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Correspondence between General A. S. Johnston and Governor Isham

G. Harris.
[We are indebted to His Excellency Governor Porter, of Tennessee, for the following original correspondence, which will be found to be of interest and value.]

Headquarters Western Department, Bowling Green, Ky., December 25th, 1861.
To His Excellency< ISHAM G. Harris, Governor of Tennessee:
Sir: The present situation of affairs is such that I deem it necessary to call the attention of your Excellency to it in connexion with the movements which the enemy meditate towards Tennessee.

My information continues to convince me that a heavy concentration of force on this line has been made to invade Tennessee on the route to Nashville. The troops of Western Virginia and Eastern Kentucky have been withdrawn and ordered upon the line in my front. These regiments, with large reinforcements from Ohio, Indiana and other Northwestern States, have been assembled, and the estimates from the most reliable sources show that General Buell has about 75,000 men, probably more, at his disposition, while the effective force here at my command does not exceed 17,000 men. In order to render these equal to the duty of preserving our frontier and protecting Nashville, I have used every precaution, and feel sanguine that by the dispositions of the last few months, they can be made to hold in check double their number. Bowling Green, naturally strong, has been well entrenched; Columbus Fort, with its garrison and troops on that front guarding the Mississippi, renders the Lower Valley comparatively secure, and General Zollicoffer, on the Cumberland, protects East Tennessee from invasion and possible revolt, which would destroy our communications between the Mississippi and Atlantic States and inflict great injury.

These dispositions will foil the designs of the enemy on East Tennessee and defeat or retard his design to descend the Mississippi this winter. The vulnerable point is by the line from Louisville towards Nashville, and the Northern Generals are evidently [186] aware of it. In order to obtain additional strength, I ordered Major Gilmer, my Chief Engineer, to go to Nashville and arrange defensive works for its protection, and have provided a sufficient armament. I will endeavor to render them unnecessary by defending Nashville here, but a proper forecast should induce all to join in their immediate construction, and I, therefore, ask you to have them completed, or take effective measures to furnish the necessary labor for their execution as soon as possible. The country between this place and Nashville offers no good defensible line, and the works I have ordered should not be neglected.

Such being the situation of affairs, the enemy will be compelled to move against Tennessee by this route or submit to the humiliation of closing a campaign without result or impression upon us in this quarter.

The news from Europe, as well as the dissatisfaction in the North, force them to advance now, or admit that the independence of the Confederacy is virtually established.

The disparity of my force is very great, and exposes our cause to a hazard that it is. most unwise to continue to incur. Ten or fifteen thousand additional troops would make me feel assured of victory. With this additional force I could avail myself of every fault of their movements. Without them, [ must be a spectator without power to seize the opportunities.

Foreseeing all this, for the last four months I have endeavored to obtain additional forces from Tennessee and other States, but, notwithstanding the efforts of your Excellency and other Governors, the response has been feeble and the forces inadequate to the momentous interests involved. If the people could be properly impressed with the vast exigency all would be safe, the designs of the enemy thwarted, and the Northern mind become disspirited and anxious for peace.

A. company now is worth to the South a regiment next year.

Under these circumstances, I once more invoke your Excellency to impress upon your people these views, and solicit you to forward to me here every man at your disposition. If well reinforced now, Tennessee, the Valley of the Mississippi, and the Confederacy is safe.

Returning to your Excellency my sincere thanks for the energetic and efficient co-operation which I have received from you [187] ard Tennessee since I assumed command, I have the honor to subscribe myself with great respect, Your obedient servant,

A. S. Johnston, General C. S. A.
Five thousand men, Bowen's division, will leave Columbus for this place to-day.

Adjutant-General's Office, Nashville, Tennessee, December 31st, 1861.
General A. S. Johnston:
Dear Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of letter of 25th instant. Upon its receipt I immediately appointed energetic agents to collect laborers in this and adjoining counties to construct the fortifications near Nashville, but I must say that the response to my appeal for laborers has not thus far been as flattering as I had wanted and expected. 1 shall have within a very few days some 200 negro men at this work, and hope soon to increase this number to 500 or 600. Telegraphed you the same day your letter came to hand, asking how many laborers you thought necessary, about what length of time they would be employed, and what engineer would supervise and control the work. Answers to which would have aided me in securing the laborers, but have as yet received no reply. I fully appreciate the exigencies by which you are, surrounded, and, as I have heretofore, I shall continue to use every effort within my power, and all resources at my command to strengthen your position and to secure the country from invasion. In order, however, that the present resources of the State may not be overestimated, it is proper that I give you at least an approximate idea of them and some of the difficulties which I encounter at every step. Tennessee has now organized and in the field, in addition to some independent companies, 52 infantry regiments and one battalion, nine battalions of cavalry, and two regiments of artillery; volunteer companies are now in camp, under orders to move to rendezvous, sufficient to form six additional infantry regiments and two battalions of cavalry, making the whole force about sixty-six regiments. This force, large as it is, is drawn almost entirely from two divisions of the State, the unfortunate political dissensions in East Tennessee, with near [188] one-third of the voting population of the State, having almost paralyzed that section, but I am pleased to state that these divisions and dissensions are rapidly disappearing, and I hope soon to see a united people in Tennessee, when we may reasonably expect reinforcements from that section; but, with the immense tax upon the population of Middle and West Tennessee to make up the force already referred to, I do not hope for any considerable number of volunteers from either of these divisions, unless it be upon pressing emergency, when I fell assured that a patriotic response will be made by almost our whole people to meet such emergency.

But the difficulty is not, nor has it been, in obtaining men. The inadequate supply of arms has been and is the chief obstacle which I encounter in promptly furnishing to you any reasonable number of reinforcements. With the greatest possible energy it takes time to collect and repair the private arms of the country, and this is the only means I have of arming the force now called to the field. I have spared neither effort, pains or expense in expediting the work, and yet it has been, and is, impossible to proceed with it rapidly. In furnishing arms to the large force above referred to, the State has heretofore drawn from the hands of her citizens their most effective private arms. Almost every gun that we get at this time must necessarily pass through the hands of the smiths before it is fit for service; and in this connection it is well to remark that Tennessee, less fortunate than some of her sister States, had no United States arsenal or depository of arms within her limits from which her troops might have been supplied; that but comparatively a small number of her force have been armed independent of the State, and that upon assuming connexion with the Confederate States all of her contracts for the manufacture of arms and other materials of war were assigned and transferred to the Confederate Government. I am sure, General, you will appreciate and make due allowance for the difficulties that lie in my way in the work of arming the forces of Tennessee under these circumstances.

I trust I shall be able with the inferior arms of the country to arm the volunteers now in, and that many will hereafter come into camp.

Very respectfully,


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Albert Sidney Johnston (3)
Isham G. Harris (2)
Zollicoffer (1)
J. D. Porter (1)
Isham (1)
G. Harris (1)
Harry Gilmer (1)
Buell (1)
Bowen (1)
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December 31st, 1861 AD (1)
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