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General Grant was evidently much mistaken as to the number of the Confederates; but, in war, one is very apt to judge of the strength of an adversary by the severity of the blows he inflicts. If General Grant really believed that his enemy was as strong as his despatches of that period state, was he not at fault in having landed his army on the exposed side of a wide and deep river, when that enemy lay at so short a distance—only twenty-two miles? Was he not to blame for leaving his entire front unprotected by field-works, and for neglecting to throw out all the cavalry at his disposal, as far in his front and on his flanks as possible? But in his letter1 to General Halleck, sent from Savannah, April 5th, he said:

General Nelson's division has arrived. The other two of General Buell's column will arrive to-morrow or next day. It is my present intention to send them to Hamburg, some four or five miles above Pittsburg, when they all get here. From that point to Corinth the road is good, and a junction can be formed with the troops from Pittsburg at almost any point.

He proposed thus to violate two important maxims of war: first, by dividing his forces and isolating a part of them—with a broad and deep stream behind them, and a small one (Lick Creek) separating the two bodies from each other—at a still shorter distance than that which lay between Pittsburg Landing and the enemy at Corinth, supposed to be eighty thousand strong; secondly, by proposing to form the junction of his forces at a point even nearer to the enemy than Pittsburg Landing. In such a case the temptation to seize the opportunity for their separate destruction would have been too great for even a non-aggressive adversary to resist.

If General Grant had had time to carry out his intention, Generals Johnston and Beauregard—guarding well the crossings of Lick Creek, on its south side—would have concentrated all their available forces against General Buell's first three divisions, which would have been destroyed before they could have been reinforced, either by his other two divisions or by troops from Pittsburg Landing. Then the Confederate commanders would have attacked General Grant himself, with all the chances of success in their favor, especially if, meanwhile, Van Dorn could have joined them (as already instructed) with his forces from Arkansas.

1 See Boynton, ‘Sherman's Historical Raid,’ p. 30.

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