looked with apprehension for the catastrophe when their guns should be silenced, and the fleet, steaming by, take them in reverse.
Still, the fascination of the scene riveted to the spot as spectators hundreds, who witnessed it with breathless suspense and anxiety.
As the heavy metal smote the iron mail of the water monsters it rang with a mighty and strange sound — a new music in the horrid orchestra of strife and death, unheard before and terrible to the hearer.
Old fables seemed to live again, in which giants, with clash of hammer on linked scales, fought with dragons of the great deep.”
The fall of Donelson
laid open the road to Nashville
, which place was not only unfortified but incapable of being successfully fortified against an enemy coming from the north.
The necessity of prompt decision and rapid action was now forced on the Confederate
chief; but Albert Johnston
was the man for both.
Before this great reverse had occurred, at Bowling Green
in January, a remark had dropped from him which has been well called “prophetic,” and which indicates that he already contemplated some such emergency as was now upon him, and had planned to meet it. While examing the map of his department he placed his finger on the spot where “Shiloh
” subsequently reeked with blood and said: “Here the great battle of the Southwest
will be fought.”
This remark was not made lightly, nor was it an accidental guess; it was the declaration of a profound strategic conviction.
The line in Kentucky
once forced, it was impossible for the retreating army to halt until it had crossed the Tennessee river
If it checked its march at any intermediate position, it would be exposed at once to attack by overwhelming odds before reinforcements could possibly reach it; nor was there any point in the State of Tennessee
where opportunity to strike an effective blow at the enemy offered itself.
Retreat, continued until the army was placed south of the Tennessee river
, was therefore necessary.
The objective point would then be Corinth
, situated in North Mississippi
, at the junction of the two great railway lines running north and south and east and west, viz: the Mobile
and the Memphis
A glance at the map will show the reader that at Corinth General Johnston
's army would not only be in a position of perfect safety, but in position to maintain and protect communication with Memphis
and every portion of the department except Tennessee
, which would, of course, have been abandoned.
But the consideration of safety only partially entered into General Johnston
He wished to place himself where