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As you foresaw, and as Jeff. Davis threatened, the enemy is now in the full tide of execution of his grand plan to destroy my communications and defeat this army. His infantry, about 30,000, with Wheeler and Roddy's cavalry, from 7,000 to 10,000, are now in the neighborhood of Tuscumbia and Florence, and the water being low, are able to cross at will. Forrest seems to be scattered from Eastport to Jackson, Paris, and the lower Tennessee, and General Thomas reports the capture by him of a gunboat and five transports. General Thomas has near Athens and Pulaski, Stanley's corps, about 15,000 strong, and Schofield's corps, 10,000, en route by rail; and has at least 20,000 to 25,000 men, with new regiments and conscripts arriving all the time, also. General Rosecrans promises the two divisions of Smith and Mower belonging to me, but I doubt if they can reach Tennessee in less than ten days. If I were to let go Atlanta and North Georgia, and make for Hood, he would, as he did here, retreat to the south-west, leaving his militia, now assembling at Macon and Griffin, to occupy our conquests, and the work of last summer would be lost. I have retained about 50,000 good troops, and have sent back full 25,000, and have instructed General Thomas to hold defensively Nashville, Chattanooga, and Decatur, all strongly fortified and provisioned for a long siege. I will destroy all the railroads of Georgia, and do as much substantial damage as is possible, reaching the seacoast near one of the points indicated, trusting that Thomas with his present troops, and the influx of new troops promised, will be able in a few days to assume the offensive.Hood's cavalry may do a good deal of damage, and I have sent Wilson back with all dismounted cavalry, retaining only about 4,500. This is the best I can do, and shall therefore, when I get to Atlanta the necessary stores, move south as soon as possible.
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