re-enforcements. To assume the offensive from this point we must move either into Middle or East Tennessee. To the first the obstacles are: Chattanooga, now a fortress, the Tennessee River, the rugged desert of the Cumberland Mountains, and an army outnumbering ours more than two to one. The second course would leave the way into Georgia open. We have neither subsistence nor field transportation enough for either march. General Bragg and Lieutenant-General Hardee, in suggesting the offensive, proposed to operate with a powerful army formed upon this as a nucleus. The former was unable to advance before the arrival of Sherman had added 25,00 men to the Federal army, and the march of Longstreet into East Tennessee had reduced ours by 12,000 . The latter, in his letter to you of the 17th ultimo, expresses the opinion that this army is too weak to oppose the enemy should he advance.* There would be much less difficulty, I think,in advancing from Northern Mississippi, avoiding the mountains.
I can see no other mode of taking the offensive here than to beat the enemy when he advances, and then move forward. But to make victory probable, the army must be strengthened. A ready mode of doing this would be by substituting negroes for all soldiers on detached or daily duty, as well as company cooks, pioneers, and laborers of engineer service. This would give us at once 10,000 or 12,000 men, and the other armies of the Confederacy might be strengthened in the same proportion. Immediate and judicious legislation would be necessary, however.
I earnestly ask Your Excellency's consideration of this matter. A law authorizing the Government to take negroes for all the duties out of the ranks for which soldiers are now detailed, giving the slave a portion of the pay and punishing the master for not returning him if he deserts, would enable us to keep them in the service. This is the opinion of seven or eight ranking officers present.
My experience in Mississippi was that impressed negroes run away whenever it is possible, and are frequently encouraged by their masters to do so, and I never knew one to be returned by his master.
I respectfully suggest the division of this army into three corps, and should Your Excellency adopt that suggestion, the appointment of lieutenant-generals from some other army.
Most respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. E. JOHNSTON,
DALTON, January 2, 1864.
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS:
An officer leaving General Longstreet on the 21st ultimo reports that the cavalry had returned to him. I suppose that the dispatch to me was to ask consent to retain.
J. E. JOHNSTON.
ALTLANTA, GA., January 2, 1864.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond, Va.:
GENERAL: Having received no reply to my letter of 9th ultimo, I have the honor again to call your attention to the fact that the
*See Vol. XXXI, Part III, p. 839.