Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 35.djvu/233
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was forwarded to the field from Corinth, announcing that Buell was moving with his whole force upon Florence.
Emanating from a reliable officer placed there in observation, whose scouts had doubtless mistaken the movement of Mitchell's Division for the whole of Buell's Army, it was credited, and Buell's timely junction with General Grant was accordingly deemed impossible. Therefore, the capture of the latter was regarded at Confederate headquarters as inevitable the next day, as soon as all the scattered Confederate reserves could be brought to bear for a concentrated effort.
Meanwhile, night had shrouded the bloody field in darkness ; a deep silence had settled upon the scene of so much carnage a silence only broken through the night by the regular exchanges of the heavy naval guns, the explosions of the shells, and by the low wails and moans of the wounded, of whom more than ten thousand, of both armies, were spread over the battlefield.
Such, however, of the Confederate soldiery as could find shelter from a heavy rain, slept undisturbed and hopeful of the fullest fruition of a great victory on the morrow.
On withdrawing from the ravine in which the nightfall had left him, Colonel Forrest, finding no superior at hand from whom to seek orders, with his habitual self-reliance looked at once for forage and food, and happily found both in a Federal camp nearby. Afterward he threw out a squadron as pickets, confronting as close as possible those of the enemy on a stretch of a mile to Coal Creek. He also dispatched Lieutenant Sheri- dan, of his regiment, with a squad of scouts in Federal over- coats, to reconnoiter within the precincts of the enemy's lines.
Completely successful, in an hour Sheridan returned and re- ported that, reaching the landing, he had seen heavy re-enforce- ments coming rapidly by water. Also, in his opinion, such was the disorder prevailing that if an attack were made in full force at once, they might be readily pushed into the river.
Forrest, ever a man of prompt action, mounted his horse instantly to convey this startling intelligence to the nearest corps commander, and soon coming upon Generals Hardee and Breck- inridge, made known what his scouts had announced. He also bluntly added his opinion that either the Confederates should