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‘ [232] is he?’ I answered: ‘Yes, I know him well, and I will tell you the sort of man he is. He'll hit you like h—l, now, before you know it.’ Soon afterward, as well described by Sherman, the sound of battle to our right gave indication of the heavy attack Hood's troops made upon Thomas's advancing columns that day, which failed of serious results, as I believe all now admit, mainly if not entirely because Thomas himself was near the head of the column which received the first blow. Soon after, a still more heavy attack was made on the Army of the Tennessee, our extreme left, which resulted in one of the severest and most closely contested battles of the war, and in which the knightly McPherson was killed.

Under the system enforced by the War Department in 1864-5, the commanders of troops in the field were compelled to communicate with each other either in plain language which the enemy could read if a despatch fell into his hands, or else in a cipher which neither of the commanders nor any of their staff officers could decipher. They were made absolutely dependent upon the cipher-operators of the telegraph corps. Of course all this cipher correspondence between commanding generals was promptly transmitted to the War Department, so that the Secretary could know what was going on as well as anybody. Whatever may have been the object of this, perhaps not difficult to conjecture, its effect was to make rapid correspondence in cipher impossible when rapidity was most important and secrecy most necessary. In previous years I and one at least of my staff officers were always familiar with the cipher code, so that we could together, as a rule, quickly unravel a knotty telegram. Indeed, I once had to decipher a despatch to which I had no key, except that I knew from internal evidence that it must be under the War Department code, though written in a different key. It was a despatch from Grant, who was then besieging Vicksburg. It had been sent to

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George H. Thomas (2)
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