Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 34.djvu/140
132 Southern Historical Society Papers.
the end of winter arms would be introduced into the country, and all were confident that we could then not only protect our own country, but successfully invade that of the enemy.
General Johnston said that he did not feel at liberty to express an opinion as to the practicability of reducing the strength of our forces at points not within the limits of his command, and with but few further remarks from any one, the answer of the President was accepted as final, and it was felt that there was no other course left but to take a defensive position and await the enemy. If they did not advance, we had but to await the winter and its results.
After the main question was dropped, the President proposed that, instead of an active offensive campaign, we should attempt certain partial operations a sudden blow against Sickles or Banks, or to break the bridge over the Monocacy. This he thought, besides injuring the enemy, would exert a good influ- ence over our troops and encourage the people of the Confed- erate States generally. In regard to attacking Sickles, it was stated in reply that, as the enemy controlled the river with their ships of war, it would be necessary for us to occupy two points on the river, one above and another below the point of crossing, that we might by our batteries prevent their armed vessels from interfering with the passage of the troops. In any case, the difficulty of crossing large bodies over wide rivers in the vicinity of an enemy, and then recrossing, made such expeditions hazard- ous. It was agreed, however, that if any opportunity should occur offering reasonable chances of success, the attempt would be made.
During this conference or council, which lasted perhaps two hours, all was earnest, serious, deliberate. The impression made upon me was deep and lasting; and I am convinced that the foregoing statement is not only correct as far as it goes, but. in my opinion, it gives a fair idea of all that occurred at that lime in regard to the question of our crossing the Potomac.
G. W. SMITH, Major-General, C. S. Army.