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[234] and powerfully armed, the defensive works, besides being badly planned and unfinished, were much too extensive, requiring a garrison of about thirteen thousand men, to resist a combined land and naval attack, while the forces of General Polk, in his whole district, numbered less than fifteen thousand of all arms, badly equipped for the field, commanded by officers who were brave and zealous, but without military training or experience. Moreover, his troops were not regularly formed into brigades and divisions, and his cavalry was not yet fully organized into regiments. The capture of Fort Columbus and its garrison would have opened to the Federals the whole Mississippi Valley to New Orleans, as between those two points there was not another organized body of troops capable of offering any resistance to the united forces of Generals Grant and Pope. Fort Pillow, about fifty miles above Memphis, was not then in as good condition as Fort Columbus; its defences being still incomplete. It was not yet armed, and required a garrison of about ten thousand men, while, at that time, it only had one regiment to defend it. At the Madrid Bend defences only one or two heavy batteries had been commenced, on Island No.10, armed with a few guns of small calibre; and at New Madrid only some light field-works had been constructed.

General Polk had unbounded confidence in the strength of Columbus, which he termed the ‘Gibraltar of the West.’ With his characteristic gallantry he declared himself capable of holding it against any force, as long as his supplies should last; and these, he alleged, could hold out six months. But his statements, in answer to minute inquiries as to its condition and surroundings, corroborated none the less what had been previously reported by Colonel Jordan and Captain Harris; and upon General Beauregard exposing to him the saliency of the fort and the various features of its weakness, he concurred in the opinion that it could not long withstand a determined attack.

The War Department having, on the 19th, telegraphed its assent to the evacuation of Columbus, General Beauregard directed General Polk to prepare for it without delay. The safe removal of the supplies and armament was likely to be a difficult operation, should the Federal land and naval forces be handled with judgment and resolution. Careful and minute instructions were accordingly given to General Polk by General Beauregard. All reserve supplies and materials were to be sent to Grenada and Columbus, by

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