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[461] Bridgeport, and Stevenson, with a detached force at Knoxville, were weaker in numbers than at any time since the battle of Missionary Ridge, and that they were especially deficient in cavalry and in artillery and train horses. I desired, therefore, that prompt and vigorous measure be taken to enable our troops to commence active operations against the enemy as early as practicable. It was important to guard against the injurious results to the morale of the troops which always attend a prolonged season of inactivity; the recoverey of the territory in Tennessee and Kentucky, which we had been compelled to abandon, and on the supplies of which the proper subsistence of our armies mainly depended, imperatively demanded an onward movement. I believed that, by a rapid concentration of our troops between the scattered forces of the enemy, without attempting to capture his entrenched positions, we could compel him to accept battle in the open field, and that, should we fail to draw him out of his entrenchments, we could move upon his line of communications. The Federal force at Knoxville depended mainly for support on its connection with that at Chattanooga, and both were wholly dependent on uninterrupted communication with Nashville. If, by interposing our force, we could separate these two bodies of the enemy, and cut off his communication from Nashville to Chattanooga by destroying the railroad, both conditions would be fulfilled. Of the practicability of this movement I had little doubt; of its expediency, if practicable, there could be none. I impressed repeatedly upon General Johnston by letter, and by officers of my staff and others sent to him by me for the purpose of putting him in possession of these views, the importance of a prompt aggressive movement by the Army of Tennessee. The following were among the considerations presented to General Johnston, at my request, by Brigadier General W. N. Pendleton, chief of artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia, on April 16, 1864:

1. To take the enemy at disadvantage while weakened, it is believed, by having sent troops to Virginia and by having others still absent on furlough.

2. To break up his plans by anticipating and frustrating his combinations.

3. So to press him in his present position as to prevent his heavier massing in Virginia.

4. To defeat him in battle, and gain great consequent strength in supplies, men, and productive territory.

5. To prevent the waste of the army incident to inactivity.

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J. E. Johnston (2)
R. Randolph Stevenson (1)
W. N. Pendleton (1)
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April 16th, 1864 AD (1)
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