of General Braxton Bragg, C. S. Army, commanding
Army of Tennessee,
Battle of Chickamauga
WARM SPRINGS, GA.,
December 28, 1863.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant- General, C. S. Army, Richmond, Va.
SIR: Most of the subordinate reports of the operations of our troops at the battle of Chickamauga having been received are herewith forwarded, and for the better understanding of the movements preceding and following that important event the following narrative is submitted:
On August 20, it was ascertained certainly that the Federal army from Middle Tennessee, under General Rosecrans, had crossed the mountains to Stevenson and Bridgeport. His force of effective infantry and artillery amounted to fully 70,000, divided into four corps. About the same time General Burnside advanced from Kentucky toward Knoxville, East Tennessee, with a force estimated by the general commanding that department at over 25,000.
In view of the great superiority of numbers brought against him General Buckner concluded to evacuate Knoxville, and with a force of about 5,000 infantry and artillery and his cavalry took position in the vicinity of Loudon. Two brigades of his command (Frazer's, at Cumberland Gap, and Jackson's, in Northeast Tennessee) were thus severed from us.
The enemy having already obtained a lodgment in East Tennessee by another route, the continued occupation of Cumberland Gap became very hazardous to the garrison and comparatively unimportant to us. Its evacuation was accordingly ordered, but on the appeal of its commander, stating his resources and ability for defense, favorably indorsed by Major-General Buckner, the orders were suspended on August 31. The main body of our army was encamped near Chattanooga, while the cavalry force, much reduced and enfeebled by long service on short rations, was recruiting in the vicinity of Rome, Ga.
Immediately after crossing the mountains to the Tennessee the enemy threw a corps by way of Sequatchie Valley, to strike the rear of General Buckner's command, while Burnside occupied him in front. One division already ordered to his assistance proving insufficient to meet the force concentrating on him, Buckner was directed to withdraw to the Hiwassee with his infantry, artillery, and supplies, and to hold his cavalry in front to check the enemy's advance. As soon as this change was made the corps threatening his rear was withdrawn, and the enemy commenced a movement in force against our left and rear.
On the last of August, it became known that he had crossed his main force over the Tennessee River at and near Caperton's Ferry, the most accessible point from Stevenson. By a direct route he was now as near our main depot of supplies as we were, and our whole line of communication was exposed, while his was partially secured by mountains and the river. By the timely arrival of two small divisions from Mississippi our effective force, exclusive of cavalry, was now a little over 35,000, with which it was determined to strike on the first favorable opportunity.
Closely watched by our cavalry, which had been brought forward, it was soon ascertained that the enemy's general movement was toward our left and rear in the direction of Dalton anti Rome, keeping Lookout Mountain between us. The nature of the country and the want of supplies in it, with the presence of Burnside's force on our right, rendered a movement on the enemy's rear with our inferior force extremely hazardous, if not impracticable. It was therefore determined to meet him in front whenever he should emerge from the mountain gorges. To do this and hold Chattanooga was impossible without such a division of our small force as to endanger both parts.
Accordingly our troops were put in motion on September 7 and 8, and took position from Lee and Gordon's Mills to La Fayette, on the road leading south from Chattanooga and fronting the east slope of Lookout Mountain. The forces on the Hiwassee and at Chickamauga Station took the route by Ringgold A small cavalry force was left in observation at Chattanooga, and a brigade of infantry, strongly supported by cavalry, was left at Ringgold to hold the railroad and protect it from raids.
As soon as our movement was known to the enemy his corps nearest Chattanooga, and which had been threatening Buckner's rear, was thrown into that place, anti shortly thereafter commenced to move on our rear by the two roads to La Fayette and Ringgold. Two other corps were now in Will's Valley--one nearly opposite the head of McLemore's Cove (a valley formed by Lookout Mountain and a spur of the main range, called Pigeon Mountain) and the other at or near Colonel Winston's, opposite Alpine.
During the 9th it was ascertained that a column. estimated at from 4,000 to 8,000, had crossed Lookout Mountain into the cove by way of Stevens' and Cooper's Gaps. Thrown off his guard by our rapid movement, apparently in retreat, when in reality we had concentrated opposite his center, and deceived by the information from deserters and others sent into his lines, the enemy pressed on his columns to intercept us and thus exposed himself in detail.
Major-General Hindman received verbal instructions on the 9th to prepare his division to move against this force, and was informed that another division from Lieutenant-General Hill's command, at La Fayette, would join him. That evening the following written orders were issued to Generals Hindman and Hill:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE,
Lee and Gordon's Mills, September 9, 1863--11.45 p.m.
General: You will move with your division immediately to Davis' Cross-Roads, on the road from La Fayette to Stevens' Gap. At this point you will put yourself in communication with the column of General Hill, ordered to move to the same
point, and take command of the joint forces, or report to the officer commanding Hill's column according to rank. If in command you will move upon the enemy, reported to be 4,000 or 5,000 strong, encamped at the foot of Lookout Mountain at Stevens' Gap. Another column of the enemy is reported to be at Cooper's Gap; number not known.
I am, general, &c.,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE,
Lee and Gordon's Mills, September 9, 1863-11.45 p.m.
GENERAL: I inclose orders given to General Hindman. General Bragg directs that you send or take, as your judgment dictates, Cleburne's division to unite with General Hindman at Davis' Cross-Roads to-morrow morning. Hindman starts at 12 o'clock to-night, and he has 13 miles to make. The commander of the column thus united will move upon the enemy encamped at the foot of Stevens' Gap, said to be 4,000 or 5,000. If unforeseen circumstances should prevent your movement, notify Hindman. A cavalry force should accompany your column. Hindman has none. Open communication with Hindman with your cavalry in advance of the junction. He marches on the road from Dr. Anderson's to Davis' Cross-Roads.
I am, general, &c.,
On the receipt of his order, during the night, General Hill replied that the movement required by him was impracticable, as General Cleburne was sick, and both the gaps (Dug and Catlett's) had been blocked by felling timber, which would require twenty-four hours for its removal. Not to lose this favorable opportunity--Hindman, by a prompt movement, being already in position--the following orders were issued at 8 a.m. on the 10th, for Major-General Buckner to move with his two divisions and report to Hindman:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE,
Lee and Gordon's Mills, September 10, 1863--8 a.m.
General: I inclose orders issued last night to Generals Hill and Hindman. General Hill has found it impossible to carry out the part assigned to Cleburne's division. The general commanding desires that you will execute without delay the order issued to General Hill. You can move to Davis' Cross-Roads by the direct road from your present position at Anderson's, along which General Hindman has passed.
I am, general, &c.,
GEORGE WM. BRENT,
And both Hindman and Hill were notified. Hindman had halted his division at Morgan's, some 3 or 4 miles from Davis' Cross-Roads, in the cove, and at this point Buckner joined him during the afternoon of the 10th.
Reports fully confirming previous information in regard to the position of the enemy's forces were received during the 10th, and it became certain he was moving his three columns to form a junction upon us at or near La Fayette.
The corps near Colonel Winston's moved on the mountain toward Alpine, a point 20 miles south of us. The one opposite the cove continued its movement and threw forward its advance to Davis' CrossRoads. and Crittenden moved from Chattanooga on the roads to Ringgold and Lee and Gordon's Mills. To strike these isolated commands in succession was our obvious policy. To secure more prompt and decided action in the movement ordered against the enemy's center, my headquarters were removed to La Fayette, where I arrived about 11.30 p.m. on the 10th, and Lieutenant-General Polk was ordered forward with his remaining division to Anderson's, so as to cover Hindman's rear during the operations in the cove.
At La Fayette, I met Major Nocquet, engineer officer on General Buckner's staff, sent by General Hindman, after a junction of their commands, to confer with me and suggest a change in the plan of operations. After hearing the report of this officer, and obtaining from the active and energetic cavalry commander in front of our position (Brigadier-General Martin) the latest information of the enemy s movements and position, I verbally directed the major to return to General Hindman and say that my plans could not be changed, and that he would carry out his orders. At the same time the following written orders were sent to the general by courier:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE,
La Fayette, Ga., September 10, 1863--12 p.m.
Commanding, &c. :
General: Headquarters are here, and the following is the information: Crittenden's corps is advancing on us from Chattanooga. A large force from the south has advanced to within 7 miles of this point. Polk is left at Anderson's to cover your rear. General Bragg orders you to attack and force your way through the enemy to this point at the earliest hour that you can see him in the morning. Cleburne will attack in front the moment your guns axe heard.
I am, general, &c.,
GEORGE WM. BRENT,
Orders were also given for Walker's Reserve Corps to move promptly and join Cleburne's division at Dug Gap to unite in the attack. At the same time Cleburne's was directed to remove all obstructions in the road in his front, which was promptly done, and by daylight he was ready to move. The obstructions in Catlett's Gap were also ordered to be removed, to clear the road in Hindman's rear. Breckinridge's division (Hill's corps) was kept in position south of La Fayette, to check any movement the enemy might make from that direction.
At daylight I proceeded to join Cleburne at Dug Gap, and found him waiting the opening of Hindman's guns to move on the enemy's flank and rear. Most of the day was spent in this position, waiting in great anxiety for the attack by Hindman's column. Several couriers and two staff officers were dispatched at different times urging him to move with promptness and vigor.
About the middle of the afternoon the first gun was heard, when the advance of Cleburne's division discovered the enemy had taken advantage of our delay and retreated to the mountain passes. The enemy now discovered his error, and commenced to repair it by withdrawing his corps from the direction of Alpine to unite with the one near McLemore's Cove, while that was gradually extended toward Lee and Gordon's Mills.
Our movement having thus failed in its justly anticipated results, it was determined to turn upon the third corps of the enemy, approaching us from the direction of Chattanooga. The forces were accordingly withdrawn to La Fayette, and Polk's and Walker's corps were moved immediately in the direction of Lee and Gordon's Mills. The one corps of the enemy in this direction was known to be divided, one division having been sent to Ringgold. Upon learning the dispositions of the enemy from our cavalry commander in that direction, on the afternoon of the 12th Lieutenant-General Polk, commanding the advance forces, was directed in the following note to attack at daylight on the 13th:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE,
La Fayette, Ga., September 12, --6 p.m.
GENERAL: I inclose you a dispatch from General Pegram. This presents you a fine opportunity of striking Crittenden in detail, and I hope you will avail yourself of it at daylight to-morrow. This division crushed, and the others are yours. We can then turn again on the force in the cove. Wheeler's cavalry will move on Wilder, so as to cover your right. I shall be delighted to hear of your success.
Very truly, yours,
Upon further information, the order was renewed in two notes at later hours of the same day, as follows:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE,
La Fayette, September 12, 1863--8 p.m.
GENERAL: I inclose you a dispatch, marked A,(*) and I now give you the orders of the commanding general, viz, to attack at day dawn to-morrow. The infantry column reported in said dispatch at three-quarters of a mile beyond Pea Vine Church, on the road to Graysville from La Fayette.
I am, general, &c.,
GEORGE WM. BRENT,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE,
La Fayette, Ga., September 12, 1863.
GENERAL: The enemy is approaching from the south, and it is highly important that your attack in the morning should be quick and decided. Let no time be lost.
I am, general, &c.,
GEORGE WM. BRENT,
At 11 p.m. a dispatch was received from the general, stating that he had taken a strong position for defense, and requesting that he should be heavily re-enforced. He was promptly ordered not to defer his attack, his force being already numerically superior to the enemy, and was reminded that his success depended upon the promptness and rapidity of his movements. He was further informed that, Buckner's corps would be moved within supporting distance the next, morning.
Early on the 13th, I proceeded to the front, ahead of Buckner's command, to find that no advance had been made on the enemy, and that his forces had formed a junction and recrossed the Chickamauga. Again disappointed, immediate measures were taken to place our trains and limited supplies in safe positions, when all our forces were concentrated along the Chickamauga, threatening the enemy in front. Major-General Wheeler, with two divisions of cavalry, occupied the positions on the extreme left, vacated by Hill's corps, and was directed to press the enemy in McLemore's Cove, to divert his attention from our real movement. Brigadier-General Forrest, with his own and Pegram's divisions of cavalry, covered the movement on our front and right. Brig. Gen. B. R. Johnson, whose brigade had been at Ringgold, holding the railroad, was moved toward Reed's Bridge, which brought him on the extreme right of the line. Walker's corps formed on his left opposite Alexander's Bridge, Buckner's next near Thedford's Ford, Polk's opposite Lee and Gordon's Mills, and Hill's on the extreme left. With Johnson moved two brigades just arrived from Mississippi, and three of Longstreet's corps, all without artillery and transportation.
The following orders were issued on the night of the 17th, for the forces to cross the Chickamauga, commencing the movement at 6 a.m. on the 18th by the extreme right,
at Reed 's Bridge:
[CIRCULAR.] HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE,
In the Field, Leet's Tan-yard, September 18, 1863.
1. Johnson's column (Hood's), on crossing at or near Reed's Bridge, will turn to the left by the most practicable route and sweep up the Chickamauga, toward Leo and Gordon's Mills.
2. Walker, crossing at Alexander's Bridge, will unite in this move and push vigorously on the enemy's flank and rear in the same direction.
3. Buckner, crossing at Thedford's Ford, will join in the movement to the left, and press the enemy up the stream from Polk's front at Lee and Gordon's Mills.
4. Polk will press his forces to the front of Lee and Gordon's Mills, and if met by too much resistance to cross will bear to the right and cross at Dalton's Ford, or at Thedford's, as may be necessary, and join in the attack wherever the enemy may be.
5. Hill will cover our left flank from an advance of the enemy from the cove, and by pressing the cavalry in his front ascertain if the enemy is re-enforcing at Lee and-Gordon's Mills, in which event he will attack them in flank.
6. Wheeler's cavalry will hold the gaps in Pigeon Mountain and cover our rear and left and bring up stragglers.
7. All teams, &c., not with troops should go toward Ringgold and Dalton, beyond Taylor's Ridge. All cooking should be done at the trains. Rations, when cooked, will be forwarded to the troops.
8. The above movements wall be executed with the utmost promptness, vigor, and persistence.
By command of General Bragg:
GEORGE WM. BRENT,
The resistance offered by the enemy's cavalry and the difficulties arising from the bad and narrow country roads caused unexpected delays in the execution of these movements. Though the commander of the right column was several times urged to press forward, his crossing was not effected until late in the afternoon. At this time Major-General Hood, of Longstreet's corps, arrived and assumed command of the column, Brigadier-General Johnson resuming his improvised division of three brigades.
Alexander's Bridge was hotly contested and finally broken up by the enemy just as General Walker secured possession. He moved down stream, however, a short distance, and crossed, as directed, at Byram's Ford, and thus secured a junction with Hood after night.
The movement was resumed at daylight on the 19th, and Buckner's corps, with Cheatham's division, of Polk's, had crossed and formed, when a brisk engagement commenced with our cavalry under Forrest on the extreme right about 9 o'clock. A brigade from Walker was ordered to Forrest's support, and soon after Walker was ordered to attack with his whole force. Our line was now formed, with Buckner's left resting on the Chickamauga about 1 mile below Lee and Gordon's Mills. On his right came Hood with his own and Johnson's divisions, with Walker on the extreme right, Cheatham's division being in reserve, the general direction being a little east of north. The attack ordered by our right was made by General Walker in his usual gallant style, and soon developed a largely superior force opposed. He drove them handsomely, however, and captured several batteries of artillery in most gallant charges. Before Cheatham's division, ordered to his support, could reach him, he had been pressed back to his first position by the extended lines of the enemy assailing him on both flanks. The two commands united were soon enabled to force the enemy back again and recover our advantage, though we were yet greatly outnumbered.
These movements on our right were in a direction to leave an opening in our line between Cheatham and Hood. Stewart's division, forming Buckner's second line, was thrown to the right to fill this, and it soon became hotly engaged, as did Hood's whole front.
The enemy, whose left was at Lee and Gordon's Mills when our movement commenced, had rapidly transferred forces from his extreme right, changing his entire line, and seemed disposed to dispute with all his ability our effort to gain the main road to Chattanooga, in his rear. Lieutenant-General Polk was ordered to move his remaining division across at the nearest ford, and to assume the command in person on our right. Hill's corps was also ordered to cross below Lee and Gordon's Mills and join the line on the right. While these movements were being made, our right and center were heavily and almost constantly engaged. Stewart, by a vigorous assault, broke the enemy's center and penetrated far into his lines, but was obliged to retire for want of sufficient force to meet the heavy enfilade fire which he encountered from the right. Hood, later engaged, advanced from the first fire, and continued to drive the force in his front until night. Cleburne's division, of Hill's corps, which first reached the right, was ordered to attack immediately in conjunction with the force already engaged. This veteran command, under its gallant chief, moved to its work after sunset, taking the enemy completely by surprise, driving him in great disorder for nearly a mile, and inflicting a very heavy loss.
Night found us masters of the ground, after a series of very obstinate contests with largely superior numbers. From captured prisoners and others we learned with certainty that we had encountered the enemy's whole force, which had been moving day and night since they first ascertained the direction of our march. Orders had been given for the rapid march to the field of all re-enforcements arriving by railroad, and three additional brigades from this source joined us early next morning. The remaining forces on our extreme left, east of the Chickamauga, had been ordered up early in the afternoon, but reached the field too late to participate in the engagement of that day. They were ordered into line on their arrival, and disposed for a renewal of the action early the next morning. Information was received from Lieutenant-General Longstreet of his arrival at Ringgold and departure for the field. Five small brigades of his corps (about 5,000 effective infantry, no artillery) reached us in time to participate in the action, three of them on the 19th and two more on the 20th.
Upon the close of the engagement on the evening of the 19th, the proper commanders were summoned to my camp fire, and there received specific information and instructions touching the dispositions of the troops and for the operations of the next morning. The whole force was divided for the next morning into two commands and assigned to the two senior lieutenant-generals, Longstreet and Polk-the former to the left, where all his own troops were stationed, the latter continuing his command of the right. Lieutenant-General Longstreet reached my headquarters about 11 p.m., and immediately received his instructions. After a few hours' rest at my camp fire he moved at daylight to his line, just in front of my position.
Lieutenant-General Polk was ordered to assail the enemy on our extreme right at day-dawn on the 20th, and to take up the attack in succession rapidly to the left. The left wing was to await the attack by the right, take it up promptly when made, and the whole line was then to be pushed vigorously and persistently against the enemy throughout its extent.
Before the dawn of day myself and staff were ready for the saddle, occupying a position immediately in rear of and accessible to all parts of the Free. With increasing anxiety and disappointment I waited until after sunrise without hearing a gun, and at length dispatched a staff officer to Lieutenant-General Polk to ascertain the cause of the delay and urge him to a prompt and speedy movement. This officer, not finding the general with his troops, and learning where he had spent the night, proceeded across Alexander's Bridge to the east side of the Chickamauga and there delivered my message.
Proceeding in person to the right wing, I found the troops not even prepared for the movement. Messengers were immediately dispatched for Lieutenant-General Polk, and he shortly after joined me. My orders were renewed, and the general was urged to their prompt execution, the more important as the ear was saluted throughout the night with the sounds of the ax and falling timber as the enemy industriously labored to strengthen his position by hastily constructed barricades and breastworks. A reconnaissance made in the front of our extreme right during this delay crossed the main road to Chattanooga and proved the important fact that this greatly desired position was open to our possession.
The reasons assigned for this unfortunate delay by the wing commander appear in part in the reports of his subordinates. It is sufficient to say they are entirely unsatisfactory. It also appears from these reports that when the action was opened on the right about 10 a.m. the troops were moved to the assault in detail and by detachments, unsupported, until nearly all parts of the right wing were in turn repulsed with heavy losses.
Our troops were led with the greatest gallantry and exhibited great coolness, bravery, and heroic devotion. In no instance did they fail when called on to rally and return to the charge. But though invariably driving the enemy with slaughter at the points assailed, -they were compelled in turn to yield to the greatly superior numbers constantly brought against them. The attack on the left, promptly made as ordered, met with less resistance, much of the enemy's strength having been transferred to our right, and was successfully and vigorously followed up.
About 2 p.m., passing along the line to our left, I found we had been checked in our progress by encountering a strong position strengthened by works and obstinately defended. Unable to afford assistance from any other part of the field, written orders were immediately dispatched to Lieutenant-General Polk to again assault the enemy in his front with his whole force and to persist until he should dislodge him from his position. Directing the operations on our left to be continued, I moved again to the right and soon dispatched a staff officer to General Polk, urging a prompt and vigorous execution of my written orders.
About 4 p.m. this general assault was made and the attack was continued from right to left until the enemy gave way at different points, and finally, about dark, yielded us his line. The contest was severe, but the impetuous charge of our troops could not be resisted when they were brought to bear in full force, even where the enemy possessed all the advantage of position and breastworks. The troops were halted by their respective commanders when the darkness of the night and the density of the forest rendered further movements uncertain and dangerous, and the army bivouacked on the ground it had so gallantly won.
Both flanks having advanced more rapidly than the center, they were found confronting each other in lines nearly parallel and within artillery range. Any advance by them, especially at night, over ground so thickly wooded, might have resulted in the most serious consequences.
The enemy, though driven from his line, still confronted us, and desultory firing was heard until 8 p.m. Other noises, indicating movements and dispositions for the morrow, continued until a late hour at night.
During the operations by the main forces on the 19th and 20th, the cavalry on the flanks was actively and usefully employed, holding the enemy in observation and threatening or assailing him as occasion offered.
From the report of Major-General Wheeler. commanding on the left, it will be seen what important service was rendered both on the 20th and 21st by his command, especially in the capture of prisoners and property and in the dispersion of the enemy's cavalry.
Brigadier-General Forrest's report will show equally gallant and valuble services by his command, on our right. Exhausted by two days' battle, with very limited supply of provisions, and almost destitute of water, some time in daylight was absolutely essential for our troops to supply these necessaries and replenish their ammunition before renewing the contest.
Availing myself of this necessary delay to inspect and readjust my lines, I moved as soon as daylight served on the 21st. On my arrival about sunrise near Lieutenant-General Polk's bivouac. I met the ever-vigilant Brigadier-General Liddell, commanding a division in our front line, who was awaiting the general to report that his picket this morning discovered the enemy had retreated during the night from his immediate front. Instructions were promptly given to push our whole line of skirmishers to the front, and I moved to the left and extended these orders. All the cavalry at hand, including my personal guard, were ordered to the front.
Members of my staff, in passing through the lines of our left wing with their escort, were warned of danger and told that they were entering on the neutral ground between us and the enemy. But this proved to be an error, and our cavalry soon came upon the enemy's rear guard where the main road passes through Missionary Ridge. He had availed himself of the night to withdraw from our front, and his main body was already in position within his lines at Chattanooga.
Any immediate pursuit by our infantry and artillery would have been fruitless, as it was not deemed practicable with our weak and exhausted force to assail the enemy, now more than double our numbers, behind his intrenchments. Though we had defeated him and driven him from the field with heavy loss in men, arms, and artillery, it had only been done by heavy sacrifices, in repeated, persistent, and most gallant assaults upon superior numbers strongly posted and protected.
The conduct of our troops was excellent throughout the prolonged contest. Often repulsed where success seemed impossible, they never failed to rally and-return to the charge until the last combined and determined effort, in which the spirit of every man seemed to conspire for success, was crowned with the reward due to such gallantry in a just cause.
Our loss was in proportion to the prolonged and obstinate struggle. Two-fifths of our gallant troops had fallen, and the number of general and staff officers stricken down will best show how these troops were led.
Major-General Hood, the model soldier and inspiring leader, fell after contributing largely to our success, and has suffered the irreparable loss of a leg. That his valuable life should be spared to us is, however, a source for thankfulness and gratitude.
Major-General Hindman, highly distinguished for gallantry and good conduct, received a severe contusion, but persisted in keeping the saddle until he witnessed the success in which his command largely participated.
Brig. Gens. B. H. Helm, Preston Smith, and James Deshler died upon the field in the heroic discharge of duty. They were true patriots and gallant soldiers, and worthy of the high reputation they enjoyed.
Brigadier-Generals Adams, Gregg, and McNair fell severely wounded while gallantly leading their commands in the thickest of the fight. It is gratifying to know they are convalescing and will be again found at the post of duty and danger.
Judging from appearances on the field, the enemy's losses must have exceeded our own largely, but we have no means of correctly estimating them. We captured over 8,000 prisoners, 51 pieces of artillery, 15,000 stand of small-arms, and quantities of ammunition, with wagons, ambulances, and teams, medicines, hospital stores, &c., in large quantities.
The accompanying maps (1, 2, 3, and 4), based on accurate surveys, will afford the necessary information for the correct understanding of the movements of both armies. The positions of the troops on the field are given mostly from the sketches of their respective commanders. The times selected for indication were the morning of the 19th, when the action commenced; the morning of the 20th, and the evening of the 20th at the close of the operations.
There has been much delay in rendering some of the subordinate reports, and none have been received from Lieutenant-Generals Polk and Hill, and only two from brigades in Longstreet's corps. The absence of these has caused a delay in making up my own, and induced me to defer forwarding the others, hoping that all might be submitted together.
For the many deeds of daring and acts of heroic devotion exhibited on this field reference is made to the subordinate reports. It will be remarked that the private soldier is eminently distinguished, as he always will be in an army where the rank and file is made up of the best citizens of the country.
The medical officers, both in the field and in the hospitals, earned the lasting gratitude of the soldier and deserve the highest commendation. The great number of wounded thrown suddenly upon their hands taxed every energy and every faculty. With means greatly inadequate, especially in transportation, they soon reduced confusion into order, and by assiduity and skill afforded to. the gallant sufferers that temporal relief for which they might look in vain to any other source. In this connection it is a pleasing duty to acknowledge in grateful terms the deep indebtedness of the army to the hospital relief associations, which so promptly and so generously pressed forward their much needed assistance. Under the admirable management of their officers in Atlanta we were soon furnished with every necessary and comfort, and stores continued to arrive until notice was given that our wants were all supplied.
The officers of my staff, personal and general, served me on this field and on the arduous marches preceding with their usual zeal, intelligence, and gallantry.
The whole cavalry force having been dispatched to press the enemy and cut off detachments, orders were given for the army to move to a point near the railroad and convenient to Water, still interposing between the enemy and our large number of wounded our trophies and our wounded prisoners, whose removal from the field occupied many days.
Our supplies of all kinds were greatly reduced, the railroad having been constantly occupied in transporting troops, prisoners, and our wounded, and the bridges having been destroyed to a point 2 miles south of Ringgold. These supplies were ordered replenished, and as soon as it was seen that we could be subsisted the army was moved forward to seize and hold the only communication the enemy had with his supplies in the rear. His most important road and the shortest by half to his depot at Bridgeport lay along the south bank of the Tennessee. The holding of this all-important route was confided to Lieutenant-General Longstreet's command, and its possession forced the enemy to a road double the length, over two ranges of mountains, by wagon transportation. At the same time our cavalry, in large force, was thrown across the river to operate on this long and difficult route. These dispositions faithfully sustained insured the enemy's speedy evacuation of Chattanooga for want of food and forage. Possessed of the shortest road to his depot, and the one by which re-enforcements must reach him, we held him at our mercy and his destruction was only a question of time.
The disastrous loss of these advantages and our subsequent operations in consequence must be the subject of a future communication.
The suggestion of a movement by our right immediately after the battle to the north of the Tennessee and thence upon Nashville requires notice only because it will find a place on the files of the department. Such a movement was utterly impossible for want of transportation. Nearly half our army consisted of re-enforcements just before the battle without a wagon or an artillery horse, and nearly, if not quite, a third of the artillery horses on the field had been lost. The railroad bridges, too, had been destroyed to a point south of Ringgold, and on all the road from Cleveland to Knoxville. To these insurmountable difficulties .were added the entire absence of means to cross the river except by fording at a few precarious points too deep for artillery and the well-known danger of sudden rises, by which all communication would be cut, a contingency which did actually happen a few days after the visionary scheme was proposed. But the most serious objection to the proposition was its entire want of military propriety. It abandoned to the enemy our entire line of communication and laid open to him our depots of supplies, while it placed us with a greatly inferior force beyond a difficult and at times impassable river, in a country affording no subsistence to men or animals. It also left open to the enemy, at a distance of only 10 miles, our battle-field, with thousands of our wounded and his own, and all the trophies and supplies we had won. All this was to be risked and given up for what? To gain the enemy's rear and cut him off from his depot of supplies by the route over the mountains, when the very movement abandoned to his unmolested use the better and more practicable route, of half the length, on the south side of the river. It is hardly necessary to say the proposition was not even entertained, whatever may have been the inferences drawn from subsequent movements.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
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