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[222] act in concert, and will be unable to support each other until the fortune of war shall have restored the Tennessee River to our possession, or combined the movements of the two armies in rear of it.

It also becomes evident that, by the possession of that river, the enemy can concentrate rapidly, by means of his innumerable transports, all his disposable forces on any point along its banks, either to attack Nashville in rear, or cut off the communications of Columbus by the Mississippi River with Memphis, and by the railroads with the Memphis and Charleston Railroad.

Should the enemy determine on the former plan of operations, your army, threatened also in front and on the right flank by Buell's large army, will be in a very critical condition, and may be forced to take refuge on the south side of the Tennessee River. But should Halleck adopt the second plan re-. ferred to, the position at Columbus will then become no longer tenable for an army inferior in strength to that of the enemy, and must fall back to some central point, where it can guard the main railroads to Memphis, i. e., from Louisville and from Charleston. Jackson, Tennessee, would probably be the best position for such an object, with strong detachments at Humboldt and Corinth, and with the necessary advance guards.

The Memphis and Charleston Railroad, so important on account of its extension through eastern Tennessee and Virginia, must be properly guarded from Iuka to Tuscumbia, and even to Decatur, if practicable.

Columbus must either be left to be defended to the last extremity by its proper garrison, assisted by Hollins's fleet of gunboats, and provided with provisions and ammunition for several months,1 or abandoned altogether, its armament and garrison being transferred, if practicable, to Fort Pillow, which, I am informed, is naturally and artificially a strong position, about fifty miles above Memphis.

Island No.10, near New Madrid, could also be held by its garrison, assisted by Hollins's fleet, until the possession of New Madrid by the enemy would compel that position to be evacuated. I am clearly of the opinion that to attempt at present to hold so advanced a position as Columbus, with the movable army under General Polk, when its communications can be so readily cut off by a surprise force acting from the Tennessee River as a new base, would be to jeopardize, not only the safety of that army, but, necessarily, of the whole Mississippi valley. Hence I desire, as far as practicable, specific instructions as to the future movements of the army of which I am about to assume command. If it be necessary for the safety of the country to make, with all my forces, a desperate stand at Columbus, I am ready to do so.

I regret much that illness has prevented me from being already at my post, but during my stay here I believe I have made myself as well acquainted with your general views and intentions as circumstances have permitted,

1 This alternative recommendation was based on the supposition that Commodore Hollins's fleet of gunboats would prevent, or at least retard, the complete investment of the place, and that the country around Columbus was favorable to its defence.

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G. N. Hollins (3)
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H. W. Halleck (1)
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