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[392] supreme will of the commander. You have seen its daily manifestation throughout the long years during which you followed Robert Lee; you saw its flower and perfect fruit at that dark hour in the Wilderness when the troops made it a condition of their own self-sacrifice that Lee would spare himself. Some here present saw it at Dalton in 1864, when the coming of General Johnston to take command of the Army of Tennessee instantly restored confidence, and the accession of a single man was as welcome as a reinforcement of ten thousand soldiers. But military history is full of such instances of personal ascendency. You remember how Caesar quelled the murmurs of his officers at the march against the unknown and dreaded Germans, when calling them about him, he bitterly reproached them for daring to enquire or even speculate as to where the army was to be led, or what were the plans of the General; and then, proclaiming that if nobody else followed he would go with his beloved tenth legion alone to find the enemy, shamed the whole army into obedience and discipline.

There spoke the authority of the General.

Or take Frederick on the eve of Leuthen, in that memorable council of veterans, telling them frankly of the desperate nature of his circumstances, of his meaning nevertheless in spite of the rules of art to attack the enemy, near thrice his own strength, wherever he found him, bidding those who felt unequal to such dangers take their discharge without reproach, and winding up that heart-stirring talk with a cheery “Good night, gentlemen: shortly we shall either have beaten the enemy or we never see one another again.”

The General who could use that language felt sure of his authority. General Bragg did not possess this personal ascendency.

Passing to the other camp we find an army solidly compacted of the best manhood of the West, proud of a long list of substantial, if not brilliant successes, proud of the vast territory that already lay behind them won from us, well equipped, well nourished, moving with the precision of an organization not new to the work and the confidence and practical skill of veterans, full of hope and enterprise.

Its commander, Rosecrans, a man of vigor and talent, had done enough in West Virginia and at Murfreesboroa, not indeed to establish his claims as a General, but to make his troops look hopefully to what he was now to perform. We shall see that he had not that rare quality of soul which alone fits men for command-in-chief; and woe to the ambitious soldier who lightly undertakes to tread that giddy path, to breathe that atmosphere of awful solitude and tremendous responsibility!

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