Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/360
354 Southern Historical Society Papers.
cipline sprang up. It was the same organizing skill which had laid the foundation of the army of the East. It was a wonderful personal influence and mastery, which thus drew to him an army acquainted chiefly with disaster. If nothing else existed to reflect his excellence, the miracle which he wrought in this transformation, from complete rout to complete confidence, from fatal chaos and dismemberment into compact order, would, of itself, preserve for us the image of great mind's authority and magnetism. As Johnston looked upon this work of his creative week, he saw that it was good.
When on the 6th of May, 1864, the duel between the two armies began, two things must be borne in mind : first, that on the preced- ing fourth of July, one-third of the strength of the Confederacy had fallen, in the east and in the west, at Gettysburg and Vicksburg : second, that when the policy of wearing out by attrition was inagu- rated, it was desirable for the weaker party to be economical of wear and tear. The time had surely come when the Confederacy could not be prodigal of life ; when it should take no step which was not calculated with disciplined precaution. It must make no mistake. The man for this supreme emergency was then at Dalton a man with that great attribute of a leader in convulsion the capacity to see things as they are. As with a merchant, so with a general, his first business is to know when to spend and when to spare. Johnston took into consideration the natural features of the country in front ; the susceptibility for defence, natural and artificial ; the importance of time without disaster to his own side ; the slight result of incon- clusive defeat to his opponent. Only brilliant success could now be compensation for serious loss. All these were realties which he was not permitted to forget. He was now where previous adversity might be the background for the revelation of his skill if only he was trusted ! Even the Divine Hero did not do his mighty work where faith was wanting.
The chief criticisms of Johnston's conduct of this campaign rests on his failure to attack Sherman at Rocky Face, three miles north of Dalton, when McPherson was detached to intercept Johnston's com- munications, by the movement through Snake Creek Gap. I believe no intelligent criticism imputes blame to him for his failure to attack at any other point. The disposition of the Confederate army about Dalton had been made in the hope that Sherman would attack with his whole force. Therefore, Johnston's entire strength was concentrated there. For the moment his communications were unprotected A