Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 7, 1863 (Friday): Beauregard Offers Strategic Advice to Bragg

General P. G. T. Beauregard

October 7, 1863.

Commanding near Chattanooga, Tenn.:
    DEAR GENERAL: I have just been informed, from Richmond, that the Army of Virginia is about to take the offensive again, to prevent Made from re-enforcing Rosecrans, thus repeating, to a certain extend, the campaign of last July into Pennsylvania, which did not save Middle Tennessee and the Mississippi Valley.
   You must, no doubt, recollect what I wrote on the subject to General Johnston on the 15th of May last, to endeavor to prevent that offensive campaign, which, I thought, would not effect the object in view.
    I now address you on my views on the reported intentions of General Lee, or the War Department, to see if our small available means cannot be used to a better purpose.  It is evident to my mind, that, admitting Lee's movement can prevent Meade from re-enforcing Rosecrans and drive the former across the Potomac, Lee cannot prevent Rosecrans from being re-enforced by about 40,000 or 50,000 men from Ohio Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, and the Mississippi Valley in about one month's time; hence, admitting that Rosecrans has now about your own supposed effective force, say 60,000 men of all arms, he will then have about 110,000 men against 60,000.
    War being a contest of "masses against fractions," all other things being equal, you would certainly be defeated; then either you must be re-enforced from Johnston's or Lee's army, or Middle Georgia would be lost, and the Confederacy, now cut in two, would then be cut in three. Meanwhile, Meade, having been re-enforced by the new levies of the enemy, and taking his time to organize and discipline them, would retake the offensive, and Lee would by driven back toward Richmond, admitting that his supplies would enable him to maintain his army that long on the south side of the Potomac; or a large army might be concentrated here, and having taken this place and marched into the interior, toward Augusta, the Confederacy would again be subdivided; or, should the enemy find it impossible or too tedious to take Charleston, he might concentrate his forces again on the coast of North Carolina, and, marching to Raleigh or Weldon, would cut off all our present communications with Virginia.
    The question now arises, can these calamities be avoided, and in what way? If my opinion, for once, could be listened to, I would say, again act entirely in the defensive in Virginia, send you immediately 25,000 men from Lee's army, 5,000 or 10,000 more from Johnston's forces to enable you to take the offensive fort whit and cross the Tennessee, to crush Rosecrans before he can be re-enforced to any large extent from any quarter; then you could attack and defeat the enemy's re-enforcements in detail before they could be concentrated into a strong army. In the meantime, Lee, if necessary, could fall back within the lines around Richmond, until a part of your army could be sent to his relief. I fear any other plan will, sooner or later, end in our final destruction in detail.
    Should you approve of this plan, can you not address it as your own to the War Department, in the hope of its being adopted? What I desire is our success. I care not who gets the credit for it. Our resources are fast getting exhausted. Our people, I fear, are getting disheartened, for they can see not bright spot in the horizon to revive their drooping hopes after the patriotic sacrifices they have made in this terrible contest.
     Let us, then, unite all our efforts in a last deadly struggle, and, with God's help, we shall yet triumph.
     I regret that I have not time to pay you a short visit to present you my views more fully, and to discuss with you our future operations.
     Wishing you ample success, I remain, sincerely, your friend,

     General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 28, Part 2, Pages 399-400.

We look back at Lee through the lens of the postwar view of him throughout the south.  This fails to take into account that he was regarded with considerable jealousy, perhaps even some hostility, by his fellow generals.  Many of them believed, as Beauregard appears to, that the best course for beating back the ever increasing Union forces was to shift troops from Lee's command west to Bragg.  Longstreet was certainly of this mind, as was Johnston, and probably Bragg.  Lee continued to have the ear of Jefferson Davis, so the south never fully committed to a full shift of heavy forces westward. 

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