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[382] knew, and his splendid army of not less than thirty-five thousand men knew, that he held the central position, and that the disjointed corps of the enemy lay around so widely separated that they could render one another no assistance.

A blow had been aimed at Thomas, and although it failed, it sent him up the mountain still further away from his companion corps.

McCook and Crittenden remained. It was for General Bragg to elect which he would strike.

There was scarcely a man in that army of Confederates, having knowledge of the affair, who doubted the direction of the blow. The force seven miles to the south of Lafayette might or might not be McCook's corps. If it were, but little was to be gained by marching towards it, especially as the proximity to the range of Lookout Mountain was such that it could easily escape, as Thomas had just done. But there lay Crittenden well out in the plain, isolated, at our mercy. A march of twelve or fifteen miles at furthest would secure him. With this corps crushed we were free to march through Chatanooga, around the head of Lookout Mountain, and arrange matters with Thomas and McCook as they should attempt to pass northward. No serious opposition could have been offered to this movement by Steedman's force, as it was yet near Bridgeport. It was a mighty opportunity.

The Confederate commander turned towards McCook. He concentrated at Fayette. This, as was expected by many, was a fruitless effort; for McCook was far away at Alpine; and the enemy, seven miles off, who had been the cause of our march, proved to be merely a small reconnoitering force. Then it was that the Confederate commander turned his attention to Crittenden. But it was the twelfth, and twenty-four hours had been lost—twenty-four as precious hours as were ever wasted. Instead of having his army across Crittenden's path, General Bragg had it at Lafayette. Thus was sacrificed not only the ground between Crittenden and Thomas, but the only position the Confederate army ever held commanding Crittenden's sole line of retreat—that by way of Chatanooga.

Crittenden now covered his line of retreat; but as he was still separated from Thomas, the prompt marching of the Confederate army to Lee and Gordon's Mills would have engaged and perhaps have captured him.

This brings us to the movement entrusted to General Polk, the movement that General Martin terms ‘General Polk's failure to attack Crittenden's corps in its isolated position immediately after ’

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Crittenden (8)
McCook (5)
George H. Thomas (4)
W. M. Polk (2)
Braxton Bragg (2)
J. M. Steedman (1)
T. Martin (1)
Fitzhugh Lee (1)
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