before the fresh force of 20,000, which arrived at the gunboat landing on the evening of the 14th, could be got into position, with the view of opening our communications with Charlotte and Nashville, and intending ultimately to avail ourselves of a successful issue of the battle to retire from the post. All parties regarded the issue as more or less doubtful. We knew we should have a desperate fight; but we made no preparation before going into the battle for retreating from the battle-field. No suggestion or proposition was ever made that we should do so, and all that was determined upon in the conference on the night of February 14 was that we would give the investing force battle next morning. We could not have gone into such a fight with the men loaded down with blankets, knapsacks, and six days' rations, and without these the march over 60 miles of extremely broken and poor country, covered with snow and sleet 4 inches deep, could not works, because we could not use it on a battle-field covered over with a thick unders growth of black-jack bushes. We could not have commenced a retreat before the enemy's large force of cavalry and artillery without artillery to protect our rear.
We had fought the battle, leaving the three companies of artillery in the river batteries, with two regiments of infantry as a supporting force. We had left Heiman's brigade of four regiments in its position in the line of works to protect the right flank of General Buckner's force when he should attack the enemy's position on the Wynn's Ferry road. All these forces were left within our works, without orders or a knowledge that we contemplated a retreat from the battle-field.
Again, when the army had been engaged in a close and bloody fight for seven and a half hours, every officer of experience in the field knows that regiments and brigades are broken and mixed and more or less scattered over the field. To have attempted a retreat from the battle-field under such circumstances, and without reformation and in compact order, would have resulted, if pursued, in a massacre of the command. All these circumstances I stated as showing that the statement in General Buckner's reports was founded in error on his part as to our intention to retreat from the battle-field. If such was the his understanding he would certainly have reported himself to me as ready to commence the retreat, which he never did; and when we were engaged on the night of the 15th (after the battle) in making arrangements for the retreat, then we called together all the commanders of companies, regiments, and brigades, of every arm of the service; gave orders for the retreat; assigned to the different corps their respective positions; gave orders for the whole command to have their blankets, knapsacks, new supply of ammunition, and five days' rations, and directed General Buckner (then nears the position of the enemy) to protect the rear of the army in the retreat. General Buckner, after so great a lapse of time, evidently has his memory confused as to what was determined upon on the night of the 15th, confounding them with events and purposes entertained on the night of February 14.
I further said that as this point was a new one, suggested for the first time in General Buckner's report, it would have been but fair to give me notice of the point and an opportunity of explanation before my conduct was condemned; that my object in giving the order was to avoid a conflict with the enemy's fresh force of 20,000 men, which, in our then exhausted condition, I knew we could not withstand; that the moment the reasons of the order were explained to General Floyd he revoked his own order, approved of mine, and directed General Buckner to re-