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[252] There is hardly another instance in war of a general with a force so large as Thomas commanded, allowing himself to be beleaguered so long by an army of less than half his numbers.

Hood seems to have had no designs, after once reaching Nashville. His despatches and reports give no inkling of any settled purpose, except that he hoped to recruit his army by conscriptions in Kentucky and Tennessee, β€˜in time for a spring campaign.’ He suggested also that the Trans-Mississippi troops should be sent to him, but he gave no order to Forrest to cross the Cumberland river, and he made no preparation himself for such a move. The boldness that inspired the conception of his campaign entirely disappeared in the execution. It is possible that the failures at Spring Hill and Franklin had convinced the rebel commander that his army was unfit or unprepared for aggressive operations; and he was perhaps deceived by Thomas's inertness, and fancied that he should be allowed to remain before Nashville until reinforcements could be found and forwarded to him. He certainly flattered himself that he could resist assault. On the 11th of December, he wrote to his superiors: β€˜I think the position of this army is now such as to force the enemy to take the initiative.’ In this, at least, he was not deceived.

On the afternoon of the 14th of December, Thomas called a meeting of his corps commanders, and discussed with them his plan of battle. Steedman, on the left, was ordered to make a demonstration east of the Nolensville road, while to Smith, on the right, was entrusted a vigorous assault against the enemy's left, from the direction of the Hardin

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