there were substantially five questions propounded for their consideration and answer, viz.:-- 1. Has the enemy in our front been materially weakened by detachments to Johnson or elsewhere? 2. Can this army advance on him at this time with reasonable chances of fighting a great and successful battle P 3. Do you think an advance of our army at present likely to prevent additional reenforcements being sent against General Grant by the enemy in our front? 4. Do you think an immediate advance of this army advisable? 5. Do you think an early advance advisable? Many of.these answers are not categorical, and cannot be clearly set down either as affirmative or negative; especially in answer to the first question there is much indefiniteness, resulting from the difference of judgment as to how great a detachment could be considered a “material reduction” of Bragg's strength. For example, one officer thinks it has been reduced ten thousand, but not “materially weakened.” The answers to the second question are modified in some instances by the opinion that the rebels will fall back behind the Tennessee River, and thus no battle can be fought, either successful or unsuccessful. So far as these opinions can be stated in tabular form, they will stand thus:--
On the fifth question, three gave it as their opinion that this *army ought to advance as soon as Vicksburg falls, should that event happen.
The following is a summary of the reasons assigned why we should not, at this time, advance upon the enemy :--
1. With Hooker's army defeated, and Grant's bending all its energies in a yet undecided struggle, it is bad policy to risk our only reserve army to the chances of a general engagement.
A failure here would have most disastrous effects on our lines of communication, and on politics in the loyal states.
2. We should be compelled to fight the enemy on his own ground, or follow him in a fruitless stern chase, or, if we attempted to outflank him and turn his position, we should expose our line of communication, and run the risk of being pushed back into a rough country, well known to the enemy and little known to ourselves.
3. In case the enemy should fall back without accepting battle, he could make our advance very slow, and, with a comparatively small force posted in the gaps of the mountains, could hold us back while he crossed the Tennessee River, where he would be measurably secure and free to send reenforcements to Johnson.
His forces in East Tennessee could seriously harass our left flank and constantly disturb our communications.
4. The withdrawal of Burnside's Ninth army corps deprives us of an important reserve and flank protection, thus increasing the difficulty of an advance.
5. General Hurlburt has sent the most of his forces away to General Grant, thus leaving West Tennessee uncovered, and laying our right flank and rear open to raids of the enemy.
The following incidental opinions are expressed:--
1. One officer thinks it probable that the enemy has been strengthened rather than weakened, and that he would have a reasonable prospect of victory in a general battle.
2. One officer believes the result of a general battle would be doubtful, a victory barren, and a defeat most disastrous.
3. Three officers believe that an advance would bring on a general engagement.
Three believe it would not.
4. Two officers express the opinion that the chances of success in a general battle are nearly equal.
5. One officer expresses the belief that our army has reached its maximum strength and efficiency, and that inactivity will seriously impair its effectiveness.
6. Two officers say that an increase of our cavalry, by about six thousand men, would materially change the aspect of our affairs and give us a decided advantage.
In addition to the above summary, I have the honor to submit an estimate of the strength of Bragg's army, gathered from all the data I have been able to obtain, including the estimate of the General commanding in his official report of the battle of Stone River; facts gathered from prisoners, deserters, scouts, and refugees, and from rebel newspapers.
After the battle he consolidated many of his decimated regiments and irregular organizations, and at the time of his sending reenforcements to Johnson his army had reached its greatest effective strength.
It consisted of five divisions of infantry, composed of ninety-four regiments, and two independent battalions of sharpshooters — say ninety-five regiments.
By a law of the Confederate Congress, regiments are consolidated when their effective strength falls below two hundred and fifty.
Even the regiments formed by such consolidation (which may reasonably be regarded as the fullest) must fall below five hundred men; I am satisfied that four hundred is a large estimate of the average strength.
The force would then be,--
This force has been reduced by detachments to Johnson.
It is as well known as we can ever expect to ascertain such facts, that three brigades have gone from McCown's division and two or three from Breckinridge's; say two.
It is clear
|Answer to first question,||6||“Yes.”||11||“No.”|
|Answer to second question,||2||“Yes.”||11||“No.”|
|Answer to third question,||4||“Yes.”||10||“No.”|
|Answer to fourth question,||0||“Yes.”||15||“No.”|
|Answer to fifth question,||0||“Yes.”||2||“No.”|
|Infantry, 95 regiments,||400 each,||38,000|
|Cavalry, 35 regiments, say||500 each,||17,500|
|Artillery, 26 batteries, say||100 each,||2,600|