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[345] crossing the Tennessee river, and that Price was going out of Missouri, General Rosecrans was ordered to send to General Thomas the troops of General A. J. Smith's command, and such other troops as he could spare. The advance of this reinforcement reached Nashville on the thirtieth of November.

On the morning of the fifteenth December General Thomas attacked Hood in position, and, in a battle lasting two days, defeated and drove him from the field in the utmost confusion, leaving in our hands most of his artillery and many thousand prisoners, including four general officers.

Before the battle of Nashville I grew very impatient over, as it appeared to me, the unnecessary delay. This impatience was increased upon learning that the enemy had sent a force of cavalry across the Cumberland into Kentucky. I feared Hood would cross his whole army and give us great trouble there. After urging upon General Thomas the necessity of immediately assuming the offensive, I started west to superintend matters there in person. Reaching Washington City, I received General Thomas' despatch announcing his attack upon the enemy, and the result as far as the battle had progressed. I was delighted. All fears and apprehensions were dispelled. I am not yet satisfied but that General Thomas, immediately upon the appearance of Hood before Nashville, and before he had time to fortify, should have moved out with his whole force and given him battle, instead of waiting to remount his cavalry, which delayed him until the inclemency of the weather made it impracticable to attack earlier than he did. But his final defeat of Hood was so complete that it will be accepted as a vindication of that distinguished officer's judgment.

After Hood's defeat at Nashville he retreated, closely pursued by cavalry and infantry, to the Tennessee river, being forced to abandon many pieces of artillery and most of his transportation. On the twenty-eighth of December our advance forces ascertained that he had made good his escape to the south side of the river.

About this time, the rains having set in heavily in Tennessee and Alabama, making it difficult to move army transportation and artillery, General Thomas stopped the pursuit by his main force at the Tennessee river. A small force of cavalry, under Colonel W. J. Palmer, Fifteenth Pennsylvania volunteers, continued to follow Hood for some distance, capturing considerable transportation and the enemy's pontoon bridge. The details of these operations will be found clearly set forth in General Thomas' report.

A cavalry expedition, under Brevet Major-General Grierson, started from Memphis on the twenty-first December. On the twenty-fifth he surprised and captured Forrest's dismounted camp at Verona, Mississippi, on the Mobile and Ohio railroad, destroyed the railroad, sixteen oars loaded with wagons and pontoons for Hood's army, four thousand new English carbines, and large amounts of public stores. On the morning of the twenty-eighth he attacked and captured a force of the enemy at Egypt, and destroyed a train of fourteen cars; thence, turning to the south-west, he struck the Mississippi Central railroad at Winona, and destroyed the factories and large amounts of stores at Bankston, and the machine-shops and public property at Grenada, arriving at Vicksburg January fifth.

During these operations in Middle Tennessee, the enemy, with a force under General Breckinridge, entered East Tennessee. On the thirteenth of November, he attacked General Gillem, near Morristown, capturing his artillery and several hundred prisoners. Gillem, with what was left of his command, retreated to Knoxville. Following up his success, Breckinridge moved to near Knoxville, but withdrew on the eighteenth, followed by General Ammen. Under the directions of General Thomas, General Stoneman concentrated the commands of Generals Burbridge and Gillem near Bean's station, to operate against Breckinridge, and destroy or drive him into Virginia — destroy the salt works at Saltville, and the railroad into Virginia as far as he could go without endangering his command. On the twelfth of December he commenced his movement, capturing and dispersing the enemy's force wherever he met them. On the sixteenth he struck the enemy, under Vaughn, at Marion, completely routing and pursuing him to Wytheville, capturing all his artillery trains, and one hundred and ninety-eight prisoners, and destroyed Wytheville, with its stores and supplies, and the extensive lead-works near there. Returning to Marion, he met a force under Breckinridge, consisting, among other troops, of the garrison of Saltville, that had started in pursuit. He at once made arrangements to attack it the next morning; but morning found Breckinridge gone. He then moved directly to Saltville, and destroyed the extensive salt-works at that place, a large amount of stores, and captured eight pieces of artillery. Having thus successfully executed his instructions, he returned General Burbridge to Lexington and General Gillem to Knoxville.

Wilmington, North Carolina, was the most important sea coast port left to the enemy through which to get supplies from abroad, and send cotton and other products out by blockade-runners, besides being a place of great strategic value. The navy had been making strenuous exertions to seal the harbor of Wilmington, but with only partial effect. The nature of the outlet of Cape Fear river was such that it required watching for so great a distance that, without possession of the land north of New Inlet, or Fort Fisher, it was impossible for the navy to entirely close the harbor against the entrance of blockade-runners.

To secure the possession of this land required the cooperation of a land force, which I agreed to furnish. I immediately commenced the

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