Want to save this letter now that you've found it?
It's easy - just create your own collection of letters after signing up for a free account.
MY DEAR GENERAL, I start to-day for Tyner's Station, and expect to get transportation to-morrow for Sweetwater. The weather is so bad, and I find myself so much occupied, that I shall not be able to see you to say good-by.
When I heard the report around camp that I was to go into East Tennessee, I set to work at once to try and plan the means for making the move with security and the hope of great results. As every other move had been proposed to the general and rejected or put off until time had made them inconvenient, I came to the conclusion, as soon as the report reached me, that it was to be the fate of our army to wait until all good opportunities had passed, and then, in desperation, seize upon the least favorable movement.
As no one had proposed this East Tennessee campaign to the general, I thought it possible that we might accomplish some thing by encouraging his own move, and proposed the following plan, viz. : to withdraw from our present lines and our forces in East Tennessee (the latter to be done in order to give the impression to the enemy that we were retiring from East Tennessee and concentrating near him for battle or for some other movement) and place our army in a strong concentrated position behind Chickamauga River. The moment the army was together, to make a detachment of twenty thousand to move rapidly against Burnside and destroy him ; and by continued rapid movements to threaten the enemy's rear and his communications to the extent that might be necessary to draw him out from his present position. This, at best, is but a tedious process, but I thought it gave promise of some results, and was, therefore, better than being here destroying ourselves. The move, as I proposed it, would have left this army in a strong position and safe, and would have made sure the capture of Burnside, that is, the army could spare twenty thousand, if it were in the position that I proposed, better than it can spare twelve, occupying the lines that it now does. Twenty thousand men, well handled, could surely have captured Burnside and his forces. Under present arrangements, however, the lines are to be held as they now are and the detachment is to be of twelve thousand. We thus expose both to failure, and really take no chance to our selves of great results. The only notice my plan received was a remark that General Hardee was pleased to make, I don't think that that is a bad idea of Longstreet's. I undertook to explain the danger of having such a long line under fire of the enemy's batteries, and he concentrated, as it were, right in our midst, and within twenty minutes march of any portion of our line. But I was assured that he would not disturb us. I repeated my ideas, but they did not even receive notice. It was not till I had repeated them, however, that General Hardee noticed me. Have you any maps that you can give or lend me ? I shall need every thing of the kind. Do you know any reliable people, living near and east of Knoxville, from whom I might get information of the condition, strength, etc., of the enemy? I have written in such hurry and confusion of packing and striking camp (in the rain and on the head of an empty flour barrel) that I doubt if I have made myself understood. I remain
Sincerely your friend,
To MAJOR-GENERAL S. B. BUCKNER,
- James Longstreet
- From Manassas to Appomattox Memoirs of the Civil War in America, James Longstreet, 1896