be attacked at any moment by overwhelming odds, while debarred retreat or assistance.
We were only thirty or forty miles from Louisville
So soon as a true comprehension of the situation was obtained there, a sufficient force might be sent thence to capture our comrades on the Indiana
side, and successfully resist our passage, even if the gunboat should then release us from durance.
Moreover, although Hobson
might be mystified for a short period in regard to our movements, his doubt could not last long, and nothing could be more certain than, if we were detained twenty-four hours, he would be upon us, reinforced, perhaps, by every Federal cavalry detachment in Central Kentucky
We were not strong enough to cope with the half of such a force, for our original total of twenty-four hundred and sixty was now diminished by one hundred and fifty or sixty men, killed and wounded in the engagements sustained on the march, and some two hundred detached for necessary diversions.
It was a sheer, absolute necessity that the gunboat should be sunk, or driven off, and the Parrotts were posted on a small hill, immediately overlooking the river, and set to work at her in dead earnest.
Nothing loth, she instantly accepted the challenge, and, turning her broadside to the battery, gave back shot for shot.
Crowding upon the bluffs, the men watched this duel with intense interest.
The hardiest veterans of the command, inured to a service in which every day brought its peculiar peril, every hour had its hazard, paled, and breathed thick and hard with keen excitement.
For once, General Morgan
's coolness and self-command forsook him, and he could not disguise the emotion he felt.
No one realized so thoroughly as he the magnitude and imminence of the danger to which delay exposed him. No one knew so well the importance of promptly accomplishing this invasion, now that he had notified the people of Indiana
that he was about to enter their territory.
The news was speeding over the State
Everywhere resistance was being organized.
He felt that he must cross that river at once; to be free to fight or flee, to elude the danger by celerity of movement, or quell it by audacious aggression.
But the feeling with which every man in our ranks regarded that scene was quite different from that which conflict, grown familiar with custom, usually evoked.
That wide, strong current, pouring steadily along, as if in contemptuous indifference of our struggles, divided us from a momentous future.
Thrice our number of eager enemies were upon our track.
The broad States of Kentucky
separated us from the retreating Confederate armies.