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[193] His soldiers were suffering greatly for want of water and its bad quality, notwithstanding the artesian wells he had bored; and, according to his own reports, their number was reduced to forty-seven thousand present for duty. Consequently, while actively and ostensibly busy in multiplying his works, he was preparing beforehand to evacuate them. On the 9th of May, his generals received instructions to this effect. The slow movements of the Federals enabled him to postpone this operation for some days; finally, on the 26th of May, he gave the necessary orders for the evacuation.1

Two lines of railway were in the hands of Beauregard, that of Memphis at the west, and the Meridian line at the south. By falling back upon the first, he covered the important town which was the terminus of this line; but it would have been impossible for him to defend it for any length of time, for Halleck, being master of the Mississippi, had the means of speedily concentrating around this place larger forces than he had before Corinth. By this westward movement, Beauregard, moreover, exposed himself to the loss of his communications with the armies which defended the rest of the Confederacy, from Chattanooga to Richmond. He determined, therefore, to penetrate into the interior, far from all water communication, by following the Meridian and Mobile Railway due south. The town of Baldwin, situated on this line, and that of Greentown, which is near it, were designated as points of concentration to the several corps commanders.

On the 26th, the Confederates began to remove the materiel, the heavy guns, the depots of provisions and ammunition, the baggage, and even the implements for boring artesian wells. Minute instructions were given to deceive the vigilance of the Federals. The outposts increased their activity; every time that a train arrived to carry away the materiel, the troops replied to the whistle of the locomotive with vociferous shouts, to induce the belief that the train had brought large reinforcements.

The Federals had some suspicion of these preparations; but

1 In his official report, after enumerating the very legitimate causes which decided him to adopt this step, Beauregard adds another reason which is somewhat singular; it is that the enemy had twice refused the battle he had offered him outside of his entrenchments.

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