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[526] not fortify, it is true; he did not even throw up slight intrenchments. This was no part of his plan, because he expected to be the assailing party himself, and to fall with crushing weight upon the head of our column. His ground was most admirably chosen. He had planted his batteries upon a range of low wooded hills in front of Perryville, overlooking and completely commanding a long line of open ground lying immediately at the foot of the range. His infantry was massed behind and around his artillery, and his cavalry were prepared to charge down the easy slope of the hills, and sweep every living thing from the comparatively level ground below. Here was his trap, and into this he expected the advanced portions of the Union army to fall. Had they done so, I scarcely know how they could have been saved from utter annihilation.

Two circumstances fortunately prevented the rebel plan from succeeding. In the first place our generals had all along entertained the idea that the enemy would make a stand at Perry-ville, if anywhere, for the purpose of holding certain springs said to be in that vicinity, and thus preventing our army from obtaining an adequate supply of water. This opinion was adopted by all those in our army who supposed that the rebels intended to give battle anywhere in Kentucky; and had Bragg, with his comparatively meagre force, seriously thought of checking and repulsing the whole mighty army commanded by Gen. Buell, Perryville is unquestionably the point where he would have made a stand, and he would have selected that point for the very purpose of depriving our army of water. And I unhesitatingly assert that had Bragg been able to hold that position for three or four days, and there had been no rain in the mean time, the Union army would have been compelled to retreat. But whether the rebel army had succeeded in cutting off the head of our column or not, it would, by the overwhelming force rushing upon it in all directions, have been annihilated in forty-eight hours after the commencement of the action. This Bragg well knew, and hence never dreamed of making a serious stand at Perryville for the purpose of defending the springs. His object was simply to destroy the advanced divisions of our army without suffering much loss himself, and then availing himself of the confusion and delay which must necessarily ensue, leisurely continue his retreat. Before we would be ready to pursue him, he would have his main body as far away as it was while we were marching from Louisville, and he would, in addition, have inflicted severe loss upon us, and given great moral strength to his army.

But never was a wrong idea more luckily entertained than this that the rebels intended to make a prolonged and final stand at Perryville, for the purpose of holding the springs. The notion originated from the actual scarcity of water which we found upon the road, and from the heavy over-estimate which so many of us still continue to make of the strength of the rebels in Kentucky. It was supposed that they had force enough to resist our army with a not altogether unreasonable hope of success, and that the resistance would be at Perryville, for the object I have already named. Strange as it may seem, those errors saved the advance of our army, for we began to move with the utmost caution long before reaching the vicinity of Perryville, deployed our column four or five miles from the enemy's line of battle, and instead of moving into the low ground at the foot of the range of hills, where the enemy expected to annihilate us, we took up a position on another range upon our own side of the valley, and there awaited their attack. Not that error is better than the truth. By no means. Had we known the whole truth, namely, that Bragg's entire army cannot be as much as forty thousand strong, and that his sole intention in giving battle at Perryville was to destroy the advance of our column before the remainder of it came up, we should have made such dispositions as would have resulted in the total discomfiture of the rebel army then and there. But believing one of the errors I have mentioned, it was necessary also to believe the other, for had we known their real force, we should not have thought them likely to make a stand anywhere for any purpose, and hence would have rushed into the trap which they set for us at Perryville.

One other circumstance confirmed us in our belief that we were going to have a great battle at Perryville, and made us still more cautious. As I have already said, the rebel cavalry, occasionally a few infantry, and once, at least, a piece or two of artillery, were skirmishing with our advance all the way from Louisville, several being killed and wounded on both sides, at Mount Washington, at Bardstown, at Springfield, at Texas, and on Tuesday afternoon and night, at a point still nearer the battle-field. Another skirmish was commenced on Wednesday morning, which the rebel leaders doubtless intended to complete the deception they had all along been practising upon us, and make it the last bait to allure us into their trap. Owing, however, to the ardor of the troops on both sides, the skirmish assumed the proportions of a bloody battle.

On Tuesday afternoon, General Sheridan's division had the advance in General Gilbert's corps, Rousseau's and Jackson's divisions having previously advanced by way of Taylorsville, and formed in order of battle; Jackson's division somewhat to the rear of Rousseau's, and forming the extreme left of our line. During the night, the Thirty-sixth brigade, commanded by Colonel Daniel McCook of the Fifty-second Ohio, and forming a portion of General Sheridan's division, was also ordered up by General Buell, and was directed to occupy some high ground, the highest perhaps upon the whole field. This ground is situated to the right of the turnpike, (Gilbert's corps being upon the left,) and when occupied, placed Colonel McCook's brigade immediately to the right .of the Seventeenth brigade--Colonel Lytle's — which formed the right wing of General Rousseau's division. The Thirty-sixth brigade is composed of the Fifty-second Ohio and Eighty-fifth,

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Braxton Bragg (4)
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