of Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, U.S. Army,
Commanding the Army of the Cumberland.
The Chickamauga Campaign.
[OCTOBER --, 1863.]
THE OCCUPATION OF MIDDLE TENNESSEE AND PASSAGE OVER THE CUMBERLAND MOUNTAINS.
The rebel army, after its expulsion from Middle Tennessee, crossed the Cumberland Mountains by way of the Tantallon and University roads, then moved down Battle Creek, and crossed the Tennessee River on bridges, it is said, near the mouth of Battle Creek and at Kelley's Ferry, and on the railroad bridge at Bridgeport. They destroyed a part of the latter after having passed over it, and retired to Chattanooga and Tyner's Station, leaving guards along the river. On their arrival at Chattanooga, they commenced immediately to throw up some defensive fieldworks at that place and also at each of the crossings of the Tennessee as far up as Blythe's Ferry.
Our troops, having pursued the rebels as far as supplies and the state of the roads rendered it practicable, took position from McMinnville to Winchester, with advances at Pelham and Stevenson. The latter soon after moved to Bridgeport in time to save from total destruction a saw-mill there, but not to prevent the destruction of the railroad bridge.
After the expulsion of Bragg's forces from Middle Tennessee, the next objective point of this army was Chattanooga. It commands the southern entrance into East Tennessee, the most valuable if not the chief sources of supplies of coal for the manufactories and ma-chine-shops of the Southern States and is one of the great gateways through the mountains to the champaign counties of Georgia and Alabama.
For the better understanding of the campaign, I submit a brief outline of the topography of the country from the barrens of the northwestern base of the Cumberland range to Chattanooga and its vicinity.
The Cumberland range is a lofty mass of rocks, separating the waters which flow into the Cumberland from those which flow into the Tennessee, and extending from beyond the Kentucky line, in a southwesterly direction, nearly to Athens, Ala. Its northwestern slopes are steep and rocky, and scalloped into coves, in which are the heads of numerous streams that water Middle Tennessee. Its top is undulating or rough, covered with timber, soil comparatively barren, and in dry seasons scantily supplied with water. Its southeastern slope, above Chattanooga, for many miles, is precipitous, rough, and difficult all the way up to Kingston. The valley between the foot of this slope and the river seldom exceeds 4 or 5 miles in width, and with the exception of a narrow border along the banks is undulating or hilly.
The Sequatchie Valley is along the river of that name, and is a cañon or deep cut, splitting the Cumberland range parallel to its length. It is only 3 or 4 miles in breadth and 50 miles in length. The sides of this valley are even more precipitous than the great eastern and western slopes of the Cumberland which have just been described. To reach Chattanooga from McMinnville or north of the Tennessee it is necessary to turn the head of this valley by Pikeville and pass down the Valley of the Tennessee, or to cross it by Dunlap or Therman.
That part of the Cumberland range between Sequatchie and the Tennessee, called Walden's Ridge, abuts on the Tennessee in high, rocky bluffs, leaving no practicable space sufficient for a good wagon road along the river. The Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad crosses that branch of the Cumberland range west of the Sequatchie, through a low gap, by a tunnel, 2 miles east of Cowan, down the gorge of Big Crow Creek to Stevenson at the foot of the mountain, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, 3 miles from the Tennessee and 10 miles from Bridgeport.
Between Stevenson and Chattanooga, on the south of the Tennessee, are two ranges of mountains, the Tennessee River separating them from the Cumberland, its channel a great chasm cut through the mountain masses, which in those places abut directly on the river. These two ranges are separated by a narrow valley, through which runs Lookout Creek.
The Sand Mountain is next the Tennessee and its northern extremity is called Raccoon Mountain. Its sides are precipitous and its top barren oak ridges, nearly destitute of water. There are but few, and these very difficult, wagon roads, by which to ascend and descend the slopes of this mountain.
East of Lookout Valley is Lookout Mountain a vast palisade of rocks rising 2,400 feet above the level of the sea, in abrupt, rocky cliffs, from a steep wooded base. Its eastern sides are no less precipitous. Its top varies from 1 to 6 or 7 miles in breadth, is heavily timbered, sparsely settled, and poorly watered. It terminates abruptly upon the Tennessee, 2 miles below Chattanooga, and the only practicable wagon roads across it are one over the nose of the mountain, at this point, one at Johnson's Crook. 26 miles distant, and one at Winston's Gap, 42 miles distant from Chattanooga.
Between the eastern base of this range and the line of the Chattanooga and Atlanta or Georgia State Railroad are a series of narrow valleys separated by smaller ranges of hills or low mountains, over which there are quite a number of practicable wagon roads running eastward toward the railroad.
The first of these ranges is Missionary Ridge, separating the waters of Chickamauga from Chattanooga Creek.
A higher range with fewer gaps, on the southeast side of the Chickamauga, is Pigeon Mountain, branching from Lookout, near Dougherty's Gap, some 40 miles south from Chattanooga. It extends in a northerly direction, bearing eastward until it is lost in the general level of the country, near the line of the Chattanooga and La Fayette road.
East of these two ranges and of the Chickamauga, starting from Ooltewah and passing by Ringgold to the west of Dalton, is Taylor's Ridge, a rough, rocky range, traversable by wagon roads only through gaps, generally several miles apart.
Missionary Ridge passes about 3 miles east of Chattanooga, ending near the Tennessee at the mouth of the Chickamauga. Taylor's Ridge separates the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad from the Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad.
The junction of these roads is at Dalton, in a valley east of Taylor's Ridge and west of the rough mountain region, in which are the sources of the Coosa River. This valley, only about 9 or 10 miles wide, is the natural southern gateway into East Tennessee, while the other valleys just mentioned terminate northwardly on the Tennessee to the west of it, and extend in a southwesterly direction toward the line of the Coosa, the general direction of which, from the crossing of the Atlanta road to Rome and thence to Gadsden, is southwest.
From the position of our army at McMinnville, Tullahoma, Decherd, and Winchester, to reach Chattanooga, crossing the Tennessee above it, it was necessary either to pass north of the Sequatchie Valley, by Pikeville or Kingston, or to cross the main Cumberland and the Sequatchie Valley, by Dunlap or Therman and Walden's Ridge, by the routes passing through these places, a distance from 65 to 70 miles, over a country destitute of forage, poorly supplied with water, by narrow and difficult wagon roads.
The main Cumberland range could also have been passed, on an inferior road, by Pelham and Tracy City to Therman.
The most southerly route on which to move troops and transportation to the Tennessee, above Chattanooga, was by Cowan, University, Battle Creek, and Jasper or by Tantallon, Anderson, Stevenson, Bridgeport, and the mouth of Battle Creek, to same point, and thence by Therman or Dunlap and Poe's Tavern, across Walden's Ridge. The University road, though difficult, was the best of these two, that by Cowan, Tantalon, and Stevenson being very rough between Cowan and Anderson and much longer.
There were also three roads across the mountains to the Tennessee River below Stevenson, the best but much the longest by Fayetteville and Athens, a distance of 70 miles.
The next, a very rough wagon road from Winchester, by Salem, to Larkinsville, and an exceedingly rough road by the way of Mount Top, one branch leading thence to Bellefonte and the other to Stevenson.
On these latter routes little or no forage was to be found except at the extremities of the lines, and they were also scarce of water. The one by Athens has both forage and water in abundance.
It is evident from this description of the topography that to reach Chattanooga, or penetrate the country south of it, on the railroad, by crossing the Tennessee below Chattanooga was a difficult task. It was necessary to cross the Cumberland Mountains, with subsistence, ammunition, at least a limited supply of forage, and a bridge train; to cross Sand or Raccoon Mountains into Lookout Valley, then Lookout Mountain, and finally the lesser ranges, Missionary Ridge, if we went directly to Chattanooga, or Missionary Ridge, Pigeon Mountain, and Taylor s Ridge, if we struck the railroad at Dalton or south of it. The Valley of the Tennessee River, though several miles in breadth between the bases of the mountains, below Bridgeport, is not a broad, alluvial farming country, but full of barren oak ridges, sparsely settled, and but a small part of it under cultivation.
OPERATIONS OF THE ARMY UNTIL IT REACHED THE TENNESSEE RIVER.
The first step was to repair the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, to bring forward to Tullahoma, McMinnville, Decherd, and Winchester needful forage and subsistence, which it was impossible to transport from Murfreesborough to those points over the horrible roads which we encountered on our advance to Tullahoma. The next was to extend the repairs of the main stem to Stevenson and Bridgeport, and the Tracy City branch, so that we could place supplies in depot at those points, from which to draw after we had crossed the mountains.
Through the zeal and energy of Colonel Innes and his regiment of Michigan Engineers, the main road was open to the Elk River Bridge by the 13th of July, and Elk River Bridge and the main stem to Bridgeport by the 25th, and the branch to Tracy City by the 13th of August.
As soon as the main stem was finished to Stevenson, Sheridan's division was advanced, two brigades to Bridgeport and one to Stevenson, and commissary and quartermaster stores pushed forward to the latter place with all practicable speed. These supplies began to be accumulated at this point in sufficient quantities by the 8th of August, and corps commanders were that day directed to supply their troops, as soon as possible, with rations and forage sufficient for a general movement.
The Tracy City branch, built for bringing coal down the mountains, has such high grades and sharp curves as to require a peculiar engine. The only one we had answering the purpose, having been broken on its way from Nashville, was not repaired until about the 12th of August. It was deemed best, therefore, to delay the movement of the troops until that road was completely available for transporting stores to Tracy City.
THE MOVEMENT OVER THE CUMBERLAND MOUNTAINS
began on the morning of the 16th of August, as follows:
General Crittenden's corps in three columns, General Wood, from Hillsborough, by Pelham, to Therman, in Sequatchie Valley.
General Palmer, from Manchester by the most practicable route to Dunlap.
General Van Cleve, with two brigades from McMinnville--the third being left in garrison there--by the most practicable route to Pikeville, the head of the Sequatchie Valley.
Colonel Minty's cavalry to move on the left by Sparta, to drive back Dibrell's cavalry toward Kingston, where the enemy's mounted troops, under Forrest, were concentrated, and then, covering the left flank of Van Cleve's column, to proceed to Pikeville.
The Fourteenth Army Corps, Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas commanding, moved as follows:
General Reynolds, from University, by way of Battle Creek, to take post concealed near its mouth.
General Brannan to follow him.
General Negley to go by Tantallon and halt on Crow Creek, between Anderson and Stevenson.
General Baird to follow him and camp near Anderson.
The Twentieth Corps, Maj. Gen. A. McD. McCook commanding, moved as follows:
General Johnson by Salem and Larkin's Fork to Bellefonte. General Davis by Mount Top and Crow Creek, to near Stevenson.
The three brigades of cavalry by Fayetteville and Athens, to cover the line of the Tennessee from Whitesburg up.
On his arrival in the Sequatchie Valley, General Crittenden was to send a brigade of infantry to reconnoiter the Tennessee near Harrison's Landing, and take post at Poe's Cross-Roads. Minty was to reconnoiter from Washington down, and take post at Smith's CrossRoads, and Wilder's brigade of mounted infantry was to reconnoiter from Harrison's Landing to Chattanooga and be supported by a brigade of infantry, which General Crittenden was to send from Therman to the foot of the eastern slope of Walden's Ridge, in front of Chattanooga.
These movements were completed by the evening of the 20th of August. Hazen's brigade made the reconnoissance on Harrison's Landing, and reported the enemy throwing up works there, and took post at Poe's Cross-Roads on the 21st. Wagner, with his brigade, supported Wilder in his reconnaissance on Chattanooga, which they surprised and shelled from across the river, creating no little agitation.
Thus the army passed the first great barrier between it and the objective point, and arrived opposite the enemy on the banks of the Tennessee.
THE CROSSING OF THE RIVER
required that the best points should be chosen, and means provided for the crossing. The river was reconnoitered, the pontoons and trains ordered forward as rapidly as possible, hidden from view in rear of Stevenson and prepared for use. By the time they were ready the places of crossing had been selected and dispositions made to begin the operation.
It was very desirable to conceal to the last moment the points of crossing, but as the mountains on the south side of the Tennessee rise in precipitous rocky bluffs to the height of 800 or 1,000 feet, completely overlooking the whole valley and its coves, this was next to impossible.
Not having pontoons for two bridges across the river, General Sheridan began trestlework for parts of one at Bridgeport, while General Reynolds' division, seizing Shellmound, captured some boats, and from these and material picked up prepared the means of crossing at that point, and General Brannan prepared rafts for crossing his troops at the mouth of Battle Creek.
The laying of the pontoon bridge at Caperton's Ferry was very handsomely done by the troops of General Davis, under the directions of General McCook, who crossed his advance in pontoons at daylight, driving the enemy's cavalry from the opposite side The bridge was ready for crossing by 11 a.m. the same day, but in plain view from the rebel signal stations opposite Bridgeport.
The bridge at Bridgeport was finished on the 29th of August, but an accident occurred which delayed its final completion till September 2.
THE MOVEMENT ACROSS THE RIVER
was commenced on the 29th and completed on the 4th of September, leaving the regular brigade in charge of the railroad and depot at Stevenson until relieved by Major-General Granger, who was directed, as soon as practicable, to relieve it and take charge of the rear.
General Thomas' corps was to cross as follows: One division at Caperton's and one at Bridgeport, Reynolds at Shellmound in boats, and one division at Battle Creek on rafts. All were to use the bridge at Bridgeport for such portions of their trains as they might find necessary, and to concentrate near Trenton, and send an advance to seize Frick's or Cooper s and Stevens Gaps on the Lookout Mountain, the only practicable routes leading down the mountains into the valley called McLemore's Cove, which lies at its eastern base and stretches northeastwardly toward Chattanooga.
General McCook's corps was to cross two divisions at Caperton's Ferry, move to Valley Head, and seize Winston's Gap, while Sheridan was to cross at Bridgeport as soon as the bridge was laid and join the rest of his corps near Winston's, by way of Trenton.
General Crittenden's corps was ordered down the Sequatchie, leaving the two advanced brigades, under Hazen and Wagner, with Minty's cavalry and Wilder's mounted infantry to watch and annoy the enemy. It was to cross the river, following Thomas' corps at all three crossings, and to take post on the Murphy's Hollow road, push an advance brigade to reconnoiter the enemy at the foot of Lookout, and take post at Wauhatchie, communicating from his main body with Thomas on the right up the Trenton Valley and threatening Chattanooga by the pass over the point of Lookout.
The cavalry, crossed at Caperton's and a ford near Island Creek, were to unite in Lookout Valley, take post at Rawlingsville, and reconnoiter boldly toward Rome and Alpine.
These movements were completed by McCook's and Crittenden's corps on the 6th, and by Thomas' corps on the 8th of September. The cavalry for some reason was not pushed with the vigor nor to the extent which orders and the necessities of the campaign required. Its continual movement since that period and the absence of Major-General Stanley, the chief of cavalry, have prevented a report which may throw some light on the subject.
The first barrier south of the Tennessee being crossed, the enemy was found firmly holding the point of Lookout Mountain with infantry and artillery, while our force on the north side of the river reported the movement of the rebel forces from East Tennessee and their concentration at Chattanooga. To dislodge him from that place it was necessary to carry Lookout Mountain, or so to move as to compel him to quit his position by endangering his line of communication. The latter plan was chosen.
The cavalry was ordered to advance on our extreme right to Summerville, in Broomtown Valley, and General McCook was ordered to support the movement by a division of infantry thrown forward to the vicinity of Alpine, which was executed on the 8th and 9th of September.
General Thomas was ordered to cross his corps by Frick's or Cooper's and Stevens' Gaps and occupy the head of McLemore's Cove.
General Crittenden was ordered to reconnoiter the front of Lookout Mountain, sending a brigade up an almost impracticable path called the Nickajack trace to Summertown, a hamlet on the summit of the mountain overlooking Chattanooga, and holding the main body of his corps either to support these reconnaissances to prevent a sortie of the enemy over the nose of Lookout, or to enter Chattanooga in case the enemy should evacuate it or make but feeble resistance. Simultaneously with this movement, the cavalry was ordered to push by way of Alpine and Broomtown Valley and strike the enemy's railroad communication between Resaca bridge and Dalton.
These movements were promptly begun on the 8th and 9th of September. The reconnaissance of General Crittenden on the 9th developed the fact that the enemy had evacuated Chattanooga the day and night previous and his advance took peaceable possession at 1 p.m.
His whole corps, with its trains, passed around the point of Lookout Mountain on the 10th and encamped for the night at Rossville, 5 miles south of Chattanooga.
During these operations, General Thomas pushed his corps over the mountains at the designated points, each division consuming two days in the passage.
The weight of evidence, gathered from all sources, was that Bragg was moving on Rome, and that his movement began on the 6th of September. General Crittenden was therefore directed to hold Chattanooga, with one brigade, calling all the forces on the north side of the Tennessee across, and to follow the enemy's retreat vigorously, anticipating that the main body had retired by Ringgold and Dalton.
Additional information, obtained during the afternoon and the evening of the 10th of September, rendered it certain that his main body had retired by the La Fayette road, but uncertain whether he had gone far. General Crittenden was ordered, at I a.m. on the 11th, to proceed to the front and report, directing his command to advance only as far as Ringgold, and order a reconnaissance to Gordon's Mills. His report, and further evidence, satisfied me that the main body of the rebel army was in the vicinity of La Fayette.
General Crittenden was therefore ordered to move his corps, with all possible dispatch, from Ringgold to Gordon's Mills, and communicate with General Thomas, who had by that time reached the eastern foot of Lookout Mountain. General Crittenden occupied Ringgold during the 11th, pushing Wilder's mounted infantry as far as Tunnel Hill, skirmishing heavily with the enemy's cavalry. Hazen joined him near Ringgold on the 11th, and the whole corps moved rapidly and successfully across to Gordon's Mills on the 12th. Wilder following, and covering the movement, had a severe fight with the enemy at Leet's Tan-yard.
During the same day the Fourth U.S. Cavalry was ordered to move up the Dry Valley road, to discover if the enemy was in the proximity of that road on Crittenden's right, and open communication with Thomas' command, which, passing over the mountain, was debouching from Stevens' and Cooper's Gaps, and moving on La Fayette through Dug Gap of the Pigeon Mountain.
On the 10th, Negley's division advanced to within a mile of Dug Gap, which he found heavily obstructed, and Baird's division came up to his support on the morning of the 11th. Negley became satisfied that the enemy was advancing upon him, in heavy force, and perceiving that if he accepted battle in that position he would probably be cut off, he fell back after a sharp skirmish, in which General Baird's division participated, skillfully covering and securing their trains, to a strong position in front of Stevens' Gap. On the 12th, Reynolds and Brannan, under orders to move promptly, closed up to the support of these two advanced divisions.
During the same day General McCook had reached the vicinity of Alpine, and, with infantry and cavalry, had reconnoitered the Broom-town Valley to Summerville, and ascertained that the enemy had not retreated on Rome, but was concentrating at La Fayette.
Thus it was ascertained that the enemy was concentrating all his forces, both infantry and cavalry, behind the Pigeon Mountain, in the vicinity of La Fayette, while the corps of this army were at Gordon's Mills, Bailey's Cross-Roads, at the foot of Stevens' Gap, and at Alpine, a distance of 40 miles, from flank to flank, by the nearest practicable roads, and 57 miles by the route subsequently taken by the Twentieth Army Corps. It had already been ascertained that the main body of Johnston's army had joined Bragg, and an accumulation of evidence showed that the troops from Virginia had reached Atlanta on the 1st of the month, and that re-enforcements were expected soon to arrive from that quarter. It was therefore a matter of life and death to effect the
CONCENTRATION OF THE ARMY.
General McCook had already been directed to support General Thomas, but was now ordered to send two brigades to hold Dougherty's Gap, and to join General Thomas with the remainder of his command with the utmost celerity, directing his march over the road on the top of the mountain. He had, with great prudence, already moved his trains back to the rear of Little River, on the mountain, but, unfortunately being ignorant of the mountain road, moved down the mountain at Winston's Gap, down Lookout Valley to Cooper's Gap, up the mountain and down again, closing up with General Thomas on the 17th, and having posted Davis at Brooks', in front of Dug Gap, Johnson at Pond Spring, in front of Catlett's Gap, and Sheridan at the foot of Stevens' Gap.
As soon as General McCook's corps arrived General Thomas moved down the Chickamauga toward Gordon's Mills. Meanwhile, to bring General Crittenden within reach of General Thomas and beyond the danger of separation, he was withdrawn from Gordon's Mills, on the 14th, and ordered to take post on the southern spur of Missionary Ridge, his right communicating with General Thomas, where he remained until General McCook had effected a junction with General Thomas.
Minty, with his cavalry, reconnoitered the enemy on the 15th and reported him in force at Dalton, Ringgold, and Leet's, and Rock Springs Church. The head of General McCook's column being reported near the same day, General Crittenden was ordered to return to his old position at Gordon's Mills, his line resting along the Chickamauga via Crawfish Spring.
Thus, on the evening of the 17th, the troops were substantially within supporting distance. Orders were given at once to move the whole line northeastwardly down the Chickamauga, with a view to covering the La Fayette road toward Chattanooga, and facing the most practicable route to the enemy's front.
The position of our troops and the narrowness of the roads retarded our movements. During the day while they were in progress, our cavalry, under Colonel Minty, was attacked on the left in the vicinity of Reed's Bridge, and Wilder's mounted infantry were attacked by infantry and driven into the La Fayette road.
It became apparent that the enemy was massing heavily on our left, crossing Reed's and Alexander's Bridges in force while he had threatened Gordon's Mills.
Orders were therefore promptly given to General Thomas to relieve General Crittenden's corps, posting one division near Crawfish Spring, and to move with the remainder of his corps by the Widow Glenn's house to the Rossville and La Fayette road, his left extending obliquely across it near Kelly's house.
General Crittenden was ordered to proceed with Van Cleve's and Palmer's divisions, to drive the enemy from the Rossville road and form on the left of General Wood, then at Gordon's Mills.
General McCook's corps was to close up on General Thomas, occupy the position at Crawfish Spring, and protect General Crittenden's right, while holding his corps mainly in reserve.
The main cavalry force was ordered to close in on General McCook's right, watch the crossing of the Chickamauga, and act under his orders.
The movement for the concentration of the corps more compactly toward Crawfish Spring was begun on the morning of the 18th, under orders to conduct it very secretly, and was executed so slowly that McCook's corps only reached Pond Spring at dark, and bivouacked, resting on their arms during the night Crittenden's corps reached its position on the Rossville road near midnight.
Evidence accumulated during the day of the 18th that the enemy was moving to our left. Minty's cavalry and Wilder's mounted brigade encountered the enemy's cavalry at Reed's and Alexander's Bridges, and toward evening were driven into the Rossville road. At the same time the enemy had been demonstrating for 3 miles up the Chickamauga. Heavy clouds of dust had been observed 3 or 4 miles beyond the Chickamauga, sweeping to the northeast.
In view of all these facts, the necessity became apparent that General Thomas must use all possible dispatch in moving his corps to the position assigned it. He was therefore directed to proceed with all dispatch, and General McCook to close up to Crawfish Spring as soon as Thomas' column was out of the way. Thomas pushed forward uninterruptedly during the night, and at daylight the head of his column had reached Kelly's house on the La Fayette road, where Baird's division was posted. Brannan followed, and was posted on Baird's left, covering the roads leading to Reed's and Alexander's Bridges.
At this point Colonel McCook, of General Granger's command, who had made a reconnaissance to the Chickamauga the evening before and had burned Reed's Bridge, met General Thomas, and reported that an isolated brigade of the enemy was this side of the Chickamauga, and, the bridge being destroyed, a rapid movement in that direction might result in the capture of the force thus isolated.
General Thomas ordered Brannan with two brigades to reconnoiter in that direction and attack any small force he should meet. The advance brigade, supported by the rest of the division, soon encountered a strong body of the enemy, attacked it vigorously, and drove it back more than half a mile, where a very strong column of the enemy was found, with the evident intention of turning our left and gaining possession of the La Fayette road between us and Chattanooga.
This vigorous movement disconcerted the plans of the enemy to move on our left, and opened the
BATTLE OF THE 19TH SEPTEMBER.
The leading brigade became engaged about 10 a.m. on the 19th, on our extreme left, and extending to the right, where the enemy combined to move in heavy masses. Apprehending this movement, I had ordered General McCook to send Johnson's division to Thomas' assistance. He arrived opportunely.
General Crittenden, with great good sense, had already dispatched Palmer's, reporting the fact to me, and received my approval. The enemy returned our attack, and was driving back Baird's right in disorder, when Johnson struck the attacking column in flank and drove it back more than a half a mile till his own right was overlapped, and in imminent danger of being turned, when Palmer, coming in on Johnson's right, threw his division against the enemy and drove back his advance columns.
Palmer's right was soon overlapped, when Van Cleve's division came to his support, but was beaten back, when Reynolds' division came in and was in turn overpowered. Davis' division came into the fight then, most opportunely, and drove the enemy, who soon, however, developed a superior force against his line and pressed him so heavily that he was giving ground, when Wood's division came and turned the tide of battle the other way.
About 3 p.m. General McCook was ordered to send Sheridan's division to support our line near Wood and Davis, directing Lytle's brigade to hold Gordon's Mills, our extreme right. Sheridan also arrived opportunely to save Wood from disaster, and the rebel tide was thoroughly staid in that quarter.
Meanwhile, the roar of musketry in our center grew louder, and evidently approached headquarters at Widow Glenn's house, until musket balls came near and shells burst about it. Our center was being driven.
Orders were sent to General Negley to move his division from Crawfish Spring and above, where he had been holding the line of the Chickamauga, to Widow Glenn's, to be held in reserve to give succor wherever it might be required. At 4.30 p.m. he reported with his division, and as the indications that our center was being driven became clearer, he was dispatched in that direction, and soon found the enemy had dislodged Van Cleve from the line, and was forming there even while Thomas was driving their right. Orders were promptly given Negley to attack him, which he soon did, and drove him steadily until night closed the combat.
General Brannan, having repulsed the enemy in our extreme left, was sent by General Thomas to support the center, and at night took a position on the right of Reynolds.
Colonel Wilder's brigade of mounted infantry occupied during the day a position on the La Fayette road, 1 mile north of Gordon's Mills, where he had taken position on the afternoon previous when, contesting the ground step by step, he had been driven by the enemy's advance from Alexander's Bridge.
Minty's cavalry had been ordered from the same position about noon of the 10th, to report to Major-General Granger, at Rossville, which he did at daylight on the 20th, and was posted near Mission Mills, to hold in check the enemy's cavalry on their right, from the direction of Ringgold and Graysville.
The Reserve Corps covered the approaches from the Chickamauga toward Rossville and the extension of our left.
The roar of battle hushed in the darkness of night, and our troops, weary with a night of marching and a day of fighting, rested on their arms, having everywhere maintained their positions, developed the enemy, and gained thorough command of the Rossville and Dry Valley roads to Chattanooga, the great object of the battle of the 19th of September.
The battle had secured us these objects. Our flanks covered the Dry Valley and Rossville roads, while our cavalry covered the Missionary Ridge and the Valley of Chattanooga Creek, into which latter place our spare trains had been sent on Friday, the 18th.
We also had indubitable evidence of the presence of Longstreet's corps and Johnston's forces, by the capture of prisoners from each, and the fact that at the close of the day we had present but two brigades which had not been opportunely and squarely in action, opposed to superior numbers of the enemy, assured us that we were greatly outnumbered, and that the battle the next day must be for the safety of the army and the possession of Chattanooga.
THE BATTLE OF THE 20TH.
During the evening of the 19th the corps commanders were assembled at headquarters at Widow Glenn's house, the reports of the positions and condition of their commands heard, and orders given for the disposition of the troops for the following day.
Thomas' corps, with the troops which had re-enforced him, was to maintain substantially his present line, with Brannan in reserve.
McCook, maintaining his picket line till it was driven in, was to close on Thomas, his right refused, and covering the position at Widow Glenn's, and Crittenden to have two divisions in reserve near the junction of McCook's and Thomas' lines to be able to succor either.
Plans having been explained, written orders given to each and read in the presence of all, the wearied corps commanders returned about midnight to their commands.
No firing took place during the night. The troops had assumed position when day dawned. The sky was red and sultry, the atmosphere and all the woods enveloped in fog and smoke. As soon as it was sufficiently light I proceeded, accompanied by General Garfield and some aides, to inspect the lines.
I found General McCook's right too far up on the crest, and General Davis in reserve on a wooded hill-side west of and parallel to the Dry Valley road. I mentioned these defects to the general, desiring Davis division to be brought down at once, moved more to the left and placed in close column by division, doubled on the center, in a sheltered position.
I found General Crittenden's two divisions massed at the foot of the same hill in the valley and called his attention to it, desiring them to be moved farther to the left.
General Thomas' troops were in the position indicated, except Palmer's line was to be closed more compactly.
Satisfied that the enemy's first attempt would be on our left, orders were dispatched to General Negley to join General Thomas and to General McCook to relieve Negley. Returning to the right, I found Negley had not moved, nor were McCook's troops coming in to relieve him. Negley was preparing to withdraw his two brigades from the line. He was ordered to send his reserve brigade immediately and follow it with the others only when relieved on the line of battle. General Crittenden, whose troops were nearest, was ordered to fill General Negley's place at once, and General McCook was notified of this order growing out of the necessity of promptly sending Negley to Thomas.
Proceeding to the extreme right I felt the disadvantages of its positions, mentioned them to General McCook, and when I left him enjoined on him that it was an indispensable necessity that we should keep closed to the left, and that we must do so at all hazards.
On my return to the position of General Negley, I found to my astonishment that General Crittenden had not relieved him, Wood's division having reached the position of Negley's reserve. Peremptory orders were given to repair this, and Wood's troops moved into position, but this delay subsequently proved of serious consequence. The battle began on the extreme left at 8.30 a.m., and it was 9.30 o'clock when Negley was relieved.
An aide arriving from General Thomas, requesting that Negley's remaining brigades be sent forward as speedily as possible to succor the left, General Crittenden was ordered to move Van Cleve, with all possible dispatch, to a position in the rear of Wood, who closed in on Brannan's right. General McCook was ordered to move Davis up to close in on Wood, and fill an opening in the line.
On my return from an examination of the ground in the rear of our left center, I found to my surprise that General Van Cleve was posted in line of battle on a high ridge much too far to the rear to give immediate support to the main line of battle, and General Davis in line of battle in rear of the ridge occupied by Negley's reserve in the morning. General Crittenden was ordered to move Van Cleve at once down the hill to a better position, and General Davis was also ordered to close up the support of the line near Wood's right.
The battle, in the meanwhile, roared with increasing fury, and approached from the left to the center. Two aides arrived successively within a few minutes, from General Thomas, asking for re-enforcements. The first was directed to say that General Negley had already gone and should be near at hand at that time, and that Brannan's reserve brigade was available. The other was directed to say that General Van Cleve would at once be sent to his assistance, which was accordingly done.
A message from General Thomas soon followed, that he was heavily pressed, Captain Kellogg, aide-de-camp, the bearer, informing me at the same time that General Brannan was out of line, and General Reynolds' right was exposed. Orders were dispatched to General Wood to close up on Reynolds, and word was sent to General Thomas that he should be supported, even if it took away the whole corps of Crittenden and McCook.
General Davis was ordered to close on General Wood, and General McCook was advised of the state of affairs and ordered to close his whole command to the left with all dispatch.
General Wood, overlooking the direction to" close up "on General Reynolds, supposed he was to support him, by withdrawing from the line and passing to the rear of General Brannan, who, it appears, was not out of line, but was en échelon, and slightly in rear of Reynolds' right. By this unfortunate mistake a gap was opened in the line of battle, of which the enemy took instant advantage, and striking Davis in flank and rear, as well as in front, threw his whole division in confusion.
The same attack shattered the right brigade of Wood before it had cleared the space. The right of Brannan was thrown back, and two of his batteries, then in movement to a new position, were taken in flank and thrown back through two brigades of Van Cleve, then on the march to the left, throwing his division into confusion from which it never recovered until it reached Rossville.
While the enemy poured in through this breach, a long line stretching beyond Sheridan's right was advancing. Laiboldt's brigade shared in the rout of Davis. Sheridan's other two brigades, in movement toward the left, under orders to support Thomas, made a gallant charge against the enemy's advancing column, but were thrown into disorder by the enemy's line advancing on their flank, and were likewise compelled to fall back, rallying on the Dry Valley road, and repulsing the enemy, but they were again compelled to yield to superior numbers and retired westward of the Dry Valley road, and by a circuitous route reached Rossville, from which they advanced by the La Fayette road to support our left.
Thus Davis' two brigades, one of Van Cleve's, and Sheridan's entire division were driven from the field, and the remainder, consisting of the divisions of Baird, Johnson, Palmer, Reynolds, Brannan, and Wood, two of Negley's brigades and one of Van Cleve s, were left to sustain the conflict against the whole power of the rebel army, which, desisting from pursuit on the right, concentrated their whole efforts to destroy them.
At the moment of the repulse of Davis' division, I was standing in rear of his right, waiting the completion of the closing of McCook's corps to the left. Seeing confusion among Van Cleve's troops, and the distance Davis' men were falling back, and the tide of battle surging toward us, the urgency for Sheridan's troops to intervene became imminent, and I hastened in person to the extreme right, to direct Sheridan's movement on the flank of the advancing rebels. It was too late. The crowd of returning troops rolled back, and the enemy advanced. Giving the troops directions to rally behind the ridge west of the Dry Valley road, I passed down it accompanied by General Garfield, Major McMichael, Major Bond, and Captain Young, of my staff, and a few of the escort, under a shower of grape, canister, and musketry, for 200 or 300 yards, and attempted to rejoin General Thomas and the troops sent to his support, by passing to the rear of the broken portion of our lines, but found the routed troops far toward the left, and hearing the enemy's advancing musketry and cheers, I became doubtful whether the left had held its ground, and started for Rossville. On consultation and further reflection, however, I determined to send General Garfield there, while I went to Chattanooga, to give orders for the security of the pontoon bridges at Battle Creek and Bridgeport, and to make preliminary dispositions either to forward ammunition and supplies, should we hold our ground, or to withdraw the troops into good position.
General Garfield dispatched me, from Rossville, that the left and center still held its ground. General Granger had gone to its support. General Sheridan had rallied his division, and was advancing toward the same point, and General Davis was going up the Dry Valley road to our right. General Garfield proceeded to the front, remained there until the close of the fight, and dispatched me the triumphant defense our troops there made against the assaults of the enemy.
THE FIGHT ON THE LEFT,
after 2 p.m., was that of the army. Never, in the history of this war at least, have troops fought with greater energy and determination. Bayonet charges, often heard of but seldom seen, were repeatedly made by brigades and regiments in several of our divisions.
After the yielding and severance of the divisions of the right, the enemy bent all efforts to break the solid portions of our line. Under the pressure of the rebel onset, the flanks of the line were gradually retired until they occupied strong advantageous ground, giving to the whole a flattened crescent shape.
From 1 to half past 3 o'clock, the unequal contest was sustained throughout our line. Then the enemy in overpowering numbers flowed around our right, held by General Brannan, and occupied a low gap in the ridge of our defensive position, which commanded our rear. The moment was critical. Twenty minutes more and our right would have been turned, our position taken in reverse, and probably the army routed.
Fortunately, Major-General Granger, whose troops had been posted to cover our left and rear, with the instinct of a true soldier and a general, hearing the roar of battle on our left, and being beyond the reach of orders from the general commanding, determined to move to its assistance. He advanced and soon encountered the enemy's skirmishers, whom he disregarded, well knowing that, at that stage of the conflict, the battle was not there. Posting Col. Daniel McCook's brigade to take care of anything in the vicinity and beyond the left of our line, he moved the remainder to the scene of action, reporting to General Thomas, who directed him to our suffering right.
Arrived in sight. General Granger discovered at once the peril and the point of danger--the gap. Quick as thought he directed his advance brigade upon the enemy. General Steedman, taking a regimental color, led the column. Swift was the charge and terrible the conflict, but the enemy was broken. A thousand of our brave men, killed and wounded, paid for its possession, but we held the gap.
Two divisions of Longstreet's corps confronted the position. Determined to take it, they successively came to the assault. A battery of six guns, placed in the gorge, poured death and slaughter into them. They charged to within a few yards of the pieces, but our grape and canister, and the leaden hail of our musketry, delivered in sparing but terrible volleys from cartridges taken in many instances from the boxes of their fallen companions, was too much even for Longstreet's men. About sunset they made their last charge, when our men, being out of ammunition, rushed on them with bayonet, and they gave way to return no more.
The fury of the conflict was nearly as great on the fronts of Brannan and Wood, being less furious toward the left. But a column of the enemy had made its way to near our left and to the right of Colonel McCook's position. Apprised of this, General Thomas directed Reynolds to move his division from its position, and pointing out the rebels told him to go in there.
To save time, the troops of Reynolds were faced by the rear rank and moved with the bayonet at a double-quick, with a shout walked over the rebels, capturing some 500. This closed the battle of the 20th. At nightfall the enemy had been repulsed along the whole line, and sunk into quietude without attempting to renew the combat.
General Thomas, considering the excessive labors of the troops, the scarcity of ammunition, food, and water, and having orders from the general commanding to use his discretion, determined to retire on Rossville, where they arrived in good order, took post before morning, receiving supplies from Chattanooga, and offering the enemy battle during all the next day and repulsing his reconnaissance. On the night of the 21st we withdrew from Rossville, took firm possession of the objective point of our campaign--Chattanooga--and prepared to hold it.
The operations of the cavalry during the battle on the 19th were very important. General Mitchell, with three brigades, covered our right flank along the line of the Chickamauga, above Crawfish Spring, against the combined efforts of the great body of the rebel cavalry, whose attempts to cross the stream they several times repulsed.
Wilder fought, dismounted, near the center, intervening two or three times with mountain howitzers and Spencer rifles very opportunely.
On the 20th Minty covered our left and rear at Missionary Mills, and later in the day on the Ringgold road.
General Mitchell, with his three brigades, covered our extreme right, and with Wilder, after its repulse, extended over Missionary Ridge, held the whole country to the base of Lookout Mountain, and all our trains, artillery, caissons, and spare wagons sent there for greater safety retiring from the field. He was joined by Post's brigade of Davis' division, which had not closed on the army and was not in action.
On the 21st the cavalry still covered our right as securely as before, fighting and holding at bay very superior numbers. The number of cavalry combats during the whole campaign have been numerous, the successes as numerous, but the army could not have dispensed with those of the 19th, 20th, and 21st.
fired fewer shots than at Stone's River, but with even greater effect. I cannot but congratulate the country on the rapid improvement evidenced in this arm of the service. Our loss of pieces is, in part, attributable to the rough, wooded ground in which we fought, and the want of experience in posting artillery, and partly to the unequal nature of the contest, our infantry being heavily outnumbered.
For the details of these actions, the innumerable instances of distinguished bravery, skill, and gallantry displayed by officers of every rank, and, above all, for self-reliant, cool, and steady courage displayed by the soldiers of the army, in all arms, in many instances even shining above that of their officers, I must refer to the accompanying reports of the corps, division, brigade, regimental, and battery commanders. The reports of the cavalry command are not in, for the best of all reasons, that they have been out nearly ever since, writing with their sabers on the heads and backs of the enemy.
The signal corps has been growing into usefulness and favor daily for the last four months, and now bids fair to become one of the most esteemed of the staff services. It rendered very important service from the time we reached the Valley of the Tennessee. For its operations, I refer to the report of Capt. Jesse Merrill, chief signal officer.
Our medical corps proved very efficient during the whole campaign, and especially during and subsequent to the battle. A full share of praise is due to Dr. Glover Perin, the medical director of the department, ably assisted by Dr. Gross, medical director of the Fourteenth, Dr. Perkins, Twentieth, and Dr. Phelps, Twenty-first Army Corps.
A very great meed of praise is due Capt. Horace Porter, of the Ordnance, for the wise system of arming each regiment with arms of the same caliber, and having the ammunition wagons properly marked, by which most of the difficulties in supplying ammunition where troops had exhausted it in battle were obviated. From his report will be seen that we expended 2,650,000 rounds of musket cartridges, 7,325 rounds of cannon ammunition; we lost 36 pieces of artillery, 20 caissons, 8,450 stand of small-arms, 5,834 infantry accouterments; being 12,675 rounds less of artillery and 650,000 rounds more of musketry than at Stone's River.
From the report of Lieutenant-Colonel Wiles, provost-marshal-general, it will be seen that we took 2,005 prisoners. We have missing [4,945], of which some 600 have escaped and come in, and probably 700 or 800 are among the killed and wounded; of our wounded about 2,500 fell into the hands of the enemy, swelling the balance of prisoners against us to about 5,500.
It is proper to observe the battle of Chickamauga was absolutely necessary to secure our concentration and cover Chattanooga. It was fought in a country covered with woods and undergrowth, and wholly unknown to us. Every division came into action opportunely and fought squarely on the 19th. We were largely outnumbered, yet we foiled the enemy's flank movement on our left, and secured our own position on the road to Chattanooga. The battle of the 20th was fought with all the troops we had, and but for the extension and delay in closing in our right, we should probably have driven the enemy, whom we really beat on the field. I am fully satisfied that the enemy's loss largely exceeds ours.
It is my duty to notice the services of those faithful officers who have none but myself to mention them.
To Major-General Thomas, the true soldier, the prudent and undaunted commander, the modest and incorruptible patriot, the thanks and gratitude of the country are due for his conduct at the battle of Chickamauga.
Major-General Granger, by his promptitude, arrived and carried his troops into action in time to save the day. He deserves the highest praise.
Major-General McCook, for the care of his command, prompt and willing execution of orders, to the best of his ability, deserves this testimonial of my approbation.
I bear testimony likewise to the high-hearted, noble Major-Gen-eral Crittenden. Prompt in the moving and reporting the position of his troops, always fearless on the field of battle, I return my thanks for the promptness and military good sense with which he sent his divisions toward the noise of battle on the 19th.
To Brig. Gen. James A. Garfield, chief of staff, I am especially indebted for the clear and ready manner in which he seized the points of action and movement, and expressed in orders the ideas of the general commanding.
Col. J. C. McKibbin, aide-de-camp, always efficient, gallant, and untiring, and fearless in battle. |
Lieut. Col. A. C. Ducat, brave, prompt, and energetic in action.
Maj. Frank S. Bond, senior aide-de-camp; Capt. J.P. Drouillard, aide-de-camp; and Capt. R. S. Thoms, aide-de-camp, deserve very honorable mention for the faithful and efficient discharge of their appropriate duties always, and especially during the battle.
Col. James Barnett, chief of artillery; Lieut. Col. S. Simmons, chief commissary; Lieut. Col. H. C. Hodges, chief quartermaster; Dr. G. Perin, medical director; Capt. Horace Porter, chief of ordnance; Capt. William E. Merrill, chief topographical engineer, and Brig. Gen. J. St. Clair Morton, were all in the battle and discharged their duties with ability and to my entire satisfaction.
Col. William J. Palmer, Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, and his command, have rendered very valuable services in keeping open communications and watching the movements of the enemy, which deserve my warmest thanks.
Lieut. Col. W. M. Ward, with the Tenth Ohio, provost and headquarters guard, rendered efficient and valuable services, especially on the 20th, in covering the movement of retiring trains on the Dry Valley road, and stopping the stragglers from the fight. Captain Garner and the escort deserve mention for untiring energy in carrying orders.
Lieut. Col. C. Goddard, assistant adjutant-general; Lieut. Col. William M. Wiles, provost-marshal-general; Maj. William McMichael, assistant adjutant-general; Surg. H. H. Seys, medical inspector; Capt. D. G. Swaim, assistant adjutant-general, chief of the secret service; Capt. William Farrar, aide-de-camp; Capt. J. H. Young, chief commissary of musters; Capt. A. S. Burt, acting assistant inspector-general; Capt. Hunter Brooke, acting judge-advocate; Capt. W. C. Margedant, acting topographical engineer; Lieut. George Burroughs, topographical engineer; Lieut. William L. Porter, acting aide-de-camp: Lieut. James K. Reynolds, acting aide-de-camp; Lieut. M. J. Kelly, chief of couriers, and Asst. Surg. D. Bache were on the field of battle, and there and elsewhere discharged their duties with zeal and ability.
I must not omit Col. J.P. Sanderson, of the regular infantry, who, having lately joined us, on those two days of battle acted as aide-de-camp and carried orders to the hottest portions of the field.
Of those division and brigade commanders whose gallantry, skill, and services were prominent, individual special mentions accompany this report. A list of names of these and others of every grade whose, conduct according to the reports of their commanders, deserves special praise, is also herewith sent.
W. S. ROSECRANS,
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