Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/366
360 Southern Historical Society Papers.
a man would the fingers of his own hand. As link by link he un- wound his resource as of magic, and his determination as of steel, it was like the movement of the hand of time on the face of a clock so imperturbable, so infallible, so inflexible, the external calm, the unhasting certainty. It was as if one fate had been found to confound another. The weak place in the joinings of his mail was nowhere found. Every blow had rebounded from him, or was par- ried by him. Every material preponderance had been rebuked by a general's intuition and a hero's sword. We can almost see the lion- like glare of his war-like eye, and the menacing lash of his agile movement, as rampart by rampart he retired, his relative force rising with each withdrawal, and his united living wall making his earthen wall invincible.
Missionary Ridge had made this Johnston's mission : to draw his adversary from his base, and thereby compel the reduction of the force in front by the regular growth of that required to guard the rear of each remove; to move back with such assured precaution as never once to be surprised nor placed at disadvantage ; to skillfully dispute each foot of ground with the least expenditure of his own forces; to thus more and more reduce the disparity existing, and warily biding his time to beckon his adversary forward, until the field of his own choice was made the final arbiter between them. And now the justifying proportions and the coigne of vantage had been won. All that executive foresight could do had been achieved. Here he would meet his foe, face to face, on ground which would equalize numerical odds. At Dalton, Johnston was a hundred miles from his base; at Atlanta it was Sherman who was so separated. The fortresses which, at Dalton, Sherman had in Ringgold and Chattanooga, Johnston now had in Atlanta a place too strong to be taken by assault and too extensive to be invested. To this end Atlanta had been fortified and Johnston had manoeuvred.
Now he would lay down the buckler and part the sword from its sheath. Now he would constrain fortune. Now, by his perfect sin- ews, he would wrest the battle wreath, which the cunning fiend had so long withheld by sinister touches on his thigh.
From Dalton to Atlanta, Sherman, by force of numbers, had been able to follow every retreat of Confederate forces developed in their front, and then, with one or two corps, which he could afford to spare, make a flank movement imperiling their position. Three rail- roads then supplied Atlanta. To take Atlanta, it would be neces-