Sunday, August 4, 2013

August 5, 1863 (Thursday): Western Combinations

General Samuel Cooper

CHATTANOOGA, TENN., August 5, 1863.
General J. E. JOHNSTON,
Morton, Miss.:
    DEAR GENERAL: On the 2nd instant I received this dispatch from General Cooper: "If we can spare most of Johnston's army temporarily to re-enforce you, can you fight the enemy?" Hardee had previously dispatched that he was ordered to be ready to re-enforce me. Knowing nothing definite of your means, I was utterly unable to answer, and therefore asked the conference to benefit by your advice, and requiest you to take the command in case we determined on the move. Before receiving your reply I learned from Gneeral Hardee, through General Polk, what your efective force was, and promptly informed the Department that the means would be entirely inadequate to enable me to seek the enemy beyond the mountains. I inclose a copy of my letter to General Cooper.  To "fight the enemy" is a very simple operation when you have the means and can get at him. But with less than half his strength, and a large river and 50 to 100 miles of rugged, sterile mountain, destitute even of vegetation, between you and him, with our limited commissariat, the simple fighting would be a refreshing recreation. This being the only conclusion at which I can arrive, the defensive seems to be our only alternative, and that is a sad one.
     Very truly and faithfully, yours,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 2, Page 514.

The Confederacy's problem in the west was the vastness of the area.  It necessitated dividing forces among various armies and departments and then seeking to make combinations so as to attack the Union forces at advantage.  Far too often, the result was the loss of small divisions of the total at some indefensible outpost or other (Forts Henry and Donaldson, Vicksburg).  Logistically, there was also a lack of adequate rail resources to shift men quickly or to maintain supplies.  Beyond this, the nature of the generals sent west was not conducive to offensive operations.  Johnston and Bragg were professionals who had a professional soldiers eye for every deficiency in their forces, but lacked the offensive minded nature of Lee or Jackson.  Cooper was inspector general of the Army, answering only to Davis, and was one of five full generals in the Confederate army.

No comments:

Post a Comment