War of the Rebellion: Serial 024 Page 0453 Chapter XXIX. CORINTH.

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with at least no certainty of maintaining its position. Eastern Tennessee was free from Federal dominion. General Price, with a force of


thousands, occupied the lines of the Ohio and Mobile Railroad at Baldwyn, while my command at Vicksburg and Port Hudson and at Abbeville was guarding the Mississippi River, and the lines of the Mississippi Central Railroad, leading to the capital of the State. The successful defense of Vicksburg against a naval force, however formidable, has shown that a combined land and naval attack was necessary to the reduction of the place, and the enemy was exerting extraordinary energy to be prepared for such result. To prevent it the expulsion of the enemy from Western Tennessee became a military necessity. More than this, in view of the immense preparations being made by the Federal Government to overwhelm us in the spring or during the autumn, should the stage of the waters and the season be propitious, it was an obvious defensive policy to push the enemy across the Ohio River, occupy Columbus, resume the jurisdiction of the Mississippi River by the occupation of Columbus, and, instructed by the light of past events, fortify permanently the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. This policy carried our army under General Bragg to Kentucky. If General Bragg should succeed and maintain himself it was clear that the columns of my command, united with that of General Price, should drive the enemy out of Tennessee to accomplish the general design. If, on the contrary, be should be compelled to fall back, it was equally manifest that an effort should be made to aid him by crippling the Federal forces in Tennessee and placing ourselves in a position to secure a junction or co-operation with his retreating army.

I ask how could these objects be accomplished while the enemy occupied Corinth? In the judgment of military men it is the key to the whole position. Its strategic importance has been recognized by the enemy as well as by ourselves. I could have taken Memphis, but I could not have held it against the naval force of the enemy in front and his land forces in my rear and on both flanks. No important military result would have attended the capture, and its total destruction by the enemy would have probably followed the attempt. The line of fortifications around Bolivar is intersected by the Hatchie River, rendering it impossible to take the place by quick assault, and re-enforcements could be thrown in from Jackson by railroad; besides, situated as it is in the re-entrant angle of three fortified places, and advance upon it would expose both my flanks and rear to an attack from the forces at Corinth and Memphis. While Corinth was the strongest it was the most salient point, and its capture was a condition precedent to the accomplishment of anything of importance in West Tennessee. The able and acute general who commanded at Corinth well understood the consequences which would have resulted from its fall. In his official order he says that the "stake for which he fought at Corinth was the fate of West Tennessee, and more remotely the fate of Federal arms in the valley of the Mississippi." See this published order and report of General Rosecrans. A general no less distinguished gave me the concurrence of his judgment in support of my own upon the vital necessity of reducing Corinth. Major-General Price,before the junction of our forces at Ripley in September, wrote me that he was ready to co-operate with me in an attack upon Corinth: and here as a witness, in clear and emphatic words and in many forms of expression, he has confirmed the propriety of the step he was willing to take. He testifies that so great was the importance of Corinth to us that it "warranted more than the usual hazard of battle" to win it. He testifies