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The object, no doubt, of the order was, that the detachment of the enemy at Clinton should be promptly assailed, “while separate and beyond support.” But was it beyond supporting distance of the other columns? Of the position of the enemy I was not definitely informed, but only knew that the whole of Grant's army (three corps) had taken the general direction northeast toward the railroad. At what point on this they would strike, or the positions of the two corps not mentioned nor seemingly regarded by General Johnston, I was not informed, except inasmuch as I had learned from prisoners that Smith's division was at Dillon's, and the rest of the corps to which he was attached was near him.

Could I make the movement on the one corps at Clinton, irrespective and regardless of the major force of the enemy — jeopardizing my line of communication and retreat, and giving up Vicksburg an easy capture to the enemy, the retention of which in our possession I knew to be the great aim and object of the Government in the campaign; and for this end all my dispositions of troops had been made and plans arranged-plans now subverted entirely by the order under consideration; for it had not been my intention to make any forward movement from Edwards's Depot, but to have there awaited an attack from the enemy (which must have taken place in forty-eight hours, or he would have been compelled to have sought supplies at his base on the Mississippi River) in a chosen position, with my lines secured, and, if overwhelmed by numbers, a way of retreat open across the Big Black, and which line of defense I would have then held as an obstruction to the enemy's investing Vicksburg. And this disarrangement of my plans caused “the delay for some twenty-six hours.” Not having contemplated an advance, all the arrangements had to be made for the movement, all my available troops had to be collected, and great difficulty was caused by the heavy rain which fell in the twenty-four hours succeeding the receipt of the order. My movement, considering the difficulties to be encountered, and the preparations necessary to be made, was, I think, promptly executed, and without

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E. Kirby Smith (1)
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