of service? It seems to me that our policy depends on the answers to these questions. If that to the first is affirmative we should act promptly; if that to the second is so we should not, but, on the contrary, put off action, if possible, until after the discharge of many of his old soldiers, if any considerable number is to be discharged.
Most respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. E. JOHNSTON,
P. S.- Should Sherman join Thomas this army would require re-enforcement to enable it to hold its ground. Our army, which takes the offensive, should be our strongest in relation to its enemy.
J. E. J.
CONFIDENTIAL.] HDQRS. ARMIES CONFEDERATE STATES,
Richmond, March 12, 1864.
General J. E. JOHNSTON,
Commanding Army of Tennessee, Dalton:
GENERAL: In previous communication it has been intimated to you that the President desires a forward movement by the forces under your command, and it was suggested that such preparations as were practicable and necessary should be commenced immediately. I now desire to lay before you more in detail the views of the Department in regard to the proposed operations, and to inform you of the means intended to be placed at your disposal. Of source, but a general outline is necessary, as matter of detail must be left to your judgment and direction.
It is not deemed advisable to attempt the capture of the enemy's fortified position by direct attack, but to draw him out and then, if practicable, force him to battle in the open field. To accomplish this object we should so move as to concentrate our means between the scattered forces of the enemy, and failing to draw him out for battle, to move upon his lines of communication.
The force in Knoxville depends in a great on its connection with Chattanooga for support, and both are entirely dependent upon regular and rapid communication with Nashville. To separate these two by interposing our main force, and then strike and destroy the railroad from Nashville to Chattanooga, fulfills both conditions. To accomplish this it is proposed that you move as soon as your means and force can be collected so as to reach the Tennessee River near Kingston, where a crossing can be effected; that Lieutenant-General Longstreet move simultaneously by a route east and south of Knoxville, so as to form a junction with you near this crossing. As soon as you come within supporting distance Knoxville is isolated and Chattanooga threatened, with barely a possibility for the enemy to unite. Should he not then offer you battle outside of his entrenched lines, a rapid move across the mountains from Kingston to Sparta (a very practicable and easy route) would place you with a formidable army in a country full of resources, where it is supposed, with a good supply of ammunition, you may be entirely self-sustaining, and it is confidently believed that such a move would necessitate the withdrawal of the enemy to the line of the Cumberland.
At the same time, when this move is made it is proposed to throw a heavy column of cavalry as a diversion into West Tennessee, and thence, if practicable, into Middle Tennessee, to operate on the enemy's lines of communication and distract his attention.