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[238] of Bowling Green on the 14th instant, and the rear guard passed the Cumberland at this point yesterday morning in good order.

I have ordered the army to encamp to-night midway between this place and Murfreesboroa. My purpose is, to place the force in such a position that the enemy cannot concentrate his superior strength against the command, and to enable me to assemble as rapidly as possible such other troops in addition as it may be in my power to collect. The complete command which their gunboats and transports give them upon the Tennessee and Cumberland, renders it necessary for me to retire my line between the rivers. I entertain the hope that this disposition will enable me to hold the enemy in check; and, when my forces are sufficiently increased, to drive him back . . .

* * * * * * *


The military situation was now of a desperate character. While General Johnston's crippled army was retreating towards northeast Alabama and Georgia before Buell's overwhelming forces, the Federal army, under General Grant, with or without the cooperation of Pope's command, might move from Fort Henry, upon the rear of Columbus, or execute a still more dreaded movement by ascending the Tennessee River to Hamburg or Eastport, seizing the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, thus definitively separating Generals Johnston and Polk, turning completely west Kentucky and west Tennessee to Memphis, and compelling the fall of the latter city, Fort Pillow, New Madrid, Island No.10, and Columbus. The capture of General Polk's forces would thus be insured, and the entire Mississippi Valley would be thrown open as far as New Orleans.

There was no army to oppose such a movement, and there were no fortified positions on the Mississippi River, to check the Federal gunboats and transports in carrying the supplies of the invading forces, should the line of railroads be rendered unavailable. The panic, followed by despondency, which had seized the people after the successive disasters of the campaign, left little hope of raising an army; and the situation was such that, even with the utmost enthusiasm to aid such an undertaking, there was no expectation of its achievement in time to meet the emergency, unless favored by our adversary's failure to embrace the opportunity offered. General Johnston had informed General Beauregard, at Bowling Green, that he had exhausted all means of procuring more armed troops from the Confederate and State governments,

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