than defeat on our part, and might bring about the annihilation of our forces.
By a retreat we would, no doubt, lose a strategic position of uncommon value, but by persisting in holding it we might suffer a still greater loss.
The important question submitted at this council of war, if we may so consider it, was freely and exhaustively examined by the different generals present.
But one opinion prevailed among them: the evacuation of Corinth
had now become imperative.1
After carefully listening to the views expressed by his subordinate commanders, General Beauregard
requested them to get ready for the movement as if it were already ordered, but to avoid all mention of it except to their respective Chiefs of Staff.
He told them to state publicly that we were about to take the offensive against the enemy and bring on a general engagement with him, and to begin at once sending off, to different points in our rear, such as Baldwin
, and others, their sick, their heavy baggage, and such additional camp equipage as might encumber the projected retreat.
Immediate orders were issued to that effect from army headquarters, and all things were prepared for removing the heavy guns and ammunition to those places, and even farther, at a moment's notice.
When General Beauregard
's orders and instructions were completed, he once more summoned his corps commanders to army headquarters, and there carefully explained to each one individually the part he would be called upon to perform in the designed movement, which was to commence with General Van Dorn
, on the right, and end with General Polk
, on the left—General Breckinridge
being in reserve, and occupying a more or less central position, in rear of the other commands.
Each sub-commander was made, by General Beauregard
, to go over and repeat what he and the others were expected to do, until they became perfectly familiar with every detail of the plan adopted.
They were thus thoroughly drilled, as it were, and prepared for any emergency.
The result showed that General Beauregard
had not taken this trouble in vain.
No other retreat during the war was conducted in so systematic and masterly a manner, especially when we consider the