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[185] Corinth to penetrate as far as possible into the vast region watered by the Tennessee, from its source to the vicinity of Eastport, which the Confederates, at that time, had left entirely unprotected. Mitchell was to continue the destruction of the track of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad wherever he found it impossible to hold it, and to occupy that portion of the line which follows the right bank of the Tennessee, at a certain distance from the river, between the bridges of Stevenson and Decatur. Leaving the capital of Tennessee at the same time as the remainder of the army of the Ohio, but bearing to the south-east, he reached Murfreesborough, where he remained until the 4th of April, to reopen the first section of the railroad from Nashville to Chattanooga, which the Confederates had entirely destroyed. The next stage was at Shelbyville, and the trains leaving Nashville were soon enabled to bring his supplies as far as that place. Then, leaving his depots at this point, he set out on the 7th of April by forced marches, crossed over to Fayetteville on the 8th, and notwithstanding the entire absence of good roads, he arrived on the 11th at Huntsville, a station of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, east of Decatur. The surprise of the Confederates was complete. Mitchell captured their depots, several trains of cars, with one hundred and fifty soldiers, and seventeen locomotives; and, what was of still greater importance, he did not allow them time to destroy the track.

Without losing a single instant—for to gather the fruits of this surprise every moment was precious—he despatched trains of cars loaded with soldiers east and west, which deposited detachments near the bridges, stations and all the points which it was essential to defend. A considerable quantity of materiel was gathered on the road, and before the close of the day this small division had conquered, without firing a shot, one hundred and sixty kilometres of railway between Stevenson and Tuscumbia. This section of the road was henceforth protected against all attacks from guerillas; even the great bridge across the Tennessee had been saved. By thus extending to the west, Mitchell had nearly reached that portion of the same line which Sherman had destroyed a few days before. On the east, his advanced posts, after having taken possession of the junction of the Memphis and

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