Athens, which place had been regarrisoned, and attacked it on the afternoon of the 1st of October, but without success. On the morning of the 2nd he renewed his attack, but was handsomely repulsed. Another column under Forrest appeared before Columbia on the morning of the 1st, but did not make an attack. On the morning of the 3rd he moved toward Mount Pleasant. While these operations were going on every exertion was made by General Thomas to destroy the forces under Forrest before he could recross the Tennessee, but was unable to prevent his escape to Corinth, Miss. In September an expedition under General Burbridge was sent to destroy the salt-works at Saltville, Va. He met the enemy on the 2nd of October, about three and a half miles from Saltville, and drove him into his strongly intrenched position around the salt-works, from which he was unable to dislodge him. During the night he withdrew his command and returned to Kentucky.*
General Sherman, immediately after the fall of Atlanta, put his armies in camp in and about the place, and made all preparations for refitting and supplying them for future service. The great length of road from Atlanta to the Cumberland River, however, which had to be guarded, allowed the troops but little rest.
During this time Jeff. Davis made a speech in Macon, Ga.,which was reported in the papers of the South,and soon became known to the whole country, disclosing the plans of the enemy, thus enabling General Sherman to fully meet them. He exhibited the weakness of supposing that an army that had been beaten and fearfully decimated in a vain attempt at the defensive could successfully undertake the offensive against the army that had so often defeated it. In execution of this plan, Hood, with his army, was soon reported to the southwest of Atlanta. Moving far to Sherman's right, he succeeded in reaching the railroad about Big Shanty,and moved north on it.
General Sherman, leaving a force to hold Atlanta, with the remainder of his army fell upon him and drove him to Dagsden, Ala. Seeing the constant annoyance he would have with the roads to his rear if we attempted to hold Atlanta, General Sherman proposed the abandonment and destruction of that place, with all the railroads leading to it, and telegraphed me as follows:
CENTREVILLE, GA., October 10, 1864-noon.
Dispatch about Wilson just received. Hood is now crossing Coosa River, twelve miles below Rome, bound west. If he passes over the Mobile and Ohio road, had I not better execute the plan of my letter sent by Colonel Porter, and leave General Thomas, with the troops now in Tennessee, to defend the State? He will have an ample force when the re-enforcements ordered reach Nashville.
W. T. SHERMAN,
For a full understanding of the plan referred to in this dispatch, I quote from the letter sent by Colonel Porter:
I will therefore give my opinion that your army and Canby's should be re-enforcement to the maximum; that, after you get Wilmington, you strike for Savannah and the river; that Canby be instructed to hold the Mississippi River, and send a force to get Columbus, Ga., either by the way of the Alabama or Apalachicola, and that I keep Hood employed and put my army in final order for a march on August, Columbia, and Charleston, to be ready as soon as Wilmington is sealed as to commerce and the city of Savannah is in our possession.
*Subordinate reports of operations in Alabama and Tennessee will appear in Vol. XXXIX.