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General Hardee and the Military operations around Atlanta.

By Colonel T. B. Roy, late of General Hardee's Staff.
[In presenting the following paper from the gallant soldier and accomplished gentleman who wrote it, it is, perhaps, proper to say again that the Southern Historical Society is not responsible for any sentiments uttered by writers in these pages. When there are points of controversy among Confederates we give impartially both sides, and leave the intelligent reader to judge for himself without comment from us.]

The publication of General Hood's book, entitled Advance and retreat, the wide circulation which circumstances have concurred to give it, and the fact that a new generation has grown up, unfamiliar with the matters there referred to, make it essential that certain charges and imputations therein made against General William J. Hardee should be met and refuted. Some of these matters, consisting of suggestion and opinion, and of alleged verbal communications between persons, all of whom are now dead, are difficult to deal with. This difficulty is enhanced by the lapse [338] of time — over fifteen years--since the events transpired, by the death of many of the chief actors in those events, and by the loss of most of General Hardee's official records and papers, which, during active operations, were, from time to time, sent to places in the rear, which proved insecure; but, as a member of General Hardee's staff, on duty with him during all that period, and honored, then and afterwards, with his friendship and confidence, I deem it my privilege and duty to contribute what I can towards the right and the truth in these matters.

In the early part of 1865, General Hood made an official report to the War Department, covering the operations at and about Atlanta, which was afterwards published in the public press of the day, and which I take to be the same as contained in the appendix to this book. This elicited from General Hardee a communication to the Department, bearing date 5th of April, 1865. This paper does not purport to be a report, in the ordinary sense of the term; and having been prepared amid the duties and activities of a campaign, and without access to sources of information afterwards open, it may be inaccurate in some matters of mere detail; but it was mainly addressed to certain specific statements contained in General Hood's report, and it is as to these statements only that I quote it. It is as follows:

headquarters Hardee's corps, camp near Smithfield, North Carolina. April 5th, 1865.
To General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector-General, Richmond, Virginia:
General — The want of subordinate reports has hitherto prevented me from making an official report of the operations of my corps of the Army of Tennessee, from the opening of the campaign at Dalton to the time of my transfer from that army on the 28th September, 1864. Many of the general officers of that corps were killed, wounded or captured in the recent Tennessee campaign without having made up their reports, and this obstacle, therefore, still exists; but the publication of General Hood's official report makes it a duty to place at once upon record a correction of the misrepresentations which he has made in that report with respect to myself and the corps which I commanded.

It is well known that I felt unwilling to serve under General Hood upon his succession to the command of the Army of Tennessee, because I believed him, though a tried and gallant officer, to be unequal, in both experience and natural ability, to so important a command, and soon afterward, with the knowledge and approval of General Hood, I applied to His Excellency the President [339] to be relieved from duty with that army. The President replied that it was my duty to remain where I was. I accepted the decision, and gave to the Commanding-General an honest and cordial support. That in the operations about Atlanta I failed to accomplish all that General Hood thinks might have been accomplished is a matter of regret; that I committed errors is very possible; but that I failed, in any instance, to carry out in good faith his orders, I utterly deny. Nor during our official connection did General Hood ever evince a belief that I had, in any respect, failed in the execution of such parts of his military plans as were entrusted to me. On the contrary, by frequent and exclusive consultation of my opinions, by the selection of my corps for important operations, and by assigning me, on several occasions, to the command of two-thirds of his army, he gave every proof of implicit confidence in me. The publication of his official report, with its astonishing statements and insinuations, was the first intimation of his dissatisfaction with my official conduct.

Referring to the attack of the 20th July at Peach-tree creek, he says:

Owing to the demonstrations of the enemy on the right, it became necessary to extend Cheatham a division front to the right. To do this Hardee and Stewart were each ordered to extend a half division front to close the interval. Foreseeing that some confusion and delay might result, I was careful to call General Hardee's attention to the importance of having a staff officer on his left, to see that his left did not take more than half a division front. This unfortunately was not attended to, and the line closed to the right, causing Stewart to move two or three times the proper distance. In consequence of this, the attack was delayed until nearly four P. M. At this hour the attack began as ordered, Stewart's corps carrying the temporary works in its front. Hardee failed to push the attack as ordered, and thus the enemy, remaining in possession of his works on Stewart's right, compelled Stewart, by an enfilade fire, to abandon the position he had carried. I have every reason to believe that our attack would have been successful had my orders been executed.

I was ordered, as above stated, to move half a division length to the right; but was directed, at the same time, to connect with the left of Cheatham's corps. The delay referred to by General Hood was not caused by my failure to post a staff officer to prevent my command from moving more than half a division length to the right, for Major Black, of my staff, was sent to the proper point for that purpose; but it arose from the fact that Cheatham's corps, with which I was to connect, was nearly two miles to my right, instead of a division length. Had General Hood been on the field, the alternative of delaying the attack, or leaving an interval between Cheatham's command and my own, could have been submitted [340] to him for decision. He was in Atlanta, and in his absence the hazard of leaving an interval of one and a half miles in a line intended to be continuous, and at a point in front of which the enemy was in force and might at any time attack, seemed to me too great to be assumed. The attack thus delayed was, therefore, made at four P. M. instead of at one o'clock.

My troops were formed as follows: Bate's division on the right; Walker's in the centre; Cheatham's, commanded by Brigadier-General Maney, on the left, and Cleburne's in reserve. The command moved to the attack in echelon of division from the right. Walker's division, in consequence of the circular formation of the enemy's fortifications, encountered them first and was repulsed and driven back. Bate, finding no enemy in his immediate front, was directed to find and, if practicable, to turn their flank; but his advance, through an almost impenetrable thicket, was necessarily slow. Expecting but not hearing Bate's guns, I ordered Maney and Cleburne (whose division had been substituted for Walker's beaten troops) to attack. At the moment when the troops were advancing to the assault, I received information from General Hood that the enemy were passing and overlapping the extreme right of the army, accompanied by an imperative order to send him a division at once. In obedience to this order, I immediately withdrew and sent to him Cleburne's division. The withdrawal of a division at the moment when but two were available compelled me to countermand the assault, and the lateness of the hour, which made it impossible to get Bate in position to attack before dark, left no alternative but to give up the attack altogether. These movements and their causes were fully explained to General Hood at the time, and seemingly to his entire satisfaction.

No mention is made in General Hood's report of the fight made by Cleburne on the 21st, which he described as the “bitterest” of his life. But it was the well known and often expressed opinion of that noble and lamented officer, that but for the withdrawal of his division, which prevented the assault on the 20th, and its timely arrival on the right, the enemy would, on the morning of the 21st, have succeeded in gaining the inner works of Atlanta.

On the 21st of July, General Hood decided to attempt on the following day to turn the enemy's left flank.

The original plan was to send my corps by a detour to Decatur, to turn the enemy's position; but my troops had been marching, working and fighting the night and day previous, had had little rest for thirty-six hours, and it was deemed impracticable to make so long a march in time to attack on the following day. This plan was therefore abandoned, and General Hood decided to strike the enemy in flank.

General Hood says: “Hardee failed to entirely turn the enemy's flank as directed, took position and attacked his flank.” In proof that General Hood's instructions were obeyed, I have only to mention that when my dispatch, informing him of the position I had [341] taken and the dispositions I had made for the attack, was received, he exclaimed to

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