Today in History:

57 Series I Volume XVI-I Serial 22 - Morgan's First Kentucky Raid, Perryville Campaign Part I


resumes its march, to repeat the same operation whenever it is necessary and the occasion is favorable. A single tree felled judiciously across the road will delay the pursuer perhaps fifteen minutes, four of them at intervals will delay him an hour, and thus the distance between him and his adversary is increased.

These advantages to defensive operations do not exist in the same degree in all descriptions of country. They are particularly marked in a broken and wooded country, where the movements and position and strength of an enemy are only to be ascertained by feeling him, and especially where there are no parallel roads by which the retreating army can be attacked in flank. The advantages alluded to make it wise frequently for a commander to fall back to a chosen ground when his adversary advances, and the battle of Perryville affords and illustration of this principle. The rebel army was moving for concentration at some point which could not be known to its adversary. A portion of it took advantage of the strong position at Perryville, commanding the only water within a distance of several miles, over which the Army of the Ohio must march to attack. That position afforded also the advantage of discovered that a part of the rebel army was making a stand, it was as reasonable to except to find its combined force there as at any other point, and dispositions had to be made accordingly. I believe that a sound and unprejudiced criticism will show that the movement of the Army of the Ohio was executed promptly and judiciously; that it arrived more simultaneously and in better order than the enemy could have expected, considering that the point which he would choose for battle could not be foreseen; and that but for the lack of timely information of the condition of things on the afternoon of the 8th the main portion of the enemy's force at Perryville would have been captured.

Contests between unequal forces result sometimes, but very rarely, from the fact that the inferior has no alternative but to fight or surrender. In by far the greatest number of cases, however, the conflict results from a lack of ability on the part of the inferior to avail himself of the means of extricating his army; or from a contempt for or ignorance of the strength of his adversary; or from an advantage of position which in his opinion will outweigh that of superiority of numbers and a corresponding ignorance of that advantage or faulty dispositions on the part of the superior army; and these last are the cases in which most frequently the inferior army is victorious. When the armies are about equal, they maneuver so as to deceive and cause each other to make detachments or force each other to battle on ground unfavorable to the adversary. In all these cases the object is not merely to give battle for the sake of fighting, but to fight for victory, or at least safety, and with such advantages as will make success reasonably certain; and the more serious the consequences of defeat the greater the caution to be observed. Ignorance and error multiply battles far more than valor and generally with the penalty of disaster. If precaution and the observance of rule diminish the number of battles, and sometimes miss the accidental success which folly and recklessness might have gained, it is nevertheless true that in the end they usually triumph.

The operations of the column under the command of General G. W. Morgan at Cumberland Gap have been brought before the Commission. The deposition of Colonel De Courcy, an officer under General Morgan's command, introduced as evidence for the Government, alleges that after General Morgan commenced his advance upon Cumberland Gap in May last he was suddenly arrested by a telegraphic dispatch from me, ordering