Item description: Letter, 29 October 1862, from Jefferson Davis to Edmund Kirby-Smith. In the letter, Davis expresses his disappointment of the Confederate retreat from Kentucky into Tennessee but also seems to justify his decision to keep Gen. Braxton Bragg in command of the Army of Mississippi (later the Army of Tennessee).
[Item transcription available below images.]
Oct. 29. 1862
My dear Sir,
Doct. Smith handed me your letter & I have considered it with the respect which any thing you offer always receives. The results in Ky. have been to me a bitter disappointment, but we must deal with the future and using the past as a teacher avoid the common error of critics who employ in judging of events the knowledge acquired after they transpired. I have held long and [fine?] conversations with Genl. Bragg, he uniformly spoke of you in the most complimentary terms, and does seem to imagine your dissatisfaction. He had explained in a direct and frank manner the circumstances of his campaign and has [evinced?] the most self-denying temper in relation to his future position. That another Genl. might excite more enthusiasm is probable, but as all have their defects I have not [seen hard?] to make a change with advantage to the public service. His administrative capacity has been felt by the army of Missi. his knowledge of the troops is intimate and a new man would not probably for a time with even greater ability be equally useful. If the Generals, [Cooper?] is at the head of the Bureau, Lee in command of the army in Va. Johnston still disabled by the wound received at Seven Pines, Beauregard was tried as commander of the Army of the West and left it without leave when the troops were demoralized and the country he was sent to protect was threatened with conquest. Bragg succeeded to the command organized the army and marched to your support with efficient troops. The retreat from Ky. was not so bad as that from the camp on the Magnesian lime stone of Corinth. [?] from the depression produced by the failure in Ky. no more seems better than to advance into Middle Tenn. If Buell comes he will be weaker than in Ky. and I hope will be beaten. We may get [?] of recruits and probably will get supplies which are required for the support of our army. In the mean time the hazard of the capture of Mobile Ala. & Columbus and Vicksburg Missi. demands constant attention. If by passing to the rear of Rozencrantz he shall be checked or compelled to retire the country east of the Missi. [?] will be relieved. If on the other hand he should advance to cooperate in an attack on Mobile or Vicksburg your forces will have to aid in that quarter and abandon the less vital point of Middle Tenn. Holmes is getting a large army in Arks. and will I hope be able to attack the enemy successfully on the West side of the Missi. and [embarrass?] him in the use of the river.
Genl. Bragg cannot move into Middle Tenn. with prospect of success without your cooperation. You are now second in rank and possess to an eminent degree the confidence of the country. Your own corps could not be so usefully led by another command is. How then can I withdraw you or withhold your troops? Your Department will remain to you, such part of your force as can be spared from it for the present, you can [?] with the army of Genl. Bragg into Middle Tenn.
If I were sure that Genl. Bragg could get say 30,000 new troops in Tenn. I would not hesitate upon your request to assign you to the duty of covering Mobile Columbus and Vicksburg, by placing your army at Selma and Meridian to act as might be necessary. We dare not rely on the promised aid however we may hope to receive it. When you wrote your wounds were fresh, your lame and exhausted troops were before you, I hope time may have mollified your pain and that the future operations may restore the confidence essential to cheerfulness and security in campaign. I have conversed freely with your friend and he will be able to explain any thing which may be obscure in this, which has been written while he waits for it.
May God direct and protect you is the sincere prayer of your friend.
Before closing I will renew my thanks to you and your brave troops for your patient fortitude and heroic daring on the march and in the battle during your campaign in Kentucky.
Lt. Gen. E.K. Smith