Monday, January 20, 2014

January 15, 1864 (Thursday): Johnston Looks to West Tennessee

Horses Being Shod (Gardner, Library of Congress)

DALTON, January 15, 1864.
   Mr. PRESIDENT: My recent telegrams to you have shown not only that we cannot hope soon to assume the offensive from this position, but that we are in danger of being forced back from it by the want of food and forage, especially the latter. Since my arrival very little long forage has been received, and nothing like full rations of corn, and that weevil-eaten. The officer commanding the artillery of a division which I inspected to-day reported that his horses had but 13 pounds each of very bad corn in the last three days. Of the four brigades I inspected to-day, two cannot march for want of shoes. We are not receiving enough to supply the consumption.
    I have directed that half the artillery shall be encamped on the Etowah, with all the wagons not required here for camp service.
    Major-General Wheeler informs me that five and a half of the eight brigades of cavalry belonging to the Army of Tennessee are with General Longstreet. I have placed two-thirds of that remaining with this army to the southwest of Rome, not only to put the horses in condition for a campaign but in the hope of making cavalry capable of fighting in battle. If General Longstreet has no further use for the cavalry of this army which is with his, I should very much like to have it here, for rest, refitting, and, above all, instruction.
    It seems to me that there are two routes by which we might advance into Middle Tennessee from our present base, whenever this State road is so managed as to enable us to accumulate supplies sufficient for the enterprise, and we have a sufficient force. The first from Rome, via Huntsville, crossing the Tennessee near Gunter's Landing. By it we should turn the Cumberland Mountains. The other, that by which General Bragg left Tennessee, would be very difficult, and would require immense means. We should have either to expose ourselves to an army in Chattanooga, while passing the river, or besiege that fortress. It is certain that we cannot make such sieges. Either of these routes, through barren and mountainous tracts, would require great supply trains. By General Leadbetter's estimate, the equipage of one brigade over the Tennessee would require 150 wagons.
    Should the enemy attempt to penetrate to Atlanta, and we be able to beat him and have then ready the means of marching across the Cumberland Mountains, as well as crossing the Tennessee, the offensive would be easy.
    If East Tennessee can furnish provision and forage for the march thence into Middle Tennessee, this army might join Longstreet for that enterprise. Two thousand or 3,000 cavalry could prevent a hostile army from reaching Atlanta in less than a month.
     I think, however, that Mississippi would give us the best base of offensive operations. From it we can easily take possession of West Tennessee, which, with Mississippi, has abundant supplies for a large army.
     These ideas are expressed, not from opinion of their own value, but in the hope of turning your thoughts to this important subject for my instruction.
     It is thought by all the officers with whom I have conversed on the subject that the temper of the army would be greatly improved by the restoration of the organization which existed before the battle of Missionary Ridge. The West Tennesseans are said to be absolutely discontented. I have therefore recommended for favorable consideration an application for the reformation of Major-General Cheatham's former division. Lieutenant-General Polk urges the sending the West Tennessee regiments, under General Cheatham, to his command, thinking that they would thus soon be filled from West Tennessee. To me there would be as much fear of desertion as hope of recruiting.
     I beg leave again to express the hope that Your Excellency will strengthen this army by appointing to it lieutenant-generals. The value of the formation of corps d'armee seems to me to depend upon having competent lieutenant-generals to command them.
     Most respectfully, your obedient servant,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 32, Part 2, Page 560.

Johnston believed moving to West Tennessee offered the best defense to Atlanta.  Any move directly on East Tennessee, with the massed Union forces there, seemed out of the question.  You begin to see Johnston at least consider going to the defensive in a campaign against Atlanta and then attacking and driving a beaten army out of the area.  But logistics, as always, are a concern and there is not sufficient feed for his animals.


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