Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/144

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

and Arkansas, and that part of the State of Mississippi west of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern and Central railroad; also the military operations in Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas and the Indian country immediately west of Missouri and Arkansas." Up to this date the war in the territory included in this department had been confined exclusively to Missouri. In that State Price and McCullough had won the important victory of "Oak Hill," or "Wilson's Creek," and Price, marching into the interior, had achieved a brilliant and valuable success by the capture of Lexington, its garrison and military stores. But the immense Federal odds in Missouri, which the inactivity prevailing elsewhere in the West permitted to be used against him, soon forced General Price to retire to Arkansas, having only half reaped the fruits of victory; and the incalculable advantage so nearly gained of winning Missouri to the Confederacy was lost forever. When Johnston reached his department he found to his consternation—if he were capable of such an emotion—that after deducting the garrison necessary for Columbus, which point it was absolutely necessary to hold in order to prevent the enemy from coming down the Mississippi river, and other equally necessary detachments, he had only 4,000 men available for active operations. This force he immediately pushed forward to Bowling Green, under General S. B. Buckner. General Johnston has been censured for not having caused Buckner to press on to Louisville, but audacity, like everything else, has its proper limits. The permanent occupation of Louisville, with this very inadequate Confederate force, would have been impossible. Stationed there, its inferiority in point of numbers would have been at once discovered by the enemy, and would have invited attack at the very juncture when to gain time was of the utmost importance; but at Bowling Green and comparatively remote from observation, its strength was exaggerated, and it seemed always on the point of assuming the offensive. Moreover the strategic value of the position thus taken was very great. Protected by the Green and Barren rivers in front, hardly accessible by the right flank at all its defensive strength could scarcely be overestimated. Should the army ever become strong enough for offensive operations, it could be hurled rapidly from this base upon any portion of Northern Kentucky. Forts Henry and Donelson were relied upon to close the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers against the enemy and protect the left flank. No Federal advance in force could possibly be made except by the Louisville and Nashville railroad, and, there-