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[393]

But Rosecrans was surrounded by men familiar with the best lessons of war, wise and bold to plan — eager and strong to execute. George H. Thomas was there at the head of a corps. There have been times when a Virginian might not be trusted to speak impartially of this famous Virginian; but sixteen years have assuaged the bitterness of civil strife, death has been busy with the great actors of the scene, victors and vanquished alike, and we, their younger contemporaries, have already reached a stage from which the sober judgment of history may be anticipated. It is, however, with his military character that we have now to deal, and discussing that before an assemblage of soldiers, who could fail to do homage to the steadfast soldier whose fortitude saved an army? The men who felt the full weight of his stroke will never forget its strength and majesty; there is abundant mutual esteem in good blows well given and received, and the Father of Epic song is true to the human heart when he suggests that Trojans and Greeks will say of Hector and Ajax

On mortal quarrel did those warriors meet,
Yet parted thence in friendly bonds conjoined.

Is not this the present temper of those who wore the blue and the gray?

Besides Thomas there were under Rosecrans, as corps commanders, McCook, Crittenden, and Gordon Granger — men, except the last, of far inferior force. But the Federal divisions were in many cases, most strongly led. Amongst their commanders were Brannan, Baird, Reynolds, Palmer, Steedman, Wood, Sheridan. The chief of staff of the army was that brave and strong man, James A. Garfield.

From the 29th of August to the 4th of September Rosecrans was crossing the Tennessee river with 59,0001 infantry and artillery; but at that time Bragg, having received from Mississippi Walker's and Breckinridge's divisions, had only of these arms 42,000 men, soon to be increased by 5,000 brought by Buckner from Knoxville, which Burnside now entered.

Such being the two armies, I must ask you to consider a moment the country in which they were about to operate.

Chattanooga, the gateway of Georgia, stands on the left bank of the Tennessee, just above the point where the river forces a passage through a tremendous barrier of mountains. A little below, on the right bank, and for twenty-five miles down, the outlying chains of the Cumberland range abut precipitously on the stream, leaving no room


1 See note next following.

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