with a force entirely inadequate to the defense of that important region.
was concentrating in Kentucky
, for the invasion of East Tennessee
, a force variously estimated at from twenty to more than thirty thousand men. It was estimated that on the Kentucky
border there were, at least, ten or twelve thousand Federal troops, under the command of a General Judah
, five thousand of which were excellent cavalry.
This body was in a position to threaten the right flank of the Confederate army at Tullahoma
if it should remain there, or greatly embarrass its movements if it retreated.
did not doubt that there would be an early advance of this formidable line-that Rosecrans
would press on him, and Burnside
simultaneously fall upon Buckner-and he knew that the Confederate
positions could not be held.
So soon as he fully realized the danger, he determined, as the only means of saving his attenuated army from utter annihilation by the enemy's masses, to promptly retreat to the south of the Tennessee river
But retreat to the army in front of Rosecrans
was in no wise easy or free from hazard.
To cross the Tennessee
, with the Federal
columns pushing close on its rear and flanks, threatened danger to that army almost as serious as a battle.
Nor could battle be avoided, or long delayed, even if this retreat was successfully accomplished.
The Confederate General knew that somewhere in the vicinity of Chattanooga
he would have to turn upon his foes and fight.
It was no longer possible to defend Middle Tennessee
A greater sacrifice, the evacuation of East Tennessee
--the citadel of the Confederacy-was, perhaps, necessary.
But retreat, continued too far, would degenerate into flight, and bring speedy ruin.
After the safe withdrawal of his army from Tullahoma
to the new line south of the Tennessee
's chief object would be to delay Judah
— the latter especially-and to retard their advance and junction with Rosecrans
until after reinforcements he was expecting from Virginia
He even hoped that circumstances might be so ordered as to prohibit a part of these forces, at least, from appearing in season for the decisive battle he intended to deliver.
In this strategic emergency he saw no means of diverting the attention of the enemy, and of securing the much-needed time for the consummation of his plans, save by an energetic use of his cavalry.
While vigorously pushing Rosecrans
' outposts with the divisions of Martin
, in accordance with this policy, he designed for Morgan
, in pursuance of the same plan, a far more important service.
The latter was instructed to move rapidly with two thousand men of his division in the direction of Louisville