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[129] a few days thereafter, late in the afternoon, and proceeded to the quarters of General Beauregard. On the same evening General Johnston and I called to pay our respects. No official subjects of importance were alluded to in that interview. At 8 o'clock the next evening, by appointment of the President, a conference was had between himself, General Johnston, General Beauregard, and myself. Various matters of detail were introduced by the President, and talked over between himself and the two senior generals. Having but recently arrived, and not being well acquainted with the special subjects referred to, I took little or no part in this conversation. Finally, with perhaps some abruptness, I said: ‘Mr. President, is it not possible to put this army in condition to assume the active offensive?’ adding that this was a question of vital importance, upon which the success or failure of our cause might depend. This question brought on discussion. The precise conversation which followed I do not propose to give; it was not an argument. There seemed to be little difference of opinion between us in regard to general views and principles. It was clearly stated and agreed to that the military force of the Confederate States was at the highest point it could attain without arms from abroad; that the portion of this particular army present for duty was in the finest fighting condition: that if kept inactive it must retrogade immensely in every respect during the winter, the effect of which was foreseen and dreaded by us all. The enemy were daily increasing in number, 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

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