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It is evident that Corinth, situated at the intersection of those two railroads, presents the advantage, besides its favorable local features for defence, of possessing those two main arteries for the supplies of a large army. By its abandonment, only one of those roads could then be relied upon for that object. If the enemy took possession of this strategic point, he would at once open his communications, by railroad, with Columbus and Paducah, in his rear, and Huntsville, on his left flank, and thus relieve himself of the awkward position in which he is about to find himself by the rapid fall of the Tennessee River.

It is evident, also, that the true line of retreat of the forces at this point is along the Mobile and Ohio road towards Meridian, and thence towards Montgomery, so as to be able, as a last resort, to unite with the armies of the East. This line not only covers the railroad and river lines of communication to Selma and Montgomery, but also, from a position along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, the enemy would expose his railroad lines of communication, already referred to, if he should attempt to move on to Memphis. But if he should march in force on the latter place, to change his lines of communication, Forts Pillow and Randolph, on the Mississippi River, would have to be abandoned. This would give the enemy command of the Mississippi River from Vicksburg to the Ohio and Missouri rivers, and enable him to concentrate a large force against Vicksburg. The fall of the latter place would endanger our line of communication thence to Meridian and Selma (the latter portion now nearly completed), and the armies of the Mississippi and of the West would soon be compelled to abandon the whole State of Mississippi and another large portion of Alabama, to take refuge behind the Alabama River.

It might be asked: Why not retreat along the Memphis and Charleston Railroad towards the Mississippi River? The reason is obvious. Cut off from communication with the East, the State of Mississippi could not long support a large army. It might also be asked: Why not attempt to hold both the Memphis and Charleston and the Mobile and Ohio railroads? Because, being already inferior in numbers to the enemy, should we divide our forces, it would not take him long to destroy both fractions.

Thus it becomes essential to hold Corinth to the last extremity, if the odds are not too great against us, even at the risk of a defeat. Should the department judge otherwise, however, I stand ready to carry its views into effect as soon as practicable, as my only desire is to save the cause and serve the country.

I remain, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Headquarters Western Department, Corinth, Miss., May 20th, 1862.
Major-Genl. H. W. Halleck, Comdg. U. S. Forces:
General,—I have this day been informed by Brigadier-General Villepigue, commanding Confederate forces at Fort Pillow, that two hundred exchanged prisoners were sent to him on yesterday, and that these prisoners had the smallpox among them. I have directed General Villepigue to return them forthwith.

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