September 20 the enemy's cavalry under Forrest crossed the Tennessee near Waterloo, Ala., and on the 23rd attacked the garrison at Athens, consisting of 600 men, which capitulated on the 24th. Soon after the surrender two regiments of re-enforcements arrived, and, after a severe fight, were compelled to surrender. Forrest destroyed the railroad westward, captured the garrison at Sulphur Branch trestle, skirmished with the garrison at Pulaski on the 27th, and on the same day cut the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad near Tullahoma and Decherd. On the morning of the 30th one column of Forrest's command, under Buford, appeared before Huntsville, and summoned the surrender of the garrison. Receiving an answer in the negative, he remained in the vicinity of the place until next morning, when he again summoned its surrender and receive the same reply as on the night before. He withdraw in the direction of Athens, which place had been re garrisoned, and attacked it on the afternoon of the 1st of October, 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 miles and a half from Saltville, and drove him into his strongly-entrenched 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 under take 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 southeast 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 and drove him to Gadsden, 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 Coossa River, twelve miles below Rome, bound west. If he passes over the Mobile and Ohio road, had I
*For subordinate reports of operations in Alabama and Tennessee, see Vol. XXXIX, Part I.