Report of Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, U.S. Army, commanding First Division.
AUGUST 16-SEPTEMBER 22, 1863.--The Chickamauga Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXX/1 [S# 50]
HDQRS. FIRST DIVISION, TWENTIETH ARMY CORPS,
Chattanooga, Tenn., September 28, 1863.
Lieut. Col. G. P. THRUSTON,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., and Chief of Staff, 20th Army Corps.
COLONEL: The following report of the operations of this division since breaking up camp on the Big Crow Creek, near Stevenson, Ala., August 28, 1863, is respectfully submitted for the information and consideration of the corps commander:
On the morning of the 28th ultimo, in accordance with instructions, the Third Brigade, commanded by Col. Hans C. Heg, Fifteenth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, was ordered to move forward as an escort to the pontoon train intended to establish the bridge to be thrown across the Tennessee River at Caperton's Ferry at daylight on the morning of the 29th, under the personal supervision of the corps commander. This brigade crossed in the boats and effected a successful landing on the opposite bank of the river. The work of constructing the bridge was at once commenced, and in a few hours the entire brigade with its baggage was crossed and encamped at night on the summit of Sand Mountain, 5 miles from the river, at the fork of the Trenton and Winston roads. The energy and gallantry exhibited by the troops on this occasion were highly commendable, and have been specially noticed by both the department and corps commanders.
The Second Brigade, commanded by Brig. Gen. W. P. Carlin, moved at an early hour on the morning of the 29th to Caperton's Ferry, and on the 30th ascended the mountain and joined the Third Brigade. The First Brigade, commanded by Col. P. Sidney Post, Fifty-ninth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, following the Second Brigade, went into camp on the evening of the 30th.
The division remained in camp at this point until the morning of September 2, during which time reconnoitering and working parties were sent out on the different roads to ascertain their practicability and prepare them for our advance. Resuming the march at an early hour on the 2d instant, the whole division moved on the road leading to Rome, Ga., via Winston's, and went into camp at the foot of the mountain 33 miles from Winston's.
The division remained in this camp until the afternoon of the 4th, when it moved across Valley Head and went into camp at Winston's, taking possession of and picketing the gap and roads over Lookout Mountain at that place.
During the night of the 8th and early on the morning of the 9th the Cavalry Corps under command of Major-General Stanley, ascended Lookout Mountain and moved to the front with the object of making reconnaissance in the direction of Alpine and Summerville.
In obedience to orders from General McCook, I moved forward with the Second and Third Brigades in support of this movement, leaving the First Brigade behind to hold the mountain pass at Winston's, and to guard the baggage train of both corps ordered to be left at that place.
After ascending the mountain in compliance with instructions, Heg's brigade was ordered to march across the mountain and take possession of Neal's Gap, on the southeast side of Lookout Mountain, while Carlin's followed the main cavalry column and encamped at the base of the mountain near Alpine, Ga.
During the night it was ascertained that General McCook's whole corps would be concentrated at this point, and after consultation with General Stanley as to its propriety, I ordered Colonel Heg to move from Neal's Gap at once and report to me at Henderson's Gap.
This movement was made on a mountain road leading direct from Neal's to Henderson's Gap by the succeeding forenoon.
September 10 the corps commander arrived at Henderson's Gap, bringing with him Generals Johnson s and Sheridan's divisions, and the whole remained in bivouac until the morning of the 13th, at which time the whole corps commenced its retrograde march to join General Thomas, near Stevens' Gap. The greater part of the day was occupied in getting the artillery and baggage trains up the mountain.
On the morning of the 14th the division following General Johnson's crossed Lookout Mountain, and went into camp at Long's Spring, in Valley Head, 4 miles in advance of Winston's. In the afternoon of the 15th I received orders to reascend Lookout Mountain and proceed to Stevens' Gap by the most direct road to be found on the mountain. Three days' rations of provisions were issued to the command during the night, and the artillery taken up the mountain.
The march was commenced at an early hour in the morning, and Stevens' Gap reached about dark, after a hard day's march of 25 miles, 15 of which was without water. During the night I received orders from General McCook, who had already established his headquarters at the foot of the mountain, to move with my command in e morning down the mountain and report to him, which I did about 10 a.m. The signal officers at this time reported the enemy advancing toward Stevens' Gap in heavy force. The general commanding the corps immediately gave orders for the proper disposition of the troops to receive an attack. After a few hours spent in awaiting their approach, it was ascertained that no serious attack would probably be made and the division marched for Pond Spring, at which place it was intended to take position for the night, closely following the baggage train of General Brannan's division. On arriving near Pond Spring, however, its destination was changed, and, under the personal direction of the corps commander, moved back to Brooks' farm, and took a strong position in front of Dug and Blue Bird Gaps. In this position it was supported by General Sheridan's division, on the right, at Bailey's Cross-Roads. The division held this position until late in the evening of the 18th, when it moved and went into camp l miles in advance of Pond Spring.
During the night instructions were received to follow the division of General Johnson, which was ordered to the support of General Thomas, whose corps then formed our extreme left.
The column had advanced but a few miles when the roar of artillery in the direction of Thomas' corps announced the opening of the coming struggle.
As the fire increased and gave assurances of a general engagement, the troops closed their ranks and moved steadily forward with that firm step and soldierly alacrity which characterizes the actions of determined men on the eve of battle.
On approaching the vicinity of the battle-field I received orders from the corps commander to move forward and to report my command to Generals Rosecrans or Thomas for orders.
Arriving near Widow Glenn's, at whose house General Rosecrans had established his headquarters, I reported my command ready for action. The rapid and increasing fire of musketry gave indications of the necessity of re-enforcements being pushed forward, and General Rosecrans ordered me to place one of my batteries in position on a commanding point in front of his headquarters, and to move forward as speedily as possible in the direction of the heaviest firing, and to make an attack with a view, if possible, to turn the enemy's left flank. A few minutes' march brought the head of my column to the right of our lines, and Heg's brigade was at once formed into line of battle and ordered to advance and form on the right of our lines then engaged.
The enemy, in strong force, was at once met, and both sides opened fire with great fierceness and determination.
Carlin's brigade was immediately deployed on Heg's right, and his left regiments became at once engaged in the conflict. Carlin's right rested in a small open field, which presented an admirable position for a light battery, and the Second Minnesota was rapidly brought into position a little in rear of our line of infantry, which was soon drawn back so as to give as free range as possible to the guns. The enemy soon showed himself in heavy force on our front, and was evidently making an effort to turn our flank with a view to getting possession of the road leading to Gordon's Mills, over which a part of the troops of General Crittenden's command had yet to pass in reaching the battle-field.
My lines of infantry as now formed ran through a thick oak forest, a few hundred yards in advance of and parallel to the road leading to Gordon's Mills, my right a little refused. The action commenced about half past 12 p.m., and was sustained with great stubbornness on both sides for a half to three-quarters of an hour, when Heg reported his left as being very hard pressed and asked for re-enforcements, informing me at the same time that he had ordered his reserve regiment into the front line and was still unable to hold his position much longer. I immediately ordered Carlin's reserve regiment, which proved to be the Twenty-first Illinois, to his support.
This distinguished regiment moved promptly into position under its indomitable leader, Colonel Alexander, and engaged with great spirit in the contest then pending and of doubtful issue. My lines thus arranged, with the admirable position taken, and efficient working of the Second Minnesota Battery on my right, I was enabled to repel the repeated assaults of the enemy, and to prevent him from flanking our position, until about 4 p.m., when re-enforcements arrived. 'Colonel Harker's brigade, of General Wood's division, first arrived and was quickly formed in line, and moved forward in support of my troops.
Generals Crittenden, Wood, and Sheridan arrived at this time upon the field, followed by their respective commands. As soon as fresh troops could be placed in position to do so, my command was relieved from further participation in this part of the engagement, and ordered into bivouac a few hundred yards in rear of the field they had held for so many hours against almost overwhelming odds, over one-third of their number having fallen, killed or wounded, among whom was the gallant leader of the Third Brigade, Colonel Heg.
The approach of night was fast bringing a close to the contest, and I ordered my troops to stack their arms, in order that they might get refreshments and replenish their exhausted cartridge boxes.
About 3 o'clock in the morning of the 20th, in compliance with orders from the corps commander, I ordered my command under arms and moved it to the forks of the road in rear of the Widow Glenn's house, where it remained awaiting orders until daylight. My position by this time having been determined upon, I at once formed my lines and put my batteries in position on a high wooded hill a few hundred yards north of the road leading to Crawfish Spring.
General Lytle's brigade, of General Sheridan's division, was formed immediately in my front a short distance in advance of the base of the hill.
Remaining in this position until near 10 o'clock, I received orders from General McCook (through Captain McClurg)to move to my left and close upon General Crittenden's right. This movement was immediately commenced, and I soon discovered that General Crittenden's troops were moving to the front, a fact of which I had not been informed. Closing my left on General Van Cleve's right I moved forward, conforming my lines to his, until the open field a few hundred yards in front of my original position was reached, when I received orders from General Rosecrans, through Captain Morrison, of my staff, to move forward and take position along the skirt of timber bordering the field in my front. On reaching this point I received orders from General McCook to move forward into the timber and take position on General Wood's right, occupying a line of rude breastworks erected by troops previously occupying this position.
Carlin's brigade was ordered to and at once took position on the right of Colonel Buell's brigade, then forming the right of General Wood's division.
Heg's brigade, now commanded by Colonel Martin of the Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry, took position, in accordance with my instructions, in rear of Carlin's brigade as a reserve.
Colonel Buell at this time informed me that he had just received orders to move to his left in order to close up with our lines in that direction. Colonel Buell's brigade commenced the movement, and, in compliance with orders from General McCook, I directed Martin to move his brigade into the position thus being vacated. This brigade moved promptly into position, but had scarcely reached the line when the enemy, advancing in heavy force, opened fire on its and Carlin's front. These brigades received the fire with veteran coolness and returned it with deadly effect for several rounds, and in some instances the musket was used in beating back the enemy before the position was yielded.
The sudden withdrawal of troops from my left and the absence of any support on my right, just as the attack was being made, made my position little better than an outpost and perfectly untenable against the overwhelming force coming against it. Nothing but precipitate flight could save my command from annihilation or capture. Observing the critical condition of my flanks I rode up to Colonel Lai-boldt, commanding one of General Sheridan's brigades posted in an open field a few hundred yards to my rear and right, and informed him that if he was there for the purpose of supporting my troops it must be done immediately. He at once commenced deploying his troops to form line on my right, but before the movement was fully completed his brigade received a heavy attack from that part of the enemy's line which had passed thus far unopposed around my right flank. My troops were by this time compelled to abandon their position, falling back rapidly. A few hundred yards brought them into the open field and exposed them to the full effect of the pursuing enemy's fire.
Laiboldt's brigade did not seem sufficiently strong to check the enemy's advance, and a general rout of our troops on the right was manifest.
Ineffectual attempts were made by the different commanders to reform the lines on a rocky ridge in the open field a few hundred yards to the rear.
The heavy loss sustained by my troops in the two days' conflict, particularly among the commissioned officers, rendered a reformation of my command very difficult, and was only accomplished after falling back to a small farm some 2 miles to the rear. This place offered a suitable position for the use of artillery, and I ordered one of my batteries to be posted there and the troops to be formed with it. General Negley's division at this time passed to the rear, in the direction of Rossville, and I understand took position at that place.
General Carlin and Colonel Martin had also by this time succeeded in reforming their troops as far as was possible, and reported.
Colonel Ward, commanding the Tenth Ohio Infantry, reported to me with his regiment for duty, and after allowing the men a few minutes to procure water, I ordered them again under arms, and moved for the battle-field, with a view to support General Thomas corps, which was still maintaining its position. It is proper here to add that several detached battalions and commands reported to me and accompanied my command to the battle-field, making in all a force of 2,500 to 3,000 men.
On arriving near the field, a staff officer from Colonel Post arrived and informed me that his brigade was yet in the vicinity of Crawfish Spring, and would not, as I had anticipated, be able to join me before night.
While in the act of forming my lines near Thomas' right I received information from General Garfield that Thomas was falling back, and orders to repair to Rossville. Following General Johnson s division I arrived and went into bivouac at Rossville about 9 p.m. Thus ended the 20th September and the conflict.
The list of casualties herewith transmitted shows a loss in the division of 1,372 officers and enlisted men in killed, wounded, and missing during the time above described. The loss in the two brigades that participated in the engagement is 1,369 officers and enlisted men killed, wounded, and missing, exceeding 50 per cent. of the number engaged.
The following field officers are reported, as follows:
Col. J. W. S. Alexander, Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers, supposed to be killed.
Lieut. Col. W. E. McMackin, Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers, supposed to be killed.
Col. D. H. Gilmer, Thirty-eighth Illinois Volunteers, supposed to be killed.
Maj. H.N. Alden, Thirty-eighth Illinois Volunteers, wounded, present.
Maj. B. B. McDanald, One hundred and first Ohio, supposed to be killed.
Lieut. Col. John Messer, One hundred and first Ohio, wounded, present.
Col. Hans C. Heg, commanding Third Brigade, killed.
Capt. Henry Hauff, acting assistant adjutant-general, Third Brigade, missing.
Lieut. Col. O. C. Johnson, Fifteenth Wisconsin Volunteers, missing, supposed to be killed.
Maj. Samuel D. Wall, Twenty-fifth Illinois Volunteers, wounded, present.
The heavy list of casualties shows with what determination and pertinacity the battle was contested, and what noble sacrifices our troops will make for their country's preservation and glory.
The reports of the brigade commanders are herewith transmitted and attention called to them for many details necessarily omitted in this report.
In the report of General Carlin I regret to notice a spirit of factious fault-finding exhibited, and a mischievous introduction of insinuations and reflections against myself and staff, as well as others, uncalled for and out of place in tits report, and which cannot be properly noticed in a report of this kind without lowering its dignity and changing its purport.
This division sustained no loss whatever in artillery or baggage train.
Throughout the entire campaign the efficiency and gallantry of my staff, consisting of Capt. T. W. Morrison, assistant adjutant-general; Capt. T. H. Daily, aide-de-camp; Lieut. F. E. Reynolds, aide-de-camp; Surg. L. D. Waterman, medical director; Capt. W. A. Hotchkiss, chief of artillery; Capt. H. N. Snyder, assistant commissary of musters; Capt. H. W. Hall, inspector; Capt. J. P. Pope, commissary of subsistence; Lieut. J. E. Remington, acting assistant quartermaster; Lieut. J. P. Kuntze, topographical engineer, and Lieut. J. M. Butler, ordnance officer, were well tested, and to them I desire to express my many obligations.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JEF. C. DAVIS,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
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