War of the Rebellion: Serial 007 Page 0897 Chapter XVII. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.-CONFEDERATE.

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nessee River to our possession or combined the movements of the two armies in rear of it.

It also becomes evident that by the possession of that river the enemy can concentrate rapidly by means of his innumerable transports all his disposable forces on any point along its banks, either ot attack Nashville in rear or cut off the communications of Columbus by the river with Memphis and by the railroads with the Memphis and Charleston Railroad.

Should the enemy determine on the former plan of operations, your army, threatened in front and on right flanks by Buell's large army, will be in a very critical condition, and may be force to take refuge on the south side of the Tennessee River, in Alabama and Georgia or Eastern Tennessee. But should Halleck adopt the second plan referred to, the position at Columbus will then become no longer tenable for an army inferior in strength to that of the enemy, and it must fall back to some central point, where it can guard the two main railroads to memphis, i. e., from Louisville and from Charleston. Jackson, Tenn., would probably be the best position for such an object, with strong detachments at Humboldt and Corinth and with the necessary advance guards. The Memphis and Charleston Road, so important on account of its extension through Eastern Tennessee and Virginia, must be properly guarded from Iuka to Tuscumbia, and even to Decatur, if practicable.

Columbus must either be left to be defended to the last extremity by its proper garrison, assisted by Hollins' fleet of gunboats, and provided with provisions and ammunition for several months, or abandoned altogether, its armament and garrison being transferred, if practicable, to Fort Pillow, which, I am informed, is a naturally and artificially strong position, about 100 miles above Memphis. Island Numbers 10, near new Madrid, could also be held by its garrison, assisted by Hollins' fleet, until the possession of New Madrid by the enemy would also compel that position to be evacuated.

I am clearly of the opinion that to attempt at present to hold so advanced a position as Columbus with the movable army under General Polk, when its communication can be so readily cut off by a superior force acting from the Tennessee River as a new base, would be to jeopardize not only the safety of that army, but necessarily of the whole Mississippi Valley. Hence I desire, as a far as practicable, specific instructions as to the future movements of the army of which i am about to assume the command. If it be necessary for the safety of the country to make with all my forces a desperate stand at Columbus, I am ready to do so.

I regret much that illness has prevented me from being already at my post, but during my stay here I believe I have made myself as well acquainted with your general views and intentions as circumstances have permitted, and which I will always be happy to carry into effect to the best of my abilities.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


General, C. S. Army.

CAMP DESHA, February 21, 1862.

Major General LEONIDAS POLK:

DEAR SIR: At 5 o'clock this evening I returned from the expedition over to Camp Beauregard and vicinity. Owing to the heavy rains I