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Atlanta had become, like Richmond, in popular estimation the real objective of military operations. The public lost sight of the fact that it was armies in the field, and not fortified places, which gave strength to the rebellion; and apparently even prominent generals, if they did not share the popular delusion, at least recognized its value. The capture of Atlanta was enough to meet the ‘political necessity,’ make ‘the election of Mr. Lincoln certain,’ and win rejoicings and congratulations from all parts of the North! It was not worth while to run any risk of trying to do more at that time! It had to be left for two of Sherman's corps, after the other four had gone on ‘the march to the sea,’ to fight Hood at Columbia and Spring Hill, hurl him back from Franklin, and then, with reinforcements not equal to half what Sherman had taken away, to overwhelm him at Nashville. Why was not this done with a much larger force under Sherman at Atlanta? This is one of the questions for the future historian to discuss.

During our rest near Lovejoy's, General Sherman requested me to give him a statement in writing of my dissent from his decision upon the question of relative rank, which I did. This he submitted to the War Department for decision, as a ‘question of rank that had arisen between Generals Schofield and Stanley.’ At this General Stanley was very indignant, as well as at General Sherman's censure of his conduct on September 1; for the reason that no question of rank had been raised by us, and the command was thrust upon him in opposition to his wish and in violation of the law as he understood it. In due time came the decision of the War Department, written by General Halleck, sustaining the view of the law Stanley and I had taken, and reversing that of General Sherman; also kindly commending my action in waiving the question during active operations.

It was by virtue of the above decision of the War Department

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William T. Sherman (6)
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