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:
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:
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
|In the Trans-Mississippi Department, say||40,000|
|Department of Alabama and Mississippi, say||15,000|
|Under Hardee (including Longstreet), say||60,000|
|Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, say||28,000|
|Department of North Carolina, say||7,000|
|Department of Virginia, say||60,000|
|From Alabama and Mississippi||10,000|
|From South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida||8,000|
|From North Carolina||2,000|