Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/376

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Messages and Papers of the Confederacy.

The able commander[1] who conducted the campaign in Virginia determined to meet the threatened advance on Richmond, for which the enemy had made long and costly preparations, by forcing their armies to cross the Potomac and fight in defense of their own capital and homes. Transferring the battlefield to their own soil, he succeeded in compelling their rapid retreat from Virginia, and in the hard-fought battle of Gettysburg inflicted such severity of punishment as disabled them from early renewal of the campaign as originally projected. Unfortunately the communications on which our general relied for receiving his supplies of munitions were interrupted by extraordinary floods, which so swelled the Potomac as to render impassable the fords by which his advance had been made, and he was thus forced to a withdrawal, which was conducted with deliberation after securing large trains of captured supplies, and with a constant and unaccepted tender of battle. On more than one occasion the enemy has since made demonstrations of a purpose to advance, invariably followed by a precipitate retreat to intrenched lines on the approach of our forces.

The effective check thus offered to the advance of the invaders at all points was such as to afford hope of their early expulsion from portions of the territory previously occupied by them, when the country was painfully surprised by the intelligence that the officer[2] in command of Cumberland Gap had surrendered that important and easily defensible pass without firing a shot, upon the summons of a force still believed, to have been inadequate to its reduction, and when reinforcements were in supporting distance and had been ordered to his aid. The entire garrison, including the commander, being still held prisoners by the enemy, I am unable to suggest any explanation of this disaster, which laid open Eastern Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia to hostile operations and broke the line of communication between the seat of government and Middle Tennessee. This easy success of the enemy was followed by an advance of General Rosecrans into Georgia; and our army evacuated Chattanooga and availed itself of the opportunity thus afforded of winning, on the field of Chickamauga, one of the most brilliant and decisive victories of

  1. Robert E. Lee.
  2. John W. Frazer.