Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/101

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


Ait Iin/>nrtiliif ItiMjuilrh.

material for a life of General Forrest, in whose command Dr. Wyeth ^'rvrd when a mere lad, Dr. Polk loaned to Dr. Wyeth this dis- patch.

" In some way the War department heard that Dr. Wyeth was in ]><M-ssion of this hitherto unsuspected document, and most urgently requested that it be committed to its care, as it was a dispatch of the utmost importance, and should therefore be kept in a place of per- manent safety. Drs. Wyeth and Polk were of the opinion that the request should be granted, and sent the dispatch to the War Depart- ment, alter having caused a fac-simile of it to be photo- graphed.

" Recently Dr. Wyeth sent to General Longstreet a fac-simile of this dispatch, and it was this which brought from Longstreet a day or two ago, a letter of acknowledgment, in which he says: 'That dispatch fixed the fate of the Confederacy.' And he also added that with that as a guide, he should write a magazine article explaining why, in his view, this was the document which thus determined the Confederate cause.

EFFECT OF THE DISPATCH.

Concerning the effect of the dispatch, " Holland " says:

" It suggested to Bragg an opportunity to gratify a certain vanity and love of display, which was a conspicuous trait of his character. He saw that it gave him a chance, as he supposed, to march into and through Chattanooga, with all the pomp and ceremony of a conqueror. He, therefore, abandoned his plan, and undertook to pursue and destroy, instead of to head off and surround Rosencranz. General Longstreet says that the delay caused by this change of plan gave Rosencranz an opportunity to rally, swiftly to throw up entrenchments, and by reason of the firmness with which Thomas held his position which caused that superb warrior to be called, ' The Rock of Chickamauga ' to maintain himself until relieved. Longstreet wondered why Bragg had abandoned his plan. Forrest and Polk could not understand the sudden change in Rosencranz' s movements. They did not realise that the delay had given Rosen- cranz an opportunity such as he prayed he might secure, and of which he was quick to take advantage, and such advantage as in the opinion of the Confederates, saved his army. Longstreet could not have known of this dispatch of General Forrest's, or, if he did know of it, could have had no clear understanding of what was