have had to lay a pontoon bridge at Columbia
, after my rear-guard had withdrawn, before his advance from that point could begin; and, as events proved, he could not reach Spring Hill
by his mud road from Huey's Mill until late in the afternoon.
I had time to pass Spring Hill
with my entire army before Hood
's infantry advance-guard could reach that place.
Hence I had ample time to consider the mathematical and physical questions involved before deciding finally that I would not let Hood
drive me back from Duck River
that day. But I did not at any time contemplate a retreat that day farther back than Spring Hill
, as is shown by my direction to Ruger
to have his regiment from Ducktown
join him there that night.
I am entirely willing to leave to intelligent military criticism any question in respect to the accuracy of my calculations, also the question whether I was justifiable, under the conditions then existing or understood to exist respecting Thomas
's preparations in the rear to fight a decisive battle, in taking the risks, which are always more or less unavoidable, of failure in the execution of plans based upon so close an estimate of what could be done by my adversary as well as by myself.
I content myself with the simple remark that, in my opinion, if my own orders had been carried out as I gave them, and my reasonable suggestion to my superior in the rear to bridge the Harpeth
had been promptly acted on, there would have been far less risk of failure than must frequently be incurred in war.
If I had had satisfactory assurance of the timely arrival of sufficient reinforcements on the line of Duck River
, I would have been justified in dividing my infantry into several detachments to support the cavalry in opposing the crossing of Duck River
at the numerous places above Columbia
But, sooner or later, Hood
could have forced a crossing at some one of those places, and thus have interposed