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[474] whipped him, too. He next read a dispatch from a commander at Mobile (who, I think, was General Maury), to the effect that Canby was marching from New Orleans with twenty thousand men, and A. J. Smith from Memphis with fifteen thousand, intending to make a combined attack on Mobile. To meet this force of thirty-five thousand men he had four thousand, and Lee, with Forrest and Roddy, seven thousand, making eleven thousand in all. He asked for reenforcements.

After going fully through this matter, and showing how utterly General Johnston was at fault, as to the numbers of troops in the different commands, the President said, ‘How long did you understand General Johnston to say he could hold Sherman north of the Chattahoochee River?’ ‘From fifty-four to sixty days,’ I said, and repeated the facts on that subject as above stated. Thereupon the President read me a dispatch from General Johnston, announcing that he had crossed or was crossing the Chattahoochee River.

The next day (Monday), Mr. Seddon, the Secretary of War, called to see me. He asked me to reduce my interview with General Johnston to writing, for the use of the Cabinet, and I did so, and gave it to him. Mr. Seddon said he was anxious for General Johnston's removal, and he was especially anxious because, he said, he was one of those who was responsible for his appointment. He had urged his appointment very earnestly, but it was a great mistake, and he desired to do all he could, even at this late day, to atone for it. The President, he said, was averse to the removal. He made the appointment against his own convictions, but thought it a very hazardous thing to remove him now, and he would not do it, if he could have any assurance that General Johnston would not surrender Atlanta without a battle.

Other members of the Cabinet, I know, had views similar to those expressed by Mr. Seddon. The question, or rather the situation, was referred to General Lee, but he declined to give any positive advice, and expressed regret that so grave a movement as the removal of General Johnston under the circumstances existing, should be found to be necessary.1

During all the time, a telegraphic correspondence was kept up with General Johnston—the object being to ascertain if he would make a determined fight to save Atlanta. His answers were thought to be evasive. Finally, the question was put to General Johnston categorically to this effect: ‘Will you surrender Atlanta without a fight?’ To this the answer was regarded as not only evasive, but as indicating the contemplated contingency of surrendering Atlanta, on the ground that the Governor of the State had not furnished, as expected, sufficient State troops to man the city while the army was giving battle outside. ‘This evasive answer to a positive inquiry,’ said one of the Cabinet to me, ‘brought the President over. He yielded very reluctantly.’ I was informed of the result at once, and was also informed that Mr. Davis was the last man in the Cabinet to agree to the order of removal. . . .

1 Seddon, ex-Secretary of War, in a letter written to me on February 10, 1879, states, in regard to his interview with General Lee, that it was held after the determination had been made ‘to remove General Johnston from his command at Atlanta,’ and says of the purpose of the interview with General Lee: ‘It was designed merely to secure General Lee's estimate of qualification in the selection of a successor for the command.’

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Albert Sidney Johnston (10)
Stephen D. Lee (5)
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