guards essentially the same number of men as had been employed in that service all the preceding summer,—no more and no less,—and the necessity for that service had not been very much diminished, except at and about Decatur
, and Tullahoma
, which Hood
's advance from Florence
had rendered of no further consequence at that time.
But the 7000 men available at Chattanooga
ought unquestionably to have been sent to Columbia
, or at least moved up to Nashville
, where they could ‘join the main force,’ as suggested in my despatch of November 24 to Thomas
instead of being left at Chattanooga
‘to threaten enemy in rear.’2
As suggested in my despatch of November 24, R. S. Granger
's force and others along the railroad south of Duck River
, as well as Steedman
's, might have joined the main force at Columbia
, if orders had been given in time, thus increasing the army in the field by fully 10,000 men.
If R. S. Granger
's force had been left at Decatur
, it would have drawn off from Hood
's invading army at least an equal force to guard his bridges at Florence
, or else would have destroyed those bridges and cut off his retreat after the battle of Nashville
This was practically what had been suggested by Sherman
in his instructions to Thomas
But the withdrawal of Granger
's troops and their detention at Murfreesboroa, instead of sending them to ‘join the main force,’ served no good purpose at the time, and prevented their use in the capture of Hood
's defeated and retreating troops.
The failure to make this timely concentration was the one great fault in Thomas
's action, instead of his delay in attacking at Nashville
, for which he was so much criticized.
's repulse at Franklin
had made this previous mistake a matter of past history, and hence it was lost sight