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[330]

The attack was made oblique on the right, as has been already stated in the narrative of the battle, in order to get on better ground, towards the ridge separating the waters which flow into Lick Creek from those which empty into Owl Creek. This arrangement enabled us, besides, to take the Federal encampments more in flank than would have been possible by a direct attack. The country was too much broken and too heavily wooded to justify much fear of the gunboats in the river. They could not have distinguished friends from foes, except at a short distance, and they would have had to fire at random. We expected to back the Federals against Owl and Snake Creeks—the two narrow and rickety bridges of which could not have stood heavy pressure— early in the day, without incurring much risk from the gunboats. It was only late on the afternoon of the 6th, when attacking Pittsburg Landing itself, that our right flank became really exposed to their fire, and our attack was checked, principally, by the water in the creeks and ravines which empty into the Tennessee River.

It must be remembered that the Confederates had no accurate knowledge of the ground occupied by the Federals, and they had no proper staff officers to make the necessary reconnoissances, if practicable. The expedition was intended to be a surprise, and they feared to arouse the suspicions of the enemy by a forced reconnoissance: hence, they preferred to take the risk attending an imperfect knowledge of the ground over which they had to operate, rather than incur the danger of giving timely warning of the attack to the enemy. War is usually a contest of chances, and he who fears to incur any risk seldom accomplishes great results.

It is possible that, if we had had an army of veterans and had possessed a thorough knowledge of the Federal positions, we might have attacked in a different manner. At any rate, we would have so extended our left as to engage Sherman's troops shortly after we attacked Prentiss's, which would have given the former less time to prepare for the onslaught. There is no doubt that, at early dawn, Sherman was no better prepared than Prentiss to receive an attack. But General Beauregard had been assured, while collecting information at Corinth for the movement, that the distance between Owl and Lick Creeks, near the Shiloh meeting-house, was about two miles, whereas it was more nearly three: hence our front was not sufficiently extended to attack,

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