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[143] during the winter, the effect of which was foreseen and dreaded by us all. The enemy were daily increasing in numbers, arms, discipline, and efficiency —we looked forward to a sad state of things at the opening of a spring campaign. These and other points being agreed upon without argument, it was again asked, “Mr. President, is it not possible to increase the effective strength of this army, and put us in condition to cross the Potomac and carry the war into the enemy's country? Can you not, by stripping other points to the last they will bear, and even risking defeat at all other places, put us in condition to move forward? Success here at this time saves everything, defeat here loses all.” In explanation, and as an illustration of this, the unqualified opinion was advanced, that if, for want of adequate strength on our part in Kentucky, the Federal forces should take military possession of that whole State, and even enter and occupy a portion of Tennessee, that a victory gained by this army beyond the Potomac would, by threatening the heart of the Northern States, compel their armies to fall back, free Kentucky, and give us the line of the Ohio within ten days thereafter. On the other hand, should our forces in Tennessee and Southern Kentucky be strengthened so as to enable us to take and to hold the Ohio River as a boundary, a disastrous defeat of this army would at once be followed by an overwhelming wave of Northern invaders, that would sweep over Kentucky and Tennessee, extending to the northern part of the Cotton States, if not to New Orleans. Similar views were expressed in regard to ultimate results, in Northwestern Virginia, being dependent upon the success or failure of this army; and various other special illustrations were offered—showing, in short, that success here was success everywhere; defeat here, defeat everywhere; and that this was the point upon which all the available force of the Confederate States should be concentrated.

It seemed to be conceded by all that our force, at that time here, was not sufficient for assuming the offensive beyond the Potomac; and that, even with a much larger force, an attack upon their army, under the guns of their fortifications on this side of the river, was out of the question. The President asked me what number of men were necessary, in my opinion, to warrant an offensive campaign, to cross the Potomac, cut off the communication of the enemy with their fortified capital, and carry the war into their country. I answered, “Fifty thousand effective seasoned soldiers;” explaining that by seasoned soldiers I meant such men as we had here present for duty; and added that they would have to be drawn from the peninsula about Yorktown, Norfolk, from Western Virginia, Pensacola, or wherever might be most expedient.

General Johnston and General Beauregard both said that a force of sixty thousand such men would be necessary; and that this force would require large additional transportation and munitions of war, the supplies here being entirely inadequate for an active campaign in the enemy's country, even with our present force. In this connection there was some discussion of the difficulties to be overcome, and the probabilities of success, but no one questioned the disastrous results of remaining inactive throughout the winter.

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