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[193] compact army, while Thomas then had in the field ready to oppose it a decidedly inferior force, even admitting the lowest estimate made of that hostile army.

The superiority of the enemy's cavalry made it necessary that the garrisons of all essential posts and the guards of important railroad bridges should be strong enough to resist attack from a large force of dismounted cavalry and light artillery, so long as Thomas was compelled to remain on the defensive. The records of that time indicate that Thomas then appreciated, what mature consideration now confirms, that if Hood's advance had induced him (Thomas) to draw off sufficient troops from garrisons and railroad guards to enable him to give battle on equal terms to Hood at Pulaski or Columbia, a raid by Hood's cavalry would probably have resulted in the destruction or capture of nearly everything in the rear, not only in Tennessee, but also in Kentucky, except perhaps Nashville and Chattanooga. It was only wise forethought which suggested that such might be the nature of Hood's plans, especially in view of the season of the year and the condition of the roads, which made aggressive operations of a large army, where all the hard roads were held by the opposing forces, extremely difficult. The official returns, now published in the War Records,1 show that the troops were sufficient only for the purpose of garrisons and guards and defensive action in the field until after the arrival of A. J. Smith; and this is true even if Hood's cavalry force was no larger than that which now appears from Forrest's report—5000; for Forrest might easily have got a day or two the start of his pursuer at any time, as had often been done on both sides during the war.

It is true that Sherman's instructions to Thomas appear to have contemplated the possibility, at least, that Thomas might be reduced to the extreme necessity of

1 See Vol. XLV, parts i and II.

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