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[158] was taken. Sherman replied to Grant at 12.30 P. M. on the 2nd: ‘Your despatch is received. If I could hope to overhaul Hood, I would turn against him with my whole force; then he would retreat to the south-west, drawing me as a decoy from Georgia, which is his chief object. If he ventures north of the Tennessee, I may turn in that direction, and endeavor to get between him and his line of retreat; but, thus far, he has not gone above the Tennessee. Thomas will have a force strong enough to prevent his reaching any country in which we have an interest, and he has orders, if Hood turns to follow me, to push for Selma. No single army can catch him, and I am convinced the best results will follow from our defeating Jeff. Davis's cherished plan of making me leave Georgia by manoeuvring. Thus far I have confined my efforts to thwart his plans, and have reduced my baggage so that I can pick up and start in any direction; but I would regard pursuit of Hood as useless. Still, if he attempts to invade Middle Tennessee, I will hold Decatur, and be prepared to move in that direction; but unless I let go Atlanta, my force will not be equal to his.’ The policy was daring, the strategy complex, and Grant and Sherman, both under pressure from their superiors, both, for a moment, hesitated.

Only for a moment, however. On the morning of the 2nd, Grant received a despatch from Sherman, dated nine A. M. of the day before-nine hours earlier than Grant's own countermanding or delaying the movement. In this despatch Sherman reported Hood's entire strength at less than forty thousand men, exclusive of Forrest's cavalry, while Thomas, he said, had at least forty-five thousand or fifty

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