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[307] reported to Sherman that the Confederates ‘had fallen back in echelon of divisions steadily and in superb order into Cassville.’

Johnston placed his army along the ridges near Cassville, in what he regarded as the best position he occupied during the campaign. Hood's and Polk's and half of Hardee's corps in that order from north to south, in double lines. The remainder of Hardee's corps extended the line beyond the railroad toward the river. On the evening of the 19th the Federal artillery was engaged in firing on the Confederate line until night. The contest about Cassville was very severe, especially between the batteries on the opposing ridges. Sharp skirmishing occurred on the streets. The fine college buildings and many others were riddled with balls. Some of them were fired and consumed, and afterward the beautiful little city was wantonly burned. Johnston intended to give battle at Cassville, but again the expected struggle did not occur, and the reason for the retreat is in dispute. As General Johnston relates it, Generals Hood and Polk ‘expressed their opinion very positively on the night of the 19th that neither of their corps would be able to hold its position next day; because, they said, a part of each was enfiladed by Federal artillery;’ and they advised that the army retreat across the Etowah. General Hardee remonstrated, being confident that his corps, though less favorably posted, could hold its own. Hood's statement is that he declared the position unsuited for defense, but he was ready to attack if so ordered. General Johnston admits that he was aware that a part of General Polk's line could be swept by artillery, if posted on a hill a mile distant, but he considered the danger trifling. At any rate, the army again retreated on the 20th, crossing the Etowah river, ‘a step,’ Johnston reported, ‘which I have regretted ever since.’

In the fighting of this day (May 19th), Mercer's brigade was thrown out in Walker's front and the Sixtythird

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