Reports of Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne,. C. S. Army, commanding division, etc., with thanks of the Confederate Congress.
NOVEMBER 23-27, 1863.--The Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXI/2 [S# 55]
HEADQUARTERS CLEBURNE'S DIVISION.
Col. KINLOCH FALCONER,
COLONEL: On the morning of the 23d November, 1863, I was with my division at Chickamauga Station, on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, attending to the transportation of Buckner's and my own division by rail to Loudon, E. Tenn., where, with both divisions, I was ordered to report to Lieutenant-General Longstreet, then besieging Knoxville.
I had sent off all of Buckner's division except Reynolds' brigade, when I received the following order from army headquarters, viz:
The general commanding desires that you will halt such portions of your command as have not yet left at Chickamauga; such as may have left halt at Charleston. Do not, however, separate brigades; if parts of brigades have gone, let the remaining portion of the brigade go, but halt at Charleston.
In compliance with the above, I sent forward the remainder of Johnson's brigade, but took a portion of Reynolds' brigade off the cars as it was about to start. I also telegraphed to Brig. Gen. Bushrod Johnson, commanding Buckner's division, directing him to halt the division at Charleston.
I immediately after received the following dispatch from army headquarters, viz:
Order Johnson's troops at Charleston back here. Move up rapidly with your whole force.
I dispatched General Johnson accordingly.
In a few minutes after I received the following, viz:
We are heavily engaged. Move up rapidly to these headquarters.
Instructing Brigadier-General Polk to bring up the division, I galloped forward to headquarters for further instructions. I was ordered to rest for the night immediately behind Missionary Ridge, and placed my division accordingly. Returning to General Bragg's headquarters, he informed me that my division would act as reserve for the army, and would report directly to him. I ordered Reynolds' brigade, which I brought back with me from Chickamauga, to be reported directly to General Bragg, and had no further control of it.
During the night our line along the western front of Missionary Ridge was abandoned, and at early dawn I commenced to construct a new line of defense along the top of the ridge from the Shallow Ford road to General Bragg's headquarters. Before this was completed General Bragg informed me that the enemy had crossed the Tennessee River, both above and below the mouth of the Chickamauga, and directed me to send a brigade and battery to the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad bridge over the Chickamauga to guard that point. I sent Brigadier-General Polk's command and Semple's battery.
About 2 p.m. on the 24th November, I received orders to proceed with the remaining three brigades and the batteries of my division to the right of Missionary Ridge, near the point where the tunnel of the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad passes through Missionary Ridge, where I would find an officer of General Hardee's staff, who would show me my position. At the same time General Bragg informed me that the enemy had already a division in line opposite the position I was intended to occupy; that he was rapidly crossing another, and had nearly completed a pontoon bridge over the Tennessee opposite my position. He also told me I must preserve the railroad bridge in my rear, where Brigadier-General Polk was stationed, at all hazards. Galloping forward ahead of my command, I found Major Poole, of General Hardee's staff, at the tunnel, who informed me he had been left by General Hardee to show me my position.
I will attempt here a description of the ground. The right of Missionary Ridge, to which I was ordered, runs nearly north and south, parallel to the Tennessee River, which is about 1 miles west of it. From the tunnel north along the ridge it is about a mile to the Chickamauga River, which bounds the ridge on that side, flowing thence westwardly into the Tennessee River. To simplify the description, the two rivers and the ridge may be said to form three sides of a square. The Tennessee Valley, between the rivers and the ridge, is mostly level, with a continuation of cleared fields bordering the ridge, but immediately in front of the center of my position, about 1,200 yards north and 600 yards west of the railroad tunnel, was a high detached ridge, which in a military point of view dominated over every point within cannon range.
After passing through the tunnel the railroad runs in a northeasterly direction to the Chickamauga, which it crossed on the bridge Brigadier-General Polk was guarding. From the east side of the main ridge there projected two spurs, one, on the north boundary, with its precipitous north side washed by the Chickamauga; the other, jutting out just north of the tunnel, did not run directly back, but northeasterly for 1,000 yards, forming an acute angle with the parent ridge. Opposite the right of this spur, the main ridge was intersected by a little valley, through which came a road from the Tennessee Valley, where the enemy now was. The highest point on my line, and the point of chief interest in the battle on the right, and which I shall designate in this report as Tunnel Hill, was situated on the main ridge 250 yards north of the tunnel. The position pointed out for my command by Major Poole was to occupy, with one brigade, the detached ridge in the Tennessee Valley, and with the remainder of my command to stretch from the top of Tunnel Hill to the right of Walker's division, three-quarters of a mile south of the tunnel.
I sent Major Poole to inform General Hardee that I had but three brigades, and could not cover so long a line. The head of my division, Smith's (Texas) brigade, was now at hand, and at the same moment reported to me from the detached ridge. Private Henry Smith, of the signal corps of my division, informed me he was just from that point; that the enemy was advancing on it in line of battle. I ordered Smith to move his brigade rapidly and try to get possession of it before the enemy had gained a foothold, but if he found the enemy in possession to fall back on the main ridge. General Smith moved into the valley, but was fired on from the top of the detached ridge as he approached its foot. Smith was too late. The enemy had crowned the ridge. He therefore marched by his right flank on to the main or Missionary Ridge, and formed on its top, his two left regiments facing the detached ridge, his right regiment thrown back in an easterly direction to protect his flanks. Smith had scarcely thrown out skirmishers before he was briskly attacked by the skirmishers of the enemy.
In the meantime, I had placed Lowrey's brigade in position south of the tunnel and was about placing Govan's brigade on his left so as to complete my connection with Walker's division, when my attention was attracted to the fighting on my right. It was evident the enemy was endeavoring to turn my right flank and get possession of the main ridge between my right and the Chickamauga. If he succeeded, my connection with Brigadier-General Polk and my line of retreat by the bridge he was guarding was cut, and the safety of the whole army was endangered. Instead of placing Govan's brigade on the main ridge, I placed him on that spur in rear of it which jutted out just north of the tunnel and covered the valley and road before described, which led over the main ridge from the direction of the enemy. Govan rapidly threw skirmishers across this road and between it and the Chickamauga.
Lieutenant-General Hardee was soon on the ground in person. He approved my dispositions, directed the destruction of a bridge which crossed the Chickamauga close in rear of my right flank, and ordered two regiments of Lowrey's brigade and some artillery into position in rear of my right flank. Between the left of Smith's brigade and Walker's division, a distance of near a mile, there was now but two regiments of Lowrey's brigade, and it so remained all night and until 7 a.m. next day.
It was now dark; the fighting had ceased in front of Smith's; he had maintained his position. Hearing of the disaster at Lookout, I supposed our army would fall back beyond the Chickamauga, and accordingly had sent my ordnance and artillery across that river, with the exception of the two pieces of cannon planted beyond my right flank. I sent Captain Buck, my assistant adjutant-general, to headquarters of the army so as to receive any orders that might be given as quickly as possible. About midnight he returned with the information that it was determined to await the enemy's attack on Missionary Ridge. I now ordered my artillery and ordnance to join me at daylight, sent to my train for the axes belonging to the division in order to throw up some defenses, and rode out myself to make a moonlight survey of the ground and line of retreat. I found a hill on the north bank of the Chickamauga, between my right and the railroad bridge, guarded by General Polk, which completely commanded my line of retreat.
I ordered Brigadier-General Polk to occupy this hill at once with two regiments of infantry and a section of artillery. Discovering the facility which it afforded for turning me on the extreme right, I determined to immediately throw a line across the other east spur of Missionary Ridge, which jutted out from the north point of the ridge, and was washed by the Chickamauga. I placed the two regiments of Lowrey's brigade, left near the tunnel, on this line. In the meantime, Smith had thrown up some defenses in his front, but at my suggestion he now abandoned them and took up position as follows, viz, his left resting on the crest of the main ridge about 150 yards north of the tunnel, and running north along the crest for the length of one regiment, the Sixth, Tenth, and Fifteenth Texas (consolidated), Col. R. Q. Mills commanding. The right of this regiment rested close under the crest of Tunnel Hill. On the top of Tunnel Hill a space was left clear of infantry, and Swett's battery of four Napoleon guns, commanded by Lieut. H. Shannon, was placed on it so as to sweep north in the direction of Smith's old position. Northwest of the detached ridge, or west into the Tennessee Valley as occasion might require, at a point about 60 yards northeast of the right of Mills' regiment, Smith's line recommenced, but instead of continuing north, it now ran but slightly north of east down the side of the hill for the length of two regiments, the Seventh Texas, Col. H. B. Granbury commanding, and the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-fifth Dismounted Cavalry (consolidated), Maj. W. A. Taylor commanding. This formation made the angle on the apex of Tunnel Hill, where Swett's battery was planted, the weak point in Smith's line, but it secured Smith's flank by throwing his extreme right back within 200 yards of Govan's left, bringing the latter officer's line nearly at right angles to his north front, thus enabling each line to assist the other if attacked. At a favorable point on Govan's line, selected by General Hardee, I placed Douglas' battery, commanded by Lieut. John H. Bingham, so as to enfilade any line attempting to charge Smith's north front. Lowrey's position, across the spur before mentioned, was en échelon about 200 paces in front of Govan. I ordered the whole of his brigade to occupy this position, and completed my line from Tunnel Hill to Chickamauga. Lowrey had no artillery, the spur being too steep to admit of its being brought up. Calvert's battery, commanded by Lieut. Thomas J. Key, I placed directly over the tunnel, and between the tunnel and left of Smith's brigade were placed three regiments of Brown's brigade, of Stevenson's division. I was determined to construct a slight work in front of my line. I was prevented for some time by an eclipse of the moon, which rendered the morning very dark, but at length, distributing our few axes, we went to work.
The day broke hazy, so that it was some time before the enemy could discover our operations. As soon as he did, he commenced a heavy fire on General Smith's working party, and prevented us from erecting any work whatever in front of the battery on the top of Tunnel Hill Up to 10.30 a.m. the enemy contented himself with severe skirmishing, and a heavy artillery fire from batteries erected by him during the night on the detached hill. About this hour he drove in Smith's skirmishers, and possessed himself of the breastworks which Smith had abandoned that morning. A heavy attack on the tunnel and on Smith's line was now imminent. General Hardee sent me directions to take my position at the tunnel, and to take charge of everything in that quarter and to the right of it. The enemy was now in sight, advancing in two long lines of battle, his right stretching far beyond my left, his left, stretching beyond Smith's right, where farther view of it was prevented by the woods that covered and bordered the detached hill. For the full understanding of the fierce conflict that followed, it would be proper for me in this place to give a statement of the force of the enemy opposite my position as ascertained at a later hour from prisoners and other sources. It consisted of the divisions of Maj. Gen. Jef. C. Davis, three divisions of the army brought by Sherman from Vicksburg, and Howard's (Eleventh) corps, of the Army of the Potomac, all under the command of Major-General Sherman.
At 11 a.m. the first serious fight of the day commenced. It was heavy along Smith's whole line, and extended some distance south of the tunnel. The right of the enemy's line, exposed to the fire of several pieces of artillery planted over the tunnel, and met by a brigade sent by General Hardee to the foot of the ridge, swayed backward and forward for some time, but did not dare to advance nearer than 400 yards, and finally lay down, contenting itself with sending forward a large body of skirmishers and sending to the rear a much larger number of stragglers. The enemy's left, however, under shelter of Smith's abandoned work of the night before, and protected by the woods on that flank, and by the precipitous, heavily wooded sides of Tunnel Hill, advanced rapidly on Smith's line, and finally made a heavy charge on Swett's battery on the apex of the hill. The artillerymen stood bravely to their guns under a terrible cross-fire, and replied with canister at short range, but still the enemy advanced. When he had reached within 50 steps of the battery, Brigadier-General Smith charged him with the right of Mills regiment and the left of the Seventh Texas, Smith's north front pouring into him from the breastworks a close volley at the same tithe. The enemy was routed and driven back to his cover behind the hill-side and abandoned work.
In this charge Brigadier-General Smith and Colonel Mills were both severely wounded at the head of their men. Col. H. B. Granbury, Seventh Texas, now assumed command of Smith's brigade. In less than half an hour the enemy made another desperate charge. He was met by the Texas men and artillery iii front. Douglas' battery enfiladed him from Govan's hill, and Lowrey's extreme left regiment got a long-range volley on his flank. He was driven back in confusion as before.
In these attacks Lieut. H. Shannon, commanding Swett's battery, was wounded. The command devolved on Lieut. Joseph Ashton; in a few minutes he was mortally wounded. The command then fell on Corpl. F. M. Williams. So many non-commissioned officers and men had been killed and disabled in the battery, Colonel Granbury was forced to make a detail from the infantry to work the guns. There was now a short lull in the battle, during which, at the request of Colonel Granbury, I detailed the Second, Fifteenth, and Twenty-fourth Arkansas (consolidated), under Lieutenant-Colonel Warfield, from Govan's left, and posted them immediately in rear of the battery on top of the Tunnel Hill. I sent two of Swett's 12-pounders to report to Colonel Govan, as Douglas' guns were too light to be effective in their present position. I ordered Key's battery of four light field pieces to move up and replace the guns sent off, and put Lieutenant Key in command of all the artillery on Tunnel Hill.
About 1 p.m. it was evident that another grand attack was soon to be made on my division. In a few minutes after it commenced. The enemy again lined Smith's abandoned works, and from them kept up a close, incessant fire on Smith's north front, and particularly on the artillery on top of the hill. Simultaneously a charge was made on the west face of Tunnel Hill. Warfield's regiment was thrown forward outside of the work to the crest of the hill, looking into the Tennessee Valley, to meet this charge. Key fired rapidly into the charging line as it crossed the open ground at the west foot of the ridge, but it was soon under shelter. At the steep the enemy's line now seemed to form into a heavy column on the march and rushed up the hill in the direction of the batteries. Warfield's fire stopped the head of the charging column just under the crest. Here the enemy lay down behind trees, logs, and projecting rocks, their first line not 25 yards from the guns, and opened fire. Tier after tier of the enemy, to the foot of the hill and in the valley beyond, supplied this fire and concentrated the whole on a space of not more than 40 yards, till it seemed like one continuous sheet of hissing, flying lead. This terrific fire prevented Warfield's men from moving sufficiently forward to fire with effect down the hill, but otherwise it only swept over our heads. The cross-fire from Smith's abandoned work was, however, more fatal. It took Warfield in flank and was constantly disabling men near the top of the hill.
This desperate attack had now lasted more than half an hour. Key was depressing his guns to the utmost and firing shell and canister down the hill in the face of the enemy's fire. Discovering the impossibility of reaching the enemy by a direct fire, the officers of Warfield's regiment were pitching down heavy stones, apparently with effect.
General Hardee, from a hill south of the tunnel, seeing the stubbornness of the fight, had placed some pieces of artillery in position and was endeavoring to dislodge the enemy,with a flank fire, but his right flank was protected by an intervening projection of the hill he was on and this fire was not effective. General Hardee also sent a brigade to move north along the west face of the ridge to strike the enemy in flank, but this brigade returned without accomplishing anything. At this point of the fight Colonel McConnell, commanding a Georgia regiment of Cumming's brigade, came up to the threatened point, and moved his regiment forward to where Warfield's men were fighting. McConnell was shot through the head, and his regiment fell back or was withdrawn. Brigadier-General Cumming, of Stevenson's division, now reported to me with the remainder of his brigade, and was posted in rear of the threatened point. Brigadier-General Maney, of Walker's division, also reported to me with his brigade, and was posted in rear of Smith's line and parallel to it, with instructions to support the Texas brigade behind the works and the artillery at the angle.
The fight had lasted unceasingly for an hour and a half, and the enemy seemed to be constantly re-enforcing. The First and Twenty-seventh Tennessee, of Maney's brigade, Colonel Feild commanding, was moved in front of the work, and placed on Warfield's right, the latter officer and his gallant regiment, still nobly holding their exposed position, although the regiment was diminished in numbers and almost out of ammunition. It was at this critical period of the day that Lieutenant-Colonel Warfield suggested to me that our men were wasting ammunition and becoming disheartened at the persistency of the enemy, and proposed a charge down upon them with the bayonet. Brigadier-General Cumming gallantly proposed to lead the charge with two of his regiments. I immediately consented, and directed General Cumming to prepare for the charge, and went to the left to see that a simultaneous charge was made on the enemy's right flank. I now ordered the left of Mills' (Texas) regiment, being the extreme left of my division, to make the charge on the enemy's flank the moment that Cumming charged them in front, and I remained at the breastwork myself to see the execution of the order.
In the meantime, General Cumming, having placed the Fifty-sixth Georgia in line for the charge, and supported it by placing the Thirty-sixth Georgia 10 paces in rear, moved forward to the charge; twice he was checked and had to reform. Warfield's (Arkansas) regiment with empty guns, and the gallant First and Twenty-seventh Tennessee prepared to share his next effort. At the command the whole rushed forward with a cheer, Lieutenant-Colonel Sanders, simultaneously leading the left of Mills' (Texas) regiment on the enemy's flank. The enemy, completely surprised, fled down the foot, the Texas troops on the left pursuing him beyond the foot and nearly across the open ground in front. Our charging columns returned with many prisoners and stand of colors; a fresh force of the enemy, attempting to follow us as we returned from this charge, was quickly met and routed by the Fiftieth Tennessee and with troops of my division. Immediately on his last repulse the enemy opened a rapid and revengeful artillery fire on Tunnel Hill from his batteries on the detached hill, and under cover of this fire he went to work felling trees and fortifying his position.
It is but justice for me to state that the brunt of this long day's fight was borne by Smith's (Texas) brigade and the Second, Fifteenth, and Twenty-fourth Arkansas (consolidated), of Govan's brigade, together with Swett's and Key's batteries. The remainder of my division was only engaged in heavy skirmishing. The final charge was participated in and successful through the timely appearance and gallant assistance of the regiments of Cumming's and Maney's brigades before mentioned.
Out of the eight stand of colors shown by me to have been captured, four were presented to me by Mills' (Texas) regiment, two were presented by the Fifty-sixth and Thirty-sixth Georgia Regiments, of Cumming's brigade; one flag was presented by the First Tennessee, of Maney's brigade, and one by the Second, Fifteenth, and Twenty-fourth Arkansas (consolidated), of Govan's brigade; in all, eight colors, six of which I herewith transmit. Among them are the flags of the Twenty-seventh Pennsylvania and Ninety-third Illinois. About 500 prisoners were captured. At a critical moment of the battle I lost two of the bravest officers of my division--Brig. Gen. J. A. Smith, commanding the Texas brigade, and Col. R. Q. Mills, the same officer who commanded it in the battle of Chickamauga, after General Deshler fell. Including these gallant officers, other noble officers and men, some of whose names are handed down to history in the reports of brigade and regimental commanders.
I suffered the following losses in the three brigades of my division engaged, viz: 42 killed, 178 wounded, and 2 missing.
Colonel Sugg, of the Fiftieth Tennessee Regiment, Maney's brigade, was dangerously wounded in the last charge. Colonel McConnell, of Cumming's brigade, and other gallant soldiers who fell in front of my works, I can but lament. I did not personally know them, but I saw and can bear witness to their gallant bearing and noble deaths.
The enemy must have suffered severely, the hillside and the valley were thickly strewn with his dead, and if we may credit his published reports of casualties in this fight, he lost 1 major-general, John E. Smith, wounded; 3 brigadier-generals, Corse, Matthies, and Giles Smith, wounded, the latter mortally, and 1 colonel commanding brigade, Colonel Raum, mortally wounded.
Soon after the final defeat of the enemy in front of Smith's position. I received a dispatch from General Hardee to send to the center all the troops I could spare, as the enemy were pressing us in that quarter. I immediately ordered Generals Cumming and Maney, with their respective brigades, to report accordingly, and went myself to push them forward. Before I had gone far, however, a dispatch from General Hardee reached me, with the appalling news that the enemy had pierced our center, and were on Missionary Ridge, directing me to take command of my own, Walker's, and Stevenson's divisions and form a line across the ridge, so as to meet an attack upon my flank, and take all other necessary measures for the safety of the right wing. I ordered Brigadier-General Gist, commanding Walker's division, to form it across the ridge; ordered all vehicles, which could be spared, to cross the Chickamauga. Sent Brigadier-General Polk orders to dispatch a force to the Shallow Ford Bridge, and hold it at all hazards, and sent Govan's brigade to dispute the enemy's advance on the Shallow Ford road.
Soon after night was upon us, and General Hardee ordered an immediate retreat across the Chickamauga, and that Smith's (Texas) brigade should remain in position and bring up the rear. General Lowrey attacked and drove back the enemy's skirmishers in his front and then retreated. By 9 p.m. everything was across except the dead and a few stragglers lingering here and there under the shadow of the trees for the purpose of being captured, faint-hearted patriots succumbing to the hardships of the war and the imagined hopelessness of the hour. I now ordered Smith's brigade to move in retreat. Sadly, but not fearfully, this band of heroes left the hill they had held so well and followed the army across the Chickamauga.
To Brigadier-Generals Smith, Cumming, and Maney, and Colonel Granbury, I return my thanks for the able manner in which they managed their commands. My thanks are also due to Brigadier-Generals Polk and Lowrey, and Colonel Govan, commanding brigade; although not actively engaged, they were rendering good service in holding important positions.
Swett's battery, under command of Lieut. H. Shannon, and Calvert's battery, commanded by Lieut. Thomas J. Key, were bravely fought and did great execution. Swett's battery was hotly engaged the whole day and lost some noble officers and men.
A section of Barret's battery, under command of Lieut. Isaiah Lightner, in position where the road crosses the hill, did much toward driving back the right of the enemy's line in its attempted advance across the open fields.
Brig. Gen. John C. Brown's brigade, on my left flank, was engaged in heavy skirmishing most of the day.
The following officers of my staff--Maj. Calhoun Benham, assistant adjutant-general; Maj. J. K. Dixon, assistant inspector-general; Capt. Irving A. Buck, assistant adjutant-general; Capt. Charles S. Hill, ordnance officer (whose horse was shot under him); Surg. D. A. Linthicum, Lieuts. L. H. Mangum, and S. P. Hanly, aides-de-camp; and Capt. C. H. Byrne, volunteer aide-de-camp (whose horse was shot under him)--acted with their usual gallantry and discharged their duties with zeal and intelligence.
Messrs. Henry Smith and William Rucker, of the signal corps, volunteered on my staff for the battle, and were very efficient.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
P. R. CLEBURNE,
Brigadier-General, Provisional Army, G. S.
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