The situation at Chattanooga.Northern view of Rosecrans's Weak points--the Dangers which Threaten him — Bragg's Opportunities, &c.
The position at Chattanooga now commands the almost undivided attention of both the nations engaged in this war. Affairs elsewhere hardly occupy a thought. The prompt removal of Rosecrans, hitherto a successful commander, for his defeat, shows what importance the Federals attach to the situation there. The Chattanooga correspondent of the New York Tribune (of the 24th) writes a highly interesting letter, which we copy. It gives a very gloomy view of the Yankee position: ‘ I have already demonstrated in former letters that while Chattanooga is a strategically important point, it is not a safe one. To hold it securely involves the necessity of holding the Tennessee river for fifty miles to the right and left of it.--As soon as our army had crossed at Bellefonte, Stevenson, and Bridgeport, it was virtually master of the place. For the same reason, when it was forced back into it, after the battles of the 19th and 20th ult., the question to hold it rested upon its ability not so much to repel an attack from the front as to retain control of the river below.--There was not force enough at the command of Gen. Rosecrans to protect all the fords and roads leading from the south bank to his depots and lines of communication on and along the river.--Hence his principal danger was the contingency of a flank movement by a detached column of the enemy over the same route that he took to leave Chattanooga. With the arrival of reinforcements that danger passed away. The failure of the enemy to make the movement affords good evidence not only that their offensive strength was greatly weakened in the battles, but also that it really never was as far superior as reported. ’ The most direct danger, in view of the temporary state of partial dissolution of the army, was, of course, at first a front attack. The few days' delay of the enemy in closing up with us around the town gave us time to avert it with the axe, pick, and shovel. But although we checked an assault by infantry, we were powerless to remove the danger threatening from their artillery. That with Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain in their possession they can use the latter effectively against us, they have amply proved by their cannonade on the 5th. I use the word "effectively," although they did little actual damage at the time; for their projectiles fell into our camps all along our line, and it must be the veriest tyro in war that will assert that by tripling their guns, which they have it, doubtless, in their power to, could not, by a cannonade of a week, annoy and damage us beyond endurance. It would be the first instance in the history of wars of a large army of unsheltered troops maintaining its position under a protracted and heavy artillery fire. That the enemy have as yet abstained from subjecting us to a severer trial than on the 5th is a mystery that I am not able to solve. But supposing even that it is not awaiting us, there are still other ways left open to the enemy to draw us out of Chattanooga. From Chattanooga to Knoxville the distance is 110 miles. That this long line cannot be successfully guarded against an attempt to cross the Tennessee in force, either by Gen. Rosecrans or Gen. Burnside, is evident.--A flanking movement to our right is, as already stated, no longer practicable for the enemy. But there was nothing to prevent one to our left in the mentioned direction until to-day. Since midnight the very gates of heaven seem to be opened, and the rain is pouring down in incessant torrents. If the roads be not rendered impracticable by it, we will in all probability see the one hundred and twenty pontoons the enemy have built at Chickamauga Station put to use before long, somewhere between here and Knoxville. It would certainly be the best move they could make. It would give their army once more the benefit of the crops of the rich valley of the Tennessee. It would throw it between Rosecrans's and Burnside's, and compel the latter to beat a hasty retreat to Kentucky to escape annihilation. And lastly, it would force this army to abandon Chattanooga and hunt up the enemy for battle north of the Tennessee. A last element of uncertainty as to the duration of our occupation of Chattanooga is formed by our precarious lines of communications. We have had three bridges across the Tennessee. Two of these were rendered impracticable by the rise a week ago, and one had to be removed. The other was again used until this morning, when the danger of its being carried away by the great rise now to be expected, induced Gen. Rosecrans to order likewise its removal. The third was built during last week, and affords now the only means of communication with the North bank. That it is insufficient for our immense transportation I need hardly say. Again, the roads to Stevenson, our supply depot, are so rugged that hauling a sufficiency of supplies over them is attended with difficulties the character of which only those can conceive who have passed over them. The present rain will probably double these. One of the roads along the river is rendered unsafe by the bushwhackers firing from the South bank. It was natural for the enemy to attempt to cut the long thread of railroads — over three hundred miles--that alone connects us with the North, by dint of cavalry raids. It is to be hoped that our cavalry will prevent the mischief contemplated by the bands of Wheeler and Forrest, now again loose in Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky. If they should succeed in breaking our railroad connections for any considerable length of time, a retrograde movement by our forces cannot be avoided. Whatever the future may have in store for us it is obvious that the rebels are masters of the situation — at least so far as the power to shape it is with them. That they have improved the time of quietude elapsed since the battles to repair damages and gather additional offensive force may be presumed, as the fortunes of the Confederacy depend in a great measure upon further successes on their part; and as they have concentrated all their available strength before us, it is not likely that they will lie idle much longer. Without having any positive ground for the theory, I think that if they fall in starving us out of Chattanooga, they will make the flank movement to the left under cover of a cannonade upon our front. As to ourselves, prudence forbids me from saying more than we are not yet in the condition to resume the offensive, although we are able to operate promptly according to the initiative of the enemy. For my part I would deem it cause for congratulation if the enemy should give us an opportunity to meet them in a decisive battle a hundred miles nearer the Ohio river.