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[271] armies, as had so clearly been done for the 15th, in the situation then existing. But the detailed orders requisite for such joint action given in the plan for the battle of the 15th were absolutely inapplicable in most essential particulars to the situation of the 16th, or to the battle actually fought on that day. In view of the fact that much time had very wisely been spent by General Thomas in remounting his cavalry and in making all other preparations necessary to insure not only the defeat, but the destruction or capture of the enemy, and of the further fact that the operations of the 15th had so damaged the enemy that his retreat that night was thought at least probable, if not certain, it hardly seems possible that General Thomas could have been willing to postpone a renewal of the attack until he could have time to visit ‘the several commands’ in person, and see for himself what the situation actually was the next day, as if the operations he had to determine on and order were the original plans of a battle yet to be opened, instead of the final blow to be struck against an enemy already substantially beaten and quite probably already in full retreat.

The only possible explanation of this very remarkable absence of timely orders from General Thomas for the battle of December 16, and of the long delay on that day, seems to be found in his well-known constitutional habit, sometimes spoken of by his brother officers who had long been familiarly acquainted with him. Unless the opinions of those familiar acquaintances and friends were substantially erroneous, General Thomas's habit of great deliberation did not permit him to formulate in the night of December 15 the comparatively simple orders requisite for the several corps to resume, in the morning of the 16th, the movement ‘against the enemy's left flank,’ which he says he ‘directed’ to be ‘continued’ some time in the afternoon of that day—so late, however,

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