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chase from loyal citizens. I accordingly resorted CHAP. VI. to both expedients as I had opportunity.” Lincoln's prompting did not end with merely having produced this reconnaissance. The President's patience was well-nigh exhausted; and while his uneasiness drove him to no act of rashness, it caused him to repeat his admonitions and suggestions. In addition to his telegrams and letters to the Western commanders between December 31 and January 6, he wrote to both on January 13 to point out how advantage might be taken of the military condition as it then existed. Halleck had emphasized the danger of moving on “ exterior lines” and insisted that it was merely repeating the error committed at Bull Run, and would as inevitably lead to disaster. Lincoln in his letter showed that the defeat at Bull Run did not result from movement on exterior lines, but from failure to use exterior lines with judgment and concert; and he further illustrated how the Western armies might now, by judicious coöperation, secure important military results.
MY DEAR SIR: Your dispatch of yesterday is received, in which you say: “I have received your letter and General McClellan's, and will at once devote all my efforts to your views and his.” In the midst of my many cares, I have not seen nor asked to see General McClellan's letter to you. For my own views, I have not offered, and do not now offer, them as orders; and while I am glad to have them respectfully considered, I would blame you to follow them contrary to your own clear judgment, unless I should put them in the form of orders. As to General McClellan's views, you understand your duty in regard to them better than I do. With this preliminary I state my general idea of this war to be that we have the greater numbers, and the enemy has the greater facility of con
CHAP. VI. centrating forces upon points of collision; that we must
fail unless we can find some way of making our advantage an overmatch for his; and that this can only be done by menacing him with superior forces at different points at the same time, so that we can safely attack one or both if he makes no change; and if he weakens one to strengthen the other, forbear to attack the strengthened one, but seize and hold the weakened one, gaining so much. To illustrate: Suppose last summer, when Winchester ran away to reënforce Manassas, we had forborne to attack Manassas, but had seized and held Winchester. I mention this to il. lustrate and not to criticize. I did not lose confidence in McDowell, and I think less harshly of Patterson than some others seem to. In application of the general rule I am suggesting, every particular case will have its modifying circumstances, among which the most constantly present and most difficult to meet will be the want of perfect knowledge of the enemy's movements. This had its part in the Bull Run case; but worse in that case was the expiration of the terms of the three months' men. Applying the principle to your case, my idea is that Halleck shall menace Columbus and “down river" generally, while you menace Bowling Green and East Tennessee. If the enemy shall concentrate at Bowling Green do not retire from his front, yet do not fight him there either, but seize Columbus and East Tennessee, one or both, left exposed by the concentration at Bowling Green. It is a matter
of no small anxiety to me, and one which I am sure you 1862, W.'R. will not overlook, that the East Tennessee line is so long pp. 928, 929. and over so bad a road.
This letter was addressed to Buell, but a copy of it was also sent to Halleck. Buell made no reply, but Halleck sent an indirect answer, a week later, in a long letter to General McClellan under date of January 20. The communication is not a model of correspondence, when we remember that it emanated from a trained writer upon military science. It is long and somewhat rambling; it finds fault with politics and politicians in war, in evident igno
Buell, Jan, 13,
rance of both politics and politicians. It charges CHAP. VI. that past want of success “is attributable to the politicians rather than to the generals” in plain contradiction of the actual facts. It condemns “pepperbox strategy” and recommends detached operations in the same breath. The more noticeable point of the letter is that while reiterating that the Generalin-Chief had furnished no general plan, and while the principal commanders had neither unity of views nor concert of action, it ventures, though somewhat feebly, to recommend a combined system of operations for the West. “The idea of moving down the Mississippi by steam,” says Halleck, in this letter, “is, in my opinion, impracticable, or at least premature. It is not a proper line of operations, at least now. A much more feasible plan is to move up the Cumberland and Tennessee, making Nashville the first objective point. This would turn Columbus and force the abandonment of Bowling Green... This line of the Cumberland or Tennessee is the great central line of the Western theater of war, with the Ohio below the mouth of Green River as the base, and two good navigable rivers extending far into the interior of the theater Halleck to of operations. But the plan should not be at- dan. 2. R. tempted without a large force, not less than sixty pp. 508-511. thousand effective men." The idea was by no means new.
Buell had tentatively suggested it to McClellan, as early as November 27; and had again specifically elaborated Nov. 21 and it “as the most important strategical point in the whole field of operations” to McClellan on Decem- to Halleck, ber 29, and as the “center” of the rebellion front voy Vir, in the West to Halleck on January 3. Yet, recog
1861. Buell to
PP. 451, 521,
Chap. VI. nizing this line as the enemy's chief weakness,
McClellan at Washington, Buell at Louisville, and Halleck at St. Louis, holding the President's unlimited trust and authority, had allowed nearly two months to elapse, directing the Government power to other objects, to the neglect, not alone of military success, but of plans of coöperation, of counsel, of intention to use this great and recognized military advantage, until the country was fast losing confidence and even hope. Even now Halleck did not propose immediately to put his theory into practice. Like Buell, he was calling for more troops for the “politicians” to supply. It is impossible to guess when he might have been ready to move on his great strategic line, if subordinate officers, more watchful and enterprising, had not in a measure forced the necessity upon his attention.
GRANT AND THOMAS IN KENTUCKY
HE opening of the year 1862 brought stirring Chap. VII.
events to the armies of the West, and in their action the name of General Grant begins to acquire a special prominence and value. In the early stage of military organization in the West, when so many volunteer colonels were called to active duty in the field, the West Point education of Grant and his practical campaign training in the Mexican war made themselves immediately felt and appreciated at the department headquarters. His usefulness and superiority were evinced by the clearness and brevity of his correspondence, the correctness of routine reports and promptness of their transmission, the pertinence and practical quality of his suggestions, the readiness and fertility of expedient with which he executed orders. Any one reading over his letters of this first period of his military service is struck by the fact that through him something was always accomplished. There was absence of excuse, complaint, or delay; always the report of a task performed. If his means or supplies were imperfect, he found or improvised the best available substitute; if he could not execute the full requirement, he per