|Chapter XXVIII. GENERAL REPORTS.
tion, especially as it was to be expected that information of anything of serious import would be promptly conveyed to me. For that reason I received with astonishment the intelligence of the severe fighting that commenced at 2 o'clock. Not a musket-shot had been heard nor did the sound of artillery indicate anything like a battle. This was probably caused by the configuration of the ground, which broke the sound, and by the heavy wind, which it appears blew from the right to the left during the day, though the latter I had not thought of until it was established in evidence before the Commission. Be that as it may, many witnesses, without exception, have testified to the absence of all reason to suppose at my headquarters that a battle was raging, and the testimony of hundreds more could have been adduced to the same effect.
It has been asked why, after the battle of Perryville, I did not immediately follow the enemy to Harrodsburg, without waiting for Sill's division to come up. That the entire rebel army could have been brought to battle there I have no doubt. The forces were nearly equal on both sides-on one side nearly all veteran troops, under perfect discipline; on the other, a portion, the old "Army of the Ohio," equally good, but more than one third of the whole raw and undisciplined.* The enemy would have had the advantage of the strong position which he selected. The result of a conflict under such circumstances is not to be predicted. I am not willing to admit that I might have failed, and yet no man can assert that the result ought certainly to have been otherwise under the circumstances. It was sufficient for me that I could make it reasonably certain by waiting for my troops to come up.
My studies have taught me that battles are only to be fought for some important object; that success must be rendered reasonably certain if possible-the more certain the better; that if the result is reasonably uncertain, battle is only to be sought when very serious disadvantage must result from a failure to fight or when the advantages of a possible victory far outweigh the consequences of probable defeat. These rules suppose that war has a higher object than that of mere bloodshed, and military history points for study and commendation to campaigns which have been conducted over a large field of operations with important results and without a single general engagement. In my judgment the commander merits condemnation who, from ambition or ignorance or a weak submission to the dictation of popular clamor and without necessity or profit, has squandered the lives of his soldiers. In this connection it is proper to review the circumstances which should have weight upon the question of hastening a battle at the particular juncture referred to.
There is not, I venture to say, a particle of evidence upon the records of this Commission which does not lead to the conclusion that the objects and intention of the rebel Government in the invasion of Kentucky last summer were to hold possession of the State by force of arms and secure it to the cause of the rebellion. The circumstances of the invasion and the formidable force employed in it, the advance of the smaller force under Kirby Smith, which establish depots and collected supplies, that made comparatively easy and safe the subsequent advance of the main force under General Bragg to a point so remote from its original base; the further re-enforcement of this large force by the column under Breckinridge at the very time when, if a temporary raid
*To quotation from this paragraph in his letter of April 10, 1864, there omitted to avoid duplication, General Buell adds the following note:
"The evidence places the rebel army in Kentucky at not less than 60,000. It places my force at Perryville at less than 58,000 before the battleJanuary
|Chapter XXVIII. GENERAL REPORTS.