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Doc. 53.-Beauregade's letter to Pierre Soule.

headquarters Drpartment of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, Charleston, S. C., December 8, 1863.
Hon. Pierre Soule, Richmond, Va.:
My dear Sir: In compliance with your request made on the eve of your departure for Richmond, I have prepared for you a sketch of certain operations by which we may yet retrieve our late losses, and possibly baffle the immense resources of men and available material of our enemy:

1. The system hitherto followed of keeping in the field separate armies, acting without concert on distant and diverging lines of operations, and thus enabling our adversary to concentrate at convenience his masses against our fractions, must be discontinued as radically contrary to the principles of the art of war, and attended with inevitable results such as our disasters in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Northern Georgia.

2. We must arrange for a sudden and rapid concentration, upon some selected, decisive strategic point of the theatre of war, of enough troops to crush the forces of the enemy embodied in that quarter. This must necessarily [633] be done at the expense or hazard, for the time, of other points less important, or offering less advantages; for striking the enemy a blow thus struck will necessarily disorganize his combinations and give us the choice of the field of operations.

I am sensibly aware of our limited means, our want of men, the material appliances of war and of transportation, and hence the difficulties which will embarrass us in the execution of this plan of concentration; but I see no way to success except through and by it. A different course may indeed protract the contest, which will become day by day more unequal; we may fight stoutly, as hitherto, many more bloody and indecisive battles, but will never win a signal, conclusive victory, until we can manage to throw a heavy and overwhelming mass of our forces upon the fractions of the enemy, and at the same time successfully strike at his communications, without exposing our own.

I believe this may yet be done. Not knowing, however, our present available forces, and their locations, I am unable to make a definite or detailed plan of operations. But I believe I am warranted in assuming that we have under arms two hundred and ten thousand effective men, distributed nearly as follows:

In the Trans-Mississippi Department, say40,000
Department of Alabama and Mississippi, say15,000
Under Hardee (including Longstreet), say60,000
Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, say28,000
Department of North Carolina, say7,000
Department of Virginia, say60,000

Looking at a map of the Confederate States, it will be seen that the most injurious blow which the enemy could strike at present would be to take possession of Atlanta — thus isolating still more completely the Trans-Mississippi States, and detaching, in a great measure, the States of Mississippi and Alabama from the Eastern portion of the Confederacy. It would also be a deplorable injury to the energetic, populous State of Georgia, and cripple the resources of that people. We should, therefore, regard Atlanta as the actual objective point of the large force which the enemy has concentrated about Chattanooga, and the one which we must, at all cost, prevent him from obtaining. In this state of affairs, throwing aside all other considerations, subordinating all other operations to this one vital campaign, at a concerted moment we must withdraw from other points a portion of their forces — all, indeed, not absolutely essential for keeping up a show of defence or safety against a coup-de-main--and concentrate in this way every available soldier possible, for operations against General Grant.

Such strategic points as Richmond, Weldon, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, and Meridian, or Jackson, Miss., at the same time, should be fortified, garrisoned, and provisioned, according to their present relative value to the Confederate States, sufficiently to prolong their defence, if attacked or besieged, until troops for their relief could be detached as required from the army in North-western Georgia. I will now state, approximately, what troops may, in my belief, be drawn from the following quarters, and added to the army at or about Dalton, namely:

From Alabama and Mississippi10,000
From South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida8,000
From North Carolina2,000
From Virginia20,000

These forty thousand men, added with celerity to the force now under Hardee, and including that under Longstreet, and other detachments, would make an army of one hundred thousand men. Let this army take the offensive at once, and, properly handled, it should crush any force that Grant could assemble in time and oppose, scattered, as he evidently is, and unprepared, as he would be, for such an event. To insure the success of a plan of operations, the press must be led to preserve complete silence touching all military movements. Depots of subsistence, munitions of war, ambulances, wagons, horses, etc., should be established at certain points, not too far from Atlanta, for rapid concentration at the proper time. Meantime, whatsoever troops that could safely be withdrawn from the departments already indicated, should be quickly, quietly concentrated at suitable central points, thence to be thrown forward with all possible despatch to Dalton, with all the means of transportation available, of all sorts. At the same time, the officer appointed to command this large army should make all his preparations for such a trust, and the sudden accumulation of troops of all arms, so that he may be able to mould it into a homogeneous mass as early as practicable, and to inaugurate offensive operations without loss of one moment of time that may be obviated; and further, he must be invested with an unrestricted, unembarrassed selection of staff officers, and thoroughly emancipated from the least subordination to the views and control of the heads of bureaus at Richmond — a reproduction, in this war, of that fatal Austrian system with which no eminently successful commander ever had to contend — a pernicious plan of administration which will clog and hamper the highest military genius, whether of a Napoleon or Caesar.

I believe the success of the plan of campaign thus sketched, and the utter defeat of the enemy, would be almost certain.

The question would next be, whether to pursue the routed enemy with vigor to the banks of the Ohio and Mississippi, or to return to the several sources, whence the army was gathered, their respective detachments or quotas for the campaign. This should be left, however, to be [634] determined by the nature of the enemy's operations at the time.

I must finally remark that, were it possible to concentrate, with sufficient expedition, at or about Knoxville, such an army as I have indicated, that would be the better point whence to take the offensive into Middle Tennessee than Dalton — that is, according the principles of the art, would promise more decisive results; for it is evident we should thus threaten the enemy's communications without exposing our own. (Principle II., Art of War), “Le secret de la guerre est dans le secret dess communications.” --Napoleon. By a movement from Knoxville, we should be doing what is taught in connection with the Third Maxim (Art of War), to wit: “That part of the base of operations is the most advantageous to break out from into the theatre of war which conducts the most directly on the enemy's flank or rear.” There may be, how ever, such practical difficulties in the way of the execution of such a movement on that line as may not make it advisable to adopt it. “The whole science of war,” it has been well said, “may be briefly defined as the art of placing, in the right position, at the right time, a mass of troops greater than your enemy can there oppose to you.” These conditions, I sincerely believe, may be filled by very much such a plan as the one which I have hurriedly placed before you. Of course my views must be subject to such modification as my want of precise information relative to the number and location of our troops may render necessary.

The hour is critical and grave--

The enemy increaseth every day,
We, at the height, are ready to decline.

I am filled with intense anxiety lest golden opportunities shall be lost — lost forever. In no theatre of human actions is it so true as in war--

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
* * * * * *
And we must take the current where it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

It is concentration and immediate mobility that are indispensable to save us.

Yours, sincerely,

G. T. Beauregaud.
Official: A. Terry, A. A. General.

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Pierre Soule (2)
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