General Johnston directed me to move my corps and strike the enemy's left. Upon arriving the next morning, and while moving to accomplish this, I found that the enemy had retired his flank a mile and strongly fortified it. The opportunity having thus passed by the act of the enemy and not by my delay, I reported the fact to General Johnston, deeming it best that the attack should not be made, and the instructions to me were countermanded.
My operations are now fully stated. It may not be improper to close with a general resume of the salient points presented. I was placed in command under the most trying circumstances which can surround an officer when assigned to a new and most important command. The enemy was enfeebled in number and in spirit by long retreat and by severe and apparently fruitless losses. The Army of Tennessee between the 13th and 20th of May, two months before, numbered 70,000 effective arms-bearing men, as the official reports show. It was at that time in most excellent condition and in full hope. It had dwindled day by day in partial engagements and skirmishes, without an action that could properly be called a battle, to 47,250, exclusive of 1,500 militia, which joined in the interim. What with this constant digging and retreating from Dalton to Atlanta, the spirit of the army was greatly impaired and hope had almost left it. With this army I immediately engaged the enemy, and the tone constantly improved and hope returned. I defended Atlanta, a place without natural advantages (or rather with all the advantages in favor of the enemy), for forty-three days. No point, of all passed over from Dalton down, was less susceptible of defense by nature. Every preparation was made for retreat. The army lay in bivouac a short distance from the town, without attempting to construct works of defense in front of the camps, ready to resume the line of march as soon as the enemy pressed forward. I venture the statement that there was neither soldier nor officer in that army who believed that in the open plain between Atlanta and the river a battle would be offered, which had so often been refused in strong positions on the mountains. My first care was to make an intrenched line, and the enemy, despairing of success in front, threw his army to the left and rear, a thing that he never could have done had it not been for the immense advantage the Chattahoochee River gave him. I arrived at Lovejoy's Station, having fought four battles, and the official reports of the army on the 20th of September show an effective total of 40,403 present, giving a total loss in all this time of 5,247 men.*
I invite special attention to the report of Major General G. W. Smith of the operations of the Georgia militia in the vicinity of Atlanta, the reports of Lieutenant-General Stewart and his subordinate officers, herewith submitted. Maps+ of the campaign accompany this report.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. B. HOOD,
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond, Va.
* For part (here omitted) relating to the movement into Tennessee, see Vols. XXXIX and XLV.
+ Such of these maps as may be found will appear in the Atlas.