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[194] holding Nashville, Chattanooga, and Decatur defensively, even during a long siege, and of abandoning all points of less importance than the three named, so that all the garrisons of such minor points and all the railroad guards might be concentrated with the garrisons of those three important strategic points, for their defense luring a siege. This must of course have referred to the defensive period of the campaign only, for the moment that Thomas's reinforcements should enable him to assume the offensive all the necessities above referred to must have disappeared. It must, I think, be admitted as beyond question that, in view of his daily expectation of the arrival of A. J. Smith's troops from Missouri, Thomas was perfectly right in not acting upon Sherman's suggestion of extreme defensive action, and thus abandoning his railroads to destruction.

If, on the other hand, Thomas's reinforcements had arrived in time to enable him to take the initiative by moving against Hood from Pulaski or Columbia, then he might have drawn quite largely from his garrisons in the rear to reinforce his army in the field, since his ‘active offensive’ operations would have fully occupied Hood's cavalry, and thus have prevented a raid in Thomas's rear. But until he was strong enough to advance, unless forced to the extreme necessity of defending Nashville, Chattanooga, and Decatur, and abandoning all else, Thomas could not prudently have reduced his garrisons or guards.

I knew nothing at that time of Sherman's instructions to Thomas, and little about the actual strength of Thomas's garrisons and railroad guards. But I was under the impression that some reinforcements must be available from his own department, and felt a little impatient about the long delay in their arrival, and hence telegraphed General Thomas, November 24, suggesting the concentration of R. S. Granger's troops and those along the railroad. The despatches to me at that time,

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George H. Thomas (8)
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