of his projected operations in Tennessee
, would turn back and follow Sherman
at such a distance in his rear?
It is perfectly evident that such a stern-chase by Hood
was contemplated only as a bare possibility, not by any means as a probable result of Sherman
It could have had no influence in forming Sherman
's final determination to make that march.
In fact, the march does not appear to have been finally decided on—certainly it was not commenced—until Hood
had gone so far in the opposite direction as to make his pursuit of Sherman
out of the question, and had fully disclosed his plan to invade Tennessee
It was surely, therefore, an extraordinary spectacle to see the main Union army marching where there was no considerable hostile force to meet it, leaving a comparatively small detachment to cope with the formidable enemy!
Of course Sherman
could not fall back into Tennessee
, and thus let Hood
put him on the defensive, even for a short time.
He could afford only to send back a detachment large enough to enable Thomas
, with the other forces he could assemble, to hold Nashville
and prevent Hood
from crossing the Cumberland
This is virtually but little more than what Sherman
did in that regard.
There then remained to Sherman
practically only one line of action at all consistent with the dictates of established principles in the conduct of a military campaign: that was to strike with his superior remaining force for Hood
's rear, south of the Tennessee River
Such a movement could have been commenced immediately upon Hood
's march in that direction.
Supplies would have been drawn, first from Chattanooga
and afterward from Stevenson
, and then from Decatur
's line of supply being thus very much shortened.
A small detachment at Atlanta
could have destroyed the works of military value in that place, and the railroad thence back to Chattanooga
, being completely covered in this work by