- Disposition of the Confederate troops. -- affair at Dug Gap. -- cavalry light at Varnell's Station. -- fighting at Resaca. -- General Wheeler encounters Stoneman's cavalry. -- army withdrawn to Resaca to meet flanking movement of the enemy.
As, since the President's letter of December 23d, no reference had been made to the design of recovering Middle Tennessee, I reminded him of it on the 27th, through General Bragg, who was virtually his chief staff-officer, in the following letter:
General Bragg replied on the 4th of March:
Reply, dated March 12, 1864.
 On the 18th Colonel Sale, General Bragg's military secretary, brought me the following letter from that officer, dated the 12th:
As invited at the conclusion of this letter, I expressed “my views” both by telegraph and mail, without delay; and still more fully by the intelligent officer who had brought the plan of campaign to me from Richmond. The telegram, dispatched in an hour or two, was in these words, addressed to General Bragg:
Your letter by Colonel Sale received. Grant is at Nashville; Sherman, by last accounts, at Memphis; where Grant is, we must expect the great Federal effort; we ought, therefore, to be prepared to beat him here; he has not come back to Tennessee to stand on the defensive; his advance, should we be ready for it, will be advantageous for us; to be ready, we must have the troops you name immediately, otherwise we might be beaten, which would decide events; give us those troops, and if we beat him, we follow; should he not advance, we will then be ready for the offensive; the troops can be fed as easily here as where they now are.The letter referred to was addressed also to General Bragg on the same day: 
Besides the foregoing, other reasons for opposing the plan of operations explained by General Bragg, were committed to Colonel Sale, to be delivered orally-such as: That the interior positions belonged to the enemy, instead of being held by us as was supposed by the military authorities in Richmond; for the Federal army at Knoxville, equally distant from Chattanooga and Dalton, was exactly between Longstreet and our main army-and, to unite near Kingston as proposed, each of our armies would be compelled to march in front of a much greater Federal force, exposed to attack in a column five times as long and not a tenth as strong as its order of battle; that the only manner in which we could “isolate” Knoxville would be by placing our  united forces on the road from that place to Chattanooga, at the point nearest to Dalton, and employing our cavalry, with its artillery, to close the navigation of the Tennessee — the army in Chattanooga might be induced in that way to attack in order to drive us back and reopen the routes to Knoxville; and that the attempt to unite the Army of Tennessee and Longstreet's corps, near Kingston, would be a violation of a sound military rule, never to assemble the troops that are to act together, in such a manner that the enemy's army may attack any considerable body of them before their union. General Bragg replied on the 21st to my dispatch of the 18th. His telegram, received on the 22d, indicated that the plan of offensive operations devised by the Administration was an ultimatum. “Recent Northern papers report Grant superseded Halleck, who becomes chief of staff. Sherman takes Grant's command. Your dispatch of 19th does not indicate an acceptance of the plan proposed. The troops can only be drawn from other points for an advance. Upon your decision of that point further action must depend.” To correct the misapprehension of my views on the part of the Administration which General Bragg's language indicated, I replied immediately: 3
In my dispatch of the 18th I expressly accept taking the offensive. Only differ with you as to details. I assume that the enemy will be prepared to advance before we are, and will make it to our advantage. Therefore I propose, as necessary both for the offensive and defensive, to assemble our troops here immediately.  Other preparations for advance are going on.,No notice was taken of this explanation. In the mean time our scouts were furnishing evidence of almost daily arrivals of Federal reenforcements, which was punctually communicated to the Administration through General Bragg. From these indications it was clear that the military authorities of the United States were assembling in our front a much greater force than that which had driven us from Missionary Ridge a few months before. On the contrary, our army had not recovered from the effects of that defeat-numerically, that is to say. It was as plain that these Federal preparations were made not for the purpose of holding the ground won from us in the previous campaign, but for the resumption of offensive operations. On the 25th, therefore, I again urged upon the Government the necessity of strengthening the Army of Tennessee, and suggested that further delay would be dangerous. On the 3d of April Lieutenant-Colonel A. H. Cole, one of the most efficient officers of the Quartermaster's Department, came to Dalton. He was instructed, as he informed me, to superintend the procuring the number of artillery-horses and the amount of field-transportation required by the army for an offensive campaign. The fact that my letter of the 18th and telegram of the 22d of March were not answered made me apprehend that my correspondence with General Bragg in relation to the spring campaign had not been understood by the President. Colonel B. S. Ewell,  Adjutant-General of the Army of Tennessee, my personal friend, and an officer who had my full confidence, was therefore sent to Richmond on the 8th, to endeavor to remove any misapprehension of the subject that might exist in his Excellency's mind. He was instructed to show the President that in my correspondence with the Government I had not declined to assume the offensive — as General Bragg charged-but, on the contrary, was eager to move forward whenever the relative forces of the opposing armies should justify me in such a measure; to point out the difference between the plan of operations proposed through General Bragg and that which I advocated, and in that connection to explain that I had been actively engaged in preparations to take the field-those over which I had control being in a satisfactory state of forwardness. But in the important element of field-transportation, the need of which had several times been represented to the Government, and which I had neither means nor authority to collect, nothing had been done, while steps to collect the large number of artillery-horses necessary, had just been taken; and that the surest means of enabling us to go forward was to send the proposed reenforcements to Dalton at once; then, should the enemy take the initiative, as was almost certain, we might defeat him on this side of the Tennessee, where the consequences of defeat would be so much more disastrous to the enemy, and less so to us, than if the battle were fought north of that river. He was also desired to say that, according to the best information we could obtain, the Federal army  opposed to us had been increased, since the battle of Missionary Ridge, by about fifteen thousand men; but that ours was not so strong as on the morning of that battle. A day or two after Colonel Ewell's departure, General Pendleton, commander of the artillery of General Lee's army, came to Dalton from Richmond. He was sent by the President, to explain his Excellency's wishes in relation to the employment of the Army of Tennessee, and to ascertain if I was willing to assume the offensive with an army weaker by sixteen thousand men than that proposed in General Bragg's letter of March 12th. The object of Colonel Ewell's mission to Richmond was explained to him, and the instructions given to that officer repeated, as explanations of my military opinions. Neither General Pendleton's report nor Colonel Ewell's representations led to any action on the part of the Executive-none, at least, that concerned the Army of Tennessee. This correspondence between the Administration and myself has been given fully, because I have been accused of disobeying the orders of the President and the entreaties of General Bragg to assume the offensive. As there was no other correspondence between the Administration and myself on the subject, the accusation must have this foundation, if any. In the morning of the 2d May, a close reconnaissance of our outpost at Tunnel Hill was made under the protection of a strong body of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. The reports received on the 1st, 2d, and 4th, indicated that the beginning of an active campaign  was imminent. They showed that the enemy was approaching our position, and repairing the railroad from Chattanooga to Ringgold. The intelligence received on each day was immediately transmitted to General Bragg. That officer suggested to me, on the 2d, that I was deceived, probably, by mere demonstrations, made for the purpose. On that day, Mercer's brigade, about fourteen hundred effective infantry, joined the army, from Savannah. It was to be replaced there by J. K. Jackson's, of the Army of Tennessee. The latter was retained, for the present, where it was most needed, for we were threatened, and Savannah was not. The effective strength of the Army of Tennessee, as shown by the return of May 1, 1864, was thirty-seven thousand six hundred and fifty-two infantry, twenty-eight hundred and twelve artillery (forty thousand four hundred and sixty-four), and twenty-three hundred and ninety-two cavalry. This was the entire strength of the army, “at and near Dalton,” at that time. Canty's brigade (thirteen hundred and ninety-five effectives) is included improperly. It had just arrived at Rome, sent there from the vicinity of Mobile, by Major-General Maury. But, on the other hand, Mercer's was not; nor was Martin's division of cavalry, then near Cartersville, because its horses, worn down by continuous hard service since the beginning of the previous summer, were unfit for the field. It had seventeen hundred men fit for duty, however. The Federal army which Major-General Sherman was about to lead against us was composed of the troops that fought at Missionary Ridge, under General  Grant, the Sixteenth and Twenty-third Corps, and Hovey's division. The veteran regiments of this army had made a very large number of recruits while on furlough in the previous winter-probably fifteen or eighteen thousand. These men, mixed in the ranks, were little inferior to old soldiers. We had been estimating the cavalry, under General Kilpatrick, at five thousand; but, at the opening of the campaign, Stoneman's, Garrard's, and McCook's divisions arrived-adding, probably, twelve thousand. Our scouts reported that the Fourth Corps and McCook's division of cavalry were at Cleveland, and the Army of the Ohio at Charleston, on the 2d, both on the way to Chattanooga; and that these troops and the Army of the Cumberland reached Ringgold in the afternoon of the 4th and encamped there. Our pickets (cavalry) were at the same time pressed back beyond Varnell's Station, on the Cleveland road, and within three miles of Tunnel Hill, on that from Ringgold. Upon these indications that the enemy was advancing upon us in great force, I again urged the Administration, by telegraph, to put about half of Lieutenant-General Polk's infantry under my control, and ordered Major-General Martin, with his division, from the valley of the Etowah to that of the Oostenaula, to observe it from Resaca to Rome. Brigadier-General Kelly, whose little division of cavalry had just come up from the vicinity of Resaca, was ordered to join the troops of that arm in observation on the Cleveland road.