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[302] march would have disclosed to him the impossibility of Smith's arrival in time, and have enabled him to send another corps from his superabundant force to assist Thomas. Such delay of only a few days could not have been of serious consequence in respect to Sherman's plans. The near approach of winter was the only reason why an early start was important; and that was not considered any very serious obstacle to the operations of Hood or Thomas in a more unfavorable country for winter operations.

The railroad was in running order to Atlanta, and the enemy's cavalry were then known to be far from it. Sherman could have kept his army supplied, and ready to start any day he pleased. Why not have waited to see whether Thomas could get together troops enough to cope with Hood, and then, when sufficient preparation had been assured to fight the enemy, and only then, start off on a march where there was no considerable enemy to fight?

In the estimate of time, Sherman had no right to disregard even Thomas's well-known ‘slowness of thought and action,’ but was bound to take that into account.

I have never yet been able to see the wisdom of taking any hazard of defeat in Tennessee when we had ample force at command to secure victory there, with enough remaining to march wherever its commander pleased through the South, except where Hood's or Lee's army might be. By this I mean to say that three, or even two, of Sherman's corps could have gone to Savannah, or anywhere else, just as well as four, and thus have left Thomas force enough to make the defeat of Hood sure beyond contingency; or that Sherman should have delayed his march to the sea until Thomas had concentrated troops enough to defeat Hood.

The question which now presents itself for critical consideration

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