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[243] Thomas himself telegraphed to Grant, in reply to the despatch of the general-in-chief of the night before: ‘December 9, one P. M. Your despatch of 8.30 P. M. of the 8th is just received. I had nearly completed my preparations to attack the enemy to-morrow morning, but a terrible storm of freezing rain has come on to-day, which will make it impossible for our men to fight at any advantage. I am therefore compelled to wait for the storm to break, and make the attack immediately after. Admiral Lee is patrolling the river above and below the city, and I believe will be able to prevent the enemy from crossing. There is no doubt but that Hood's forces are considerably scattered along the river with the view of attempting to cross, but it has been impossible for me to organize and equip troops for an attack at an earlier moment. General Halleck informs me you are much dissatisfied with my delay in attacking. I can only say I have done all in my power to prepare, and if you shall deem it necessary to relieve me, I shall submit without a murmur.’ It is impossible not to admire the spirit that prompted these words, however much one may regret the peculiarities that made them necessary. Thomas was aware that his delay was greatly in opposition to the views of his chief and to the wishes of the government; he was aware that to neither did the delay seem necessary: he was conscious that it was a positive disobedience of orders, and might be visited, according to military rule, with that severest of punishments to a soldier, removal from command in the presence of the enemy. Yet he could not bring himself to act contrary to his own judgment and instincts, and

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