food and forage. Possessed of the shortest road to his depot, and the one by which re-enforcements must reach him, we held him at our mercy and his destruction was only a question of time.
The disastrous loss of these advantages and our subsequent operations in consequence must be the subject of a future communication.
The suggestion of a movement by our right immediately after the battle to the north of the Tennessee and thence upon Nashville requires notice only because it will find a place on the files of the department. Such a movement was utterly impossible for want of transportation. Nearly half our army consisted of re-enforcements just before the battle without a wagon or an artillery horse, and nearly, if not quite, a third of the artillery horses on the field had been lost. The railroad bridges, too, had been destroyed to a point south of Ringgold, and on all the road from Cleveland to Knoxville. To these insurmountable difficulties were added the entire absence of means to cross the river except by fording at a few precarious points too deep for artillery and the well-known danger of sudden rises, by which all communication would be cut, a contingency which did actually happen a few days after the visionary scheme was proposed. But the most serious objection to the proposition was its entire want of military propriety. It abandoned to the enemy our entire line of communication and laid open to him our depots of supplies, while it placed us with a greatly inferior force beyond a difficult and at times impassable river, in a country affording no subsistence to men or animals. It also left open to the enemy, at a distance of only 10 miles, our battle-field, with thousands of our wounded and his own, and all the trophies and supplies we had won.
All this was to be risked and given up for what? To gain the enemy's rear and cut him off from his depot of supplies by the route over the mountains, when the very movement abandoned to his unmolested use the better and more practicable route, of half the length, on the south side of the river. It is hardly necessary to say the proposition was not even entertained, whatever may have been the inferences drawn from subsequent movements.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant-General, C. S. Army, Richmond, Va.
GENERAL ORDERS, HDQRS. ARMY OF TENNESSEE,
Numbers 180. In the Field, La Fayette, Ga., September 16, 1863.
The troops will be held ready for an immediate move against the enemy. His demonstration on our flank has been thwarted, and twice has he retired before us when offered battle. We must now force him to the issue.
Soldiers, you are largely re-enforced; you must now seek the contest. In so doing I know you will be content to suffer privations and encounter hardships.
Heretofore you have never failed to respond to your general when he has asked sacrifice at your hands. Relying on your gallantry and patriotism, he asks you to add the crowning glory to the wreath you wear. Our cause is in your keeping; your enemy boats that you are demoralized and retreating before him.