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[317] column was marching to? General Polk said they were retreating to beyond the Etowah river. Major West then told him of the report that had reached him, and asked him if he was the cause of the abandonment of the intended battle at Cassville? General Polk asked who had made the statement, and, when told that it was a staff officer of General Hardee, who also had added that said impression prevailed along the column, and, Major West asking that he be authorized to deny the report, General Polk was silent for a moment, and then said to Major West: ‘To-morrow everything will be made as clear as day.’

General Polk never again spoke of this matter to the Major, although with him day and night during that long and terrible campaign, in which he lost his life at Pine mountain, on the 14th day of July, 1864. But the impression left upon his staff officers was that the failure to keep battle at Cassville was not due to any representations made by General Polk, but the objections made by Lieutenant-General Hood, the left of whose line joined French's division.

General Polk had so little confidence in the representations of the weakness of the line at the point referred to, that he did not go there in person. But for General Hood's invitation, Major-General French would not have been called to the conference, and consequently, when General Hood urged the untenability of his line, and supported it by bringing one of Polk's division commanders, French, to confirm him (although Polk's other division commanders, Loring and Walthall, offered no objection), and in the absence of Lieutenant-General Hardee, General Polk could only reply upon the report of his chief topographical engineer, Captain Morris, and Major-General French, and sustain Lieutenant-General Hood in his opinion that the line could not be held after an attack.

General Polk was too noble and patriotic to care for his personal fame, and made no effort during his life to put himself properly on record for his connection with the abandonment of the line at Cassville, for he was always ready to give battle, or to take any responsibilities of his position. He fought for his cause, not for his reputation.

Another of this group of old veterans had been of Hardee's corps on that occasion. He recounted that his battery had been assigned by ‘Old Joe’ to an important post on Hardee's line, the angle at which the left flank deflected back. Vividly he described his position—the

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William Polk (10)
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