at the latest.
Such a force would have had ample time, before the 13th, to work the annihilation of General Grant
's forces of fifteen thousand men, and would have regained Fort Henry
and the control of the Tennessee River
The other ten thousand reinforcements of Buell
's army, who arrived by boats on the evening of the 13th, would have met the same fate, had they landed on the left bank of the Cumberland
Such a victory over General Grant
would certainly have deterred Buell
from an offensive movement, while our own success would have given us the power to act immediately against him.
The Tennessee River
was next in importance to the Mississippi
; and Fort Henry
was the position of first strategic value, east of Columbus
, in the defensive line then held by General Johnston
It was, therefore, deeply to be regretted that he spent so much time, from September 18th to October 12th, superintending the fortifying of Columbus
, without giving proper and sufficient attention to Fort Henry
The works at Columbus
were made for a garrison of at least thirteen thousand men, armed with one hundred and forty (mostly heavy) guns; while the War Department was short of guns for other defenses and of men to operate with in the field, where the fate of the Confederacy
was, after all, to be decided.
The country about Columbus
, on the left bank, afterwards proved, on proper examination, to be such as to afford advantages to a land attack; yet stores, for six months, had been accumulated there, although it is a well-known axiom in engineering, that field-works capable of complete investment by a sufficient force, without local advantages, cannot make a long defence, unless there be lack of judgment on the part of the assailant, in the investment and mode of attack.
A well constructed work at Columbus
, armed with seventy-five or eighty guns, and with a garrison of at most five thousand men, would have been capable of as long a defence as the extensive works there put up, leaving the remaining troops for operation in the field, and the remaining sixty guns for other works on the Mississippi
, or for Fort Henry
, on the Tennessee
The latter was a small and badly located work, commanded and enfiladed by heights within easy range, on both sides of the river.1
It was armed with seventeen guns—twelve of them