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‘ [183] feel confident that I can defend the line of the Tennessee with the force Sherman proposes to leave with me. . Also, I shall be ready to send Sherman all the cavalry he needs, and still have a good number left.’

On the 25th, Sherman sent him further instructions. ‘I do believe you are the man best qualified to manage the affairs of Tennessee and North Mississippi. . . I can spare you the Fourth corps, and about five thousand men not fit for my purpose, but which will be well enough for garrison duty in Chattanooga, Murfreesboroa, and Nashville. What you need is a few points fortified and stocked with provisions, and a good, movable column of twenty-five thousand men that can strike in any direction.’ A copy of this despatch was forwarded to the general-in-chief, who was thus kept fully advised of all preparations and orders.

On the 13th of October, having given his sanction to Sherman's movement, Grant said to Halleck: ‘I think it will be advisable now for General Thomas to abandon all the railroad from Columbia to Decatur, thence to Stevenson. This will give him much additional force.’1 Orders to this effect were given to Thomas the same day, but that officer preferred to guard the Tennessee from Decatur to Eastport. ‘Forrest's pickets,’ he said, ‘are on the ’

1 Sherman had the same idea as Grant. On the 9th of October, after Forrest had escaped from Tennessee, he directed Thomas to replace all the guards on the roads to Chattanooga, but referring to the Decatur road, he said: ‘I doubt the necessity of repairing the road about Elk river and Athens, and suggest that you wait before giving orders for repairs.’ On the 10th, he ordered: ‘Collect all your command at some converging place, say Stevenson. ... Call on all troops within your reach.’

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