LOUISA, KY., June 16, 1863.
Your last dispatch, relating to Colonel Sanders, just received. The head of my column will be near Plaitville this evening. I march immediately, and shall overtake it to-morrow. Will proceed as you direct with all dispatch.
HDQRS. FIRST DIV., TWENTY-FIRST ARMY CORPS,
Murfreesborough, tenn., June 17, 1863.
Brigadier General JAMES A. GARDFIELD, Chief of Staff:
GENERAL: I have carefully and thoroughly meditated on the subject of the able and well-considered paper you did me the honor to read to me yesterday forenoon, and propose now to give you, briefly, the practical conclusion to which I have arrived.
The information which I have been able to gain of the condition of the enemy does not warrant the conclusion that he has suffered so material a diminution of strength as you appear to think he has, but as you have much broader and more accuracy and minute means of information than I possess, I am willing to defer to your conclusions in this respect. With your showing of the superiority of strength in our favor, the rational probability is, in anything like an open encounter with the enemy, we should be victorious; but, first, the question may be very pertinently asked here whether the enemy, who knows his own strength, and has, unquestionably, an approximate knowledge of ours, would accept the offered battle without such advantages of position from the topography or artificial obstructions as would establish an equipollence of forces; and, secondly, whether in this case, in which a battle would be simply a trial of strength and endurance, we could rationally hope to gain anything more than a barren victory - ourselves being unable to follow up with a vigorous pursuit - unproductive of the grand results which make success valuable and compensate for the loss of life necessary to attain it; in short, those results which justify the fighting of battles. If we should be able to gain a mere victory, would any deem that our cause would be benefited by another great and fruitless sacrifice of life? Would not the enemy, in this case, most probably withdraw beyond the immediate range of our guns, select a position, and thence, with his cavalry, continue his raids in Middle Tennessee?
But so far as the conclusion I wish to establish is concerned, I am willing to admit the accuracy and correctness of your information, and the general soundness of the conclusions based on it. I am prepared to admit that the probabilities are in favor of our being able to inflict on the enemy a decided and substantial defeat, and, further, that, in case the enemy should decline the offered battle, we would probably be able, by skillful maneuvering, to compel him to fight against his will, and, consequently, at a disadvantage.
With this conclusion, if this army were entirely isolated, and had no connection with or relation to any of our other armies, the reasonable course for it to pursue would be to advance as soon as our arrangements could be made, and try to bring the enemy to battle. But such is not the case. This army, from geographical position, is intimately connected with all our other forces, and more especially with the two grand armies of the Potomac and Mississippi - Hooker's and Grant's. These
26 R R - VOL XXIII, PT II