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[178] Nashville and the Memphis and Charleston road the only two important streams are the Duck and the Elk, both of which flow into the Tennessee. The Harpeth, north of the Duck, received a military importance during the campaign.

This whole region, lying west of the Alleghanies, forms part of the Valley of the Mississippi. The country is undulating or level, and one of the most fertile districts in America. Its grain and grass are famous, and the horses and other live stock raised here are not surpassed in the world. The roads were the finest in the Southern states. Middle Tennessee, however, had been a battle-field since the beginning of the war, and its rich plains were devastated, its barns and farm-houses emptied, its cattle and horses seized, by both armies in turn. The inhabitants, outside of the mountain region, were among the most determined rebels in the land.

Major-General George H. Thomas, to whom was now entrusted the defence of Tennessee, was one of the great historical figures of the war. Older than any of his compeers, one of the few soldiers by education who had never left the regular army, a Virginian by birth, but of unswerving loyalty, he was full of noble qualities. He had none of the excitable imagination and fervid; passion of Sherman, none of the dashing genius or the personal magnetism of Sheridan, but possessed not a few traits in common with Grant. His judgment was sound, his patience untiring, his courage never shaken, his endurance inexhaustible. Like his chief, he was always calm and collected, and though ordinarily quiet and even gentle, like him he could be resolute when necessary, and was then immovable

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