Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 03/March/Letter from General A. S. Johnston

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Letter from General A. S. Johnston.

[Anything from the lamented hero of Shiloh will be read with interest, and the forthcoming memoir of him by his gifted son (Colonel William Preston Johnston) is looked for with peculiar pleasure, in the hope that it will contain much of the inner life of the great chieftain.

The following autograph letter to General Cooper is of historic value as showing the condition of things in Kentucky, in October, 1861, and General Johnston's opinions as to what the future movements of the enemy would be.]

Headquarters Western Department,
Bowling Green, Ky.,
October 17, 1861.

General—I informed you by telegraph on the 12th, that in consequence of information received from General Buckner of the advance of the enemy in considerable force, I had ordered forward all my available force to his support. Hardee's division and Terry's regiment have arrived here; and in advance our force may be estimated at twelve thousand men. Correct returns cannot be obtained until after a better organization. Two Tennessee regiments (Stanton's from Overton county) and one from Union city are yet to arrive, and may reach this in two or three days, and give an increase of about two thousand men.

I cannot expect immediately any additional force under the call of last month on the Governors of Tennessee and Mississippi.

The men will doubtless present themselves promptly at the rendezvous, but I cannot suppose any considerable portion will be armed.

When I made the call, I hoped that some might come armed. I cannot now conjecture how many will do so.

The call was made to save time, and in the hope that by the time they were organized and somewhat instructed, the Confederate Government would be able to arm them.

As at present informed, I think the best effort of the enemy will be made on this line, threatening perhaps at the same time the communications between Tennessee and Virginia, covered by Zollicoffer, and Columbus, from Cairo by the river, and Paducah by land, and may be a serious attack on one or the other, and for this their command of the Ohio and all the navigable waters of Kentucky, and better means of land transportation, give them great facilities of concentration.

As my forces at neither this nor either of the other points threatened are more than sufficient to meet the force in front, I cannot weaken either until the object of the enemy is fully pronounced.

You now know the efforts I anticipate from the enemy and the line on which the first blow is expected to fall, and the means adopted by me with the forces at my disposal to meet him.

I will use all means to increase my force and spare no exertions to render it effective at every point; but I cannot assure you that this will be sufficient, and if reinforcements from less endangered or less important points can be spared, I would be glad to receive them.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

(Signed) A. S. Johnston,
  General Confederate States Army.
General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond.