The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 5 by Abraham Lincoln
To General D. C. Buell. January 13, 1862
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, January 13, 1861
MY DEAR SIR--Your despatch of yesterday is received, in which you say, "I received your letter and General McClellan's, and will at once devote my efforts to your views and his." In the midst of my many cares I have not seen, nor asked to see, General McClellan's letter to you. For my own views, I have not offered and do not now offer them as orders; and while I am glad to have them respectfully considered, I would blame you to follow them contrary to your own clear judgment, unless I should put them in the form of orders. As to General McClellan's views, you understand your duty in regard to them better than I do.
With this preliminary I state my general idea of this war to be, that we have the greater numbers and the enemy has the greater facility of concentrating forces upon points of collision; that we must fail unless we can find some way of making our advantage an overmatch for his; and that this can only be done by menacing him with superior forces at different points at the same time, so that we can safely attack one or both if he makes no change; and if he weakens one to strengthen the other, forbear to attack the strengthened one, but seize and hold the weakened one, gaining so much.
To illustrate: Suppose last summer, when Winchester ran away to reinforce Manassas, we had forborne to attack Manassas, but had seized and held Winchester. I mention this to illustrate and not to criticise. I did not lose confidence in McDowell, and I think less harshly of Patterson than some others seem to. . . . Applying the principle to your case, my idea is that Halleck shall menace Columbus and "down river" generally, while you menace Bowling Green and East Tennessee. If the enemy shall concentrate at Bowling Green, do not retire from his front, yet do not fight him there either, but seize Columbus and East Tennessee, one or both, left exposed by the concentration at Bowling Green. It is a matter of no small anxiety to me, and which I am sure you will not overlook, that the East Tennessee line is so long and over so bad a road.
Yours very truly,
Having to-day written General Buell a letter, it occurs to me to send General Halleck a copy of it.