Depots of subsistence, munitions of war, ambulances,horses, wagons, &c., should be established at certain points not too far from Atlanta for rapid concentration at the proper time. Meantime, whatsoever troops that could safely be withdrawn from the departments already indicated, should be quickly, quietly concentrated at suitable central points, thence to be thrown with all possible dispatch to Dalton with all the means of transportation available of all sorts. At the same time the officer appointed to command this large army should make all his preparation for such a trust and the sudden accumulation of troops of all arms, so that he may able to mold it into a homogeneous mass as early as practicable, and to inaugurate offensive operations without loss of one moment of time that may be obviated. And further, he must be invested with an unrestricted, unembarrassed selection of staff officers and thoroughly emancipated from the least subordination to the views and control of the heads of bureaus at Richmond, a reproduction in this war of that fatal Austrian system, with which no eminently successful commander ever had to contend - a pernicious plan of administration which will clog and hamper the highest military genius, whether of a Napoleon or a Caesar.
I believe the success of the plan of campaign thus sketched and the utter defeat of the enemy would be almost certain.
The question would next be, whether to pursue the routed enemy with vigor tot he banks of the Ohio and Mississippi, or to return to the several sources whence the army was gathered their respective detachments or quotas for the campaign. This should be left, however, to be determined by the nature of the enemy's operations at the time.
I must finally remark that were it possible to concentrate with sufficient expedition, at or about Knoxville, such an army as I have indicated, that would be the better point whence to take the offensive into Middle Tennessee than Dalton, that is, according to the principles of the art, would promise more decisive results, for it is evident we should thus threaten the enemy's communications without exposing our own (Principe II, Art of War). "Le secret de la guerre est dans le secret de communications" (Napoleon).
By a movement from Knoxville we should be doing what is taught in connection with the third maxim (Art of War), to wit: That part of the base of operations is the most advantageous to break out from into the theater of war which conducts the most directly on the enemy's flanks or rear. There may be, however, such practical difficulties in the way of execution of such a movement on that line as may not make it advisable to adopt it.
"The whole science of war," it has been well said, "may be briefly defined as the art of placing in the right position at the right time a mass of troops greater than your enemy can there oppose to you."
These conditions, I sincerely believe, may all be filled by very much such a plan as the one which I have hurriedly placed before you. Of course my views must be subject to such modifications as my want of precise information relative to the number and location of our troops may render necessary.
The hour is critical and grave.
The enemy increaseth every day;
We at the height, are ready to decline.