not to risk an engagement it if can be avoided, and you are instructed to regulate your movements with a view to that object. I have thrown everything beyond the Tombigbee, and my line of retreat will be toward Demopolis. You can tale up your line of march whenever you think it expedient. Keep me advised, so that I can put General French in motion, that he may be out of your way. I send a lot of axes to you to be used by a working party, which you will please detail, to obstruct the roads after the cavalry have passed. The detail had better be made from the cavalry under General Ferguson. All bridges should be burned.
Respectfully, general, your obedient servant,
Meridian, February 12, 1864.
GENERAL: The trenching tools have been ordered forward, together with axes, under Captain Jones. The tools will be left at your position. The axes Jones has orders to take with him forward and to report to General Ferguson. With his working part he will, under Ferguson's orders, make such obstructions to the enemy's progress as may be advisable. If you have any suggestions to make to General ferguson in regard to that matter do not hesitate to make them. I am told the point you occupy is a strong one an cannot easily be turned. Obstructions in the way of turning it should be made at the proper time and not until the proper time. If they were interposed too soon it might deter his coming to your strong point. Orders for the cooked rations, &c., placing the troops here on a movable footing, had been already looked to. I shall retain the Missouri and Texas brigades here for the present. Orders for stragglers had already been issued. I shall retain Lieutenant-Colonel Forney with his detachment here for the purpose of gathering them up and returning them. I am such obliged by your private note, in which you say: "I see that the papers are finding fault. If necessary I will come out with a statement showing that you did all you could with the force you had." I had not seen nor heard of anything from the newspapers in relation to army matters up to the receipt of your note. It is natural that persons whose wishes are not realized should in their disappointment indulge in censure. The risk of incurring it is one of the penalties of position, and our shield against it must be the protection which the facts and truth of the whole case afford. In this case the facts, which are known to the intelligent men of the army, afford a covering sufficiently broad to satisfy the candid and the lovers of truth. Your position would make your testimony of value, and I should be gratified by your addressing me such a statement as you propose. I will preserve it and not publish it at present, unless events should make it necessary.
I am, general, your obedient servant,
P. S.- My messenger will remain in your camp until you shall have leisure to prepare your statement.