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[295]

General:
I had the honor to receive your letter of the 12th from Colonel Sale yesterday, and to make a suggestion, by telegraph, on the subject to which it relates.

Permit me to suggest that the troops intended for the operations you explain should be assembled in this vicinity. The enemy could, without particular effort, prevent their junction near Kingston by attacking one of our armies with his united forces. His interior positions make it easy. There is another reason: Grant's return to Tennessee indicates that he will retain that command, for the present at least. He certainly will not do so to stand on the defensive. I therefore believe that he will advance as soon as he can, with the greatest force he can raise. We cannot estimate the time he will require for preparation, and should, consequently, put ourselves in condition for successful resistance as soon as possible, by assembling here the troops you enumerate. I am doing all I can in other preparations, and do not doubt that abundance of ammunition, food, and forage, will be collected long before we can be supplied with field-transportation. My department is destitute of mules. I must, therefore, depend on the Quartermaster's Department for them.

It strikes me that we cannot “isolate” Knoxville in the manner you propose, because we cannot hope to be able to take with us such supplies as would enable us to remain on the line of communication long enough to incommode the forces there. We cannot do so unless we can occupy a position from which we can maintain our own communications and


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