It is needless to enlarge upon the importance of the possession of Chattanooga. To us it is the gateway of supplies for a Confederate army in Tennessee. To the enemy it is a formidable tete-de-pont, from which his armies can debouch into the heart of the Confederacy. It has already been to him an asylum, within which his routed army has found a safe refuge, and the possession of which has enabled him to paralyze the movement of our forces. It has thus far maintained him in possession of a great part of East Tennessee.
A few more weeks of unmolested possession and it will be to him a formidable fortress, provisioned for six months and capable of being held by a small garrison against any assailing force. The recovery of Middle Tennessee will thereby be effectually prevented-even though we defeat his armies beyond the river-our only line of supply will be obstructed, and the maintenance of our army cut off. With this state of facts your petitioners approach Your Excellency. They view this campaign as virtually closed. The preponderance of strength by the delays of the last two weeks is again with the enemy. Their re-enforcements must be met as nearly as possible by corresponding re-enforcements to this army. The increasing difficulties of the position require increased resources on our part. Without additional strength the ablest general could not be expected to grapple successfully with the accumulating difficulties of the situation. But in addition to re-enforcements, your petitioners would deem it a dereliction of the sacred duty they owe the country if they did not further ask that Your Excellency assign to the command of this army an officer who will inspire the army and the country with undivided confidence. Without entering into a criticism of the merits of our present commander, your petitioners regard it as a sufficient reason, without assigning others, to urge his being relieved, because, in their opinion, the condition of his health totally unfits him for the command of an army in the field.
In making these representations to Your Excellency your petitioners are aware that the proceeding is unusual among military men, but the extraordinary condition of affairs in this army, the magnitude of the interests at stake, and a sense of the responsibilities under which they rest to Your Excellency and to the Republic, render this proceeding, in their judgment, a matter of solemn duty, from which, as patriots, they cannot shrink. While Your Excellency may be assured that any commander whom you may assign or retain in this army will receive their earnest support, as far as their ability extends, your petitioners cannot withhold from Your Excellency the expression of the fact that under the command, as it now exists, they can render you no assurance of the success which Your Excellency may reasonably expect.
Your petitioners, therefore, protesting that in making these representations they are actuated solely by a sense of public duty, pray that Your Excellency will grant such speedy action as the exigencies of the situation demand.
We are, respectfully, Your Excellency's obedient servants,
Supposed to have been written by Buckner. Signed by Hill Brown, Preston, and others.
W. M. P[OLK].
*See Polk to Davis, October 6, following. Longstreet to Hill, October 4, part IV, p. 728.