War of the Rebellion: Serial 052 Page 0416 KY.,SW.VA.,TENN.,MISS.,N.ALA., AND N.GA. Chapter XLII.

Search Civil War Official Records

[Inclosurel No. 1.]


1863-11.30 a.m.

Captain P. P. OLDERSHAW,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Twenty-first Army Corps:

CAPTAIN: During the night I changed my position to get a stronger one and also to place my rear on the Trenton road, giving my by this move direct and shorter line of retreat with a better road (in case of such necessity) than the circuitous, long, and bad road by Whiteside's. I have directed Captain Leavell to take the posts off the Whiteside line. The suggestion that I might wish to communicate with General Van Cleve (who is 2 1/2 miles from Whiteside's), is not of any worth. If I were attacked here, I would either be able to dispose of the enemy or he of me long before any assistance could reach me from General Van Cleve. My position here is extremely hazardous. If I were only subject to a front attack I should care nothing about it. But I can be attacked in rear as well as in front. The valley is a double one, somewhat like the Sequatchie Valley at Dunlap And Therman. I have scarcely force enough to cover one of these. The enemy can attack in front, coming up the valley I occupy, and pass a force up the other valley, thence to my rear, which of course would destroy my command, and cause the capture of all except those who might incontinently throw down their arms and flee to the mountains. A movement of General Palmer's division within 2 or 3 miles of me would effectually shelter me from the danger of a rear attack and capture, and could scarcely, in the grand movements of the whole army, be said to be a change, certainly not a material one, from the position designated for it in orders (namely, the junction of the Murphy's Valley road with the "good wagon road to Naylor's), as he would still be in two or three hours' march of that point. Besides securing the safety of my command, another very great and decided advantage would be obtained by giving General Palmer's command the position I suggest. It would enable me to make much bolder and efficient examination of the enemy's position,as I would then be freed from the necessity of providing for the safety of my rear. All the dangers and difficulties of my position increase as I advance toward the enemy; the valleys widen, making it utterly impossible to protect my flank and rear. With them secured I could push boldly up to the enemy's front. I cannot believe General Rosecrans desires such a blind adherence to the mere letter of his order for the general disposition of his forces as naturally jeopardizes the safety of the most salient portions of it, and certainly cripples the force and vigor and accuracy of its reconnaissances. I would,therefore, repeat most earnestly my suggestion to advance General Palmer's command to within some 2 miles of me, and if General Crittenden should not feel authorized to make the change, I request he will submit this communication to General Rosecrans for the purpose of obtaining the desired authority.

Though I made a very vigorous forced reconnaissance of the enemy's position yesterday, and left him pretty strongly, I will, in obedience to orders, send out Harker's brigade on this mission today, holding the remainder of the force in hand to meet contingencies.

I should be glad to know how long I shall probably be kept here,