Report o.f Brig. Gen. William B. Hazen, U. S.
Army, commanding Second Brigade, Third Division.
OCTOBER 26-29, 1863.--Reopening of the Tennessee River .
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXI/1 [S# 54]
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., THIRD DIV., FOURTH ARMY CORPS,
Brown's Ferry, near Chattanooga, Tenn., Oct. 30, 1863.
Brig. Gen. WILLIAM F. SMITH,
Chief Engineer, Army of the Cumberland.
SIR: I have the honor to report as follows of the part taken by troops under my command in the occupation of the left bank of the Tennessee River at this point:
On the morning of the 25th instant, I reported, by order of the commanding officer of the Fourth Army Corps, to the chief engineer of this army for instructions, and was then briefly informed, for the first time, of the duty to be assigned me, and the method of performing it, which was to organize fifty squads of 1 officer and 24 men each, to embark in boats at Chattanooga and float down the river to this point, a distance, by the bends of the river, of 9 miles, and land upon its left bank, then occupied by the enemy, making, thereafter, immediate dispositions for holding it, while the remaining portions of my brigade, and another one, should be speedily sent over the river in the same boats to re-enforce me; the movement was to be made just before daylight, on the morning of the 27th.
My brigade then consisted of the following regiments: Sixth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, Major Whitaker commanding; Ninety-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Major Birch commanding; Fifth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Treanor commanding; First Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Langdon commanding; Sixth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, Major Campbell commanding; Forty-first Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Colonel Wiley commanding; One hundred and twenty-fourth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Pickands commanding; Sixth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher commanding; Twenty-third Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Foy commanding, with an aggregate for duty of 2,166 men.
The 25th was employed in organizing my parties, each being placed in charge of a tried officer. On the morning of the 26th, I,in company with the chief engineer, visited the place where it was desired to effect the landing, and from the opposite bank found the position as represented below.
It was desired that I should land and occupy the two hills to the left of the house. There was a picket post at this point; also in the depression between the two hills. It was thought best to organize a party of 75 men, who should be the first to land, and at once push out upon the road that comes in at the house, clearing and holding it, while half the first organized force should be landed simultaneously at each of the two gorges (A and B), who should immediately push up the hills, inclining to the left and following the crests till they were wholly occupied. Each party of 25 was to carry two axes, and, as soon as the crest should be reached, a strong line of skirmishers was to be pushed out and all the axes at once put at work felling a thick abatis. The remainder of the brigade was to be organized, and, being ready on the opposite bank, armed and provided with axes, was to be at once pushed over, and, also deployed in rear of the skirmishers, were to assist in making the abatis. Positions were also selected for building signal fires, to guide us in landing. I afterward selected tried and distinguished officers to lead the four distinct commands, who, in addition to being instructed fully as to the part they were to take in the matter, were taken to the spot, and every feature of the bank and landings made familiar to them. They, in turn, just before night, called together the leaders of squads and each clearly instructed what his duties were, it being of such a nature that each had, in a great degree, to act independently, but strictly in accordance to instructions.
At 12 o'clock at night the command was awakened and marched to the landing and quietly embarked, under the superintendence of Col. T. R. Stanley, of the Eighteenth Ohio Volunteers. At precisely 3 a.m. the flotilla, consisting of fifty-two boats, moved noiselessly out. I desired to reach the point of landing at a little before daylight, and soon learned that the current would enable me to do so without using the oars. After moving 3 miles we came under the guns of the enemy's pickets, but keeping well under the opposite shore were not discovered by them till the first boat was within 10 feet of the landing, when the pickets fired a volley harmlessly over the heads of the men. The disembarkation was effected rapidly and in perfect order, each party performing correctly the part assigned it with so little loss of time that the crest was occupied, my skirmish line out, and the axes working before the re-enforce-ments of the enemy, a little over the hill, came forward to drive us back. At this time they came boldly up, along nearly our entire front, but particularly strong along the road, gaining the hill to the right of it, and would have caused harm to the party on the road had not Colonel Langdon, First Ohio Volunteers, commanding the remaining portion of the brigade, arrived at this moment, and, after a gallant but short engagement, driven the enemy well over into the valley, gaining the right-hand hill. They made a stubborn fight all along the hill, but were easily driven away with loss. General Turchin's command now came over, and taking position on the hills to the right, my troops were all brought to the left of the road. The enemy now moved off in full view up the valley.
The Fifty-first Ohio Volunteers, Eighth Kentucky, Thirty-fifth Indiana Volunteers, and two batteries of artillery were subsequently added to my command, and the three points farther to the left occupied. We knew nothing of the country previous to occupying it, excepting what could be seen from the opposite bank, nor of the forces there to oppose us. We found the hill facing the river precipitous, and the face opposite less steep but of difficult ascent; the top is sharp, having a level surface of from 2 to 6 feet in width, forming a natural parapet, capable of an easy defense by a single line against the strongest column. It is from 250 to 300 feet above the river. Beyond it is a narrow, productive valley, and the higher parallel range of Raccoon Mountain is about 1 miles distant; the entire opposite face of the hill now is covered with slashed timber. The enemy had at this point 1,000 infantry, three pieces of artillery, and a squadron of cavalry--ample force, properly disposed, to have successfully disputed our landing.
Our losses were 5 killed, 21 wounded, and 9 missing. We buried 6 of the enemy, and a large number were known to be wounded, including the colonel commanding. We captured a few prisoners; their camp, 20 beeves, 6 pontoons, a barge, and several thousand bushels of forage fell into our hands.
My thanks are especially due to Col. A. Wiley, Forty-first Ohio Volunteers, and Maj. William Birch, Ninety-third Ohio Volunteers, who commanded and led the parties that took the heights, and to Lieutenant-Colonel Foy, Twenty-third Kentucky, commanding party that swept the road, and Lieutenant-Colonel Langdon, First Ohio Volunteers, commanding the battalions formed of the residue of the brigade. Had either of these officers been less prompt in the execution of their duties, or less obedient to the letter of their instructions, many more lives might have been lost, or the expedition failed altogether.
The spirit of every one engaged in the enterprise is deserving o-f the highest commendation. My staff gave me the intelligent and timely assistance they have always done when needed, and to Lieutenant-Colonel Kimberly, Forty-first Ohio Volunteers, and Lieut. Ferdinand D. Cobb, same regiment, I am especially indebted for valuable services.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. B. HAZEN,
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