Sixth. To inspirit it and the country, and to depress the enemy, involving the greatest results.
Seventh. To obviate the necessity of falling back likely to occur if the enemy be allowed to consummate his own plans.
To these considerations, received by the general with courteous attention, he replied, in effect, that no one could more thoroughly appreciate them than he did, nor could the demands of the country by more sensibly felt by any than by himself; that he cordially approved of an aggressive movement, sanctioned by his judgment, and would make it the very moment he was reasonably strengthened therefor, that movement being, however, different from the advance into Tennessee, which had been previously suggested to him, and promising fair results without the hazard of ruin involved in the other. In the existing state of facts his judgment could not approve the proposal immediately to advance into Tennessee, so as to encounter the enemy far beyond Chattanooga, for these reasons:
First. The enemy is, in fact, not weakened in Tennessee, but is, if anything, stronger than at Missionary Ridge. General Wheeler estimated their force to be-Fifteenth Corps (McPherson's), from Decatur to Bridgeport, 15,000; First (Hooker's), from Nashville to Chattanooga, 14,000; Fourteenth (Palmer's), at Chattanooga and Ringgold, 18,000; Fourth (Howard's), at Cleveland, 18,000; making of infantry proper, 65,000; also Twenty-third (Schofield's mounted infantry), at Knoxville, 12,000, and Hovey's division, Ringgold, 6,000; cavalry, 15,000, and artillery, 5,000; making an effective total of 103,000, besides about 15,000 negro troops, and 5,000 unassigned (but armed) Tennesseeans.
Second. This army-34,500 infantry, 2,811 artillery, 2,085 effective cavalry, making in all 39,396, with additions now contingently proposed from General Polk-will not be strong enough to advance at once into Tennessee.
Third. The immense trains essential for supporting the army through such a wilderness must be greatly exposed, and would render the force needed for their protection powerless against the enemy.
Fourth. Transportation for these not adequately available for a month. This Lieutenant-Colonel Cole, superintended transportation C. S. Army, stated in my presence.
Fifth. Means for securing supplies in presence of the enemy would be inadequate, even if the abundant country of Middle Tennessee were reached.
Sixth. The enemy is apparently preparing to advance before we can.
Seventh. Disaster beyond the Tennessee would probably prove ruinous-this army be destroyed, Georgia occupied, the Confederacy pierced in its vitals, and all the Southwest lost.
On these grounds he deems it wisest and his duty-
First. To stand on the defensive till strengthened; to watch, prepare, and then strike as soon as possible.
Second. To have sent him immediately all the troops that can be furnished from other points.
Third. At the earliest day possible to advance to Ringgold, attack the enemy there, and, if successful, as expected, if it be done promptly, strike at Cleveland; then cut the railroad, control the river, and thus isolate East Tennessee. This would probably force the enemy to a general battle this side the Tennessee.