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[181] order over another in the state of disorder which necessarily results from even the most successful assault. There was really no comparison, in effective strength, between Opdycke's orderly and compact brigade and the confused mass of Confederates that were crossing over our parapet. The result was nothing extraordinary or at all unprecedented. It was but one of the numerous proofs afforded by military history of the value of that prudent maxim in the art of war which dictates the placing of a suitable reserve in close support of that portion of a defensive line which is liable to heavy assault.

The surprising conduct of the commanders of the two brigades of Wagner's division which were run over by the enemy, and of the division commander himself, whatever may be true as to the conflicting statements published in respect to their action, is one of the strongest possible illustrations of the necessity of the higher military education, and of the folly of intrusting high commands to men without such education, which, fortunately for the country and the army, is rarely learned by experience, but must be acquired by laborious study of the rules and principles laid down by standard authors as derived from the practice and teachings of the great masters of the art of war in all ages. A well-educated officer, either as brigade or division commander, would not have needed orders from any source to tell him what to do in that emergency. He would have known so surely what his duty was that he would have retired at the proper time behind the main line, without ever thinking whether or not he had orders to do so. As well might I have waited for orders from General Thomas to retire across the Harpeth after my duty on the south side of that river had been accomplished. The cases are closely parallel. Any unofficial discussion of the question of responsibility for the sacrifice of those two brigades is idle. According to the established rules of war, those

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George H. Thomas (1)
Emerson Opdycke (1)
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