Monday, September 2, 2013

Major General William S. Rosecrans to Abraham Lincoln, August 22, 1863

Stevenson, August 22, 1863.

To His Excellency The President.

I thank you for your kind reply [to] my unofficial letter of the 1st instant.

Permit me to assure you that I am not, and have not been, touched with any of that official pride which desires to have its own way. It has been a principle and a characteristic of my life to take advice and learn both from superiors and inferiors. When great interests are confided to my care this principle becomes even more imperative.

On the question of moving against Bragg, every division and corps commander gave his written opinion adversely to an immediate or early move at the time it was imminent.

I waited only to make due preparation of the force I had to win a victory and reap its fruits. I was satisfied that, while it did not increase Bragg's strength, it diminished the danger of his further reinforcing Johnston, as he could readily have done, with the Cumberland Mountains, the Tennessee River, and bridges destroyed and roads obstructed between us. If, as you put it, we could better fight Bragg with his diminished numbers, what harm to wait till we were ready to win and pursue the victory?

You think Johnston was freed by the fall of Vicksburg. Was not Bragg set free by the evacuation of Middle Tennessee?

You think we ought to have prevented Bragg from re-enforcing Johnston. Why cannot Grant keep Johnston from re-enforcing Bragg? Has he not a nearer base of supplies and more favorable country; a better railroad and more rolling-stock than we have here?

But I am sure when you consider we have but a single line of railroad from Louisville; that we are 300 miles from that base; that we have crossed by three days’ march the formidable barrier of the Cumberland Mountains; that we have in front a swift river from 500 to 800 yards wide, and seventy miles of mountains in front of us to reach the fertile regions of Northern Georgia, you see that few armies have been called upon to attempt a more arduous campaign.

Thanking you for your kindness, may I ask you, when impulsive men suppose me querulous, to believe I am only straightforward and in earnest, and that you may always rely upon my using my utmost efforts to do what is best for our country and the lives and honor of the soldiers of my command.  I remain, very respectfully,
Maj Genl

SOURCES: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 52, Part 1 (Serial No. 109), p. 439; This letter can be found in The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

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