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Both by General Crittenden and those who have criticised him for making the attack at Fishing Creek, it is assumed that General Zollicoffer made a mistake in crossing to the right bank of the Cumberland, and that thence it resulted as a consequence that General Johnston's right flank of his line through Bowling Green was uncovered. I do not perceive the correctness of the conclusion, for it must be admitted that General Zollicoffer's command was not adequate to resist the combined forces of Thomas and Schopf, or that the Cumberland River was a sufficient obstacle to prevent them from crossing either above or below the position at Mill Springs. General Zollicoffer may well have believed that he could better resist the crossing of the Cumberland by removing to the right bank rather than by remaining on the left. The only difference, it seems to me, would have been that he could have retreated without the discomfiture of his force or the loss of his artillery and equipments, but in either case Johnston's right flank would have been alike uncovered.

To Zollicoffer and the other brave patriots who fell with him, let praise, not censure, be given; to Crittenden, let tardy justice render the meed due a gallant soldier of the highest professional attainments, and whose fault, if fault it be, was a willingness to dare much in his country's service.

When the state of Tennessee seceded, measures were immediately adopted to occupy and fortify all the strong points on the Mississippi, such as Memphis, Randolph, Fort Pillow, and Island No.10. As it was our purpose not to enter the state of Kentucky and construct defenses for the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers on her territory, they were located within the borders of Tennessee, and as near to the Kentucky line as suitable sites could be found. On these were commenced the construction of Fort Donelson on the west side of the Cumberland, and Fort Henry on the east side of the Tennessee, about twelve miles apart. The latter stood on the low lands adjacent to the river about high-water mark, and, being just below a bend in the river and at the head of a straight stretch of two miles, it commanded the river for that distance. It was also commanded by high ground on the opposite bank of the river, which it was intended should be occupied by our troops in case of a land attack. The power of ironclad gunboats against land defenses had not yet been shown, and the low position of the fort brought the battery to the water level, and secured the advantage of ricochet firing, the most effective against wooden ships.

Fort Donelson was placed on high ground; with the plunging fire from its batteries, it was thereby more effective against the ironclads

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Zollicoffer (4)
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