from the west as from the south, and thus to compel the evacuation of the capital. Breckinridge, with a division, and, subsequently, Early, with a corps, were sent to check the advance of the enemy. This was not effected until after he had reached Lynchburg. Our success there drove him in disorder toward the northwest, and gave us an opportunity to assume the offensive, with not unreasonable hope of capturing his capital instead of losing our own. The invasion by Sherman or Grant might as well be denominated a raid as that of Pennsylvania by Early. To save their capital, troops en route to Grant were diverted to Washington, and other troops drawn from Grant to the same place, and the enemy soon had a large force on the upper Potomac. If, then, Early's army had been withdrawn, the enemy could, with their increased force and, therefore, better prospects of success, again have entered on the campaign which had been terminated at Lynchburg, and I should probably have had to exercise the power Congress conferred on me before their adjournment by indicating a new place for their next meeting, and for the want of supplies it would, with equal probability, have become necessary to transfer General Lee's army to the new field of operations.
I do not entertain your apprehension that Early's movement into the enemy's country will weaken the peace element there; on the other hand, it seems to me that if we could make them feel the evils of war at their own door that they would much more fully realize the blessings of peace and much more numerously sustain the policy of stopping the war. It has been necessity alone which has justified our attitude of defense, as it was surely greatly to have been preferred that he battle-fields, with the desolation which is their constant attendant, should all have been on the enemy's soil. Among the reasons for that preference I should estimate as not the least the effect it would have in leading the minds of our enemies to a peaceful solution of the questions at issue, and the future observance of their obligations to our States and people. I have not failed to appreciate your motive, and your frankness needed no apology. Suggestions are often useful, even though not adopted at the time and in the manner proposed, and I too fully realize my need of assistance to be otherwise than thankful for well-meant advice. The first effect of disaster is to always spread a deeper gloom than is due to the occasion. No one was more anxious than myself to prevent the fall of Atlanta. I was not among those who deemed that result inevitable as soon as the enemy had crossed the Chattahoochee, and I was not willing that it should be yielded before manly blows had been struck for its preservation. I think it can be recovered; that if the absentees from Hood's army can be sent back, and the men of Georgia who, by operations of the law are exempt from military service, will give temporarily their aid, that Sherman's army can be driven out of Georgia-perhaps be utterly destroyed. To that end we need the support of a public opinion which will drive to the army all who belong to it and all who ought to belong to it, and with confidence I appeal to you for aid.
Very respectfully, yours, &c.,
[SEPTEMBER 19, 1864.-For Lee to Davis, in reference to Beauregard's assignment to command of Military Division of the West, see Vol. XXXIX, Part II, p. 846.]