64 HISTORY OF THE SEVENTY-EIGHTH REGIMENT O.V.V.I.
were the grand strategic features of that first movement, and it succeeded perfectly.
General Halleck's went further – not to stop at his first line, which ran through Columbus, Bowling Green, crossing the river at Henry and Donelson, but to push on to the second line, which ran through Memphis and Charleston; but troubles intervened at Nashville, and delays followed; opposition to the last movement was made, and I myself was brought an actor on the scene.
I remember our ascent of the Tennessee River; I have seen to-night, captains of steamboats who first went with us there; storms came, and we did not reach the point we desired. At that time General C. F. Smith was in command; he was a man indeed; all the old officers remember him as a gallant and excellent officer, and had he lived, probably some of us younger fellows would not have attained our present positions. But that is now past. We followed him – the second time – and then came the landing of forces at Pittsburg Landing. Whether it was a mistake in landing them on the west instead of the east bank, it is not necessary now to discuss. I think it was not a mistake; there was gathered the first great army of the West – commencing with only twelve thousand, then twenty, then thirty thousand, and we had about thirty-eight thousand in that battle; and all I claim for that is, that it was a contest for manhood; there was no strategy. Grant was there, and others of us, all young at that time, and unknown men, but our enemy was old, and Sidney Johnston, whom all the officers remembered as a power among the old officers, high above Grant, myself or anybody else, led the enemy on that battle-field, and I almost wonder how we conquered. But, as I remarked, it was a contest for manhood – man to man, soldier to soldier. We fought, and we held our ground, and therefore accounted ourselves victorious. [Cheers.]
The possession of the Mississippi river is the possession of America, [cheers,] and I say that had the Southern Confederacy, (call it by what name you may,) had that power represented by the Southern Confederacy, held with a grip sufficiently strong the lower part of the Mississippi river, we would have been a subjugated people, and they would have dictated to us if we had given up possession of the lower Mississippi. It was vital to us, and we fought for it and won. We determined to have it; but we could not go down with our frail boats past the batteries of Vicksburg. It was a physical impossibility; therefore, what was to be done? After the Tallahatchie line was carried, Vicksburg was the next point. I went with a small and hastily collected force, and repeatedly endeavored to make a lodgement on the bluff between Vicksburg and Haine's Bluffs, while General Grant moved with his main army so as to place himself on the high plateau behind Vicksburg; but "man proposes and God disposes," and we failed on that occasion. I then gathered my hastily collected force and went down further, and then, for the first time, I took General Blair and his brigade under my command.
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