, in his testimony before the Committee
on the Conduct of the War
, thus explains his action in the premises:
A glance at the map will make it apparent that Cairo was the point which first demanded immediate attention.
The force under Gen. Lyon could retreat, but the position at Cairo could not be abandoned; the question of holding Cairo was one which involved the safety of the whole Northwest.
Had the taking of St. Louis followed the defeat of Manassas, the disaster might have been irretrievable; while the loss of Springfield, should our army be compelled to fall back upon Rolla, would only carry with it the loss of a part of Missouri--a loss greatly to be regretted, but not irretrievable.
Having reenforced Cape Girardeau and Ironton, by the utmost exertions I succeeded in getting together and embarking with a force of 3,800 men, five days after my arrival in St. Louis.
From St. Louis to Cairo was an easy day's journey by water, and transportation abundant.
To Springfield, was a week's march; and, before I could have reached it, Cairo would have been taken, and with it, I believe, St. Louis.
On my arrival at Cairo, I found the force under Gen. Prentiss reduced to 1,200 men; consisting mainly of a regiment which had agreed to await my arrival.
A few miles below, at New Madrid, Gen. Pillow had landed a force estimated at 20,000, which subsequent events slowed was not exaggerated.
Our force, greatly increased to the enemy by rumor, drove him to a hasty retreat, and permanently secured the position. * * *
I returned to St. Louis on the 4th, having, in the mean time, ordered Col. Stephenson's regiment from Booneville, and Col. Montgomery from Kansas, to march to the relief of Gen. Lyon.
Immediately upon my arrival from Cairo, I set myself at work, amid incessant demands upon my time from every quarter, principally to provide reenforcements for Gen. Lyon.
I do not accept Springfield as a disaster belonging to my administration.
Causes, wholly out of my jurisdiction, had already prepared the defeat of Gen. Lyon before my arrival at St. Louis.
Adj. Gen. Harding
, whom Gen. Fremont
found, by appointment of Gen. Lyon
, in practical command at St. Louis
Gen. Fremont was not inattentive to the situation of Gen. Lyon's column, and went so far as to remove the garrison of Booneville in order to send him aid. During the first days of August, troops arrived in the city in large numbers.
Nearly all of them were unarmed; all were without transportation.
Regiment after regiment lay for days in the city without any equipments, for the reason that the Arsenal was exhausted, and arms and accouterments had to be brought from the East.
From these men, Gen. Lyon would have had reenforcements, although they were wholly unpracticed in the use of the musket and knew nothing of movements in the field; but, in the mean time, the battle of the 10th of August was fought.
News of Gen. Lyon
's repulse and death reached St. Louis
on the 13th. Gen. Fremont
thereupon decided to fortify that city with all possible dispatch, as a permanent and central