latter course, General Johnston
should have left to General Hardee
the evacuation of Bowling Green
and the conduct of the retreat of its garrison upon Nashville
, and should himself have repaired to Donelson
, where so critical a struggle was imminent— nay, certain.
Such a step on his part would have harmonized the divided counsels of the commanding officers
, and undoubtedly have prevented the demoralization of their troops.
It would have combined the resources of defence under his own inspiriting influence, and history, though not crediting us with a Confederate victory, would have spared us, at least, the humiliation of such an overwhelming defeat.
As it was, on the very day of the attack on Fort Donelson
—the 13th—the General-in-Chief
, without being pressed by Buell
, was retreating from the scene of conflict, and had even reached Nashville
The whole of middle Kentucky
and middle Tennessee
, including Nashville
, were given up. And, as a fatal consequence of this great calamity, west Kentucky
and west Tennessee
, with Columbus
, and with most of the supplies sought to be saved, were also, shortly afterwards, entirely abandoned.
About thirteen thousand men, organized and disciplined, were thereby withdrawn from operations in the field; a force which would have aided us to a complete and easy victory in the battle fought with General Grant
two months later, or, rather, which would have enabled us to take the offensive some time earlier; disposing of General Grant
's forces at Pittsburg Landing
, recovering the Tennessee River
, and then, if made strong enough, meeting and fighting Buell
, as soon as the crossing of the river could be accomplished.
These would have been the immediate results in the field, to say nothing of the indirect consequences from the encouragement and readiness of the people, instead of the anxiety and despondency which fell so heavily upon them.