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[216] to General Johnston, though he was not sure but that they could be turned a short distance above, on the right. He inquired whether, in such a case, General Johnston intended to remain and defend them. The latter replied that there was a ford not many miles above, and that, should the enemy advance by that way, upon his flank, he would be compelled to withdraw, as he was not strong enough to maintain the position with no army of relief to depend upon. General Beauregard having now asked what was the strength of Forts Henry and Donelson, General Johnston said they were tolerably well fortified, but he was doubtful of their ability long to withstand a determined attack. In the course of this inspection tour General Beauregard expressed his regret that the works at Bowling Green had not been limited to a tete de pont on the north side of the Barren River, and to a single fort on the south side, to defend the bridge, and enable the garrison of the former work to retire at the proper moment and destroy the bridge. The time and labor spent upon these extensive works by General Gilmer, he thought, might have been far more judiciously applied in the strengthening of Forts Henry and Donelson—particularly the former—as the command of the Tennessee was next in importance to that of the Mississippi. Its loss would not only cut off communication between General Johnston's and General Polk's forces, but allow the enemy to penetrate to Eastport and Florence, near the Memphis and Charleston Railroad; thus effectually turning all positions in middle Kentucky and middle Tennessee, on one side of the river, and west Kentucky and west Tennessee, on the other side, down to the Memphis and Charleston Railroad.

In view of the importance of holding Fort Henry, then seriously threatened by the Federal forces under General Grant, General Beauregard suggested to General Johnston the following views of the situation, as the result of his reflections after their interview of the previous evening.

That our defensive line, extending from Bowling Green on the extreme right to Columbus on the extreme left, with Forts Henry and Donelson at about the middle of the line, formed a reen-tering angle of nearly thirty miles, which was very much weakened by being intersected, nearly at right angles, by the two navigable streams on which those forts were located; that our flanks at Bowling Green and Columbus were so salient that the former

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Albert Sidney Johnston (5)
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