Report of Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden, U.S.
Army, commanding Twenty-first Army Corps.
AUGUST 16-SEPTEMBER 22, 1863.--The Chickamauga Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXX/1 [S# 50]
HEADQUARTERS TWENTY-FIRST ARMY CORPS,
Chattanooga, October 1, 1863.
Lieut. Col. C. GODDARD,
A. A. G., Dept. of the Cumberland, Chattanooga, Tenn.
SIR: In obedience to directions from department headquarters, dated 25th ultimo, requiring me to forward, as soon as practicable, a report of the operations of my command during the late engagements, including a brief history of its movements from the time of crossing the Tennessee River up to the beginning of the battle, I have the honor to report:
First. The movements of the Twenty-first Army Corps from the time of its crossing the Tennessee River, terminating on the morning of the 19th ultimo, when the battle of Chickamauga opened.
August 31.--My command stationed in Sequatchie Valley, at Pikeville, Dunlap, and Therman, respectively, excepting General Wagner's brigade, First Division, opposite Chattanooga, and General Hazen's at Poe's Tavern, the latter 15 miles north of Wagner, and both in Tennessee Valley. My command had been thus stationed since the 19th of August, having left Manchester, Tenn., on the 16th of August, crossing the mountains at three different points, in obedience to orders received from department headquarters at 12.30 a.m. of the 16th. At 2.15 p.m. of this day I received your orders of the 30th, dated 12.30 p m., to move my entire command, excepting the brigades of Generals Hazen and Wagner, as soon as practicable down the Sequatchie Valley, and to supply myself with everything necessary for an active campaign. The orders further directed me to cross my trains at Bridgeport and my troops at Bridgeport, Shellmound, and Battle Creek. Should Chattanooga be evacuated, Hazen and Wagner were to cross the river and occupy the place and close down upon our left. Colonel Minty, with his brigade of cavalry, and Colonel Wilder, with his brigade of mounted infantry, were to co-operate with Hazen and Wagner.
September 1.--My command all in motion. General Wood and his command arrived at Jasper. General Palmer within 3 miles of Jasper and General Van Cleve to within 5 miles of Dunlap.
September 2.--Received orders to cross the river with one brigade at Jasper crossing and one at Battle Creek. Other part of the command to follow as soon as the way is open.
Colonel Buell's brigade (First Division) marched at dark to Shellmound, where he crossed the river in flats during the night.
September 3.--General Wood, with his other brigade (Harker's), moved down early this morning to Shellmound, and was across the river by 8 p.m., having been delayed till 2 p.m. by General Reynolds' train. Colonel Grose and his brigade (Palmer's division) moved down early this morning to Battle Creek, but were unable to secure the ferry, being used all day by General Brannan's division. General Cruft and his brigade (Palmer's division) was therefore ordered to Shellmound, and he, following close on General Wood, succeeded in crossing his command by 4 a.m. next day.
General Van Cleve, with his two brigades, arrived at Jasper and went into camp to await the crossing. Received from the general commanding orders for my movements and position after crossing the river, viz, to move up the Valley of Running Water Creek to Whiteside's, where I was to post one regiment, and send one division along the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad to the Trenton road, and to push forward as near to Chattanooga as practicable and threaten the enemy in that direction. The remainder of the command to occupy a position near the junction of the Murphy's Valley road with road marked on the map as "Good wagon road to Naylor's." The movement to be completed on the evening of the 4th instant.
September 4.--At 3.30 a.m. received word from General Cruft that his brigade was all over. Moved General Van Cleve down at once, and at 1 p.m. moved headquarters to Shellmound, which crossed before night.
General Palmer succeeded in crossing with his one brigade at Battle Creek to-day. Thus the whole command was over the river.
September 5.--At 2.30 p.m., after having the command organized and in position, and with all of the ammunition and most of the transportation up, troops all moved out light to Whiteside's, General Wood in the advance, General Palmer center, and General Van Cleve rear, taking with them their ammunition trains; regimental and supply trains to move up at 5 a.m. to-morrow.
September 6.--Road up Running Water Creek rough but passable. At 9.30 a.m. I arrived at junction of Murphy's Valley and Nickajack roads, and encamped there as ordered, Generals Palmer and Van Cleve and their divisions following us, and General Wood and his division pursuing road up Running Water Creek and encamping 7 miles from Chattanooga, reporting that the enemy was close before him in force.
September 7.--Colonel Harker, with his brigade, made very satisfactory reconnaissance to spur of Lookout Mountain. Drove the enemy's pickets and light advance 2 miles, and returned by dark, believing the enemy to be in force in his front.
September 8.--Gave orders to make two reconnaissances to-morrow morning; the one up Lookout Mountain via Nickajack Trace, and for which General Beatty and his brigade were detailed, the other up same mountain to Summertown, for which Colonel Grose and three regiments were detailed, both to unite if practicable on top of the mountain, and to start at or before day on the morrow.
September 9.--At 2.20 a.m. received dispatch from the general commanding the army, approving the two reconnaissances ordered, and directing that the whole command be held in readiness to move round the point of Lookout Mountain to seize and occupy Chattanooga in the event of its being evacuated; to move with caution and not to throw my artillery around the point of Lookout Mountain till I am satisfied that the evacuation is not a ruse. Should I occupy Chattanooga, I am to order General Wagner and all his force across to join me.
At 5.45 a.m. further dispatches from department headquarters, apprising me of the evacuation of Chattanooga and ordering that the whole command be pushed forward at once with five days' rations, and to make a vigorous pursuit. This latter dispatch was too late to stop the reconnaissances ordered, but I lost no time in putting the balance of the command in motion and arrived at Chattanooga with General Wood's division at 12.30 p.m., having taken peaceable possession of same.
It was nightfall, however, before the troops were well up, owing to the great delay in getting the artillery and ammunition train up this very rough and precipitous hill. It was thus impossible to make any pursuit to-day. I, however, ordered Generals Palmer and Van Cleve to turn off south after having passed the spur of Lookout Mountain and encamp at Rossville, distant 5 miles from Chattanooga. General Wood I placed in command of the town.
At 2.15 p.m. received further instructions from department headquarters ordering me to leave a light brigade to hold Chattanooga, and with the balance of my command to pursue the enemy with the utmost vigor. The line of march will probably lead me near Ringgold, and from thence in the vicinity of Dalton.
September 10.--Generals Palmer and Van Cleve with their divisions ordered to make vigorous pursuit early this morning, marching on road from Rossville to Ringgold, thence to Dalton. General Wood, after leaving one brigade at Chattanooga, to follow with his two brigades in the same direction. General Wagner with his brigade having crossed during the night, was left as post commander. At 4 p.m. received report from General Palmer that owing to want of supplies, troops only marched 6 miles, the advance encamping on Chickamauga Creek, 5 miles from Ringgold. The rear, General Wood, on Pea Vine Creek, 2 miles to rear of advance; also, that the enemy's cavalry was in his front and that a portion of it had charged his advance; rode over four companies of the First Kentucky Infantry and captured 50 men and 2 officers, without any one on either side being hurt. At night received from the front several reports going to show that the enemy was in force this side of La Fayette and threatening to retake Chattanooga.
September 11.--At 1 a.m. the general commanding, feeling uncertain as to the position and strength of the enemy in our front, ordered me to proceed to the front at once. Was misled by the guide, and did not reach my command till 6 a.m., and 2 of my orderlies on duty with Captain McCook in search of me, thinking I had taken the wrong road, were captured, he narrowly escaping. Early in the morning Colonel Harker, with his brigade, was moved back to Rossville, and by night made a reconnaissance up the Rossville road as far as Gordon's Mills, driving squads of the enemy before him. At 2.30 p.m. gave General Wood his orders, through one of my staff, who received them in person from department headquarters, to move his other brigade at once to Gordon's Mills to support Colonel Harker, and at 5 p.m. my staff officer reported to me at Ringgold. My entire Second and Third Divisions were then at Ringgold. General Hazen, with his brigade:, having crossed the river yesterday, rejoined his division (Palmer s) to-day. Colonel Dick, with Second Brigade, Van Cleve's division (left at McMinnville to guard stores, &c.), rejoined his command on the 9th. Your instructions received at this time, and dated 9.15 a.m., were to move with the balance of my corps on the Chickamauga and Pea Vine Valley roads, keeping in view two objects: first, to support General Thomas in case the enemy is in force in the vicinity of La Fayette, or, second, to move eastward and southward toward Rome in case he has continued his retreat. Other verbal instructions received by my staff officer urged upon me the importance of keeping my separate divisions in supporting distance of one another.
At 8.30 a.m. I received your dispatch of 3.30 p.m., informing me that the enemy was in heavy force in the Valley of Chattanooga, and instructing me to move my whole force across, by the most available route and as quickly as possible, to the Rossville and La Fayette road to some defensible point between Gordon's Mills and Shields' house, and to close Wood up with me or myself to him.
I at once called my general officers together, and after a long consultation and diligent inquiry of citizens as to the nature of the roads and country, gave orders to move the command in the direction ordered at 5 in the morning.
September 12.--Sent word early this evening to Colonel Wilder, who was in the advance and near Tunnel Hill, to return to Ringgold with his command, and to follow on my line of march, covering my left flank. He moved promptly and met me at Ringgold, and reported that the enemy was in force in his front last night, and that he learned from deserters that Forrest was to leave to-day to flank and cut off this command, and Wharton in opposite direction for same purpose. General Van Cleve, with the train, moved to Peeler's and met no enemy; General Palmer to Gilbert's, where he met some squads of the enemy and skirmished with him. After opening communication with General Van Cleve and General Wood, moved the whole command to Gordon's Mills, Colonel Wilder also coming in after night, having had a severe skirmish during the day near Leet's Tanyard, and losing 30 men killed and wounded.
September 13.--In the morning the Fourth U.S. Cavalry, 650 strong, reported to me for duty. The three divisions were put into position for defense. General Cruft and Colonel Wilder sent out to reconnoiter on the left, Fourth Cavalry on the right to McLemore's Cove, and General Van Cleve to the front and center on La Fayette road. The latter only found the enemy (cavalry with artillery), who retired skirmishing a distance of 3 miles, when the brigade was halted, and soon after returned to camp. In this skirmish Captain Drury, chief of artillery, Third Division, was severely wounded. At 2.30 p.m. received your two dispatches of 12.20 and 12.25 p.m., respectively, former ordering me to post General Wood in a strong defensible position at Gordon's Mills for him to resist stoutly the enemy's advance, and in case of extremity, and if Granger's force (a division of infantry) has not arrived at Chattanooga so as to support Wood at Rossville, and he (Wood) should be compelled to fall back farther, he must take his position at a point guarding the road to Chattanooga and around the point of Lookout Mountain, and hold them at all hazards. To move the balance of my command during the evening and night to a position on Missionary Ridge so as to cover the road along the Valley of Chattanooga Creek, and also that running up the Valley of West Chickamauga Creek, and to send Wilder with his command up Chattanooga Creek to feel his way carefully, and who is to join General Thomas as soon as possible, the latter ordering me to hold myself in readiness to execute to-night the orders sent me at 12.20 to-day.
September 14.--At 6.30 a.m. received dispatch from Colonel Goddard, stating that it was the intention of the general commanding that I should move before daylight to Missionary Ridge, and that it was perhaps his unfortunate wording that prevented it. I at once commenced the movement. In the night Colonel Minty, with the balance of his cavalry brigade, reported for duty. I sent him in the rear of my two divisions; Wilder, with his command, I sent to join General Thomas, then in Chattanooga Valley. Arrived at the position soon after 9 a.m. and staid there all day, being unable to have communication with department headquarters. Saw nothing of the enemy. At 7.40 p.m. received orders to return with the command, placing it at Crawfish Spring and along the Chickamauga Valley near Gower's. Two late to make the movement to-day.
September 15.--The two divisions moved, as directed last night, the left, Van Cleve's division, at Crawfish Spring; right, Palmer's, near Gower's, and supported on its right by the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry. Balance of the command, under Minty, sent to reconnoiter the whole front and left. At 11.30 p.m. Colonel Minty reported that the enemy was in force at Dalton, Ringgold, Leet's, and Rock Spring Church.
September 16.--Nothing occurred of peculiar interest this day except that department headquarters were established at Crawfish Spring. At 9.30 p.m. received orders to issue to the men three lays' rations in haversacks and 20 rounds of ammunition in the pocket of each man, in addition to having his cartridge-box full. There are indications that the enemy is massing for an attack on our left.
September 17.--General Thomas, with his corps, arrived on our lines to-day. In afternoon moved General Palmer's division farther to the left, in order to make room for General Thomas' troops and to concentrate my own. Toward dark, in obedience to orders, moved corps headquarters to vicinity of department headquarters.
September 18.--At 10.30 a.m. General Wood, holding position on Chickamauga at Gordon's Mills, sent in word that a strong force of skirmishers was advancing on his left. Soon after another of his staff rode up reporting his line very thin and asking for a brigade. At 11 a.m. a third staff officer rode up reporting the enemy advancing on his right and Van Cleve's left. At 11.45 a.m. an orderly came reporting that the enemy--infantry, cavalry, and artillery--were advancing on the La Fayette road. At same moment General Van Cleve was moving up to General Wood's left and General Palmer was ordered to take Van Cleve's position on Wood's right. At 3.45 p.m. Colonel Wilder sent word that Colonel Minty, with his cavalry, after being re-enforced with two regiments of his, is falling back; that the enemy is getting in his (Wilder's) rear, and that he is also falling back on Wood. No firing to be heard. In afternoon Palmer was ordered up to form on the left of Van Cleve's new position on line of the Chickamauga River, which, from Gordon's Mills, runs in an easterly direction, whilst the road to Chattanooga, via Rossville, is nearly north and south. We hold the river at Gordon's <ar50_606> Mills, but on our left the enemy's pickets were reported to be between the road and the river.
I was informed by the general commanding that we also occupied the bridge across the Chickamauga with one brigade of infantry at Reed's Mill, situated northeast from Gordon's Mills, and distant about 3 miles, and thus the space between the two mills was in a great measure open to the enemy.
REPORT OF THE OPERATIONS OF THE TWENTY-FIRST ARMY CORPS,
DURING THE ENGAGEMENTS OF THE 19TH AND 20TH OF SEPTEMBER:
ON CHICKAMAUGA RIVER, GA.
Battles.--In continuation of my report of the movements of the Twenty-first Army Corps, since crossing the Tennessee River and ending the 18th ultimo, the day preceding the battle, I have now the honor to report the operations of my command during the late engagements. It was 4 o'clock on the morning of the 19th before the last brigade of Major-General Palmer's division arrived at its position on the left of Brigadier-General Van Cleve. During the evening and night of the 18th of September, my command was placed in position as directed by the general commanding the department, the right resting at Gordon's or Lee's Mills, and the left running northeasterly along the Chickamauga and the road to Rossville.
On the morning of the 19th I rode to the extreme left of my line, and there being no appearance of the enemy in my front, at 7.40 a.m. I ordered Colonel Grose, Major-General Palmer's division, with his brigade, then in reserve, to make a reconnaissance down the road and in direction of Reed's Mill, on the Chickamauga, to ascertain if the main road from Gordon's Mills to Rossville was clear, and if practicable to ascertain if Colonel McCook with his brigade held the bridge at Reed's Mill, from which direction I had just heard the report of four or five cannon.
On arriving at this position I found all quiet, Colonel Wilder, with his command, supported by two regiments of Brigadier-General Van Cleve's division, being on the extreme left. I found Colonel Wilder in the edge of the woods some 150 yards west of the road leading to Rossville, his men dismounted, and behind a breastwork of rails.
It was here reported to me that the command of General Thomas had been heard passing in our rear toward Chattanooga. I immediately directed an officer to go to the rear until he came to the road on which these troops were passing, and to report at once the character of the country which intervened, the distance, &c. I remained until the officer returned and reported. All still being quiet, I rode rapidly to department headquarters with this information, which I thought important, and which I believed would be gladly heard by the commanding general. I promptly returned, and on my arrival at the left of my lines, about 11 a.m., I heard heavy cannonading about 1 to 2 miles to my left. Musketry firing began and soon became so heavy that I was satisfied the battle had commenced. For a moment I felt embarrassed. The general commanding the department had inquired of me several times if I could hold my position, and I knew the importance to the movements of the army then going on of my ability so to do. I was on the left and thrown forward, covering a movement by which the entire army was to pass in my rear, leaving me on the right should the movement take place without interruption. I hesitated but for a moment as to whether I should weaken myself by sending aid to Major-General Thomas, who, having passed to my rear, was already engaged to my left. All being quiet on my front, I ordered Major-General Palmer to the support of Major-General Thomas. I at once informed the general commanding the army of this movement, who approved of it in his note of 12.20 p.m., when he informed me that, from present appearances, General Thomas will move en échelon, his left advanced, threatening the enemy's right.
At 11.20 I received a note from Captain Willard, aide-de-camp to Major-General Thomas, dated McDaniel's [McDonald's] house, September 15 (intended for 19th), 10.45, stating that if another division can be spared it would be well to send it up without any delay. At the time of the receipt of this note I heard very heavy musketry in the direction of Major-General Palmer, then advancing to the fight, and I at once sent Major Mendenhall, my chief of artillery, and Colonel McKibbin, of General Rosecrans' staff, to see Major-General Palmer and learn particulars. They returned quickly without seeing him, having been halted and shot at by the enemy, which led me to believe that Major-General Palmer was not only fighting in his front, but was attacked in his rear and perhaps surrounded. I at once dispatched Lieutenant-Colonel Lodor, my inspector-general, and Colonel McKibbin to department headquarters (which at this time had been moved to the Widow Glenn's, distant about a mile from my position) to report facts and ask permission to bring up Brigadier-General Van Cleve to support Major-General Palmer, as I was then well satisfied that the enemy was crossing the Chickamauga at several points, and at one near my position. During their absence I sent to Brigadier-General Van Cleve to move up to where I then was stationed, and just at the time of his arrival Lieutenant-Colonel Lodor returned with permission to send Brigadier-General Van Cleve in, which I immediately did. He brought with him but two brigades, Brigadier-General Beatty's and Colonel Dick's, leaving his Third Brigade, Colonel Barnes, in position on the left of Brigadier General Wood.
At 12 m. I received your note of 11.10 a.m. ordering me to send Colonel Minty with his cavalry brigade to Chattanooga, and to report for orders at Widow Glenn's, which I at once complied with. It was then stationed in the woods in reserve.
At 12.50 p.m. I received a note from General Palmer, dated 12.35 p.m., stating that his "division was just going in; enemy said to be in heavy force; fight is raging, but principally on his left flank."
At 1.15 p.m. I wrote to Brigadier-General Wood, reporting the heavy fight that Van Cleve and Palmer were hotly in, and that he must look out for his left.
I then sent Colonel Starling, my chief of staff, to department headquarters, reporting Brigadier-General Van Cleve heavily in the fight, and asking that I might move Brigadier-General Wood up to assist. He shortly returned with the request granted, and I dispatched Major Mendenhall to bring him up. The enemy appeared to have troops enough to fight us everywhere, and to fill up every interval as soon as my divisions passed.
At 2 p.m. I received your dispatch of 1.45 p.m., advising me that you had ordered Major-General McCook to relieve me, to take command of my corps, and to make the best dispositions possible; also, that Major-General Sheridan would come in if necessary on my right, and to take care of my right.
On receipt of this note, the firing having ceased for a time, I immediately rode rapidly to headquarters, hoping to get final instructions before Brigadier-General Wood s command arrived, and returned just as General Wood with his two brigades came up to a position that Brigadier-General Davis, of Major-General McCook's corps, was fighting over on the right of Brigadier-General Van Cleve. Colonel Barnes' brigade, Brigadier-General Van Cleve's division, had been left back with General Wood; it came up just in advance of General Wood's two brigades, and had gone into position through the woods to the right of Brigadier-General Davis.
I rode forward to a battery which I understood belonged to General Davis, where I was told I would find both him and General Wood; neither of them was there, and I rode back in search of General Wood. I had instructed Lieutenant-Colonel Starling to say to General Wood, that in coming to the field he might have an opportunity, by leaving the road before he reached our position and moving to his right, to strike the enemy on the flank. I should regret that I had not sent an order instead of a mere suggestion but that the commanding general condemned the movement when I informed him that I had suggested it to General Wood. Colonel Barnes moved in this direction, and Colonel Harker, of General Wood's division, was going into position on the right of Colonel Barnes, when Lieutenant-Colonel Starling, chief of staff, at the solicitation of Brigadier-General Davis, who was then being pressed by the enemy, recalled Colonel Harker, and in this way he was brought down the road beyond the position that Colonel Barnes had taken in the woods on General Davis' right, and Colonel Buell with his brigade followed after Colonel Harker.
General Wood reached the field but a short time before the enemy attacked our right, on Saturday evening, and had General Wood been in the position I suggested, he would have been on the flank of the enemy, and, I think, would have punished him severely.
Colonel Buell went into position just off the road on the right and to the rear of Brigadier-General Davis' battery, which was firing across an open field at the enemy in the woods, who could be plainly seen by their bayonets glistening. In the meantime General Wood, with Harker's brigade, had passed still farther down the road and went into position on Colonel Buell's left, striking the woods as he left the road. In Colonel Buell's front there was a large gap in the woods, recently a corn-field.
The enemy in Colonel Buell's front came out at this time, and he, with his men, lying down supporting General Davis' battery, fell back in some contusion. All crossed the road; thence across another open field, in which I and my staff were on a high point, when they came into the woods again, along the edge of which Colonel Wilder, with his brigade, was lying. His men soon opened fire, and when I ordered the artillery that was at hand to be put in position along the edge of the woods, under the superintendence of Major Mendenhall, he opened fire rapidly from twenty-six guns, and soon checked and drove the enemy to the cover of their own woods. Our loss in this brief conflict was quite severe. Brigadier-General Wood and Colonel Buell were present, and were very active in rallying the men and restoring them to order. Soon after accomplishing this, Colonel Buell's brigade again advanced, <ar50_609> Brigadier-General Carlin and his command co-operating, and reoccupied their former position. About this time General Sheridan came up through the woods I was in, and promptly sent in a brigade to support these troops.
Soon after this I received your note of 3.45 p.m., at 4.35 p.m., stating that Davis was heavily pressed, and ordering me to assist him if I could with some of my command. At 4.45 p.m. I received your note of 3.10 p.m., stating that Johnson was driving the rebels handsomely in the center; that he had taken many prisoners, and expected to drive the enemy across Chickamauga to-night.
Colonel Barnes, with his brigade, I had heard from, as being in a commanding position, and in good order. Generals Palmer and Van Cleve I had not heard from since they went in. Night was coming on, and I left for department headquarters, where, after sitting in council with the general commanding the army, other corps commanders, and some general officers, I received at midnight the following order:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,
Widow Glenn's House, September 19, 1863--11.20 p.m.
GENERAL: The general commanding directs me to inform you that General McCook has been ordered to hold this gap to-morrow, covering the Dry Valley road, his right resting near this place, his left connecting with General Thomas' right. The general places your corps in reserve to-morrow, and directs you to post it on the eastern slope of Missionary Ridge to support McCook or Thomas. Leave the grand guard from your command out, with instructions to hold their ground until driven in, and then to retire slowly, contesting the ground stubbornly.
I proceeded at once to move General Wood back to the reserve position, leaving the grand guards as directed, and by daylight, 20th September, found General Van Cleve in the valley very near his new position. Major-General Palmer, with my strongest division, having been sent to Major-General Thomas the day before, was to remain with him. About 8 or 9 o'clock on the morning of the 20th I was ordered to move General Wood's division up to a position in front, which had been occupied by General Negley, and to keep General Van Cleve in reserve and in supporting distance of General Wood. This order had been executed but a short time when I was ordered to move General Van Cleve, with two brigades (his other brigade having been sent with General Wood, who otherwise could not have filled the place General Negley occupied), several hundred yards to the left, and some 200 yards to the front. His guns were placed in position on the crest of the ridge, and his command placed near the foot of the slope, formed in column, doubled on the center, and halted. The general commanding the department was at this time in the field near by.
I was now ordered to move General Van Cleve directly to the front to take part in the battle now raging in that direction. The order was immediately given, and I said to the commanding general, as this was the last of my corps not already disposed of, I should accompany it. I rode immediately after Brigadier-General Van Cleve, whose troops were already in motion. On reaching the woods I was surprised to find General Van Cleve's command halted; on inquiry I was informed that General Van Cleve had run up on General Wood's command. I directed him to take ground to the left, to pass through the first interval he could find, and engage the enemy. At this moment an officer rode to me from General Thomas, saying that the general still wanted support on his left. I directed this officer to General Rosecrans' position, then not far distant, and did not stop the movement of General Van Cleve, as he was going in the right direction if the general commanding the department should change my orders and send me to General Thomas' left. In a few moments I received orders to move General Van Cleve's division with the utmost dispatch, not exhausting the troops, to the support of General Thomas' left. I gave the order immediately to General Van Cleve and its execution was at once begun.
At this moment I received a message from General Wood that it was useless to bring artillery into the woods. The chief of artillery of this corps was ordered to put the batteries back on the ridge, in a commanding position with several hundred yards of open country in front, where I hoped, in the event of any reverse, these guns could cover our retiring troops. I now received a message from General Wood informing me that he had received an order direct from headquarters of the department to move at once to the support of General Reynolds. Looking at the artillery which Major Mendenhall had just put in position, and not knowing exactly what to do with it under my last order, my difficulty was suddenly removed by the enemy. While we had been steadily, from the beginning of the battle, and very properly, in my judgment, weakening our right and strengthening our left, the object of the enemy being clearly to throw himself between us and Chattanooga, the enemy had been receiving accessions of fresh troops, and now made a sudden attack on our right and right center, driving these attenuated lines from the field. Upon turning from the batteries and looking at the troops I was astounded to see them suddenly and unaccountably thrown into great confusion. There was but little firing at this moment near the troops, and I was unable until some time afterward to account for this confusion. In a moment, however, the enemy had driven all before them, and I was cut off from my command though not 100 yards in rear, and in full view. The enemy had attacked and run over our extreme right at the same moment of time. I was now cut off entirely both on the right and left from all our troops. The way, however, was open to the batteries, and I rode immediately there, hoping that stragglers enough, both from right and left, would rally there to hold the position, or at least enable me to carry off the guns. Upon reaching the batteries, I found them without the support of a single company of infantry. It was a time of painful anxiety. I still hoped that support would come from somewhere or be driven to me. But the signs grew rapidly worse. Lieutenant Cushing, commanding Battery H, Fourth U.S. Artillery, rode up to me at this moment and said he thought the enemy's cavalry had got in our rear. Upon asking him his reason, he answered that a shell had just been thrown from our rear. I started to look if this could possibly be so, stating to Lieutenant Cushing that I did not think it possible. He asked me in case he was driven which way he should go. I replied he must not be driven, still hoping for support. He said he would like to know what road to take in case he should be driven, and I pointed out the direction.
A short distance in rear of the guns, just at this moment I met about 60 or 70 men, apparently rallied and led up to the batteries by a young officer whom I did not recognize, but who were really rallied and brought up by that pure-hearted and brave officer, Brigadier-General Van Cleve.
It will be best here to explain the cause of the confusion and consequent disaster which but a little while before had befallen two brigades of his division. While in the act of passing to the support of General Thomas, troops in his front--I do not know of what division--broke and ran in great confusion, and a battery at great speed was driven through the ranks of his men, wounding several seriously. This, of course, threw his command into great confusion, and before he could possibly restore order, the enemy was upon him. This accident, for which the troops who suffered by it were not responsible, and which could scarcely have been avoided by any precaution, is deeply deplored by the officers and men of that gallant division, whose steady courage and discipline has been too often and well tested to be doubted now. Notwithstanding this disaster, three regiments of the eight composing these two brigades, viz, Forty-fourth Indiana Volunteers, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Aldrich; Ninth Kentucky, commanded by Colonel Cram, and Seventeenth Kentucky, commanded by Colonel Stout, rallied and formed on the right of our main line, and, fighting all day, only left the field when ordered.
The little force brought by General Van Cleve to the support of the battery was insufficient. I rode rapidly toward the next ridge, hoping to find some general officer and to obtain support for my batteries. I had ridden but a few steps down the hill when I heard the batteries moving quickly away. Nothing but the greatest energy enabled the officers commanding these batteries to save any of their guns.
The enemy had come close up to the batteries on the left while pouring in a severe fire of sharpshooters from the front. All the horses attached to one of the guns of Lieutenant Cushing were shot almost at the same moment; yet he succeeded in bringing away three guns, losing but one. For the good conduct of artillery officers in this and other positions during the day, I refer you to the report of Major Mendenhall, chief of artillery, and to the reports of their division commanders. On reaching the crest of the next hill I found only a small number of men, less than 100, who had been rallied by a captain of the Eighteenth Regulars, as he told me, and whom he kept in line with great difficulty. I remained here for some time, probably a half hour, expecting to meet some officers from the commands which had been posted to my right. After this lapse of time Major Mendenhall informed me that the enemy had turned our own guns upon us from the hill we had just left. I then determined to go immediately to Rossville or Chattanooga, if it was practicable. I could hear nothing of General Rosecrans, nor of Generals McCook, Sheridan, or Davis, and I greatly feared that all had fallen into the hands of the enemy. I should have ridden rapidly to Rossville or Chattanooga to apprise whoever was in command of the actual state of things on our right, but that I feared to add a panic to the great confusion.
The road was filled with soldiers, wagons, cannon, and caissons all the way to Rossville. All were moving without organization, but without undue haste and without panic. After having the hill and riding slowly about a mile and a half. I met Colonel Parkhurst with his regiment and with men enough--whom he had stopped-- to make another regiment of the ordinary size, and who seemed to be well organized. The colonel rode up to me and asked if I would take command. I told him no, that he was doing good service; and I directed him to hold his position and let the artillery, wagons, &c., pass, and then follow on, covering the rear. About this time I learned the general commanding had not been captured, but that he had gone to Chattanooga. I rode to Rossville where I expected to find some troops and to learn something of the locality of the main army, and its condition, but finding no one who could give me any information, I rode to Chattanooga where I found the general commanding the department, and reported briefly to him.
The general commanding having ordered the army to withdraw to Rossville, directed me to report to Major-General Thomas at that place for orders. I rode that night to Rossville, reported to General Thomas, and early in the morning of the 21st, placed the two divisions of my command which were at this place (General Palmer's and Wood's) in the position assigned them. General Van Cleve, having collected about 1,200 of his men, sent me word that he was encamped a few miles distant on the road leading from Chattanooga to Bridgeport, and that, he had received orders from the general commanding the army. The enemy made some demonstrations during this day on my front, which covered the road leading from Ringgold to Rossville, but was easily made to keep a respectful distance; and after night, in obedience to orders, my command withdrew so quietly to Chattanooga that our own pickets were not aware of the movement.
General W. C. Whitaker had reported to me on this day with two brigades, and occupied the extreme left of my line. His were the last troops to withdraw, and I remained until he moved away with his command. On reaching Chattanooga I was assigned to the position I now hold.
It is a source of much regret to me that circumstances made it impossible, with any regard to the interests of the service, for my corps to act as a unit in these battles. The pride of the corps was such, that I think its attack would have been irresistible; and an attack upon it, fatal to the enemy. But the great object of the battle was obtained: We foiled the enemy in his attempt to reoccupy Chattanooga; we hold the prize for Which the campaign was made, and if nothing has been added to the fame of the corps, it is only because its noble blood has been shed in detachments on every part of the field where an enemy was to be encountered, instead of flowing together as at Stone's River. The people will look with hissing and scorn upon the traducers of this corps when they learn with what stubborn bravery it poured out its blood in their cause.
The Army of the Cumberland matched itself against one army, and for two days we disputed the field with three veteran armies, and then, unmolested by them, were moved to the coveted place, which we now hold and where they have not ventured to assail us.
The conduct of the various detachments from the Twenty-first Army Corps in these battles fully sustains their reputation.
With pride I point to the services of Major-General Palmer and his splendid division. Starting from Gordon's or Lee's Mills, they fought their way to General Thomas, and participated in all of the terrible struggles in that part of the field, and when ordered to withdraw came off with music and their banners flying. Such was the conduct of this part of my command, all of which has been published to the country as having "disgracefully fled from the field." With pride I call attention to the distinguished services of Brigadier-General Cruft, Brig. Gen. W. B. Hazen, and Col. William Grose, commanding the brigades of this division.
With pride I point to the services of Brig. Gen. H. P. Van Cleve and his gallant division, which followed General Palmer into the fight. With daring courage they attacked the enemy on Saturday, capturing a battery, from which, however, they were driven by overwhelming numbers, but rallying they maintained themselves, and soon again advancing captured another battery, which they brought off.
With pride I mention the name of Brig. Gen. Samuel Beatty for his conduct on this occasion.
On this day, and, indeed, whenever he was engaged, General Van Cleve's command was but two small brigades; his largest brigade, Colonel Barnes commanding, being detached. The accidental and unavoidable disaster of Sunday, which threw out of the fight altogether five regiments, cannot tarnish the fame of this division. Such was the conduct of this part of my command, all of which has been published to the country as having "disgracefully fled from the field."
With pride I point to the services of Brigadier-General Wood and his gallant command. The last of my corps ordered to the scene of conflict, they became engaged almost at the very moment of their arrival.
Unexpectedly run over by a portion of our troops, who were driven back upon them, the brigade of Colonel Buell was thrown into confusion, and borne along with the fleeing for a short distance, but were soon and easily rallied by General Wood and Colonel Buell, and though the loss had been very heavy for so short a conflict, these brave men were led back by their division and brigade commanders to the ground from which they had been forced.
On Sunday, when our lines were broken, Brigadier-General Wood, with the brigades of Colonels Harker and Barnes and that part of Colonel Buell's brigade not cut off by the enemy, reached Major-General Thomas, as ordered, and participated in the battle of the day with honor to themselves. Such was the conduct of this, the last part of my command, all of which has been published to the country as having "disgracefully fled from the field."
With pride I most respectfully call attention to the brilliant conduct of Col. C. G. Harker, commanding Third Brigade of Brigadier-General Wood's division. On Saturday evening he skillfully avoided being thrown into disorder; with good judgment pressed the enemy captured near 200 prisoners, and withdrew his command in good order. On Sunday he equally distinguished himself by the skill with which he managed his command, and more than all by the gallantry with which he fought.
It is proper that I should mention the conduct of Colonel Barnes, commanding Third Brigade of Brigadier-General Van Cleve's division, for his conduct on Saturday evening. Colonel Barnes was at this time separated from his division, and in the fight of Saturday evening was posted on our right. He had a very severe engagement with a superior force, and, in my judgment, prevented the enemy from attempting to turn our right at this time by the firmness with which he fought. He suffered a severe loss, but withdrew his command in good order before night. The names of those in this corps who particularly distinguished themselves have been mentioned by their respective commanders, and I most earnestly commend them to the commanding general and the Government.
With deep sorrow, yet not unmixed with pride, I call attention to the terrible list of casualties, amounting to nearly 28 per cent., of my entire command. The tabular statement, herewith inclosed, will show how small a proportion of this percentage is missing or unaccounted for.
For a more detailed account of the operations of my command in this campaign I refer you to the able reports of division, brigade, and regimental commanders. I also inclose report by Major Mendenhall of the operations of the artillery of this corps.
Captain Bradley, Sixth Ohio Battery, acted with great energy and effect in repelling the advance of he enemy on Saturday; and Captain Swallow, with his battery, and Lieutenant Cushing, with his (Company H, Fourth Artillery), acted with great coolness and decision, saving nearly all their pieces on the ridge (Sunday) while the enemy was among them. Of the artillery commanders in the Second Division--Captain Standart, Captain Cockerill, Lieutenant Russell, and Lieutenant Cushing--I refer to Major-General Palmer's very honorable mention of their conduct throughout both days' fight.
My warmest thanks are due to my staff. Lieut. Col. Lyne Starling, chief of staff, as always on the battle-field, was courageous and active. Capt. P. P. Oldershaw, assistant adjutant-general, discharged his duties with promptness and ability, displaying both coolness and bravery, and who has earned and deserves promotion. Of Lieutenant-Colonel Lodor, inspector-general of the corps, I can say no more than that he was as brave, as active, and as useful as at Stone's River. Major Mendenhall, chief of artillery of the corps, has fairly earned, and I hope will receive, promotion. My aides-de-camp--Maj. L. M. Buford, Capt. George G. Knox, and Capt. John J. McCook--were active and attentive to their duties, freely exposing themselves throughout the battles.
I call particular attention to the efficiency and good judgment of the medical director of the corps, Surg. A. J. Phelps. By his judicious arrangements nothing that could be done for our wounded was neglected.
Asst. Surg. B. H. Cheney, medical purveyor of the corps, managed his department creditably.
Lieut. Col. A. Sympson, quartermaster, and Lieut.. Col. G. C. Kniffin, commissary of subsistence of the corps, were not on the field, but were where I ordered them, performing their duties, as always, effectively, in their respective departments.
Capt. Henry Kaldenbaugh, my very efficient provost-marshal, aided very materially in facilitating the movements of ambulances during the battles and in the removal of the wounded from the field. I have rarely seen an officer of his department so thoroughly efficient as he has proved himself to be in camp and on the battlefield.
Capt. William Leonard, Lieut. Burch Foraker, and Lieut. C. H. Messenger, of the signal corps, were with me frequently during the battles and made themselves useful.
It gives me much pleasure to call attention to Captain Sherer, Lieutenant Harvey, and the company they command, as my escort. To habitual good conduct in camp they have added good conduct on the field of battle; also to John Adkins, Company D, Second Kentucky Volunteers, senior clerk in the assistant adjutant-general's office, who remained on the field with my staff both days', and aided as much as any one in rallying the men. He is a good clerk, well educated, and in everything competent to command, and is deserving of a commission.
The same may be said of George C. James, private Company A, Sixth Ohio Volunteers, clerk to my chief of artillery and topographical engineer, who, when detailed as a clerk, stipulated to join his regiment when on a march with the prospect of an engagement. On the march from Murfreesborough to Manchester he joined his regiment, and also from the time of crossing the Tennessee River until the termination of the late engagements, in both of which he participated. If promotion cannot be had in their regiments, some distinguishing mark of honor should be bestowed on both of these men.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. L. CRITTENDEN,
Major-General, Commanding Twenty-first Army Corps.
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