|Chapter XXVIII. GENERAL REPORTS.
north. Dick's River has the same characteristics of cliff banks, and its fewer crossings make it a much stronger line of defense than the Kentucky River.
Together these streams make the position of Camp Dick Robinson, in the fork, almost impregnable for a large army, except from the southeast. In that case the defensive army, with its right flank protected by Dick's River and its left by the broken ground to the east, may fall back easily and securely to the north side of the Kentucky, and by a short march either to the east or the west recross to the south side and fall upon good lines of retreat; and these movements can only be counteracted by considerable detours or by previous detachments, which would weaken the opposing army so much as to endanger the main attack, unless the army is very greatly superior in strength. On the north side of the Kentucky River the country is traversable by good roads between the Lexington and Richmond road and any of the roads crossing the river lower down; but on the south side the country bordering the river between the mouth of Dick's River and the Lexington and Richmond road is destitute of practicable roads parallel with the river. Besides the advantages already alluded to, the whole of that region of country abounds in strong positions commanding the only water for an army within several miles, so that the attacking force is forced to fight under all the disadvantage of exhaustion for the want of it, as was the case at Perryville.
These details make it easy to answer the theories that have been advanced for the annihilation or capture of the entire rebel army under General Bragg. One of those theories assumes that that army might have been destroyed in crossing Dick's River.
A defile, if it does not retard the march materially, is always a benefit to a retreating army, and the line of Dick's River is admirably adapted to such and object. It is only necessary for the retreating army to make demonstrations of battle with a strong rear guard, which will require corresponding preparations and delay on the part of the pursuer. In the mean time it throws its artillery across rapidly to take positions to sweep the opposite bank, and under such protection the remainder of the retiring army crosses with safety.
Great stress has been laid on the importance of Danville to cut off the retreat of the rebel army from Perryville. My right rested after the battle within 4 or 5 miles of Danville and my cavalry watched and went beyond that place. Danville controlled no line of retreat for the enemy except through that point and thence on toward Somerset or Columbia. That was as well covered by being 4 or 5 miles from Danville with a perfectly open and unobstructed country between as it would have been at Danville itself, and the enemy point from the road going from Camp Dick Robinson to Cumberland Gap, and the strong line of Dick's River between prevents Danville from having any command of that road.
The first point at which the enemy's retreat on the Cumberland Gap road could be intercepted is Lancaster, 10 miles from Danville. If the Army of the Ohio moved to Lancaster in force in advance of the rebel army, it threw its communications into the hands of the enemy. If, before being assured that the enemy had crossed Dick's River, it divided its force over the 20 miles from Perryville to Lancaster to protect its communications and intercept the retreat of the enemy through Lancaster, it rendered itself liable to be beaten in detail; and if, after being assured that the enemy had crossed Dick's River, it left small
|Chapter XXVIII. GENERAL REPORTS.