previous next
[229] bearing on the river—and was manned by a force of two brigades, amounting to ‘two thousand six hundred and ten men, only one third of whom had been at all disciplined or well armed.’1

The position of Fort Donelson was no better, and its works were incomplete, until inspected and strengthened by Colonel Gilmer, on the 3d and following days of February.2 Its armament consisted of thirteen guns, two of them heavy ones. Had a reasonable portion of the time and labor misspent upon Columbus and Bowling Green been applied to the construction of proper defensive works on the Tennessee and Cumberland, and had the guns not required at the former places been added to those of the two forts and of other works on both rivers, our resistance at Henry and Donelson, if not finally successful, would have certainly afforded us ample time to retire with the whole of our forces, and to preserve, unaffected by too crushing a defeat, the morale of our troops, and the confidence of our people in the cause we were fighting for. It is even likely that, with sufficient energy, a system of works might have been constructed, after General Johnston's assumption of command, at the narrowest part of the neck of land where the rivers flow less than three miles apart, and nearly on a line with Bowling Green and Columbus. These would have given us complete command of the two rivers, and might have been defended by a limited force which could have been rapidly reinforced by boats held ready for the purpose, at Cumberland city, on the Cumberland River, or at Benton, where the Memphis and Louisville Railroad crosses the Tennessee River.

Under the circumstances, to prevent the loss of the Tennessee River, by which the whole country (including Columbus) north of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was turned, and that great line of communication immediately exposed, the only course for General Johnston was to concentrate, at the proper time, at Henry and Donelson, and, for that purpose, to hold his forces and means of transportation well in hand, so as to be ready, at a moment's notice, to avail himself of his extraordinary advantages of communication by rail and water between his centre and wings. Thus Grant could have been opportunely met, and certainly crushed with superior numbers. After the fall of Henry this plan of concentration was again imperative for the regaining of the Tennessee

1 See General Tilghman's 2d report.

2 Colonel Gilmer's report, see ‘Confederate Reports of Battles,’ p. 113 et seq.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
A. S. Johnston (2)
J. F. Gilmer (2)
Donelson (2)
Lloyd Tilghman (1)
U. S. Grant (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
February (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: