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Military operations of General Beauregard.

By Colonel Alfred Roman.

A Review by Judge Charles Gayarre &. paper no. I.

When the Confederacy of the United States of America, formed in 1787, was disrupted, in 1861, by the ‘Secession’ of their Southern associates, and when an armed conflict between the two dissevered factions was anticipated, when these apprehensions were confirmed by the attack of the Southern Confederacy on Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, it was evident to the most superficial observer that the contest, if earnestly entered into, and if prolonged to a considerable extent, would be very unequal between the parties. On one side—that of the Northern and Western States—there remained in all its strength a well-organized government with immense resources and with wheels accustomed to their functions—a regular army, a regular navy, manufactures of all sorts, accumulated wealth, a compact population, an unlimited credit, a commercial power felt and extended all over the world, and, besides, an able and indefatigable press, which, with its thousand organs, could create, manipulate and utilize a public opinion in all those mighty seats of civilization whose influence, sympathy and tacit or expressed approbation or blame are not to be disdained. It was a self-sufficient being who could exist per se.

On the other side—that of the Southern States—the seceding ones, suddenly coagulating into an embryo government, there were none of the resources which we have mentioned. The population was much inferior in number, purely agricultural, scattered over a vast territory, with no capital, no manufactures, no ships, no materials whatever of war, and no production even of those simple and common implements with which it followed, with an unchangeable tenacity of habit, its few industrial pursuits, among which, first in rank as [403] to its importance, was the ploughing by the farmers of their rich soil, whose chief staple was cotton, which they exchanged annually for the satisfaction of all their wants. Clearly, such a being, socially and politically, was not self-sufficient, self-sustaining, not durably knit together, not prepared to assume, at once and by spontaneous growth, the strong-limbed independence of a powerful autonomy. It could exist per alterum, but not per se.

A modern Homer, in the first page of his epopee, on the Fall and Rise of our Confederacy, might say in the mythological style of his great predecessor, that if Minerva, with wisdom, courage, justice and right, was on the side of the Southern champion, yet it was Minerva, not only without any armor, but even without necessary garments to protect her against the inclemencies of the weather; whilst on the other side, there stood Mars in full panoply, Ceres with her inexhaustible cornucopia, Jupiter with his thunderbolts, Neptune with his trident, Mercury with his winged feet and his emblematic rod, Plutus with his hounds, Vulcan with his forge and hammer. Such a disproportionate conflct could not be supposed to continue long even among the immortals, and much less among the sons of the earth. It could end but in one way, unless it should please omnipotent fate, as it does on very rare occasions, to protect the weak against the strong.

It is not, therefore, astonishing that the Northern giant, measuring his strength with that of his antagonist, should have come at once to the conclusion that the conflict would be ephemeral—its duration ninety days at the furthest. One single blow from his powerful and irresistible arm was all that was necessary. His confidence seemed to be well founded, for there was but one chance in favor of little David, which was, that standing at a safe distance, he should send from his sling, by skill or luck, a crushing stone to Goliath's forehead.

It is remarkable that the South also entertained the opinion that the conflict could not be of long duration. At least, a great majority of her people was under that illusion, which originated in the conviction, that, although the North possessed so many elements of force and prosperity, yet those elements had been extracted from the cotton-producing fields of the South. That cotton had only to be withheld, and there would be an immediate collapse north of Mason and Dixon's line. Then, the Northern Colossus would become so weak and so alarmed, that he would seek for the restoration of what was his life-blood, on any condition which might be proposed to his acceptance.

The respective governments of the two sections of a former unit [404] seemed to have agreed, at least on one point, if they differed on every other. It was the probable shortness of the conflict into which they were driven. But General Beauregard, says Colonel Roman, in his book, ‘believed and expressed the opinion, at the time, that we were engaged in a long and terrible war, and he earnestly wished the country prepared accordingly.’ Thus it is apparant that, on the very threshold of the mighty struggle impending on us, there began to be a marked difference of opinions between the General and the new government to which he had pledged his allegiance. To this source, to this incipient divergence of views, may be traced subsequent disagreements as to the hastening of preparations and the unrelaxing vigor to be introduced and kept up in all our military operations, under a watchful and energetic supervision of the executive cabinet at the seat of government. General Beauregard was all fire and action, and full of that horribilis dilizentia of which Cicero speaks as being the characteristic of the men destined by Providence to be the instruments of revolutions and changes by which nations are made or unmade.

The Government, on the other hand, may have thought proper to act with a prudence which was mistaken for hesitation and careless improvidence. It was Fabius-like, expectant and on the defensive. ‘The erring sisters might be allowed to go in peace.’ The sword, which was but half drawn, might yet be pushed back to its scabbard. There might be a timely accommodation between the contending parties. There might be guarentees given; it might be possible to avoid the shedding of blood, to avoid an immense sacrifice of wealth, and perhaps subjugation, with its concomitant horrors and complete ruin. Meanwhile it should have been kept in mind that a nation, far better prepared for war than were the Confederate States, would be threatened with atrophy, if all her ports were securely blockaded. It would be merely a question of time. That nation would be like an army cooped up in a city with no communication with the outer world. Should no relief come, surrender would gradually become a matter of absolute necessity. For the reasons which have already been given with the concision required by the restricted limits of this article, the Confederate States, having to draw all their needed and indispensable supplies from abroad, had to provide, as a preliminary step, as an inexorable condition of existence, and of success in the terrible struggle which they had undertaken, for a free access to and a continued use of the sea. The ocean breeze was the breath of their nostrils; without it, suffocation was certain. [405]

A consideration of such vital importance could not escape the attention of one who, like General Beauregard, had been assigned to so high a position in the defence of his country. Early in May, 1861, when the blast of the clarion had hardly sounded defiance to the enemy, the General pressed upon the Government the adoption of a plan which seemed feasible, and which might have been of incalculable advantage to the Confederate States. A fleet of ten East India steamers was offered the Confederate Government, then at Montgomery, through Mr. W. L. Trenholm, speaking in the name and by authority of the house of John Frazer & Co., of Liverpool. His father, like himself, an American—Hon. George A. Trenholm—was a member of that English house, and stood so high in the estimate of our Government that he was subsequently appointed Secretary of the Treasury, after the resignation of Mr. Memminger. The character and position of that individual should have given great weight to that proposition.

Mr. Prioleau, one of that firm, and, I believe, a distinguished citizen of South Carolina, is quoted by Colonel Roman as making the following statement:

I had, from the very beginning of the struggle, been more impressed with the vital importance of the seaports than with anything else. I regarded them as the lungs of the country, which, once really closed, asphyxia must follow. I therefore took an early occasion to go to London to see what could be had in the shape of vessels fit to take and keep the sea for a lengthened period, and strong enough to carry an armament which would render them efficient war vessels, or, at all events, apt to cope with those of the enemy engaged in the blockade of the coast.

‘I was fortunate in finding exactly what I wanted. A fleet of first-class East-Indiamen was lying there idle, under circumstances of a financial nature, which made them available to a buyer at less than half their cost. They had been built with a view of being armed if required, and also to be used as transports for troops, as well as to carry valuable cargoes and treasure in time of peace. Four of them were vessels of great size and power, and of the very first class, and there were six others which, although smaller, were scarcely inferior for the required purpose. Having, with the assistance of an expert, thoroughly inspected them all, I at once entered into negotiations for their purchase, and having secured them for the reply of the Confederate authorities, I submitted the proposal,’ etc. * * *

The total cost of buying, arming, and fitting out the ten ships was [406] estimated at two millions of pounds, to put the fleet on the coast, ready for action—a sum which would have been covered by forty thousand bales of cotton out of the three or four millions of bales which the Government had at that time under their hand, and which would not have cost them, at 6d., in their own currency, more than two millions of dollars. There would have been no difficulty in getting the ships to sea, * * * etc., and there is room for reasonable doubt that within six months at furthest of the acceptance of the offer being received, the fleet would have appeared off Boston and swept the coast thence to the Gulf—an achievement which would have compelled the prompt recognition of our Government and the triumph of our cause. I have always understood that the proposition was considered and rejected by the Confederate Government, but I never had any communication from them on the subject.

‘This is a correct and simple statement of the facts, which are, as far as regards this side of the water (Belgium, Prioleau to Beauregard, September 25, 1880), necessarily better known to myself than to any other living person, and concerning which my memory is perfectly clear and reliable. It occupied my mind almost exclusively for some time, and I built the highest hope upon the success of the scheme. It is true many of the ships were of too great draught of water to enter some of our ports, but that was a matter of comparatively little importance. What was wanted, in my views, was the moral effect which could have been produced everywhere by such a blow as could have been struck by even half of the whole number—an effect which I have always and will always believe would have gone very far towards determining, if it had not reversed, the result of the struggle.’

We learn from Colonel Roman's book that the Confederate Government considered with no favor so enticing and at the same time, apparently, at least, and on its very face so feasible a proposition, and rejected it without the slightest hesitation, notwithstanding the most strenuous efforts on the part of General Beauregard to have it adopted. Why it was deemed radically impracticable (for no other reason can be supposed for the almost contemptuous indifference with which it was treated) we are not told. It was, however, evidently of supreme importance. It will be an interesting point to be elucidated in the appreciation of past events, of still born measures, of projected and unaccomplished plans, by the future historian of our civil war, and praise or censure will be distributed where it is due, and with an impartial hand. There was, on this occasion, a very striking disagreement in the views of General Beauregard and the [407] Government. Admitting that there were sufficient reasons, unknown to us, for rejecting summarily a plan apparently so feasible, and fraught possibly with such favorable results for the Southern Confederacy, it cannot be denied, unless some new light be thrown on the subject, that General Beauregard, for his views and pressing action in the matter, deserves all the credit which Colonel Roman claims for that eminent personage.

The experience of history teaches us that in a war of two nations of unequal strength and resources, the weaker one can save herself only by being constantly on the offensive, if possible. This is so demonstrable a fact, that it might be taken as a basis for a principle or rule of action in such circumstances. Nothing is more exhaustive of national vitality and prosperity than war, because war is organized and scientific destruction. Therefore, between two belligerants, the chances of final triumph are in favor of the stronger, and the ratio of those chances is in proportion to the duration of the conflict. It has been said by a great captain that, ‘in the end, victory always favors the big battalions.’ Several instances, however, are on record where the weaker in the field crushed a much more powerful enemy than himself by a well-concerted multiplicity and rapidy of attacks and startling manoeuvres, inspired by genius and executed with a boldness that struck the world with admiration. To cripple severely an adversary at the onset is to secure a strong card out of the pack. A duel between two nations is like a duel between two individuals. A man who never wielded a sword, when put in front of a master of the art of fencing, is lost, if he waits for the deadly thrust of his adversary, who will strike with a gladiatorial accuracy that will not be parried by the untrained and unskillful hand of mere courage. The only chance for his almost defenceless combatant is, as soon as steel touches steel, to take the initiative, and by the precipitation of lightning-like strokes, aimed at the breast of his adversary, to risk at once the possibility of a lucky hit. It will be, perhaps, as one to fifty; but one chance on the offensive is better than none on the defensive.

Without going back very far into the annals of mankind, we will mention, as an illustration of the wise and recommendable policy of aggression under certain circumstances, the seven years war of Prussia, with a population of five millions, against France, Austria, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and the Germanic Body, with a population of more than one hundred millions. Frederic never thought of rooting himself in strong positions to wait for the assaults of his multitudinous enemies. With the bound of a tiger, he never failed to [408] spring upon the one that was nearest to him. When badly whipped he made no change in the system of war which he had conceived, but only made it more effective. It was the system of concentration, to operate against fractions. He never was tempted to disseminate his forces for the purpose of protecting any portion or the whole of his provinces with the fragments of a broken and insufficient shield. The army, gathered around his person, was the seat of government, and that government became as nomadic as the army. The whole of Prussia was repeatedly overrun and plundered. Berlin was taken and sacked several times. He made no attempt to cover scattered localities because they clamored for it, and, rising above sectional wish and interest, he occupied no point that was not of extreme strategic importance. He abandoned the limbs and provided only for the safety of the heart. His camp was the heart of Prussia. As long as that heart was kept pulsating, the blood might again return to the withered limbs. He allowed whole provinces to be depopulated, and any number of cities and towns and villages to be devastated. It was terrible, but it was comparatively nothing to him, provided he had a horse to mount, a crust of bread to eat, an army to command, and could keep his forces concentrated in the palm of his heroic hand, ready to strike in every direction; and after seven years of as bloody a war as ever was fought, during which he never deviated from his system of concentration and incessant aggression against his enemies, whom he contrived to attack when isolated and separated from one another, he succeeded, by his own genius and by an unexpected turn of the wheel of fortune, in securing an honorable and advantageous peace, although he had been hopeless during the whole struggle, and had carried poison in his pocket to end his life rather than be taken prisoner, so tremendous were the odds against this man of iron. Thus it may be sometimes prudent to be bold, and safe to cast the die in the face of danger.

When Bonaparte took the command of the army of Italy, composed, if our memory is correct, of thirty thousand men, he had to contend against about one hundred and fifty thousand Austrians, divided into several corps, but each one superior in numbers and equipment to his own forces. If he had prudently kept on the defensive, to wait for reinforcements and all the materials of war which he needed, what might have been the result? Far from it—he said to his troops: ‘Soldiers, you have neither shoes, nor food, nor clothes, and the Republic cannot relieve you. Hence you must help yourselves. Before you lie the Austrians. In their camps alone you [409] will find what you need.’ Action followed speech, and his aggressive operations on that occasion, conducted with electric rapidity, have remained the wonder of the world. He assumed immense risks, it is true, and was very near losing the battle of Marengo, where victory was secured to him by the unexpected arrival of Desoix. But still the question may be asked: Would there not have been greater risk on the defensive than on the offensive?

General Andrew Jackson, when, on the 23d of December, 1814, he marched with inferior forces, composed of raw militia, to attack the veterans of England, encamped on a level plain, six miles from New Orleans, and fought them notwithstanding the darkness of night was intuitively correct in his bold decision. He struck the first blow; he stunned the surprised enemy; and it gave him time to retreat and fortify himself on the ground which he subsequently chose. Had he remained on the defensive, instead of moving resolutely, and almost rashly, to the plains of Chalmetto, it is not impossible that the result would have been painfully different for New Orleans.

From the first to the last day of our civil strife, General Beauregard never ceased, with an earnest perseverance which showed the strength of his conviction, to recommend to his Government to subordinate every other consideration to the military policy of concentration and aggression, whilst the Confederate Government seemed to have been bent on defending, at one and the same time, the whole area of our Southern territory, and particularly Richmond, at all hazards—a policy which necessitated a scattering of forces, and, above all, the maintenance of a large army about the capital for its protection. The aggressive system was thus made subordinate to the protective and defensive. On the other hand, it was the reverse that was invariably advocated in the plans presented by General Beauregard. Those plans appear to have been looked upon by our Government as seductively brilliant, but dangerously imprudent, for they were more or less unceremoniously rejected. Thus, on this point, as on others that successively arose, there was a divergence, a bifurcation of views between the General and the Executive, or his cabinet, which resulted, as shown in Colonel Roman's book, in a sort of permanent antagonism, or at least uncongeniality. It produced gradually a reciprocal estrangement much to be regretted.

Without entering into a painful examination of personal feelings and their causes, we will proceed to consider to some extent the military merits and achievements of General Beauregard as they evolve out of the pages of Colonel Roman.

‘At manassas,’ says Colonel Roman, ‘General Beauregard's [410] plan of operations, who commanded at that locality, was based, as were all his military plans, on the leading ideas of concentration and aggression.’ That plan was, that General J. E. Johnston, at Harper's Ferry, who was confronting General Patterson, and that General Holmes, who was confronting nobody, should join their forces to his own at Manassas, thus making an effective force of 40,000 men. ‘This force,’ wrote General Beauregard to Johnston, ‘would enable us to destroy the forces of General Scott and McDowell in my front’ (which, however, would have been much superior in numbers and equipment to the attacking party). ‘Then we could go back with as many men as necessary to attack and disperse General Patterson's army before he could know positively what had become of you’ (Patterson was at Harper's Ferry). ‘We would then proceed to General McClellan's theatre of war, and treat him likewise, after which we would pass over into Maryland, to operate in rear of Washington. I think this whole campaign could be completed brilliantly in from fifteen to twenty days.’

Holmes assented readily; Johnston stated objections. At Richmond, a sort of council of war, composed of the President and of Generals Lee and Cooper, examined the scheme with much consideration and earnestness, and rejected it, although it was pronounced to be ‘brilliant and exhaustive.’ This was done on the ground of reasons which were thought sufficient at the time, and which are mentioned in Colonel Roman's book. Mr. Davis' particular and personal objection was in these words: ‘The plan is based on the improbable and inadmissible supposition that the enemy was to await everywhere, isolated and motionless, until our forces could effect junctions to attack them in detail.’

At last Johnston was permitted by the Government to join Beauregard, ‘if practicable,’ at the moment when a battle was imminent at Manassas. He arrived at noon on the 20th of July, and a hard fought battle began on the next day, early in the morning—30,000 Confederates against 50,000 Federals. McDowell, at 4 P. M., was defeated, but he had very near been successful. He had put us under the necessity of changing twice our plan of battle; we fought on no anticipated plan at all of our own, and on the field which we had been forced to accept. There was a ‘critical moment’ when disaster stared us in the face. Our men seemed to have accomplished all that could be done against such overwhelming powers, but depression, added to exhaustion, was about to overthrow their overtaxed endurance.

A splendid victory, however, was achieved, but it was comparatively [411] barren. The victors, it is asserted, had no means of transportation, and hardly any rations on hand. Therefore the enemy was not pursued and no forward movement made towards Washington. Could this deficiency have been provided for? If it could, and was not, whose fault was it? We deem it a side issue which, with several others arising from the circumstances of this battle, cannot be allowed to occupy the space they would require within the scope of this necessarily concise and limited review.

Before and during the battle, Johnston was apprehensive of the appearance of Patterson on the field. Hence the logical inference that, in his opinion, there was nothing in the way to arrest and check the adversary, to whom he had given the slip. If this had happened, it is probable that there would have been a repetition of something like the Blucher affair at Waterloo. But here a question may present itself to the mind of the reader of Colonel Roman's book. If, after the battle of Manassas, the combined forces of Generals Johnston and Beauregard could not march immediately and directly to Washington, on account of the want of means of transportation, rations, etc., and on account of other obstacles, could not a portion at least of the original plan, conceived by Beauregard, and rejected by Davis, Lee, and Cooper, have been executed? McDowell was ‘crushed,’ not, it is true, according to that ‘brilliant and exhaustive plan’; but was he not sufficiently crushed to have permitted Johnston's troops, who had come in a few hours to Manassas, to return swiftly to their former position by the same conveyances, and, with Beauregard's supplemental forces, to destroy Patterson and enter Maryland? All that our army wanted—means of transportation, abundant subsistence, ammunition, and all sorts of equipment—would have been found in Patterson's camp and in that well-disposed State, and perhaps reinforcements in men. Could not, in that direction, Washington have been more easily reached than by the straight and front route from Manassas? This movement having not been executed by such men as Johnston and Beauregard, it must be supposed that it was really impossible.

It has been since ascertained that General Patterson and the twenty thousand men under his command were in a state of utter demoralization; that the term of enlistment for most of them had expired, or was near expiring, and that they were anxious to go home. Besides, General Patterson had large planting interests in Louisiana. He was reported to be secretly opposed to the war, and only apparently hostile to the South from the force of circumstances. Be it as it may, a [412] gentleman whose testimony would have weight in any court of justice, has assured us that at that time he had read a letter from General Patterson to General Barrow, a wealthy planter and slave-owner, in which Patterson expressed friendly feelings, and informed Barrow that a battle was impending at Manassas, but that he would not be present and would take no share in it. This letter, if it could be procured, would be a valuable historical document. General Barrow is dead, but the person who read the letter still lives. This fact, if satisfactorily ascertained, would explain the immobility of Patterson and make of him a second Grouchy. It results, from all that precedes, that the unpleasant and regrettable friction of discordant views that were entertained by President Davis and General Beauregard during the whole war is to be traced to an early date—the battle of Manassas.

The resume of Colonel Roman's views about the non-execution of General Beauregard's plan to crush successively and by rapid movements McDowell, Patterson and McClellan is, that it was because the concentration of forces for which Beauregard had been clamorous, together with a sufficient supply of means of transportation and subsistence, had not been sent at the right moment of opportune aggression; that it came only when he had been compelled to be on the defensive, and if with the required troops, not, however, with the indispensable means of subsistence and transportation to make a victory complete in all its expected consequences; and that the absence of these means prevented, after McDowell's attack and defeat, his being pursued and the march of the Confederates on Washington. We see clearly why, under such circumstances, this could not be done, but without more light than we have on the subject, we do not see as clearly why Patterson was not attacked and the necessities of our destitute army relieved by the capture of his camp, which might have been followed by a march through Maryland to the rear of Washington.

Colonel Roman observes: ‘In rejecting this plan (the original plan of concentration and of offensive operations against the enemy) Mr. Davis left the Confederate forces to await everywhere, isolated and motionless, until the Federal forces could effect junctions to attack them in detail, and this, we may say, was, unhappily, his military method throughout the war.’ Hence, an incessant antagonism between the two, which continued from the beginning to the end of the war, and, consequently, fretted both President Davis and General Beauregard into a reciprocal dislike and discontent, that [413] may have grown into something bordering on restrained animosity.

General Beauregard's anxieties had been great about the defense of New Orleans, and, on one occasion; he strongly urged his views on the subject, and endeavored to convince the President, in a personal interview, of the necessity of constructing floating booms and other obstructions between Forts St. Philip and Jackson, on the Mississippi. ‘The President,’ says Colonel Roman, ‘gave but little weight to these suggestions.’

In a subsequent interview with General Lovell, who had been appointed to the command of New Orleans, ‘General Beauregard,’ continues Colonel Roman, ‘emphasized, both orally and in writing, the absolute necessity of such an obstruction, and hoped that General Lovell, who had approved of his system, would lose no time in putting it into operation.’ Later events showed, however, that the work was not constructed as planned and advised by General Beauregard, both in his conference with General Lovell and in his memoir to the Louisiana Military Board.

In connection with this subject it may not be amiss to state that the whole correspondence of General Lovell, whilst in command of New Orleans, with the Confederate Government at Richmond, was communicated to the writer of this article at Camp Moore, on the Jackson railroad, after the evacuation of that city. Governor Moore, who was present, referred very pointedly to a remarkable document in his possession, but which, however, we did not have the opportunity to see. He said, with bitter emphasis, that it would demonstrate the imbecile carelessness of the Confederate Government about the defense of New Orleans. We felt much interested and astonished at certain disclosures. General Lovell, who seemed to be aggrieved and sore, declared emphatically that he would publish in due time the whole correspondence, in order to vindicate his military honor and reputation. Has that publication taken place? We believe not. Does he still live, and will he continue to keep under lock and key these historical materials? As to Governor Moore, he is dead; is the document he mentioned still in existence?

But we feel a sort of relief in turning away our sight from the field of Manassas, where, as we are told by Colonel Roman, ‘there was not twenty-four hours food for the troops brought together for that battle. The fact is,’ he says, ‘that some command was without food for forty hours after the battle.’ With what a strange commissariat we must have been afflicted!

The scene soon shifts, and from Manassas General Beauregard is [414] transferred to an immediate command, including forces under Generals Polk and Hardee, within the department of Kentucky and Tennessee, at the head of which General Albert Sidney Johnston had been placed, with headquarters at Bowling Green. The whole Confederate force in Johnston's department did not number more than forty-five thousand men of all arms and conditions, and badly equipped. They had to contend against one hundred and thirty thousand men, with splendid supplies of every kind.

On meeting General Johnston at Bowling Green, after surveying the field of operations, General Beauregard, with his accustomed boldness and quickness of perception, immediately recommended the adoption of his favorite system of concentration, for the purpose of an offensive action against the Federals, whose disjointed corps, separated by long intervals, might be attacked and beaten in detail. He thought that too much dilatoriness and inaction, and too strict an adherence to the defensive, would be fatal. General Johnston, although admitting the force of Beauregard's observations and arguments, objected, substantially, on the ground that the Confederates were not in a condition to risk too much. General Beauregard insisted ‘that our success must lie in following the cardinal principles of war-the swift concentration of masses against the enemy's exposed fractions and that if we could concentrate our forces with greater rapidity, all other things being equal, we had the chance in our favor, and that, particularly in war, nothing venture, nothing win.’ General Johnston admitted this, but said ‘that owing to the great responsibilty which rested on him, and the disaster to be apprehended to the Confederacy should he meet with defeat, he must adhere to his original plan of operations’—which seemed to consist in a determined preference of the defensive to the offensive and a systematic reserve of his troops for the occupation of certain points, to be protected, every one of them and at the same time, against overwhelming forces, that would thus be permitted to attack at their own convenience. The results were disastrous. Fortified positions were taken one after the other, or evacuated to avoid the capture of their defenders. Instead of concentrating our troops, they had been kept apart, or moving occasionally on divergent lines, on which the fortune of war refused to smile.

General Beauregard had in vain said: ‘We must give up some minor points and concentrate our forces to save the most important ones, or we will lose all of them in succession.’ No oracle ever spoke a sadder truth. All the points were ultimately lost as predicted, [415] and the enemy acquired the command of several rivers, the possession of which it was of vital importance for the Southern Confederacy to retain.

To face these disasters and repair them, if possible, General Beauregard, then at Jackson, Tennessee, and being probably allowed more latitude of action, proceeded with characteristic vigor and with a rapid and clear conception of what was to be done. He called, in February, 1862, on the States of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee for whatever number of men that could be collected, and advised General Van Dorn to join him from Arkansas, with ten thousand men, if he could, crossing the Mississippi via New Madrid or Columbus. He thought that, with forty thousand men, he could possibly take Cairo, Paducah, the mouth of the Tennessee, and Cumberland rivers, and most probably take also St. Louis by the river. It was certainly a brilliant programme, and he believed it fully practicable, if he could get the necessary means. But success in the execution of all these operations was of questionable expectation, as it would have rested on so many contingencies. Beauregard was, no doubt, sensible of it, for he added in a sort of postcript to the letter in which he communicated his plan to General Van Dorn: ‘At all events, we must do something, or die in the attempt; otherwise all will be shortly lost.’ Evidently there was in him no masterly inactivity.

On the same day he also telegraphed General Johnston, reaffirming the urgency of assembling all their forces at Corinth. His object was to be able to meet the Federals as soon as they should venture upon the west bank of the Tennessee river and before they could be fully prepared for our attack.

‘The State troops hastily assembled were,’ says Colonel Roman, ‘partly equipped, without drill and badly armed, some of them only with the discarded flint-lock musket of former days, and great difficulty was experienced in procuring the proper quality of flints. Not a third of the cavalry had fire-arms, and those who had were all armed with a medley of pistols, carbines, muskets and shot-guns, chiefly the latter. Few of them had sabres. The personnel of this new levy, however, could not have been better. It was composed of the best young men from the city and country, who had rushed to arms at the call of their States. Animated by a feeling of patriotism and high martial spirit, they gave fair promise of great efficiency, if well officered. As soon as the regiments arrived at the rendezvous assigned them, they were brigaded, equipped for the field as well as [416] our restricted means permitted, and owing to the lack of time for better instruction, were exercised only, and but slightly, in company and battalion drills, while awaiting orders to march to the battlefield.’ It was with such improvised, such raw and imperfect materials, that the Southern Confederacy was to be saved from destruction in as unequal a contest as can be imagined.

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