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Chapter IX

  • The final blow at Atlanta
  • -- Johnston's untried plan of resistance -- Hood's faulty move -- holding the Pivot of the position -- Anecdotes of the men in the ranks -- Deferring to General Stanley in a question of relative rank -- the failure at Jonesboroa -- the capture of Atlanta -- absent from the army -- Hood's operations in Sherman's rear -- sent back to Thomas's aid -- faulty instructions to oppose Hood at Pulaski -- at Columbia -- reason of the delay in Exchanging Messages.

when all our efforts to accomplish decisive results by partial operations upon the flanks had failed, this question was much discussed: What more decisive movement shall next be made for the capture of Atlanta? There were practically but two propositions to be considered: that of General Sherman, which was adopted with success; and that heretofore referred to as having never been tried, to detach two or more corps to make a lodgment on the railroad at or below East Point, and thus compel the enemy to come out of Atlanta and endeavor to regain control of his only line of supply, or abandon that city altogether. General Sherman thought it too hazardous to detach two corps, though he was willing for me to undertake it with one. In fact, this feeling marked General Sherman's action throughout the campaign. He had no hesitation in detaching a small force, the loss of which would still leave him greatly superior in numbers to the enemy, or a very large force under his own command, [153] leaving the enemy to the care of the smaller part, as in his march to Savannah. General Thomas, on the contrary, thought the movement proposed by General Sherman ‘extra hazardous,’ as Sherman says in his ‘Memoirs’ (Vol. II, page 106). I did not regard either of them as very hazardous, and upon consideration rather preferred General Sherman's, because I thought it could not fail to be decisive of the capture of Atlanta, while the other might fail if not executed with promptness and vigor, and this, experience had warned us, we could not be quite sure of.

Some tine after the war, that very able commander General Joseph E. Johnston told me that in his judgment Sherman's operations in Hood's rear ought not to have caused the evacuation of Atlanta; that he (Johnston), when in command, had anticipated such a movement, and had prepared, or intended to prepare, to oppose it by constructing artillery redoubts at all suitable points in the rear of Atlanta, as well as in front, which redoubts could be very speedily connected by infantry intrenchments whenever necessary; that he aimed to keep on hand in Atlanta at all times supplies enough to last him longer than Sherman's army could subsist on the contents of their wagons and haversacks; and that Sherman could not possibly hold all the railroads leading into Atlanta at the same time, nor destroy any one of them so thoroughly that it could not be repaired in time to replenish Johnston's supplies in Atlanta.

Here is presented a question well worthy of the careful study of military critics. Whatever may be the final judgment upon that question, it seems perfectly clear that Johnston's plan of defense ought at least to have been tried by his successor. If Hood had kept all his troops in compact order about Atlanta, he would have been in the best possible condition to resist Sherman if the latter turned back from Jonesboroa and attacked Atlanta from [154] the rear, or to strike Sherman's rear or flank in full force if he made any other movement. The division of Hood's forces at that time, one part holding on to Atlanta while the other went to head off Sherman, was the worst disposition that could have been made.

As related to me personally by General Sheridan,—for I have not yet studied the Virginia campaigns so thoroughly as to justify me in speaking from the records,—it was a similar mistake on the part of the Confederate cavalry commander General J. E. B. Stuart, in trying to get between Sheridan and Richmond, which gave Sheridan the advantage and led to Stuart's defeat. Stuart had ridden hard all night, and got between Sheridan and Richmond, his men and horses exhausted, while Sheridan had been resting and feeding his men and animals. In the morning Sheridan ‘rode over’ his exhausted antagonist. These are among the many cases where exaggerated ideas of the importance of places have led to the defeat of armies. I knew Stuart well at West Point, he having been in the class next to mine. He then gave promise of his future brilliant career as a cavalry leader.

The only specially hazardous part of Sherman's movement was that which would fall to my lot—namely, to hold the ‘pivot’ against a possible attack of Hood's whole army while Thomas and Howard should swing round it, and then draw out and join them after the swing was made. Upon my reporting that I was perfectly willing to undertake this task, and had no doubt of the ability of my corps to accomplish it, all question about making the movement appeared to be settled, and it was at once ordered. Hood did not avail himself of his opportunity to attack me when alone, either in position or in motion, hence my part of the movement proved easiest of all.

I had placed my corps in a completely inclosed fieldwork, large enough to contain all my trains, and strong [155] enough to resist any attack from a greatly superior force until Sherman's movement could be accomplished.

I recollect even to this day a little incident of that time which was, at least to me, both amusing and instructive. After receiving Sherman's orders, which meant ‘suspend aggressive work and go to fortifying,’ I was directing the laying out of the new work at the most important part of the line, and the men had been ordered to commence digging, when I heard an old volunteer, as he laid aside his gun and put off his accoutrements with manifest reluctance, say, sotto voce: ‘Well, if digging is the way to put down the rebellion, I guess we will have to do it.’ Our old soldiers had a ‘mind of their own,’ and were not afraid to let their commanders know it; yet they were essentially as thoroughly subordinate and reliable as any troops any general ever had the honor to command.

I now recall another incident which occurred a few days earlier, in which a young Indiana volunteer was somewhat less respectful, though he had no idea whom he was addressing, nor, probably, any thought whatever about ‘relative rank.’ I had come out from my tent, before sunrise in the morning, and was performing my morning ablutions in the ordinary camp basin, preparatory to putting on my outer clothing. None of my ‘people’ were yet up, and the night sentinel of my camp was a little way off. There came up a weary, belated soldier who had, perhaps, been trudging along much of the night, trying to overtake his regiment. I heard him ask in a loud voice: ‘Where is the 128th Indiana?’ Not supposing the question was addressed to me, I did not look up. Then came in still louder tones and in an amended form which left no room for doubt as to whom it was addressed: ‘I mean you old fellow there with the red shirt! Where is the 128th Indiana?’

If from lapse of time my memory may not be exact as to the number of the regiment, I am sure no apology is [156] necessary to the gallant 128th. It was, anyhow, one of those very high-numbered new Indiana regiments which had recently joined the army. The young soldier was sent to the headquarters escort, given his breakfast, and carried along until his regiment was overtaken.

The Twenty-third Corps reached the railroad about the close of day on August 31, having time to do no more than intrench our positions. The orders that day and night were urgent to make the destruction of the railroad thorough and extensive. This was evidently General Sherman's primary object, showing a doubt in his mind whether the effect of his movement would be the speedy abandonment of Atlanta, or whether he would have to trust to his destruction of the railroad to accomplish that object.

Late in the night of the 31st, after General Stanley and I, who were encamped near together, had gone to sleep, we received despatches from General Sherman stating in effect that as we were too far from the main body of the army to receive orders from him or General Thomas, our two corps must act on the morrow under the orders of the highest commander present, and that General Stanley, having the older commission, was that highest commander. I was therefore directed to report to General Stanley and act under his orders. I replied to General Sherman that while I differed from him in opinion upon the question of relative rank, I would for the present cheerfully abide his decision and execute his orders. Early the next morning, before I had time to report to General Stanley, he appeared at my camp, evidently much disturbed by the orders he had received. He said General Sherman was wrong; that he was not entitled to the command and did not want it; and urged me to accept the chief command, and let him act under my orders. I replied that General Sherman's order was imperative, and I could not relieve him (General Stanley) [157] from the responsibility of executing it. It was all wrong, but there was no present remedy, and he must do the best he could. The position of his corps on the right made it necessary that it should have the advance in the day's movement, while I would follow close after and support him under all circumstances.

So we started early in the morning to execute Sherman's orders—thoroughly to destroy the railroad, and close down on Thomas toward Jonesboroa. That morning, as Sherman says (Vol. II, page 107), ‘Howard found an intrenched foe (Hardee's corps) covering Jonesboroa,’ and ‘orders were sent to Generals Thomas and Schofield to turn straight for Jonesboroa, tearing up the railroad track as they advanced.’ But of course, as General Sherman had anticipated the night before, such orders could not reach me in time to do any good. They were not received until after the affair at Jonesboroa was ended. But hearing the sound of battle in our front, I rode rapidly forward to the head of Stanley's column, which was then not advancing, made inquiries for that officer, and was informed that he was trying to find General Thomas to get orders. I immediately brought my infantry of the Twenty-third Corps out of the road occupied by Stanley's corps, moved it to the front through woods and fields, and endeavored to find a way by which I could reach the enemy's flank or rear, riding so far ahead with a few staff officers and orderlies that I escaped very narrowly being captured by the enemy. Finally, near dark, General Stanley's troops began to deploy and attack the enemy; and as there were more troops on the ground than could possibly be used that day, I could do no more than stand and watch their movements, as I did with intense interest until my medical director, Dr. Hewit, one of the bravest and coolest men I ever knew, called my attention to the fact that the place was much too hot for a general and his staff who had nothing to do [158] there. I believe if General Sherman had been in our place he would have thought it ‘more than a skirmish-line’ (Vol. II, page 108) in Stanley's front that gave us that fire both of musketry and artillery which my staff officers have frequently spoken of as one of the ugliest they ever experienced. General Stanley's fault was, not that he deployed his troops, but that he did not put them in at once when he arrived on the ground, instead of waiting for orders. But General Stanley, whose gallantry was never questioned, was a subordinate in experience. He had but recently risen to the command of a corps, and had been little accustomed to act on his own responsibility. Feeling overburdened with the responsibility wrongfully thrust upon him that day, he naturally sought relief from it by reporting for orders to General Thomas as soon as his corps was reunited to the main army.

The failure at Jonesboroa, as at so many other places, was due to that erroneous interpretation of the law that threw the supreme responsibility at the crisis of battle upon untried and (in this case) unwilling shoulders, or else left the lawful commander without recognized authority, to beg in vain of others to ‘cooperate’ with him.

During the night of August 31 others besides General Sherman were too restless and impatient to sleep (Vol. II, page 108). The sounds of explosion in Atlanta were distinctly heard, and the flashes of light distinctly seen. With the compass for direction and the watch for intervals of time between flash and sound, there was no difficulty in locating their origin at Atlanta. An untutored farmer may well have thought ‘these sounds were just like those of a battle,’ but a practised ear could not have failed to note the difference. First there would come an explosion louder than and unlike the report of one or several guns, and this would be followed by numerous smaller, sharper, and perfectly distinct reports, [159] quite unlike that of musketry, which could not be mistaken for anything but the explosion of shells. There could be no room for doubt that these lights and sounds meant the destruction in Atlanta of magazines or carloads of fixed ammunition, and hence that Hood was abandoning that place. I reported my observations and conclusion to General Sherman, but he ‘still remained in doubt.’ The doubt was to me incomprehensible; but perhaps that was because I had no doubt from the start, whether I was right or wrong, what the result would be. My period of elation was when we got firm hold of the railroad at Rough and Ready. Hood having failed to attack our exposed flank during the movement, the fall of Atlanta was already an accomplished fact with me when Sherman was still in doubt, as well as when Thomas thought the news ‘too good to be true.’ But the above is worthy of noting only as a necessary introduction to something far more important.

Hood's army was now divided and scattered over a distance of thirty miles, one corps below Jonesboroa being just driven from its ground with considerable loss and in retreat to Lovejoy's, the main body leaving Atlanta and stretched along the road toward McDonough; while Sherman's whole army, except Slocum's corps, was in compact order about Jonesboroa, nearly in a straight line between Atlanta and Lovejoy's. This seemed exactly the opportunity to destroy Hood's army, if that was the objective of the campaign. So anxious was I that this be attempted that I offered to go with two corps, or even with one, and intercept Hood's retreat on the McDonough road, and hold him until Sherman could dispose of Hardee or interpose his army between him and Hood. But more prudent counsels prevailed, and we remained quietly in our camps for five days, while Hood leisurely marched round us with all his baggage and Georgia militia, and collected his scattered fragments at Lovejoy's. [160]

Atlanta had become, like Richmond, in popular estimation the real objective of military operations. The public lost sight of the fact that it was armies in the field, and not fortified places, which gave strength to the rebellion; and apparently even prominent generals, if they did not share the popular delusion, at least recognized its value. The capture of Atlanta was enough to meet the ‘political necessity,’ make ‘the election of Mr. Lincoln certain,’ and win rejoicings and congratulations from all parts of the North! It was not worth while to run any risk of trying to do more at that time! It had to be left for two of Sherman's corps, after the other four had gone on ‘the march to the sea,’ to fight Hood at Columbia and Spring Hill, hurl him back from Franklin, and then, with reinforcements not equal to half what Sherman had taken away, to overwhelm him at Nashville. Why was not this done with a much larger force under Sherman at Atlanta? This is one of the questions for the future historian to discuss.

During our rest near Lovejoy's, General Sherman requested me to give him a statement in writing of my dissent from his decision upon the question of relative rank, which I did. This he submitted to the War Department for decision, as a ‘question of rank that had arisen between Generals Schofield and Stanley.’ At this General Stanley was very indignant, as well as at General Sherman's censure of his conduct on September 1; for the reason that no question of rank had been raised by us, and the command was thrust upon him in opposition to his wish and in violation of the law as he understood it. In due time came the decision of the War Department, written by General Halleck, sustaining the view of the law Stanley and I had taken, and reversing that of General Sherman; also kindly commending my action in waiving the question during active operations.

It was by virtue of the above decision of the War Department [161] that I, instead of General Stanley, had command of the force that in the following November, 1864, opposed Hood's advance from the Tennessee River and repulsed his fierce assault at Franklin.

As I was absent from the army on business connected with my department during most of Hood's raid upon the railroad in the rear of Atlanta (Sherman having announced his purpose to let his army rest during that time), I have little to say in respect to the operations resulting therefrom. But some things in Sherman's account seem to require a little elucidation.

Being informed by General Sherman of Hood's movement, I hurried to the front and tried to reach the army by a special train with a small guard from Cleveland, Tenn., but met, October 13, the head of Hood's column at Dalton, where several trains of cars with supplies and men without arms returning from furlough on their way to Sherman had been stopped by the reported approach of Hood. I ordered all back to Cleveland, and we barely had time to escape capture by Hood's cavalry. On arriving at Cleveland, I reported by telegraph to General Thomas, then at Nashville; and he desired me to go to Chattanooga, take command of the troops there, and prepare to defend that place, which it was thought Hood might attempt to take by a coup de main, or to cooperate with Sherman. As General Sherman says (Vol. II, page 156), ‘Hood had broken up the telegraph, and thus had prevented quick communication’; but through my own scouts and spies I was able to keep track of Hood's movements. As soon as he turned westward I determined to move with the troops, when no longer necessary to the defense of Chattanooga, rapidly to Trenton and Valley Head, seize the passes through the Lookout range, and prevent Hood's escape in that direction, presuming that Sherman would intercept his retreat down the Chattanooga valley. I sent a courier to General Sherman [162] informing him of my purpose, and informed General Thomas by telegraph. But the latter disapproved my plan, and directed me to move to defend Caperton's Ferry. This is what General Sherman refers to in his despatch of October 16: ‘Your first move on Trenton and Valley Head was right; the move to defend Caperton's Ferry is wrong. Notify General Thomas of these, my views.’ But the difference between right and wrong proved immaterial, since Hood was left free to escape down the Chattanooga valley. Why this was done, or why Sherman did not want to force the enemy east, by Spring Place, into the barren mountains, where Johnston would have been compelled to go if McPherson's move on Resaca in May had been successful, seems a mystery. The explanation is probably to be found in Sherman's wish that Hood would go where he would not be compelled to follow, and thus would leave him (Sherman) a clear road for his march to the sea. Indeed the conviction seems irresistible that Sherman and Hood could hardly have acted in more perfect concert if they had been under the same commander. The one did exactly what the other wanted, and the other took care not to interfere with his movement.

At the close of the Atlanta campaign, I promised General Sherman that I would, as soon as I should be able to do so, write a full critical history of that campaign as a text-book for military students. I have not yet found time to fulfil that promise. The foregoing pages were intended, when written, as only a very partial fulfilment of that task, and that almost entirely of one side of it—far the most difficult side. The other side is so easy, comparatively, and is already so familiar to military students, that further elucidation now seems hardly necessary. Yet I hope, as a labor of love, if for no other reason, to present my impressions of those grand tactical evolutions of a compact army of one hundred thousand men, as I [163] witnessed them with the intense interest of a young commander and student of the great art which has so often in the history of the world determined the destinies of nations.

After the capture of Atlanta, in September, 1864, General Sherman proposed to give his army rest for a month while he perfected his plans and preparations for a change of base to some point on the Atlantic or the gulf, in pursuance of the general plan outlined by General Grant before the Atlanta campaign was opened in May. But the Confederate commander took the initiative, about September 20, by moving his army around Sherman's right, striking his railroad about Allatoona and toward Chattanooga, doing some damage, and then marching off westward with the design of transferring the theater of war from Georgia to Alabama, Mississippi, or Tennessee.

Sherman very promptly decided not to accept that challenge to meet Hood upon a field chosen by the latter, but to continue substantially the original plan for his own operations, having in view also new ulterior plans opened to him by this erratic movement of his adversary. An essential modification of the original plan, to meet the unexpected movement of Hood, was to send back into Tennessee force enough, in addition to the troops then there and others to be assembled from the rear, to cope with Hood in the event of his attempting the invasion of Tennessee and Kentucky, or to pursue and occupy his attention if he should attempt to follow Sherman. General George H. Thomas, commanding the Department of the Cumberland, whose headquarters were at Nashville, was already at that place, and was directed by General Sherman to assume command of all the troops in the three departments under Sherman's command, except those with the latter in Georgia, and to direct the operations against Hood. [164]

Thomas had in his department at that time only the garrisons and railroad guards which had been deemed essential during the preceding operations in Georgia; and many of those were soon to be discharged by expiration of their terms of enlistment, their places to be supplied by new regiments coming from the rear. General A. J. Smith's corps, then in Missouri, about ten thousand strong, was ordered to Tennessee, and Sherman also ordered Stanley, with the Fourth Corps, about twelve thousand men, to return from Georgia to Tennessee and report to Thomas. Stanley had started by rail to Tullahoma, and was to march, as he did, from the latter point to Pulaski, Tennessee, which had been selected as the point of concentration for Thomas's forces. This was the situation when I returned to the army and reported in person to General Sherman.

Under Sherman's promise of a month's rest for his army, I had gone back to attend to the business of my department, as General Thomas had also done, and hence was in the rear when Hood made his raid upon Sherman's railroad. Upon reporting to General Sherman near the end of October, I learned for the first time his purpose to march to Savannah, and what troops he had provided for Thomas in Tennessee. I told Sherman, with that perfect candor which he always invited, that in my opinion Thomas's force was much too small; that Hood evidently intended to invade Tennessee; and that he would not be diverted from his purpose by Sherman's march in the opposite direction, but would, on the contrary, be encouraged thereby to pursue his own plan. Hence I requested Sherman to send me back with the Twenty-third Corps to join Thomas. Sherman at first appeared to understand my suggestion as a desire to be left in Tennessee instead of Thomas, the latter to go with Sherman. But I explained to him emphatically that such was not my thought. I took it for granted [165] that Thomas was to command the army in Tennessee, and I wanted only to go back and help him because he would, in my opinion, have to do the fighting while Sherman's march would be unopposed. Sherman then replied that he must have three grand divisions, under Slocum, Howard, and myself, to make his army complete, and that he could not spare me; and he gave no indication of concurrence in my opinion that he ought to send back more troops.

After leaving General Sherman that afternoon and returning to my own camp, I wrote him a letter giving a special reason why my corps, rather than any other, should be sent back to Tennessee in order that it might be filled up by new regiments which had been ordered from the North. No answer came to these suggestions until I had made three days march toward Atlanta, en route for Savannah. Then I received an order, October 30, to march to the nearest point on the railroad, and report by telegraph to General Thomas for orders.

At first General Thomas ordered me to move by rail to Tullahoma, and then march across to Pulaski, as Stanley was doing. But just then Forrest with his cavalry appeared at Johnsonville, on the Tennessee River west of Nashville, and destroyed a great quantity of property, General Thomas not having sufficient force available to oppose him; hence on November 3 Thomas ordered me to come at once by rail to Nashville with my corps, where I reported to him with the advance of my troops on November 5. He then ordered me to go at once with some of my troops to Johnsonville and dispose of the Confederate cavalry there, and then to return to Nashville and proceed to Pulaski, to take command of all the troops in the field, which would then include the Fourth Corps, my own Twenty-third, except the detachment left at Johnsonville, and the cavalry watching Hood toward Florence. My duty at Johnsonville, where I left two [166] brigades, was soon disposed of; and I then returned to Nashville, and went at once by rail to Pulaski, arriving at that place in the evening of November 13.

Some so-called histories of the Tennessee campaign have been based upon the theory that I was marching from Georgia to Tennessee, to unite my corps with General Thomas's army at Nashville, when I encountered Hood at Franklin, and after a sharp contest managed to elude him and continue my march and unite with the Army of the Cumberland at Nashville. Hence I wish to point out clearly that I had been with the entire Twenty-third Corps to Nashville, with a part of it to Johnsonville and back to Nashville, and thence to Columbia and near Pulaski, all by rail; that all of the Army of the Cumberland then in Tennessee was the Fourth Corps and the cavalry at and near Pulaski; that General Thomas placed those troops under my command, and that they remained so until after the battle of Franklin, November 30, and the retreat to Nashville that night; and that General Thomas did not have an army at Nashville until December 1. I had united with Thomas's troops two weeks before the battle of Franklin, and was commanding his army in the field as well as my own during that time. If the historians had read the records1 they could not possibly have fallen into such a mistake.

Before reaching Pulaski I was furnished with an order from General Thomas's headquarters assigning me to the command in the field, by virtue of my rank as a department commander, and a copy of instructions which had already been telegraphed to General Stanley at Pulaski. I assumed command in the morning of November 14. The moment I met Stanley at Pulaski, in the evening of November 13, he called my attention to the faulty position of the troops and to an error in General Thomas's instructions, about which I then knew nothing because I [167] was unacquainted with the geography of the surrounding country. Upon Stanley's statement, I halted Cox's division of the Twenty-third Corps a few miles north of Pulaski so that the troops might be the more readily placed as the situation required when I had time to consider it. No part of the Twenty-third Corps actually went to Pulaski, although that was the place to which General Thomas had ordered it.

On the 19th General Thomas repeated to me the same orders he had sent to General Stanley, in these words: ‘If the enemy advances in force, as General Hatch believes, have everything in readiness either to fight him at Pulaski if he advances on that place, or cover the railroad and concentrate at Columbia, should he attempt to turn your right flank. . . .’2 I then telegraphed General Thomas, November 20, pointing out the faulty nature of the position selected by him for the troops at Pulaski, and the danger that must be incurred in attempting to carry out his instructions to fight Hood at Pulaski if he should advance upon that place; also suggesting what seemed to be the best way to avoid that difficulty. General Thomas very promptly approved these suggestions, and thus ended the embarrassment occasioned by the faulty instructions. But his official report on that point has made it necessary for me to comment upon it more fully later.

The season of Hood's invasion of Tennessee was extremely unfavorable for aggressive operations, and hence correspondingly favorable for the defense. The ordinary country roads were almost impassable, while the turnpikes were in good condition. As we held the crossing of the Tennessee River at Decatur, Hood was compelled to cross at the Shoals below, and to advance over those very bad roads; hence we had ample time in which to make the necessary dispositions to oppose him. [168]

Our cavalry gave us accurate information that the enemy was advancing on the 21st, when Cox, with Wagner in support, was ordered to interpose between the enemy's cavalry and Columbia; while Stanley, with two divisions of the Fourth Corps, marched from Pulaski to that place, and our cavalry moved on the enemy's right to cover the turnpike and railroad. The whole army was in position at Columbia, November 24, and began to intrench. Hood's infantry did not appear in sight until the 26th. Cox had a brush with the enemy's cavalry, which had driven in one of our cavalry brigades. That action was magnified at the time, and afterward, into evidence of a race between our troops and the enemy for the possession of Columbia. In fact, Ruger's troops at Columbia were quite capable of holding that place against Forrest and Hood's infantry was not within a day's march of either Cox or Stanley until after both had reached Columbia.

We held our intrenched position in front of Columbia until the evening of November 27, inviting an attack, and hoping that Thomas would arrive with, or send, reinforcements in time to assume the offensive from Columbia; but reinforcements did not come, and the enemy did not attack. It became evident that Hood's intention was not to attack that position, but to turn it by crossing Duck River above; hence the army was moved to the north bank of the river in the night of the 27th. It was still hoped that the line of Duck River might be held until reinforcements could arrive. General Thomas was very urgent that this should be done, if possible, as the arrival of General A. J. Smith's corps from Missouri had been expected daily for some time, when General Thomas intended, as it was understood, to come to the front in person with that corps and all the other troops he could assemble in his department, take command, and move against the enemy.

About that time was disclosed one of those contrivances [169] by which the non-military agencies of government interfere with the operations of armies. The War Department telegraph corps alone was intrusted with the cipher in which General Thomas and I could communicate with each other by telegraph. Neither he, nor I, nor any of our staff officers were permitted to know the telegraph code. The work was so badly done that from eight to forty-eight hours were occupied in sending and delivering a despatch. Finally the cipher-operator attached to my headquarters in the field deserted his post and went to Franklin, so that the time required for a messenger to ride from Franklin to my position in the field was added to the delay caused by deciphering despatches. From all this it resulted that my superior at Nashville was able to give me little assistance during the critical days of that campaign. It has been generally supposed that I was all that time acting under orders or instructions from General Thomas, and his numerous despatches have been quoted in ‘histories’ as evidence in support of that supposition. The fact is that I was not only without any appropriate orders or instructions nearly all the time, but also without any timely information from General Thomas to guide my action.

This fact appears to have been fully recognized by General Thomas in his official report, wherein he made no mention of any orders or instructions given by him during the progress of those operations, but referred only to ‘instructions already given’ before I went to Pulaski, and said: ‘My plans and wishes were fully explained to General Schofield, and, as subsequent events will show, properly appreciated and executed by him.’3

1 War Records, Vol. XLV.

2 War Records, Vol. XLV, part i, p. 944.

3 War Records, Vol. XXXIX, part i, p. 590.

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