What was the Biggest "Missed Opportunity" of the War?

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
There are several occasions over the course of the war when, if a commander had made a different decision or had simply had better luck, they might have inflicted a decisive defeat on the opposing forces and, perhaps, changed the course of American history. Sometimes this is due to a lack of boldness, or not having enough information, or sheer exhaustion, or (as Shakespeare would have put it) simply the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

What are the biggest missed opportunities of the war?

McClellan at Yorktown or the afternoon of Antietam?
Lee at Glendale?
Meade at Gettysburg on July 4?
Hindman at McLemore's Cove?
Johnston/Hood at Cassville?
Lee at the North Anna River?
Hood at Spring Hill?
Something else?
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
Yes, this is essentially what happened. It is a disaster for the Confederacy, something Sherman accomplished just by moving there at the opening of the campaign.

The point is to keep exactly this from happening -- because if it ever does happen Joe Johnston's position at Dalton must be abandoned. The AoT will need to pull back to Resaca for a start and probably below the Etowah immediately thereafter. This becomes essentially inevitable when McPherson comes out the end of Snake Creek Gap on the morning of the 9th, when the Rebel cavalry is approaching it.
I see no reason to pull below Etowah immediately.
Johnston is reacting to Sherman. McPherson coming out of the Gap on the morning of the 9th does not require Dalton to be abandoned - Johnston could split his force, sending a part to deal with McPherson while holding off Sherman, which is exactly his plan for the 10th. It is when Sherman decided to move a larger portion of his force by that route that Johnston must abandon Dalton. But giving up Dalton is not the end of the world for the Confederacy.

If you want to throw some blame Wheeler's way, well, that fine.
I dont know if I do blame him. Units under him retreated in a direction that uncovered Villanow and the Gap. Whose fault is that? Im not sure.

If he needs more troops, he needs more troops. He saw that Sherman might move to Rome at the start, which also flanks his position and forces him to withdraw. Johnston did little about that. He did write to Polk, wondering if Polk would cover Rome for him.
Johnston did not have adequate forces to piecemeal them out to positions the way you want. With the army he had in April he could not afford to put a division in Snake Creek Gap and a division at Rome as well as at Mill Gap and a couple for the approaches north of Dalton. Spreading out his command in dribs and drabs was a sure way to get crushed.

So he asked for reinforcements. Het got troops from Mobile that he sent to Rome (Cantey) and then he got Polk to come with his main force which would arrive in Rome (not clear on the "wondering if Polk would cover Rome for him").

A move to Rome, of course, is just a longer, slower-acting version of the move through Snake Creek Gap. It will make defense of the Etowah impossible, and Johnston will have to retreat at least that far immediately.

So what was Johnston's plan to deal with these open threats?
1) play wack a mole -- since Sherman outnumbered him by a substantial margin, he needed opportunities to turn on portions of Sherman's force. If McPherson had not pulled back he would have wacked him. When Sherman muscled up to Resaca, Johnston tried attacking Sherman's left. when Sherman's force separated, Johnston would try to attack one of the columns such as at at New Hope Church or Kolb Farm
2) ask for help from neighboring commands in order to improve his odds - how he got Polk
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
I see no reason to pull below Etowah immediately.
Johnston is reacting to Sherman. McPherson coming out of the Gap on the morning of the 9th does not require Dalton to be abandoned - Johnston could split his force, sending a part to deal with McPherson while holding off Sherman, which is exactly his plan for the 10th. It is when Sherman decided to move a larger portion of his force by that route that Johnston must abandon Dalton. But giving up Dalton is not the end of the world for the Confederacy.
Yet that is what actually happens, at a very low cost to Sherman.

Joe Johnston learns about McPherson's approach to Resaca at about 9 PM on the 9th, when he and Hood return to Johnston's HQ. Johnston immediately sends Hood with three divisions to Resaca. They leave that night (or soon after Midnight) showing you how important both Johnston and Hood view this threat to be.

By 10 AM, Hood is in Resaca with the first division and the other two are about halfway there. Hood arrives to find McPherson gone and the 2nd and 3rd divisions are stopped en route. Hood wires Johnston that this is just a feint. Hood and the three divisions go back that same day -- leaving Resaca vulnerable again.

It is certainly true that Sherman should have sent more troops to do this job. He should have sent a better prepared, larger force with the mission of taking and holding Resaca -- the Thomas plan, no matter who commands it. If that happens, Johnston is trapped north of Resaca with his LOC cut and will have only two choices: attack to re-open his supply line to Atlanta or retreat to the East, across northern GA towards Dahlonega (the third option would be to stay put and starve). Sherman did not make moves like that; it is a characteristic he displays throughout the Atlanta Campaign. He does not trust his tactical offensive capacity and rarely strikes with full strength. His excellent operational capacity makes up for it -- and a passive defense by Johnston simply plays into Sherman's strength and approach to war.

Sherman's plan here for McPherson was a raid: break the RR and pull back. That would also have created a major supply problem for Johnston, probably big enough to force Johnston to abandon Dalton and the entire Rocky Face Ridge position, pulling back to Resaca. Sherman blames McPherson for a missing the opportunity of a lifetime at Resaca, but Sherman never blames himself for things he could have handled differently. McPherson just made a prudent or cautious decision in a risky situation. Even if he had driven through and taken the Resaca RR bridge on the 9th, he'd have been facing a hard fight on the morning of the 10th when Hood hit him with three divisions of reinforcements.

That gets us back to the Thomas plan which would have had more troops arriving near Resaca on the 10th -- and which would not have had Garrard coming over the mountains without his forage. What McPherson needs late on the 9th is cavalry to scout and cover his flanks and an assurance of more troops arriving immediately to help him confront the counterattack, not a gap of a couple of days to get more troops. McPherson justifiably feels he is on his own out on a limb, without the cavalry he needs -- because he is. That is why he does what he does.

The Snake Creek Gap issue is still the same. If Yankees come through it in strength, Johnston cannot remain above Resaca. If Johnston tries to defend at Resaca, that is a bad strategic position. The Confederates will have to defend facing West, with the W&A RR running north-south parallel to and immediately behind their front. A breakthrough at any point will break the RR cutting the supply line and Sherman will be able to do exactly what he did do IRL, extending his right to threaten the RR. This will force Johnston to do what he did do IRL, retreat below the Etowah in short order.

The only way to change any of this is for Johnston to have a plan to deal with a Union move of his left flank. If Johnston's plan is to react to what Sherman does, always ceding the initiative, then his plan is to abandon northern Georgia as soon as Sherman moves on Rome or Resaca.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
So he asked for reinforcements. Het got troops from Mobile that he sent to Rome (Cantey) and then he got Polk to come with his main force which would arrive in Rome (not clear on the "wondering if Polk would cover Rome for him").
Polk's area is Mississippi and Alabama. Johnston's area is Georgia. Rome is in Georgia. If you look in the OR, you will find Johnston writing to Polk, implying that it might be Polk's responsibility to cover Rome if Sherman decided to move south from Gunter's Landing on Rome (essentially, the plan for McPherson before Sherman discovered he would be four divisions short for the start of the campaign).
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
1) play wack a mole -- since Sherman outnumbered him by a substantial margin, he needed opportunities to turn on portions of Sherman's force. If McPherson had not pulled back he would have wacked him. When Sherman muscled up to Resaca, Johnston tried attacking Sherman's left. when Sherman's force separated, Johnston would try to attack one of the columns such as at at New Hope Church or Kolb Farm
2) ask for help from neighboring commands in order to improve his odds - how he got Polk
Sherman was just fine with this. Sherman, who was not terribly confident in his tactical offensive ability (with good reason if you look at his record), wanted to wage a war of maneuver. He was incredibly reliant on the idea of striking at RRs, industry, and the morale of the population instead of fighting battles. Joe Johnston's passive defensive approach just lets Sherman get on a roll. Time after time, Sherman just keeps on moving, makes another flanking maneuver (generally to the right) -- and Johnston pulls back again.

Two months later, Johnston has given up the best defensive terrain above Atlanta. He has not inflicted heavy casualties on Sherman. He shows no sign of reversing this trend. He has given up important industry as he retreated. There is no example of a successful counter-attack or maneuver. Yankee confidence grows with each advance; worry gnaws at Confederate morale with every retreat. As at Richmond and Vicksburg, Confederate command can get no plan from Johnston, no reliable promise. Every day brings Sherman closer to Atlanta, and by the end of his command Johnston is sending out warnings that the Yankee POWs at Andersonville (125 miles south of Atlanta?) should be evacuated.

Sherman does not have a particularly large numeric superiority over Johnston, especially after the first few days of the campaign. When you consider that Johnston fought almost completely from behind entrenchments, it is surprising how close the casualty numbers were.

Most commanders think the opposition has more troops than they actually do. Most commanders think they need reinforcements from other places. Johnston is no better at this than others. What is noteworthy about Johnston is how we struggle to find examples of Johnston helping himself. The exceptional ones take action with what they have, and it is often their actions that change the overall situation.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Sherman does not have a particularly large numeric superiority over Johnston, especially after the first few days of the campaign. When you consider that Johnston fought almost completely from behind entrenchments, it is surprising how close the casualty numbers were.
The numbers, in"effectives" as both sides record them, were:

DateUSCSRatio
30th April110,12343,887
2.51​
31st May112,81960,564
1.86​
30th June106,07054,085
1.96​
31st August91,67543,467
2.11​
30th September81,758No Report

It is clear that Johnston was attriting Sherman.
 

Fire-eater

Cadet
Joined
Feb 7, 2012
I’ve wondered if in a slightly different sequence of events in mid Mississippi during mid May 1863 …

1). If Pemberton had not turned back when he did, Grant could have gotten behind Pemberton at Champion Hill and kept him from getting back across Bakers Creek, leading to his surrender and thus too few left in Vicksburg to hold it

Or

2) if Pemberton had waited instead of moving forward, Grant would have found him blocking the passage of the Big Black without having suffered the losses of Champion Hill and this kept Grant from crossing….
The Big Black in May would not have been an easy crossing just from spring flooding alone.
 

Fire-eater

Cadet
Joined
Feb 7, 2012
Seems like Pemberton/Johnston could have had a division or two waiting for the amphibious landing and rained hell fire down on the disembarking troops, could have squashed it pretty quickly pinning them against the river. I'm sure Porter would have also unleashed his gun boats on them and driven them back, but at least the CSA would have been in position to stop the Union column once out of Porter's range. Perhaps Grant got lucky in this case, he landed the troops without having any idea what would be waiting for them.
Or a division or two cross the river at Port Gibson to bring the fight to Grant while building the canal. Just to rattle the cage a little bit. Strike and get out.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Or a division or two cross the river at Port Gibson to bring the fight to Grant while building the canal. Just to rattle the cage a little bit. Strike and get out.
I think the worry there is how much you commit to that and what their exit plan is. Pemberton might not have "a division or two" to spare without dramatically weakening his primary defence around Vicksburg itself.
 

Dead Parrott

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
Sherman was just fine with this. Sherman, who was not terribly confident in his tactical offensive ability (with good reason if you look at his record), wanted to wage a war of maneuver. He was incredibly reliant on the idea of striking at RRs, industry, and the morale of the population instead of fighting battles. Joe Johnston's passive defensive approach just lets Sherman get on a roll. Time after time, Sherman just keeps on moving, makes another flanking maneuver (generally to the right) -- and Johnston pulls back again.

Two months later, Johnston has given up the best defensive terrain above Atlanta. He has not inflicted heavy casualties on Sherman. He shows no sign of reversing this trend. He has given up important industry as he retreated. There is no example of a successful counter-attack or maneuver. Yankee confidence grows with each advance; worry gnaws at Confederate morale with every retreat. As at Richmond and Vicksburg, Confederate command can get no plan from Johnston, no reliable promise. Every day brings Sherman closer to Atlanta, and by the end of his command Johnston is sending out warnings that the Yankee POWs at Andersonville (125 miles south of Atlanta?) should be evacuated.

Sherman does not have a particularly large numeric superiority over Johnston, especially after the first few days of the campaign. When you consider that Johnston fought almost completely from behind entrenchments, it is surprising how close the casualty numbers were.

Most commanders think the opposition has more troops than they actually do. Most commanders think they need reinforcements from other places. Johnston is no better at this than others. What is noteworthy about Johnston is how we struggle to find examples of Johnston helping himself. The exceptional ones take action with what they have, and it is often their actions that change the overall situation.

Just to be clear - are you suggesting Hood would have been a better commander in the early stages of the campaign?

I know all What-Ifs are ultimately unknowable, but when I try to envisage a CSA general doing better than Johnston, I come up short. Hood's actual record doesn't exactly suggest success, and quite possibly an earlier cataclysmic defeat.

Are you saying Johnston was the wrong commander, a bad commander, the best available at the time and still not good enough, or simply that no CSA commander could win at all anyway?

Just trying to understand your point here - and it may be you are just analyzing the campaign overall in general. Thanks.
 

Fire-eater

Cadet
Joined
Feb 7, 2012
My point being, to have constantly pestered Grant on the canal build would have slowed or maybe stopped that all together. Buying time that was definitely needed and possible building more defensive strength on down the river. Since it was obvious of what Grant's intention was.
 

29thWisCoG

Private
Joined
Apr 12, 2021
Here is a different take on a missed opportunity... this is for the CSA and not having Richard Taylor in the Eastern theater commanding a large army and resources... the more I read about Taylor the more impressed I am with what he was able to accomplish with a small army, limited resources, and a mediocre Lt. Gen. looking over his shoulder all the time.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
For my part I think it's certainly possible that a commander could have done better than Johnston, but a lot of that to my analysis seems to be by:
1) Having a good read on the way Sherman is likely to jump given two (or more) options.
2) Being willing to gamble that that read is correct, at a time when the choice Sherman is going to make/has made cannot yet be distinguished.
3) In a situation where guessing wrong means that Sherman has a result good enough to significantly advance the campaign.


For example, in trying to prevent Sherman outflanking Shoup's fortified line, Johnston needs to get his assessment correct and if he gets it wrong he's potentially in pretty significant trouble.

Sherman does not have a particularly large numeric superiority over Johnston, especially after the first few days of the campaign. When you consider that Johnston fought almost completely from behind entrenchments, it is surprising how close the casualty numbers were.
But surely the only way in which this can make sense is if Johnston is creating the situation where Sherman doesn't have a particularly large numeric superiority, because Sherman certainly started with one (in AP, which is to say "ration strength" - men with the army) and got his own reinforcement too.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
It is certainly true that Sherman should have sent more troops to do this job. He should have sent a better prepared, larger force with the mission of taking and holding Resaca -- the Thomas plan, no matter who commands it.
That gets us back to the Thomas plan which would have had more troops arriving near Resaca on the 10th -- and which would not have had Garrard coming over the mountains without his forage.
If Johnston tries to defend at Resaca, that is a bad strategic position. The Confederates will have to defend facing West, with the W&A RR running north-south parallel to and immediately behind their front. A breakthrough at any point will break the RR cutting the supply line and Sherman will be able to do exactly what he did do IRL, extending his right to threaten the RR. This will force Johnston to do what he did do IRL, retreat below the Etowah in short order.

So you are proposing to delay a day or so to do what was actually done a few days later-- move a larger force through the gap and toward Resaca. In which case Hood doesn't go back to Dalton but stays and the rest of Johnston's command moves to Resaca as well, just as it did a few days later in reality.

Since Johnston moved everyone to Resaca, if Sherman cut the rail line north of it would be meaningless to him. The river is along his south flank so to cut it to the south Sherman has to find to cross. What made Resaca not work as a position was the failure to block the river crossing at Lays Ferry

The only way to change any of this is for Johnston to have a plan to deal with a Union move of his left flank. If Johnston's plan is to react to what Sherman does, always ceding the initiative, then his plan is to abandon northern Georgia as soon as Sherman moves on Rome or Resaca.
So in the first sentence your complaint is that he didnt have a good enough plan to react to Sherman and then in the second sentence your complaint is that his plan is to react to Sherman at all.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
The numbers, in"effectives" as both sides record them, were:

DateUSCSRatio
30th April110,12343,887
2.51​
31st May112,81960,564
1.86​
30th June106,07054,085
1.96​
31st August91,67543,467
2.11​
30th September81,758No Report

It is clear that Johnston was attriting Sherman.
Johnston was replaced by Hood in July, so the August and September numbers are Sherman v Hood.
But it is clear that Sherman had substantial numeric superiority over Johnston throughout.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
My point being, to have constantly pestered Grant on the canal build would have slowed or maybe stopped that all together. Buying time that was definitely needed and possible building more defensive strength on down the river. Since it was obvious of what Grant's intention was.
But is pestering Grant actually viable? That is the question; Pemberton does not exactly have many divisions to spare, so how much force is being committed to operations over the Mississippi, and how quickly can they return if Grant goes for an attack elsewhere?

More to the point, if it was "obvious" what Grant's intention was, the question rises why it took so long for Grant to actually do it...
 

Fire-eater

Cadet
Joined
Feb 7, 2012
But is pestering Grant actually viable? That is the question; Pemberton does not exactly have many divisions to spare, so how much force is being committed to operations over the Mississippi, and how quickly can they return if Grant goes for an attack elsewhere?

More to the point, if it was "obvious" what Grant's intention was, the question rises why it took so long for Grant to actually do it

This is all a "what if" scenario. If by chance Pemberton could have spared a sizable force to cross the river, especially when Grant was trying the canal, that could have been a deal breaker for the Union for a while. Especially on the first attempt on the canal when Brig. Gen. Williams was building it and his force was so sickly that they had to stop. Grant would have maybe tested the waters of taking it up in January, but who knows in this instance. This is all hypothetical, but I do like how you challenge the ideas.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
This is all a "what if" scenario. If by chance Pemberton could have spared a sizable force to cross the river, especially when Grant was trying the canal, that could have been a deal breaker for the Union for a while. Especially on the first attempt on the canal when Brig. Gen. Williams was building it and his force was so sickly that they had to stop. Grant would have maybe tested the waters of taking it up in January, but who knows in this instance. This is all hypothetical, but I do like how you challenge the ideas.
Though the canal didn't get finished anyway... I think the minimum required to see if this is viable is to ask how well Grant protected the digging.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Just to be clear - are you suggesting Hood would have been a better commander in the early stages of the campaign?
I know all What-Ifs are ultimately unknowable, but when I try to envisage a CSA general doing better than Johnston, I come up short. Hood's actual record doesn't exactly suggest success, and quite possibly an earlier cataclysmic defeat.
No, I am not suggesting Hood be appointed in January of 1864. I think Hood was an excellent combat commander for a division. I am unsure if he was a good commander for a Corps. I think he was a very questionable choice for an Army. He was very good at moving troops under his personal command quickly; he had the ability to look at a battlefield and see the opportunities in the terrain and deployment instinctively, at a glance. Those are valuable talents, but he lacked others that are essential to command of a large force.

Are you saying Johnston was the wrong commander, a bad commander, the best available at the time and still not good enough, or simply that no CSA commander could win at all anyway?

Just trying to understand your point here - and it may be you are just analyzing the campaign overall in general. Thanks.
The Confederacy had a real problem developing high commanders during the war. They had Robert E. Lee and .. those other guys.

The other guys they tried during the war and could have tried in January 1864: J. E. Johnston, Beauregard, Bragg, Hood, E. Kirby Smith, Pemberton, Mansfield Lovell. Those guys look like a bunch of heroes from Greek Tragedy, usually doomed by flaws in their own character. A. S. Johnston (dead) is not available and his Civil War career ended too quickly to know if he would have been a good choice if he had lived. Hood was probably too junior to be tried in January (no matter my opinion). Joe Johnston was probably the "best" choice available to Davis in that group. That doesn't make him a good choice.

Having done that, the Confederates really needed to have a replacement available if Johnston did not work out. Ideally, that man would be a Corps commander in the AoT, so that he would be involved in the operations of the AoT, build relationships with other commanders, be aware of plans, etc. Hardee was obviously one of those, but he doesn't seem to have had a lot of support with Davis and he sure did not have any with Bragg. Hood was playing for Davis' favor and got the Corps command. As noted above, I don't think he could handle the job -- but the end result of that decision was another bad choice, a very limited one, in July.

Joe Johnston had lots of good qualities, viewed in the abstract. In January-April of 1864, he did an excellent job of rebuilding the AoT troops. Morale improved. Unit cohesiveness and training improved. Morale improved. The AoT was a better army after four months with Johnston than it was before he arrived. That may have been the best thing Joe Johnston ever did for the Confederacy. Unfortunately, he did nothing to improve the higher command of the AoT and get rid of the back-stabbing politics and lack of coordination. That looks very similar to the Bragg days.

As to the campaign itself, Johnston's approach seems to me to be exactly the wrong one to use against Sherman, a bad fit for the terrain in the area where the combat would be fought, and unlikely to accomplish the Confederate goals on the Atlanta front that year.
  • the execution of Johnston's plan gives up the more difficult terrain above the Chattahoochee too quickly
  • Johnston's refusal to keep his higher command informed undermines his own army's efforts and leads to his own removal
  • Johnston's passive defense builds Yankee confidence (in particular Sherman's confidence) and undermines Rebel morale by the constant retreats
  • Johnston's refusal to share his plans with his own commanders leaves Hood in an intolerable situation when he does assume command
I think a much more active scheme was needed to counter Sherman. Sitting in fortified positions and hoping Sherman would smash into them was not going to work. Sherman wanted to avoid large combats and advance by maneuver, aiming at RRs and industry. Johnston's approach gave all the initiative to Sherman, put no pressure on him, built Sherman's confidence.

Johnston needed to slow Sherman's advance, but he let it progress rapidly. If the Confederate "strategy" is to win by making Lincoln and the Republicans lose the Election, they need to hold Atlanta into the Fall. Mid-October would probably be a minimum, and they should have been aiming at holding it into November. All the retreats under Johnston give up too much territory much too quickly, at too little cost.

Johnston did have one idea that he was denied on that I like. He wanted three Corps instead of two (and he did not suggest Hood as a commander). The three would have been smaller, but it would have made operational maneuver easier (and probably would have meant four corps when Polk arrives). Among other things, this would give experience to some people who might grow into new roles and offer another choice or two to replace Joe Johnston.

I suspect what was really needed was an aggressive and talented commander who could lead a small combined arms force independently of the main army. Call it something like 8-10,000 strong infantry-cavalry-artillery, fast moving with a commander who takes chances with a gambler's nerve and ice-cold reasoning and judgement (IOW, exactly the person they cannot find). That force needs to operate on the flanks of the main campaign, threatening and striking at Sherman's LOC, forcing Sherman to expend troops to deal with him and defend the LOC. Of course, I am suggesting Stonewall Jackson (dead) or J. E. B. Stuart (about to die in May); maybe Jubal Early could come somewhat close, but no one knew that in early 1864. Maybe Longstreet, but he comes with a some AoT baggage and a certain attitude. Maybe Cleburne, but he really doesn't have the background to know if he's right. Taylor or Forrest would be good tries, but neither of those would be picked.

So if there are four Confederate "corps" and one of them is really a very small army acting independently to assist the main army, then Johnston with three of them fights to block Sherman's main thrust and the fourth acts to threaten Sherman's flanks and rear. Conceptually, that is more likely to work than a passive hope-they-attack-and-die plan, particularly against a Sherman.

The reason for the all-arms independent force is that Civil War cavalry generally can't do serious damage and interruption of a RR (unless Nathan Bedford Forrest is involved). This force needs to be able to break the RR and keep it broken. This means doing heavy work, staying in place long enough to do a thorough job, fighting off Union reaction forces and potentially facing moderate Yankee forces (5,000+) coming after them from different directions. It means potentially staying in place and sitting on the RR until the Yankees come in strength to boot you off it. Your average Corps commander in the Civil Wr, on either side, is not likely to be able to do this difficult task.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
The numbers, in"effectives" as both sides record them, were:

DateUSCSRatio
30th April110,12343,887
2.51​
31st May112,81960,564
1.86​
30th June106,07054,085
1.96​
31st August91,67543,467
2.11​
30th September81,758No Report

It is clear that Johnston was attriting Sherman.
I would guess you either haven't looked at those numbers hard or have drunk the koolaid on this issue. There are lots and lots of problems in those Confederate numbers that make them very deceptive
 

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