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[272] that some of the troops at least, becoming impatient at the long delay, did not wait even for the orders they had asked for, but initiated on their own responsibility the action which resulted in victory before any directions whatever from General Thomas had reached them. Or else, if General Thomas had clearly in his mind the appropriate action of his several corps suggested by the condition of the enemy as he himself had seen it just before dark, or as it might be modified during the night, he must, it would seem, have felt so sure of Hood's retreat in the night that he did not think it worth his while to give any orders except for pursuit. However this may be, it seems to be clearly established by the records that the movements which prepared the way for the final assault, and that assault itself, were both made under the orders of subordinates, and not in obedience to any orders or directions from General Thomas, nor in accordance with any general plan which he had informed them was to be the guide for their action that day.

The battle of the 15th was fought in very close conformity to the plan prepared, some time before the 14th, doubtless by General Thomas himself, though spoken of by General Wood, in his confidential letter of the 14th to Thomas, as ‘our plan,’ and modified at the conference which was called that day upon the suggestion of Wood in that confidential letter, and, as he said, ‘at the instance of Schofield and Smith.’1 But the battle of the 16th appears to have been emphatically a battle of the troops themselves, acting under the independent orders of their own subordinate commanders, with such cooperation and support as they had arranged among themselves, in the absence of any orders or instructions from their common superior.

It seems proper for me to say that I have never claimed for myself any part of the credit due to subordinates

1 War Records, Vol. XLV, part II, p. 184.

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George H. Thomas (5)
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