Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/361

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General Joseph E. Johnston. 355

mountain divided the opposing forces. The difficulty of the passes was as great to one side as the other. In these conditions to change from the defensive and yield the advantages of ground was a certain risk. On May ist, the effective strength of Johnston's army, infan- try, artillery, and cavalry was forty-two thousand eight hundred and fifty-six. On April loth, 1864, Sherman reported as present for duty one hundred and eighty thousand men. Out of this force he pro- posed to form a compact army of exactly one hundred thousand men for the purpose of his advance. The number above given is to be distinguished from the number borne on his rolls, which amounted to upwards of three hundred and forty thousand men. Supposing the utmost, a victory by Johnston over the one hundred thousand picked men, Sherman had behind him the fortified gap at Ringgold, and behind that the fortress of Chattanooga. Nevertheless, a divis- of his adversary's force that moment of division, which is always the moment of weakness was just the moment which Johnston was wont to seize, and he was about to seize this, when his reconnoissance assured him that it was the bulk of Sherman's army, which, covered from exposure by the curtain of Rocky Face, was marching towards Resaca by Snake Creek Gap, and could, without serious resistance, cut his connection while he was engaged by the force in front. It was the infirmity of Johnston that he would not incur great risk with out reconnoissance. He would not leap in the dark. He had the gift, as it proved to him, the fatal gift, of always knowing what he was about. Unless he at once intercepted Sherman the ruin to him was certain. Months afterwards one of his officers ventured to ask why he did not attack at Rocky Face. The sententious reply was, " Napoleon once said, the General who suffers his communication to be cut deserves to be shot."

"He should have fought," his critics say, " as Lee and Jackson fought at Chancellorsville ; he should have thrown everything upon the hazard of a die ; complete victory in front would have been fol- lowed by the rout of the force in the rear. " Such critics forget that the victorious army at Chancellorsville was not one which, after com- plete defeat at Fredericksburg, had been delivered to a new com- mander, with a friendly caution as to the probable effect of such late tragedy upon spirit and organization. Chancellorsville had been prepared by all the host of victories, which fought for it like another army. That army was one which believed defeat to be impossible. The army at Dalton had never known what real victory meant. It