbyville and he sullenly falls back to Tullahoma? This, then, I deem unadvisable. Now, let us consider the other and true line of attack, viz, to engage the attention of the enemy, and to march with the mass of our force upon his communications near Tullahoma. This movement, by compelling the enemy to fight us on our own battle-field, and by throwing him off his line of retreat, promises the destruction of his army, if successful.
This plan I do not recommend, for the reason that, as they say in the West, "It is betting our bottom dollar." the nerves of the nation are now strained to the utmost tension in the effort for success at Vicksburg. On the Rappahannock a battle may ensue any day. This is the only one of our great armies which may elect to fight or let it alone, standing upon its own ground. It is in this respect like a great reserve, standing between the enemy and the heart of our country. Should either of the other great armies fail, the entire strength of this will be needed to prevent great disaster. We know that the country between this and Tullahoma is unfavorable to the handling of large masses, being very broken, and the roads leading through formidable defiles. In moving upon the routes we expose our flank to the enemy's attack, and, if defeated, we could not regain our line of communications, but would inevitably be thrown back upon the line to Cartage. This would give the enemy the chord of the arc, and he would undoubtedly march upon Nashville and Bowling Green. A little accident, a clump of trees, an awkward orderly, the least thing in the world, decides the fate of a battle, and we must look on both sides of the question before plunging into a big battle. We must consider what shall we do if whipped? Grant victorious, tout cella est change, then, reducing the garrison of Nashville to 4,000, Murfreesborough to 1,500, bringing every man to bear upon the critical point, I would throw my whole force, by forced march, upon the enemy's flank and rear, viz, Tullahoma. With Grant's army disengaged, we then might take the mighty chance.
The time has passed when the fate of armies must be staked because the newspapers have no excitement and do not sell well. I think our people have now comprehended that a battle is a very grave thing.
D. S. STANLEY.
HEADQUARTERS FOURTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Murfreesborough, Tenn., June 9, 1863.
Commanding Department of Cumberland, Murfreesborough, Tenn.:
GENERAL: In answer to the questions propounded, by your direction, in the communication of Colonel Goddard of last evening, I have the honor to reply: