And yet, if we had troops enough to secure our position here, and at the same time to operate with advantage on Raleigh or Richmond, I would not hesitate to do so, at least for a winter or spring campaign. But our numbers are not sufficient, in my opinion, to attempt this, at least for the present. Troops sent south of James River cannot be brought back in time to oppose Lee, should he attempt a movement north, which I am satisfied would be his best policy.
Our main efforts in the next campaign should unquestionably be made against the armies of Lee and Johnston, but what particular lines we shall operate cannot be positively determined until the affairs of East Tennessee are settled, and we can know more nearly time, it will be well to compare views and opinions. The final decision of this question will probably depend, under the President, upon yourself.
It may be said that if General McClellan failed to take Richmond by the Peninsula route, so also have Generals Burnside, Hooker, and Meade failed to accomplish that object by the shorter and more direct route. This is all very true, but no argument can be deduced from this bare fact in favor of either plan of operations. General McClellan had so large an army in the spring of 1862 that possibly he was justified in dividing his forces and adopting exterior lines of operations. If he had succeeded, his plan would have been universally praised. He failed, and so also have Burnside, Hooker, and Meade on an interior route; but their armies were for inferior in number to that which McClellan had tow years ago. These facts in themselves prove nothing in favor of either route, and to decide the question we must recur to fundamental principles in regard to interior and exterior lines, objective points covering armies, divided forces, &c. These fundamental principles require, in my opinion, that all our available forces in the east should be concentrated against Lee's army. We cannot take Richmond [at least with any miliary advantage], and we cannot operate advantageously on any point from the Atlantic coast, till we destroy or disperse that army, and the nearer to Washington we can fight it the better for us. We can here, or between here and Richmond, concentrate against him more men than anywhere else. If we cannot defeat him here with our combined force, we cannot hope to do so elsewhere with a divided army.
I write to you plainly and frankly, for between us there should be no reserve or concealment of opinions. As before remarked, I presume, under the authority of the President, the final decision of these questions will be referred to you. Nevertheless, I think you are entitled to have, and that it is my duty to frankly give, my individual opinion on the subject. It will no doubt e received for what it may be intrinsically worth; I can ask or expect nothing more.
In regard to the operations of our Western armies I fully concur in your views, but I think the condition of affairs in East Tennessee and west of Mississippi River will require some modification in your plans, or at least will very much delay the operations of your proposed spring campaign.
These, however, are delays and changes which neither of us could anticipate.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. HALLECK,