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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

From Chattanooga Sherman moved on Atlanta


arrived at Washington and saw the President for the first time. The Western campaign he left in the hands of two of his ablest lieutenants--Sherman, perhaps in truth the greatest soldier that appeared on the Northern side, and Thomas, a Virginian Unionist who had left his State at the call of his country. There was much work for them to do, for while the capture of Vicksburg and its consequences gave them the Mississippi, the first attempt to invade from that side under Rosecrans had suffered defeat in the bloody battle of the Chickamauga. Sherman and Thomas resolved to reverse this unfavourable decision and attacked at the same crucial point. An action lasting four days and full of picturesque episodes gave them the victory which was the starting-point of all that followed. To that action belongs the strange fight of Look Out Mountain fought "above the clouds" by men who could not see the wide terrain for the mastery of which they were contending, and the marvellous charge of the Westerners up Missionary Ridge, one of those cases where soldiers, raised above themselves and acting without orders, have achieved a feat which their commander had dismissed as impossible. To the whole action is given the name of the Battle of Chattanooga, and its effect was to give Sherman the base he needed from which to strike at the heart of the Confederacy.

Grant in Virginia was less successful. An examination of his campaign will leave the impression that, however

superior he was to previous Northern commanders in energy, as a strategist he was no match for Lee. The Southern general, with inferior forces, captured the initiative and did what he chose with him, caught him in the Wilderness as he had previously caught Hooker, and kept him there on ground which gave every advantage to the Confederate forces, who knew every inch of it, where Grant's superiority in numbers could not be brought fully into play, and where his even greater superiority in artillery was completely neutralized. At the end of a week's hard fighting, Grant had gained no advantage, while the Northern losses were appalling--as great as the total original numbers of the enemy that inflicted them. At Spottsylvania, where Grant attempted a flanking movement, the same tactics were pursued with the same success, while a final attempt of the Northern general at a frontal assault ended in a costly defeat.

In the darkest hour of this campaign Grant had told the Government at Washington that he would "fight it out on that line if it took all the summer." It was, however, on another line that the issue was being fought out and decided against the Confederacy. From Chattanooga Sherman moved on Atlanta, the capital of Georgia. Joseph Johnstone disputed every step of the advance, making it as costly as possible, but wisely refused to risk his numerically inferior army in a general engagement. He fell back slowly, making a stand here and there, till the Northern general stood before Atlanta.

It was at this moment that the leaders of the Confederacy

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