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‘ [301] River firmly,’ which was the condition upon which Grant at first consented that Sherman might make ‘the trip to the sea-coast.’1

Thomas's concurrence in Sherman's opinion, as shown in his despatch of November 12, simply shows that they were both in the same error; for A. J. Smith's troops did not begin to arrive at Nashville until the day of the battle of Franklin (November 30), and they were a very important part of the force relied upon in Sherman's plan. The whole fate of the Tennessee campaign was decided by the delay of Hood at Columbia and Spring Hill and his defeat in the desperate battle of Franklin, and this by two of Sherman's six corps, without the aid of any of the reinforcements upon which he counted so largely, and about which he says so much. It is not too much to say that the hazards of that retreat from Pulaski and of the defense at Franklin were far greater than any portion of Sherman's army had ever before encountered, and far greater than any army ever ought to meet except in case of necessity—hazards which, at that stage of the war, with our vastly superior armies in the field, it would have been inexcusable voluntarily to incur. If it is asked why such hazard was taken, the answer has heretofore been given. By it alone could the time be gained which was necessary for Thomas's reinforcements to reach Nashville. The time gained was barely sufficient; one day less might have been fatal.

The question that at once arises is, Why have taken even a chance of error in a matter of so vital moment—an error that might have led to disastrous consequences? Hood was already on the Tennessee River, preparing to cross and begin his march to Nashville. Thomas had ready to meet him only about two thirds Hood's strength in infantry, and less than half in effective cavalry. A few days' delay on Sherman's part in commencing his

1 War Records, Vol. XXXIX, part III, p. 202.

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