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Chapter VIII

in the affair at Kolb's Farm, on June 22, Hascall's division of the Twenty-third Corps was abreast of and connecting with Hooker's right, while his advance-guard was many yards in advance of the line, when the enemy's attack at the Kolb House began. The first attack fell upon this advance-guard, the 14th Kentucky Volunteers, which gallantly held its ground until twice ordered to retire and join the main line. In the meantime Hascall's line had been formed in prolongation of Hooker's and covered with the usual hastily constructed parapets, and three brigades of Cox's division had been ordered forward to protect Hascall's right. The attack was repulsed with ease, and there was no ground for apprehension about the safety of my immediate flank, much less of Hooker's, after the arrival of Cox's division, which occurred before the hour of Hooker's signal-despatch to Sherman expressing anxiety about our extreme right. On the following morning we reoccupied the ground [133] held by the 14th Kentucky at the opening of the engagement, and not only did I offer to show General Sherman that the dead of my ‘advance division were lying farther out than any of Hooker's,’ but he actually rode with me over the ground, and saw the dead of the 14th Kentucky lying in advance of Hooker's picket-line.

My impression is that Hooker, in his signal-despatch of 5:30 P. M., saying, ‘We have repulsed two heavy attacks, and feel confident, our only apprehension being for our extreme right flank. Three entire corps are in front of us,’1 meant by ‘our extreme right flank’ not his own right, but mine—that is, the extreme right of the entire line; for at the time of that despatch nearly my whole corps was strongly posted on Hooker's right, and was well ‘refused,’ forming a strong right flank. This General Hooker well knew. But the Sandtown Road leading to our rear, on which Cox's division had been posted until Johnston's attack made it necessary to close him up on Hascall, was now less strongly guarded. I believe that General Hooker had conceived the idea, as indicated by his despatch to Sherman, that Johnston had drawn his main force from around Kenesaw, and was about to strike our extreme right. I recollect that I was all the time on the watch for such a blow, but relied upon my cavalry to give me some warning of it, and made it a rule to be always as well prepared for it as I could. Being habitually on the flank, I had got used to that sort of thing, while Hooker, having been habitually in the center with his flanks well protected, was more nervous about having them exposed. At all events, I did not regard the situation at the Kolb House as anything unusual, and did not think of mentioning it in such a light to General Sherman; while General Hooker, with a sort of paternal feeling of seniority, may have thought it his duty to take care of the whole right wing of the [134] army, and to advise the general-in-chief of the supposed danger to our ‘extreme right flank.’

There occurred on that occasion one of those little and seemingly trifling incidents which never escape the memory, and are always a source of pride, especially to those who are comparatively young. When Sherman read Hooker's despatch, which he interpreted as meaning that my corps was not in position to protect Hooker's flank, he said in substance, if not literally, and with great emphasis: ‘That is not true. I sent Schofield an order to be there. I know he received the order, for his initials, in his own hand, are on the envelop which the orderly brought back, and I know he is there. Hooker's statement is false.’ What a delight it was to execute the orders of a chief who manifested such confidence!

I do not remember that I was ‘very angry’ about Hooker's despatch, as General Sherman says (Vol. II, page 59), though I think Sherman was. Indeed, he had more reason to be angry than I; for the fact, and evidence of it, were so plain that the Twenty-third Corps had done its duty as ordered, that if Hooker's despatch was meant to imply the contrary, which I doubt, that was a cause of anger to the general-in-chief, whom he had unnecessarily alarmed, rather than to me, who had no apprehension of being suspected by the general-in-chief of having failed in my duty.

In fact, I do not recollect having seen Hooker's despatch at all until I saw it quoted in Sherman's ‘Memoirs.’ My recollection is that Sherman told me, on his visiting us the next day, that he had received during the battle a despatch from Hooker to the effect that his flank was unprotected. In reply to this I explained to General Sherman where my troops had been during the engagement, and showed him the dead of the 14th Kentucky lying on the advanced ground they had held while Hascall's division was forming. I believe that if I had seen Hooker's [135] despatch at the time, I should have interpreted it then, as I do now, as referring, not to his immediate right, but to the extreme right of the line. I do not recollect any words, ‘pretty sharp’ or otherwise, between General Hooker and myself on that subject, and do not believe it was ever mentioned between us. In short, I do not think I was present at the interview in the ‘little church’ described by General Sherman (Sherman's ‘Memoirs,’ Vol. II, page 59). I have an impression that General Hascall was there, and that it is to him General Sherman refers. I believe the Kolb House difficulty was almost entirely a misapprehension between General Sherman and General Hooker. Why this mistake was not explained at the time or afterward I do not know, unless it was that the feelings of those two gentlemen toward each other were unfavorable to any such explanation.

I will add that General Hooker and I were together both before and after the opening of the Kolb House engagement. He knew perfectly well where my troops were, and what they were doing, and it seems to me utterly impossible that he can have meant by his despatch what General Sherman understood it to mean.

My despatches of that date to Sherman show that I had no special apprehension even in respect to our extreme right flank, and that I doubted the report that one whole corps was in our front.

My orders on that day2 show that Hascall was up with Hooker at the intersection of the Marietta and Powder Spring roads, near the Kolb House, as early as 3 P. M., and that Cox was ordered up with three brigades at 4:15 P. M., before the assault began. Cox arrived with the head of his column during the enemy's attack, and was directed by me in person where and how to put his troops in position. Hence I think I must be right in the inference that in Hooker's despatch to Sherman of 5:30 P. M., the [136] words ‘our extreme right flank’ must have been intended to refer to my extreme right, and not his. He was simply unduly apprehensive for the safety of the extreme right flank of the army, not of his own corps in particular. My report to General Sherman at 9 P. M. simply shows that I did not share that apprehension; that, instead of believing there were ‘three entire corps in front of us,’ I doubted whether there was even all of Hood's corps.

General Hooker's habit of swinging off from the rest of General Thomas's army, and getting possession of roads designated for McPherson or for me, was a common subject of remark between Sherman, Thomas, McPherson, and myself; and his motive was understood to be, as General Sherman states, to get command of one of the armies, in the event of battle, by virtue of his senior commission. But the subject was never mentioned between General Hooker and me, and he never even approximated to giving me an order. No doubt he entertained the opinion that he would have a right to give orders to either General McPherson or myself under certain circumstances likely to arise, for General Sherman entertained the same opinion. What General Thomas thought on the question I never knew. My own opinion and McPherson's were decidedly the contrary.

In the final movement which resulted in the withdrawal of Johnston's army from Kenesaw, the Army of the Tennessee passed by the right flank of my infantry line along the famous Sandtown Road. While this was going on, McPherson and I sat on our horses together a long time, observing the movement and renewing the familiar intercourse of our youth. We had a long and free conversation on a great variety of subjects—a rare opportunity for commanders, even in the same army, where their troops were generally from ten to twenty miles apart in line of battle. One of the first subjects [137] that came up was that question of relative rank; for our troops had ‘met’ and were then ‘doing duty together,’ in the language of the old article of war. But the subject was quickly dismissed with the remark, made almost simultaneously by both, that such a question could not possibly cause any difficulty between us. Mc-Pherson had the senior commission of major-general, and I the senior assignment as army commander. Perhaps it would have puzzled even Halleck to frame a satisfactory decision in that peculiar case. I had long before determined what my decision would be if that question ever became a practical one between McPherson and myself on the field of battle. I would have said, in substance at least: ‘Mac, just tell me what you want me to do.’

As we sat together that day, McPherson confided to me the secret of his marriage engagement, for the purpose, as he stated, of inquiring whether, in my opinion, he could before long find a chance to go home and get married. I told him I thought that after the capture of Altanta operations would be suspended long enough for that. But my dear and noble friend was killed in the next great battle. After Atlanta had fallen I went home, as McPherson would doubtless have done if he had lived; but our common friend and classmate Hood cut the visit so short that there would have been little time for marriage festivities.

McPherson, among other high qualities, was one of the most generous men I ever knew. He was remarkably skilful in topographical drawing, etching, lettering, and all other uses of the pen. Although at the head of the class and a most conscientious student whose time was very valuable to himself, he would spend a very large part of that precious time in ‘lettering’ problems for classmates who needed such help. For this reason and others he was, by common consent of all the classes, the most popular man in the corps. I could not compete [138] with ‘Mac’ at all in the lettering business, but I tried to follow his good example, in my own way, by helping the boys over knotty points in ‘math’ and ‘phil.’ I had taught district school one winter before going to West Point, and hence had acquired the knack of explaining things.

Hood was not well up in mathematics. The first part of the course especially he found very hard—so much so that he became discouraged. After the unauthorized festivities of Christmas, particularly, he seemed much depressed. On the 26th he asked me which I would prefer to be, ‘an officer of the army or a farmer in Kentucky?’ I replied in a way which aroused his ambition to accomplish what he had set out to do in coming to West Point, without regard to preference between farming and soldiering. He went to work in good earnest, and passed the January examination, though by a very narrow margin. From that time on he did not seem to have so much difficulty. When we were fighting each other so desperately, fifteen years later, I wondered whether Hood remembered the encouragement I had given him to become a soldier, and came very near thinking once or twice that perhaps I had made a mistake. But I do not believe that public enmity ever diminished my personal regard for my old friend and classmate.

In thinking of McPherson, I recall an interesting incident connected with Frank P. Blair, Jr.'s arrival with his corps about June 9, referred to by General Sherman (Vol. II, page 24). For some reason we had an afternoon's rest the day after Blair arrived; so I rode over to his camp—seven or eight miles, perhaps—to greet my old friend. McPherson, to whose Army Blair's corps belonged, and other officers were there. To our immense surprise, Blair had brought along great hogsheads of ice and numerous baskets of champagne, as if to increase the warmth of our welcome. Of course we did not disdain [139] such an unusual treat in the enemy's country. About sunset McPherson invited me to visit his camp, and we started off at full gallop, which we kept up all the way, yet it was some time after dark when we reached the headquarters of the Army of the Tennessee. A good camp supper was awaiting us, with jolly young officers to make it merry. It was not until supper was ended that I began to realize the necessity of a night's march to get back to my own camp. As our infantry line was twenty miles long, and the cavalry stretched it out on either flank as many more, my single orderly was quite sufficient protection from any attack from the enemy; but the Georgia bushes, brambles, and mud, combined with the absence of any known road, constituted an enemy hard to overcome. However, by the aid of the compass which I have always carried in my lead since I used to hunt in the wilds of the West, I got back to camp, and went to bed, taking care not to observe the time of night by my watch.

As I have said, I was often much annoyed by General Hooker's corps getting possession of roads which had been designated for mine to advance upon, thus greatly delaying my movements. But it is but just to say that this is susceptible of an explanation much more creditable to General Hooker than that given by General Sherman. General Thomas's army was so large that he could never get his three corps into position as soon as expected by the use of the roads designated for him. Hence, when Hooker was not in advance he would ‘switch off’ and hunt for another road to the right or left, and thus sometimes strike in ahead of McPherson or me, and leave us no road at all to move on. In fact, the army was so large and the roads were so few that our movements were often painfully slow and tedious, and General Hooker's motive may have been only to get ahead and bring his corps into action or to the position assigned to it in whatever way he could. [140]

The first time I ever saw General Sherman and General Hooker together, or got even a suspicion that their personal relations were other than the most satisfactory, was at Resaca. Cox's division had gained possession of some portions of the enemy's outer works, so that from a bald hill just in rear of our line some parts of the main line of defense could be distinctly seen. Upon my informing General Sherman of this, he soon appeared on the ground, accompanied or closely followed by a large number of general and staff officers. Besides Sherman, Thomas, Hooker, and Newton, a score of others were there, all eager to see what they could of the now famous stronghold which McPherson had refrained from assaulting. I led them to the hill, on which a few dead trees were still standing, and from which the much-desired view could be obtained. Of course all were on foot, yet they were too numerous not to attract the attention of the enemy. Very soon the sound of musketry in front, then not very heavy, was varied by the sharp explosion of a shell overhead, and fragments of branches of dead trees came falling all around. A general ‘scatteration’ occurred in all directions save one. Newton and I, who were conversing at the time, quietly stepped aside a few paces out of the line of fire, where we were much safer than we would have been in full retreat, and then turned round to see what had become of our companions. All save two had disappeared, even Thomas having abandoned the field, probably for the first and only time in his life. But still there, on the bald hill, in full view of the hostile artillery, were the two already highly distinguished generals, Sherman and Hooker, both alike famous for supreme courage, striding round the ground, appearing to look at nothing in particular and not conversing with each other, but seeing at least a foot taller than usual, each waiting for the other to lead off in retreat. After quite a long continuance of this little drama, [141] which greatly entertained Newton and me, the two great soldiers, as if by some mysterious impulse,—for they did not speak a word,—simultaneously and slowly strode to the rear, where their horses were held. I cheerfully give the ‘Johnny Rebs’ credit for the courtesy of not firing another shot after they saw the effect of the first, which I doubt not was intended only as a gentle hint that such impudence in Yankees was not to be tolerated. Yet a single shell from the same direction,—probably from the same battery,--when we were moving into action that morning, exploded near my head, and killed the aide who was riding behind me.3 My too numerous staff and escort had attracted attention. I had at Dalton a few days before forbade the staff and escort to follow me into action, unless specially ordered to do so; but they had not so soon learned the lesson which the sad casualty at Resaca taught them. It was then early in the campaign. Later, both generals and orderlies had learned to restrain somewhat their curiosity and their too thoughtless bravery. The perfect old soldier has learned to economize the life and strength of men, including his own, with somewhat the same care that he does those of artillery horses and transportation mules. It is only the young soldier who does not know the difference between husbanding the national resources and showing cowardice in face of the enemy.

At Wilson's Creek, where the brave Lyon was killed in August. 1861, and where the gallant volunteers on both sides had fought with almost unexampled courage, standing up to their work all the time, until one third of their numbers were killed or wounded, and their forty rounds [142] of ammunition gone, the little companies of old, regular Indian-fighters had been deployed as skirmishers in close order, behind trees and bushes and hillocks, and had suffered comparatively small losses. The following colloquy occurred between one of them and a volunteer whose cartridge-box, as he was proud to show, was empty. Volunteer: ‘How many shots did you fire?’ Old soldier (looking into his cartridge-box): ‘I fired just nineteen.’ Volunteer: ‘And how many rebs do you think you killed?’ Old soldier: ‘I guess I killed about nineteen.’

One beautiful, quiet Sunday afternoon, in front of Atlanta, when even the pickets were respecting the Sabbath day, my headquarters band, which had been playing selections of sacred music, easily heard on the other side of the lines, struck up a favorite Southern air of quite a different character. Quickly came a shell crashing through the trees far over our heads. The band as quickly took the hint and changed the tune. Such little ‘courtesies’ from our ‘friends the enemy’ were not at all uncommon in the short intervals of rest from deadly work.

General Sherman says in Vol. II, page 60, of his ‘Memoirs’:

During the 24th and 25th of June, General Schofield extended his right as far as prudent, so as to compel the enemy to thin out his lines correspondingly, with the intention to make two strong assaults at points where success would give us the greatest advantage. I had consulted Generals Thomas, McPherson, and Schofield, and we all agreed that we could not with prudence stretch out any more, and therefore there was no alternative but to attack ‘fortified lines’—a thing carefully avoided up to that time.

The first sentence literally means that I extended my right ‘with the intention,’ on my part, ‘to make two [143] strong assaults,’ etc. But that is a mere verbal error. General Sherman, of course, meant to say that the intention was his.

The second sentence is, perhaps, ambiguous. At least it has been construed to mean more than the truth. It is undoubtedly true that ‘we all agreed that we could not with prudence stretch out any more,’ but we did not agree in the conclusion ‘and therefore there was no alternative,’ etc.

Indeed, such conclusion was extremely illogical, as was demonstrated a few days later, when one of the other ‘alternatives’ was adopted with success. This successful movement was essentially the same as that which had been previously made to dislodge the enemy from Dalton, and that by which Sherman's army had been transferred from New Hope Church to the railroad in front of Allatoona, as well as that by which Atlanta was afterward captured. Hence the existence of this ‘alternative’ could not have been unthought of by any of us at the time of the assault on Kenesaw.

But there was another alternative in this and similar cases, which was much discussed at various times during the campaign. Its practicability can be judged of only upon general principles, for it was never tried. It was to detach two or three corps, nearly half our army (which was about double the strength of the enemy), make a detour wide enough to avoid his fortifications, and strike directly at his flank and rear. Such a movement, it was urged, at Dalton, Kenesaw, or Atlanta would have compelled Johnston to fight a battle on equal terms with one half of Sherman's army, while he had to hold his parapets against the other half. Whatever else may be said of this proposed movement, it would undoubtedly have been more hazardous and much more decisive, one way or the other, than any of the plans actually adopted. It certainly promised success proportionate to the cost, instead [144] of a costly failure, which the assault of fortified lines had almost invariably proved to be.

I did not see Thomas or McPherson for some days before the assault, but I believe their judgment, like mine, was opposed to it. Undoubtedly it was generally opposed, though deferentially as became subordinates toward the commanding general. The responsibility was entirely Sherman's, as he afterward frankly stated; and I presume he did not mean to imply otherwise by the language used in his ‘Memoirs’ above quoted (Vol. II, page 60). General Sherman's orders, issued on June 24 (Special Field Orders, No. 28), directed each of the three armies to make an attack (under the word ‘assault’ for Thomas and ‘attack’ for McPherson and me). I had made all preparations to carry out the order on my part. Being visited by General Sherman a day or two before the date named for the execution of the order (June 27), I explained to him what I had done, and how little hope there was of success, on account of the smallness of my reserve to push the advantage even if we should break the line, when he at once replied that it was not intended that I should make an attack in front, but to make a strong demonstration in my front, and gain what advantage I could on the enemy's flank. During the day Cox's division forced the passage of Olley's Creek and secured a position on the head of Nickajack, which was spoken of by Sherman as the only success of the day.

There were doubtless many occasions in the Atlanta campaign when the enemy's intrenchments could have been assaulted with success. These were when the position had been but recently occupied and the fortifications were very slight. After several days' occupation, as at the points attacked by Thomas and McPherson, the lines became impregnable. Frequent efforts were made, and by none more earnestly than by General Sherman, to press the troops to a vigorous assault of the enemy's position [145] under the favorable circumstances above referred to. But the general feeling of the army, including not only privates, but officers of nearly all grades, was undoubtedly opposed to such attacks. The notion was very prevalent that there was no necessity of fighting the enemy on unequal terms. When attacked, either with or without cover, the troops would fight with the most determined valor, and almost invariably with success. So when attacking the enemy in open ground there was no lack of energy or pluck. But we lose one of the most important lessons of the war if we fail to remember and appreciate the fact that our veteran troops are very loath to make an attack where they believe they have not a fair chance of success. This feeling must be attributed, not to a lack of high soldierly qualities, but to intelligence and good sense. The veteran American soldier fights very much as he has been accustomed to work his farm or run his sawmill: he wants to see a fair prospect that it is ‘going to pay.’ His loyalty, discipline, and pluck will not allow him under any circumstances to retreat without orders, much less to run away; but if he encounters a resistance which he thinks he cannot overcome, or which he thinks it would ‘cost too much’ to overcome, he will lie down, cover himself with a little parapet, and hold his ground against any force that may attempt to drive him back. This feeling of the soldier is an element in the problem of war which cannot be ignored. The general who, with such an army, would win the full measure of success due to greatly superior numbers, must maneuver so as to compel the enemy to fight him on approximately equal terms, instead of assaulting fortifications where, against modern weapons, numbers are of little or no avail. In the days of the bayonet successful tactics consisted in massing a superior force upon some vital point, and breaking the enemy's line. Now it is the fire of the musket, not the bayonet, that decides [146] the battle. To mass troops against the fire of a covered line is simply to devote them to destruction. The greater the mass, the greater the loss—that is all. A large mass has no more chance of success than a small one. That this is absolutely true since the introduction of breechloaders is probably not doubted by any one; and it was very nearly true with the muzzle-loading rifles used during our late war, as was abundantly demonstrated on many occasions.

I have always believed that the true tactics of our late war, whenever our force was double that of the enemy (as it sometimes was and always should have been at all points where decisive movements were to be made), were to throw one half the force upon the enemy's rear, so as to compel him to attack that force or else retreat by side roads with loss of trains and artillery. This would doubtless have been a bold departure from the ancient tactics, which had not yet been proved obsolete. Yet I always thought it strange that our leading generals were unwilling to attempt it. Had Sherman divided his army in such a way, and struck at Hood's rear, he might have found a chance to destroy that army as well as the railroads in Georgia.

The death of McPherson, on July 22, was felt by all to be an irreparable loss, and by none more so than by General Sherman, who manifested deep feeling when the body was brought to the Howard House, east of Atlanta. I recollect well his remark to the effect that the whole of the Confederacy could not atone for the sacrifice of one such life.

My recollection of some of the incidents of that day differs in some respects from that of General Sherman. As soon as it was known that the Army of the Tennessee was heavily engaged I drew out of line the larger part of my troops, leaving the picket-line in position, with strong reserves behind the parapets, and massed them [147] near my left, ready to send reinforcements to the Army of the Tennessee if necessary, or to form a temporary left flank if the line on my left should be broken, as it was late in the day, as described by General Sherman.4

When that break was made in the line immediately to the left of mine, I had a rare opportunity of witnessing Sherman's splendid conduct as a simple soldier, the occasion for which occurs so rarely to the general-in-chief of a great army. Sherman at once sent to me for all my artillery, which responded to his call at a full gallop. He led the batteries in person to some high, open ground in front of our line near the Howard House, placed them in position, and directed their fire, which from that advanced position enfiladed the parapets from which our troops had been driven, and which the enemy then occupied. With the aid of that terrible raking fire, the division of Union troops very quickly regained the intrenchments they had lost. General Sherman, on page 81, Vol. II, gives me the credit due to himself for that soldierly conduct as an artillery commander. I was occupied in forming my infantry reserve to meet the enemy if Logan's troops did not drive them back. Only my artillery was used in restoring this broken line, because Logan's infantry proved sufficient without further aid. This action of mine was taken with General Sherman's knowledge and approval, and was the correct thing to do, for the reason that the ground in my front was such as to make both my position and that of the enemy practically unassailable. I had no apprehension of an attack in my front, and there was no question of my attempting to ‘make a lodgment in Atlanta’ that day, as stated by Sherman in Vol. II, page 80.

It was proposed by me that my reserve and Thomas's should go to the assistance of the Army of the Tennessee, either directly or, better still, by making a counterattack [148] in front of the right of that army, which, if successful, would cut off the hostile force then attacking its left. Sherman replied, as I recollect, that he had asked Thomas to send some troops to the left, and the latter had replied that he had none to spare. Without these the proposition to make a counter-attack could not be entertained. But my memory is only that of conversations with General Sherman during the day, and he ought to be much better informed than I concerning what passed between General Thomas and himself. I recollect that General Sherman during the day expressed something like a wish to ‘let the Army of the Tennessee fight its own battle,’ but in his statement of motive for so doing I think he does that army injustice. My impression was, and is, that they would have been very glad of assistance, and that timely help would have increased the fraternal feeling between the armies, instead of creating unworthy jealousy.

I cannot but believe, as I then thought, that we were losing a great opportunity that day. A large force of the enemy had made a wide circuit from his defenses about Atlanta and attacked our left several miles distant. We there had a chance to fight him on equal terms. I thought, and still think, we ought to have concentrated a large part of Thomas's force and mine near the Howard House, and made a strong counter-attack upon this attacking column of the enemy, with the hope of cutting it off from Atlanta. Instead of this, Thomas spent the day in efforts to ‘make a lodgment in Atlanta’ over well-prepared fortifications which the Georgia militia could hold against him about as well as the veteran Confederate troops.

The movement of August 4 and 5 was designed to be substantially what had been frequently suggested, but which I have heretofore referred to as having never been tried, with the exception that the attacking force [149] was not to sever its connection with the main body, and hence might not reach far enough to strike an exposed flank of the enemy. But even with this modification I thought the movement ought to have a fair chance of success. That movement was not suggested by me in ally way, and, so far as I know, not by General Thomas. I believe it originated entirely with General Sherman. I never heard of it until I received his orders. There was no ‘argument’ by me of the question of relative rank, as suggested by General Sherman (Vol. II, page 99).

The positions of the troops when the order for the movement was made rendered it convenient that the Twenty-third Corps be put in first,—that is, next to the right of General Thomas's troops then in position,— while the Fourteenth Corps, commanded by General John M. Palmer, was relied upon to develop rapidly to our right and endeavor to strike the enemy's flank before he could extend his intrenched line far enough to meet and resist our attack. It was not until some time after my orders for this movement had been issued and should have been in process of vigorous execution that I received the first intimation that the question of rank had been raised, as stated by General Sherman, and that my orders had simply been transmitted to the division commanders of the Fourteenth Corps.

It cannot for a moment be admitted that any share of the blame for that failure attaches to the Fourteenth Corps, as such. Nor do I believe with General Sherman that its slowness on that occasion was due to anything ‘imbibed’ from General Thomas.

My own view of military duty was different from that entertained by the commander of the Fourteenth Corps, as was shown in my subsequent action, hereinafter referred to, when I was ordered to report to and act under the orders of General Stanley. But if the distinguished statesman who then commanded the Fourteenth Corps [150] fell into error at that time, he has doubtless since regretted it far more than any other man could possibly do; and he has many times atoned for that error by the great services to the country which he has continued to render up to the present time.

The primary and principal cause of this and all similar difficulties during the Atlanta campaign was the grave error of opinion which disregarded the special rank of army and department commanders given them by the President's assignment under the law, and the still graver error of judgment in leaving such an important question open until the eve of battle, in the ‘hope that there would be no necessity for making this decision.’ This error seems incomprehensible when it is considered that it in effect nullified the President's selection of army and department commanders at the most important of all moments, the crisis of battle, by making these commanders subject to the orders of any general of older commission whose troops happened to be adjacent to theirs.

In the midst of battle, when the orders of a common superior cannot be obtained in time to meet an emergency, the highest commander present must give the necessary orders and must be obeyed. This is probably the gravest responsibility of war. Yet Sherman's opinion and decision would have placed this responsibility, not upon the army commander who had been selected by the President, upon the advice of the general-in-chief, under an act of Congress passed especially for the purpose, but upon some one who through political influence or otherwise had got an earlier commission of major-general. So many of the latter had proved to be unqualified for responsible command that Congress had enacted a special law authorizing the President to supersede such prior commissions and assign commanders of armies or army corps in the field and in any department [151] whom he deemed competent.5 Palpable as this fallacy seems, yet it was adhered to until overruled by the War Department.

It is proper for me to add that I had at that time but a very slight personal acquaintance with General Palmer. However, I knew him well by reputation, and esteemed him highly. General Thomas, especially, had given me a high estimate of his character and abilities. If there was any cause of jealousy or ill-feeling between us, I never suspected it.

1 War Records, Vol. XXXVIII, part IV, p. 558.

2 War Records, Vol. XXXVII, part IV, pp. 566 and 568.

3 Captain A. H. Engle, who was killed at Resaca, was a most charming and talented youth, only twenty years of age. That was his first battle. He was caterer of the headquarters mess. That morning, before leaving camp, Captain Engle made out all his accounts and handed them, with the money for which he was responsible, to another staff officer, saying he was going to be killed that day.

4 Vol. II, pp. 80, 81.

5 Reference is made here to the 122d Article of War, and the resolution of Congress especially intended to modify it in respect to command in any ‘field or department,’ approved April 4, 1862.

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