of recruits and dismounted cavalry in your fortifications, you will have Generals Schofield and Stanley and General A. J. Smith, strengthened by eight or ten new regiments and all of Wilson's cavalry. You could safely invite Beauregard across the Tennessee River and prevent his ever returning. I still believe, however, that public clamor will force him to turn and follow me, in which event you should cross at Decatur and move directly toward Selma as far as you can transport supplies. . . . You may act . . . on the certainty that I sally from Atlanta on the 16th instant with about 60,000 well provisioned, but expecting to live chiefly on the country.The reason for this sudden and radical change of program is made perfectly clear by Sherman's despatch of November 1 and others: ‘The enemy is now in the full tide of execution of his grand plan to destroy my communications and defeat this army.’ Sherman's defiant spirit, thus aroused, brooked no delay. He would not wait for anything but his own necessary preparations. Nashville, Chattanooga, and Decatur could stand a long siege, and these alone he regarded as of strategical importance. The enemy would doubtless do ‘considerable damage,’ but afterward ‘reinforcements will pour to you’ (Thomas). He convinced himself that Thomas had troops enough; but, ‘to make things sure,’ he might ‘call on the governors of Indiana and Kentucky for some militia’! In the meantime, he (Sherman) would ‘destroy all the railroads in Georgia and do as much substantial damage as is possible.’ Thus recklessly challenged by the Confederate chief, Sherman must not only accept that challenge, but do it at once. Perhaps if Jefferson Davis had known William T. Sherman as well as some of us did, he would not have uttered that challenge. From Grant's ‘Memoirs’ 1 it appears that General Grant not only confirms Sherman's claim in respect to his
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1 Vol. II, pp. 374-6.
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