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[159]

The first great errors in the Kentucky campaign came from a defect which follows, more or less, the entire military organization of the South-and that is, the want of adequate arrangements for obtaining and transmitting information. To this was due the escape of the Federal General Morgan in his perilous retreat from Cumberland Gap. Again, had constant daily communications been kept up between Generals Smith and Bragg, the former after the battle of Richmond, would have been informed of the latter's position as well as that of Buell, and of such importance was this information that, in the possession of General Smith, it must have led him to advance on Louisville, which would have fallen easily into our hands, with its valuable accumulation of Federal stores, at the same time hemming in Buell so completely that the destruction of his army must have followed as an almost certain consequence. As it was, Gen. Smith received no communication from General Bragg from the time he left Barboursville, on the 27th of August, until the 13th of September, during which time he was kept in a state of anxiety and suspense which precluded any further decisive movement.

The first object of General Bragg in his movement from Chattanooga was, by rapid marching, to get between Buell and Louisville, cut his lines of communication, and force him to give battle in the open field; his second, to defeat and destroy his army. When the former was accomplished under such flattering auspices, by the capture of Munfordsville, the latter was hardly regarded as matter of doubt. That Bragg refrained from attacking at Bowling Green may be understood, since Buell's circumstances, rendering his strong position there untenable for any length of time, would soon force him into the open field; but that he should have permitted him to escape unmolested, by a desperate movement, in the face of his whole army, is an unexplained mystery. That Buell was weak was shown by the anxiety with which he avoided battle, the very thing he would have desired had his army been strong enough to give him any reasonable hopes of success.

This was a decided reverse to our arms, and that without a battle. Any General is liable to defeat, when attacked by superior numbers, if his troops fail to do their duty, or by errors or untoward accidents in the confusion of the actual combat; but it is among the gravest reflections upon the abilities of a commander that he suffers himself to be foiled in his greatest purpose without fighting, especially when he has commenced the campaign by being the assailant, and proposes to continue on the offensive.

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