There would be no necessity that General Johnston should pursue the enemy rapidly, so as to expose himself to the enemy.
He could throw the cavalry under Generals Lee (S. D.), Forrest, Roddey, and Wheeler upon the enemy's rear, and damage him so much during the retreat that he would hardly be prepared to give us battle in Kentucky when he reached there. If we should fight him in Kentucky with General Beauregard's army alone, there can be no great doubt but we can greatly cripple him without any great injury to ourselves, and then move back and join General Johnston at our leisure.
My troops can start upon this or any other move in three days. General Beauregard could not prepare, however, sooner than the 1st of April. If we can get the troops in motion by that time we shall be able to take the initiative, as the enemy will not be prepared to move before the 1st of May. He may, and probably will, make a diversion in Virginia before that time for the purpose of trying to draw my troops from the West, and thus put a stop to this campaign. He seems already in some concern about our position and movements.
These ideas are given under the supposition that, if they are through worthy to be adopted, it will be done with determination to execute the movements with such undivided vigor as to insure great results. In order that there may be as little delay as possible, I have hurriedly given my views. In my hurry I fear that I may not have made myself as well understood as I would like, and I may have failed to make the suggestion as much in detail as you would like.
I remain, sir, with great respect, your most obedient servant,
Petersburg, Va., March 16, 1864.
General R. E. LEE,
DEAR GENERAL: I have delayed at this place to answer the letter of the President, which you read to me in his presence on Monday. I send you a copy of the letter as the readiest means of explaining my appreciation of our position.* I fear that my views may not be regarded by the President and General Bragg as worthy of much attention; as I have better hope of calm consideration from you, I send them to you. The move of Beauregard's and my forces will, if as strong as it should be made, say even 40,000 men (infantry and artillery), be the begining of the end of this war. It can be made, and therefore should be made, even if it costs us some little inconvenience elsewhere. It can be made an entire success. Your influence with the President, and your prestige as a great leader, will enable you to cause its adoption and successful execution. You can remain with your present army until the head of our column reaches Cumberland Mountains.
It is quite probable that the enemy will be too much occupied for his safety in the event to attempt anything in Virginia. If he should, your successor could fight him well enough to prevent any serious trouble, or he could retire slowly, and depend upon the fortifications. All of the preparations for our move into Kentucky I
* See p. 637.
41 R R - VOL XXXII, PT III