May 2, 1864: Stevenson demurs

John Dunlop Stevenson
General Stevenson isn’t too happy with the order to hold Decatur. He lacks the men and equipment.

Official Records:

Decatur, Ala., May 2, 1864.
Major General J. B. McPHERSON,
Commanding Dept. and Army of the Tennessee, Huntsville, Ala.:

GENERAL: Your communication of 1st instant by courier is just to hand. I concur with you in your views, provided a sufficient force is concentrated here to hold this place, and at the same time menace the enemy, but such is not the present condition of affairs. This command is the disjointed remnants of brigades with a condemned battery and a section of worn-out 6-pounders, with a small command of raw cavalry, the infantry not sufficient to man the works so as to resist a determined assault. How such a force is to hold the enemy in check, when we scarcely dare poke our noses beyond the picket-lines, I confess I cannot perceive. I should be at once strengthened by at least a good battery and a brigade of good infantry with it [and,] if it can be had, a full regiment of cavalry, so that I could, if necessary, move out and make such demonstration as would accomplish your purposes. It is, in my judgment, folly to hold out a small force in an isolated position to invite its destruction or capture by the enemy. The paucity of this force is tempting to the enemy. Combine it with a crossing to hand, all in good condition, the enemy have not the perspicacity I award them if they do not at once avail themselves of our condition.

That you may be fully advised of my strength I give you the actual force: Howe’s brigade, 1,100 for duty; Matthies’ brigade, 640 for duty; total, 1,740; six companies of cavalry, 450 for duty – making total infantry and cavalry, 2,190; artillery, four 6-pounders, “old,” two rifled regulation.

The enemy have moved up close upon our front; their strength I have not been able to learn; it is reported from 3,000 to 7,000 men; doubtless exaggerated. A scout, Rose, just in from below, reports Polk with his command at West Point last Friday. Forrest still has his headquarters at Jackson, Tenn. I would suggest that a portion of the Reserve Artillery be at once ordered here from Nashville. We should, beyond question, have at least enough guns to supply the works, six additional pieces, at least.

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

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