Your reasons for your recent withdrawal from before Knoxville are conclusive. Your inform me that the strength of its fortifications, heretofore tested by you, has been increased, and that that portion of Tennessee has been devastated. With your dependence upon the railroad for supplies, which were to be brought from here, you cold hardly hope to starve out the enemy at Knoxville, or, it you took it, to use it as a base for future operations. There difficulties would have been incased by adding to the number of your troops, and your plans for the capture of Knoxville required a re-enforcement of 10,000 men. This force was not available for your suggested purpose. In view of the se considerations, your retreat see men expedition.
The line indicated in your former letter was suggested as preferable to falling back to Bristol, as you proposed in your telegram of February 20, and was not designated as an exact position to be occupied. Subsistence and topographical features must, in connection with the disposition of the enemy's forces, mainly be considered in setting that question, and the decision could not be definitely made here.
In your telegram of January 29 to General Cooper you complain that one-half of General Martin's command is detained at Dalton, and suggest that unless these men can be sent to you that General Martin's command be sent back to General Wheeler. In view of the co-operation you required from Colonel Johnston, and the disintegration of Wheeler's command by the absence of General Martin's force, and its scattered condition, as represented by you, it seemed best to sent it to Dalton.
You have received the brigade of General Hodge since that order, which, as reported to me, should restore your cavalry to about three-fourth the number is had before General Martin was ordered away, and General Morgan's force, when fully assembled, must remove any numerical deficiency which may until then, exist. The plan of mounting your whole force, if desirable, was impracticable. In your letter of February 22 to the Secretary of War you proposed that 6,000 or 8,000 horses should be procured from the armies of Generals Lee, Beauregard, and Johnston.
An embarrassing scarcity of horses is complained of by the first and last named generals, and there is great difficulty in supplying their ascertained wants. But, could the horses be sent to you, the forage could not be forwarded from here, and, as appears from your telegrams and letters, it is to this point you look for the means of feeding the horses of your command.
In suggesting the junction at Maryville it was contemplated that the movement should be so masked as not to be known until well advanced, and this might be effected by passing to the south of the Smoky range of mountains, which would then cover the flank of your column.
In your proposed plan to re-enforce General Johnston by using the railroad from Greeneville, S. C., you will perceived the troops must be transported from Kingsville on a railroad which forms part of the route over which the corn is brought from Georgia to feed the Army of Virginia. It cannot move troops and adequately bring forward supplies at the same time. To furnish you the troops you require, in your proposed plan, from General Beauregard, and to re-enforce General Johnstom from Mobile and the West, would expose all of our productive country an the principal cities of the South, the reserve proposed to be retained at Atlanta being too