features are sufficiently evident; but in studying the actions that have resulted in victory, we are apt to overlook the errors without which the victory might have been far more complete, or even to mistake those errors for real causes of success.
The pursuit from Nashville
was necessarily an imperfect one from the start, simply because the successful assault having been made at the close of day, the broken enemy had time to get across the Harpeth
and destroy the bridges before morning.
The singular blunder by which General Thomas
's pontoon-train was sent toward Murfreesboroa instead of Franklin
added somewhat to the delay, but probably did not essentially change the result.
The state of all the roads except the one turnpike, the soft condition of the fields everywhere, the bad weather,— rain, sleet, and ice,—made the movements of troops which were necessary to an effective pursuit extremely difficult, and often impossible.
The energy and determination of General Thomas
and of all who could take any active part in that pursuit were probably never surpassed in military history, but the difficulties to be overcome were often insurmountable.
Under the conditions at that season of the year and in that state of weather, the only possible chance of reaping fruits commensurate with the brilliant victory at Nashville
and with the great preparations which had been made for pursuit was to make the final assault at Nashville
early enough in the day to leave time before dark to prevent the enemy from crossing the Harpeth
and destroying the bridges.
had retreated in the night of December 15, as Thomas
presumed he would, the result would doubtless have been even less serious to the enemy; for he would not have suffered at Nashville
the great losses and demoralization which occurred to him on the 16th, and would have been in better condition to make an effective