Report of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, U. S. Army, commanding Army of the Tennessee, including operations since September 22, and march to the relief of Knoxville, with field dispatches November 18-29, and thanks of Congress.
NOVEMBER 23-27, 1863.--The Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXI/2 [S# 55]
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE,
Bridgeport, Ala., December 19, 1863.
Brig. Gen. JOHN A. RAWLINS,
Chief of Staff to General Grant.
GENERAL: For the first time I am now at leisure to make an official record of events with which the troops under my command have been connected during the eventful campaign which has just closed.
During the month of September last, the Fifteenth Army Corps, which I had the honor to command, lay in camps along the Big Black, about 20 miles east of Vicksburg, Miss. It consisted of four divisions: The First, commanded by Brig. Gen. P. J. Osterhaus, was composed of two brigades, led by Brig. Gen. C. R. Woods, and Col. J. A. Williamson, of the Fourth Iowa; the Second, commanded by Brig. Gen. Morgan L. Smith, was composed of two brigades, led by Generals Giles A. Smith and J. A. J. Lightburn; the Third, commanded by Brig. Gen. J. M. Tuttle, was composed of three brigades, led by Generals J. A. Mower and R. P. Buckland, and Col. J. J. Woods, of the Twelfth Iowa; the Fourth, commanded by Brig. Gen. Hugh Ewing, was composed of three brigades, led by General J. M. Corse, Colonel Loomis, Twenty-sixth Ilinois, and Col. J. R. Cock-erill, of the Seventieth Ohio.
On the 22d day of September, I received a telegraphic dispatch from General Grant, then at Vicksburg, commanding the Department of the Tennessee, requiring me to detach one of my divisions to march to Vicksburg, there to embark for Memphis, where it was to form part of an army to be sent to Chattanooga to re-enforce Genera[ Rosecrans. I designated the First Division, and at 4 p.m. the same day it marched for Vicksburg and embarked the next day.
On the 23d of September, I was summoned to Vicksburg by the general commanding, who showed me several dispatches from the General-in-Chief, which led him to suppose he would have to send me and my whole corps to Memphis and eastward, and I was instructed to prepare for such orders.
It was explained to me that in consequence of the low stage of water in the Mississippi, boats had arrived irregularly and had brought dispatches that seemed to conflict in meaning, and that John E. Smith's division, of McPherson's corps, had been ordered up to Memphis, and that I should take that division and leave one of my own in its stead to hold the line of the Big Black. I detailed my Third Division, General Tuttle, to remain and report to Major-General McPherson, commanding the Seventeenth Corps, at Vicksburg, and that of General John E. Smith, already started for Memphis, was styled the Third Division, though it still belongs to the Seventeenth Army Corps.
This division is also composed of three brigades, commanded by General Matthies, Col. G. B. Raum, of the Fifty-sixth Illinois, and Col. J. I. Alexander, of the Fifty-ninth Indiana.
The Second and Fourth Divisions were started for Vicksburg the moment I was notified that boats were in readiness, and on the 27th of September I embarked in person in the steamer Atlantic for Memphis, followed by a fleet of boats conveying these two divisions. Our progress was slow on account of the unprecedentedly low water in the Mississippi and the scarcity of coal and wood. We were compelled at places to gather fence rails and to land wagons and haul wood from the interior to the boats, but I reached Memphis during the night of the 2d of October, and the other boats came in on the 3d and 4th.
On arrival at Memphis, I saw General Hurlbut and read all the dispatches and letters of instruction of General Halleck, and therein derived my instructions, which I construed to be as follows: To conduct the Fifteenth Army Corps, and all other troops which could be spared from the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, to Athens, Ala., and thence report by letter for orders to General Rosecrans, commanding the Army of the Cumberland, at Chattanooga; to follow substantially the railroad eastward, repairing it as I moved; to look to my own line for supplies, and in no event to depend on General Rosecrans for supplies, as the roads to his rear were already overtaxed to supply his present army.
I learned from General Hurlbut that Osterhaus' division was already out in front of Corinth, and that John E. Smith was still at Memphis, moving his troops and matériel out by rail as fast as its limited stock would carry them. General J. D. Webster was superintendent of the railroad, and was enjoined to work night and day and expedite the movement as rapidly as possible, but the capacity of the road was so small that I soon saw that I could move horses, mules, and wagons faster by land, and therefore I dispatched the artillery and wagons by the road, under escort, and finally moved the entire Fourth Division by land. The enemy seems to have had early notice of this movement, and he endeavored to thwart us from the start. A considerable force assembled in a threatening attitude at Salem, south of Saulsbury Station, and General Carr, who commanded at Corinth, felt compelled to turn back and use a part of my troops that had already reached Corinth to resist the threatened attack.
On Sunday, October 11, having put in motion my whole force, I started myself for Corinth in a special train, with the battalion of the Thirteenth U.S. Regulars for escort. We reached Collierville Station about noon--just in time to take part in the defense made of that station by Col. D.C. Anthony, of the Sixty-sixth Indiana, against an attack made by General Chalmers with a force of about 3,000 cavalry, with eight pieces of artillery. He was beaten off, the damage to the road repaired, and we resumed our journey next day, reaching Corinth at night. I immediately ordered General Blair forward to Iuka with the First Division, and, as fast I got troops up, pushed them forward of Bear Creek, the bridge of which was completely destroyed, and an engineer regiment, under command of Colonel Flad, engaged in its repair.
Quite a considerable force of the enemy was assembled to our front, near Tuscumbia, to resist our advance. It was commanded by General Stephen D. Lee, and composed of Roddey's and Ferguson's brigades, with irregular cavalry, amounting in the aggregate to about 5,000.
In person I moved from Corinth to Burnsville on the 18th, and to Iuka on the 19th, of October.
Osterhaus' division was in the advance, constantly skirmishing with the enemy. He was supported by Morgan L. Smith, both divisions under the general command of Major-General Blair. General John E. Smith's division covered the working party engaged in rebuilding the railroad.
Foreseeing difficulty in crossing the Tennessee, I had written to Admiral Porter at Cairo, asking him to watch the Tennessee and send up some gunboats the moment the stage of water admitted, and had also requested General Allen, at St. Louis, to dispatch up to Eastport a steam ferry-boat. The admiral, ever prompt and ready to assist us, had 2 fine gunboats up at Eastport, under Captain Phelps, the very day after my arrival at Iuka, and Captain Phelps had a coal barge decked over, with which to cross over horses and wagons before the arrival of the ferry-boat.
Still following literally the instructions of General Halleck, I pushed forward the repairs of the railroad, and ordered General Blair, with the two leading divisions, to drive the enemy beyond Tuscumbia. This he did successfully after a pretty severe fight at Cane Creek, occupying Tuscumbia on the 27th of October.
In the meantime, many important changes in commands had occurred, which I must note here to a proper understanding of the case.
General Grant had been called from Vicksburg and sent to Chattanooga to command the three Armies of the Ohio, the Cumberland, and the Tennessee, and the Department of the Tennessee had devolved on me, with instructions, however, to retain command of the army in the field.
At Iuka I made what appeared to me the best disposition of matters relating to the department, giving General McPherson full powers as to Mississippi, and General Hurlbut as to West Tennessee, and assigned General Blair to the command of the Fifteenth Army Corps, and I summoned General Hurlbut from Memphis and General Dodge from Corinth, and selected out of the Sixteenth Corps a force of about 8,000 men, which I directed General Dodge to organize with all expedition, and with it to follow me eastward. On the 27th of October, when General Blair with two divisions was at Tuscumbia, I ordered General Ewing, with the Fourth Division, to cross the Tennessee by means of the gunboats and the scow as rapidly as possible at Eastport, and push forward to Florence, which he did, and that same day a messenger from General Grant floated down the Tennessee, over the Muscle Shoals, landed at Tuscumbia, and was sent to me at Iuka. He bore a short message from the general to the effect: Drop all work on the railroad east of Bear Creek; push your command toward Bridgeport till you meet orders, &c. Instantly the order was executed, and the order of march was reversed and all columns directed to Eastport, the only place where I could cross the Tennessee.
At first I only had the gunboats and coal barge, but the ferryboat and two transports arrived on the 31st of October, and the work of crossing pushed with all the vigor possible. In person I crossed and passed to the head of column at Florence on the 1st of November, leaving the rear divisions to be conducted by General Blair, and marched to Rogersville and the Elk River. This was found impassable. To ferry would have consumed too much time, and to build a bridge still more, so there was no alternative but to turn up Elk River by way of Gilbertsborough, Elkton, &c., to the stone bridge at Fayetteville; there we crossed Elk and proceeded to Winchester and Decherd.
At Fayetteville I received orders from General Grant to come to Bridgeport with the Fifteenth Army Corps, and leave General Dodge's command at Pulaski and along the railroad from Columbia to Decatur.
I instructed General Blair to follow with the Second and First Divisions by way of New Market, Larkinsville, and Bellefonte, while I conducted the other two divisions by Decherd, the Fourth Division crossing the mountains to Stevenson, and the Third by University Place and Sweeden's Cove.
In person I proceeded by Sweeden's Cove and Battle Creek, reaching Bridgeport at night of November 13.
I immediately telegraphed to the commanding general my arrival and the position of my several divisions, and was summoned to Chattanooga. I took the first boat during the night of the 14th for Kelley's, and rode into Chattanooga on the 15th. I then learned the part assigned me in the coming drama, was supplied with the necessary maps and information, and rode during the 16th, in company with Generals Grant, Thomas, William F. Smith, Brannan, and others to a position on the west bank of the Tennessee, from which could be seen the camps of the enemy compassing Chattanooga and the line of Missionary Hills, with its terminus on Chickamauga Creek, the point that I was expected to take, hold, and fortify.
Pontoons, with a full supply of balks and chesses, had been prepared for the bridge over the Tennessee, and all things prearranged with a foresight that elicited my admiration. From the hills we looked down on the amphitheater of Chattanooga as on a map, and nothing remained but for me to put my troops in the desired position.
The plan contemplated that, in addition to crossing the Tennessee and making a lodgment on the terminus of Missionary Ridge, I should demonstrate against Lookout Mountain, near Trenton, with a part of my command. All in Chattanooga were impatient for action, rendered almost acute by the natural apprehension felt for the safety of General Burnside in East Tennessee. My command had marched from Memphis, and I had pushed them as fast as the roads and distance would permit, but I saw enough of the condition of men and animals in Chattanooga to inspire me with renewed energy.
I immediately ordered my leading division (Ewing s) to march, via Shellmound, to Trenton, demonstrate against Lookout Ridge, but to be prepared to turn quickly and follow me to Chattanooga; and in person I returned to Bridgeport, rowing a boat down the Tennessee from Kelley's, and, immediately on arrival, put in motion my divisions in the order they had arrived.
The bridge of boats at Bridgeport was frail, and, though used day and night, our passage was slow, and the road thence to Chattanooga was dreadfully cut up and encumbered with the wagons of the other troops stationed along the road.
I reached General Hooker's headquarters, 4 miles from Chattanooga, during a rain in the afternoon of the 20th, and met General Grant's orders for the general attack on the next day. It was simply impossible for me to fill my part in time. Only one division, General John E. Smith's, was in position. General Ewing was still at Trenton, and the other two were toiling along the terrible road from Shellmound to Chattanooga. No troops ever were or could be in better condition than mine, or who labored harder to fulfill their part. On a proper representation, General Grant postponed the attack. On the 21st, I got the Second Division over Brown's Ferry bridge, and General Ewing got up, but the bridge broke repeatedly, and delays occurred which no human sagacity could prevent.
All labored night and day, and General Ewing got over on the 23d, but my rear division was cut off by the broken bridge at Brown's Ferry, and could not join me; but I offered to go in action with my three divisions, supported by Brig. Gen. Jef. C. Davis, leaving one of my best divisions to act with General Hooker against Lookout Mountain. That division has not joined me yet, but I know and feel that it has served the country well, and that it has reflected honor on the Fifteenth Army Corps and the Army of the Tennessee. I leave the record of its history to General Hooker or whomsoever has had its services during the late memorable events, confident that all will do it merited honor.
At last, on the 23d of November, my three divisions lay behind the hills opposite the mouth of Chickamauga. I dispatched the brigade, of Second Division, commanded by General Giles A. Smith up, under cover of the hills, to North Chickamauga, to man the boats designed for the pontoon bridge, with orders at midnight to drop down silently to a point above the mouth of South Chickamauga, then land two regiments, who were to move along the river quietly and capture the enemy's river pickets; General Giles A. Smith then to drop rapidly below the mouth of Chickamauga, disembark the rest of his brigade, and dispatch the boats across for fresh loads. These orders were skillfully executed, and every picket but one captured. The balance of General Morgan L. Smith's division was then rapidly ferried across, that of General John E. Smith followed, and by daylight of November 24 two divisions, of about 8,000 men, were on the east bank of the Tennessee, and had thrown up a very respectable rifle-trench as a tête-de-pont.
As soon as the day dawned some of the boats were taken from the use of ferrying and a pontoon bridge begun, under the immediate direction of Captain Dresser, the whole planned and supervised by General William F. Smith in person. A pontoon bridge was also built at the same time over Chickamauga Creek, near its mouth, giving communication with the two regiments left on the north side, and fulfilling a most important purpose at a later stage of the drama. I will here bear my willing testimony to the completeness of this whole business. All the officers charged with the work were present and manifested a skill which I cannot praise too highly. I have never beheld any work done so quietly, so well, and I doubt if the history of war can show a bridge of that extent (viz, 1,350 feet) laid down so noiselessly and well in so short a time. I attribute it to the genius and intelligence of General William F. Smith.
The steamer Dunbar arrived in the course of the morning, and relieved General Ewing's division of the labor of rowing across, but by noon the pontoon bridge was down and my three divisions were across with men, horses, artillery, and everything. General Jef. C. Davis' division was ready to take the bridge, and I ordered the columns to form in order to take Missionary Hills. The movement had been carefully explained to all division commanders and at 1 p.m. we marched from the river in three columns en échelon, the left, General Morgan L. Smith, the column of direction, following substantially Chickamauga Creek; the center, General John E. Smith, in column, doubled on the center at one-brigade intervals to the right and rear; the right, General Ewing, in column at the same distance to the right rear, prepared to deploy to the right on the supposition that we would meet an enemy in that direction.
Each head of column was covered by a good line of skirmishers with supports. A light, drizzling rain prevailed, and the clouds hung low, cloaking our movements from the enemy's tower of observation on Lookout. We soon gained the foot-hills. Our skirmishers crept up the face of the hill, followed by their supports, and at 3.30 p.m. we gained, with no loss, the desired point.
A brigade of each division was pushed rapidly to the top of the hill, and the enemy for the first time seemed to realize the movement, but too late, for we were in possession. He opened with artillery, but General Ewing soon got some of Captain Richardson's guns up that steep hill, and we gave back artillery, and the enemy's skirmishers made one or two ineffectual dashes at General Light-burn, who had swept around and got a farther hill, which was the real continuation of the ridge. From studying all the maps, I had inferred that Missionary Ridge was a continuous hill, but we found ourselves on two high points, with a deep depression between us and the one immediately over the tunnel, which was my chief objective point. The ground we had gained, however, was so important that I could leave nothing to chance, and ordered it to be fortified during the night. One brigade of each division was left on the hill, one of General Morgan L. Smith's closed the gap to Chickamauga Creek, two of General John E. Smith's were drawn back to the base in reserve, and General Ewing's right was extended down into the plain, thus crossing the ridge in a general line facing southeast.
The enemy felt our left flank about 4 p.m., and a pretty smart engagement with artillery and muskets ensued, when he drew off, but it cost us dear, for General Giles A. Smith was severely wounded and had to go to the river, and the command of the brigade then devolved on Colonel Tupper, One hundred and sixteenth Illinois, who managed it with skill during the rest of the operations.
At the moment of my crossing the bridge, General Howard appeared, having come with three regiments from Chattanooga along the east bank of the Tennessee, connecting my new position with that of the main army in Chattanooga. He left the three regiments (which I attached temporarily to General Ewing's right), and returned to his own corps at Chattanooga. As night closed I ordered General Jef. C. Davis to keep one of his brigades at the bridge, one close up to my position, and one intermediate. Thus we passed the night, heavy details being kept busy at work on the intrenchments on the hill. During the night the sky cleared away bright and a cold frost filled the air, and our camp fires revealed to the enemy and to our friends in Chattanooga our position on Missionary Ridge.
About midnight I received, at the hands of Major Rowley, of General Grant's staff, orders to attack the enemy at "dawn of day," and notice that General Thomas would attack in force early in the day. Accordingly, before day, I was in the saddle, attended by all my staff; rode to the extreme left of our position, near Chickamauga; thence up the hill held by General Lightburn, and round to the extreme right of General Ewing, catching as accurate an idea of the ground as possible by the dim light of morning. I saw that our line of attack was in the direction of Missionary Ridge, with wings supporting on either flank.
Quite a valley lay between us and the next hill of the series, and this hill presented steep sides, the one to the west partially cleared, but the other covered with the native forest. The crest of the ridge was narrow and wooded. The farther point of the hill was held by the enemy with a breastwork of logs and fresh earth, filled with men and two guns. The enemy was' also seen in great force on a still higher hill beyond the tunnel, from which he had a fair plunging fire on the hill in dispute. The gorge between, through which several roads and the railroad tunnel pass, could not be seen from our position, but formed the natural place d'armes, where the enemy covered his masses to resist our contemplated movement of turning his right flank and endangering his communications with his depot at Chickamauga. As soon as possible the following dispositions were made:
The brigades of Colonels Cockerill and Alexander and General Lightburn were to hold our hill as the key point. General Corse, with as much of his brigade as could operate along the narrow ridge, was to attack from our right center. General Lightburn was to dispatch a good regiment from his position to co-operate with General Corse, and General Morgan L. Smith was to move along the east base of Missionary Ridge, connecting with General Corse, and Colonel Loomis in like manner to move along the west base, supported by the two reserve brigades of General John E. Smith.
The sun had hardly risen before General Corse had completed his preparations, and his bugle sounded the "forward."
The Fortieth Illinois, supported by the Forty-sixth Ohio on our right center, with the Thirtieth Ohio, Colonel Jones, moved down the face of our hill and up that held by the enemy.
The line advanced to within about 80 yards of the intrenched position, where General Corse found a secondary crest, which he gained and held.
To this point he called his reserves and asked for re-enforcements, which were sent, but the space was narrow and it was not well to crowd the men, as the enemy's artillery and musketry fire swept the approach to his position, giving him great advantage. As soon as General Corse had made his preparations he assaulted, and a close, severe contest ensued, lasting more than an hour, gaining and losing ground, but never the position first obtained, from which the enemy in vain attempted to drive him. General Morgan L. Smith kept gaining ground on the left spur of Missionary Ridge, and Colonel Loomis got abreast of the tunnel and the railroad embankment on his side, drawing the enemy's fire, and to that extent relieving the assaulting party on the hill crest.
Callender had four of his guns on General Ewing's hill, and Captain Wood his Napoleon battery on General Lightburn's, also two guns of Dillon's battery were with Colonel Alexander's brigade. All directed their fire as carefully as possible to clear the hill to our front without endangering our own men. The fight raged furiously about 10 a.m., when General Corse received a severe wound, and was brought off the field, and the command of the brigade and of the assault at that key point devolved on that fine, young, gallant officer, Colonel Walcutt, of the Forty-sixth Ohio, who filled his part manfully. He continued the contest, pressing forward at all points. Colonel Loomis had made good progress to the right, and about 2. p.m. General John E. Smith, judging the battle to be most severe on the hill and being required to support General Ewing, ordered up Colonel Raum's and General Matthies' brigades across the field to the summit that was being fought for. They moved up under a heavy fire of cannon and musketry and joined to Colonel Walcutt, but the crest was so narrow that they necessarily occupied the west face of the hill. The enemy at the time being massed in great strength in the tunnel gorge, moved a large force under cover of the ground and the thick bushes, and suddenly appeared on the right and rear of this command. The suddenness of the attack disconcerted the men, and, exposed as they were in the open field, they fell back in some disorder to the lower edge of the field and reformed.
These two brigades were in the nature of supports and did not constitute a part of the real attack. The movement, seen from Chattanooga, 5 miles off, gave rise to the report, which even General Meigs has repeated, that we were repulsed on the left. Not so: the real attacking columns of General Corse, Colonel Loomis, and General Smith were not repulsed. They engaged in a close struggle all day, persistently, stubbornly, and well. When the two reserve brigades of General John E. Smith fell back as described, the enemy made a show of pursuit, but were caught in flank by the well-directed fire of one brigade on the wooded crest, and hastily sought his cover behind the hill. Thus matters stood about 3 p.m.
The day was bright and clear, and the amphitheater of Chattanooga lay in beauty at our feet. I had watched for the attack of General Thomas "early in the day." Column after column of the enemy was streaming toward me. Gun after gun poured its concentric shot on us from every hill and spur that gave a view of any part of the ground held by us.
An occasional shot from Fort Wood and Orchard Knob, and some musketry fire and artillery over about Lookout, was all that I could detect on our side, but about 3 p.m. I noticed the white line of musketry fire in front of Orchard Knob, extending farther and farther right and left and on. We could only hear a faint echo of sound, but enough was seen to satisfy me that General Thomas was moving on the center. I knew our attack had drawn vast masses of the enemy to our flank and felt sure of the result. Some guns which had been firing at us all day were silent or were turned in a different direction. The advancing line of musketry fire from Orchard Knob disappeared (to us) behind a spur of the hill and could no longer be seen, and it was not until night closed that I knew that the troops in Chattanooga had swept across Missionary Ridge and broken the enemy's center. Of course the victory was won, and pursuit was the next step. I ordered General Morgan L. Smith to feel to the tunnel, and it was found vacant, save by the dead and wounded of our own and the enemy commingled. The reserve of General Jef. C. Davis was ordered to march at once by the pontoon bridge across Chickamauga at its mouth, and push forward for the depot.
General Howard had reported to me in the early part of the day with the remainder of his army corps (the Eleventh), and had been posted to connect my left with Chickamauga Creek. He was ordered to repair an old broken bridge about 2 miles up Chickamauga, and to follow General Davis at 4 a.m., and the Fifteenth Army Corps to march at daylight. But General Howard found to repair the badge more of a task than at first supposed, and we were all compelled to cross Chickamauga on the new pontoon bridge at its mouth.
By about 11 a.m. General Jef. C. Davis' division appeared at the depot just in time to see it in flames. He entered with one brigade and found the enemy occupying two hills, partially intrenched, just beyond the depot. These he soon drove away. The depot presented a scene of desolation that war alone exhibits. Corn meal and corn in huge burning piles, broken wagons, abandoned caissons, two 32-pounder rifled guns with carriages, burned pieces of pontoons, balks, chesses, &c.--destined doubtless for the famous invasion of Kentucky--and all manner of things, burning and broken. Still the enemy kindly left us a good supply of forage for our horses; meal, beans, &c., for our men.
Pausing but a short while we pressed on, the road lined with broken wagons and abandoned caissons, till night. Just as the head of column emerged from a dark, miry swamp, we encountered the rear guard of the retreating army. The fight was sharp, but the night closed in so dark that we could not move. General Grant came up to us then, General Davis still leading, and at daylight we resumed the march, and at Graysville, where a good bridge spanned the Chickamauga, we found the corps of General Palmer on the south bank. He informed us that General Hooker was on a road still farther south, and we could hear his guns near Ringgold.
As the roads were filled with all the troops they could accommodate, I then turned to the east to fulfill another part of the general plan, viz, to break up all communication between Bragg and Longstreet.
We had all sorts of rumors as to the latter, but it was manifest that we should interpose a proper force between these two armies. I therefore directed General Howard to move to Parker's Gap and thence send rapidly a competent force to Red Clay, or the Council Ground, and there destroy a large section of the railroad which connects Dalton and Cleveland. This work was most successfully and completely accomplished that day. The division of General Jef. C. Davis was moved up close to Ringgold to assist General Hooker, if needed, and the Fifteenth Corps held at Graysville for anything that might turn up. About noon I had a message from General Hooker saying he had had a pretty hard fight at the mountain pass, just beyond Ringgold, and he wanted me to come forward to turn the position.
He was not aware at the time that Howard, by moving through Parker's Gap toward Red Clay, had already turned it so I rode forward to Ringgold and found the enemy had already fallen back of Tunnel Hill. He was already out of the Valley of the Chickamauga and on ground whence the waters flow to the Coosa. He was out of Tennessee.
I found General Grant at Ringgold, and, after some explanation as to breaking up the railroad from Ringgold back to the State line, as soon as some cars loaded with wounded could be pushed back to Chickamauga Depot, I was ordered to move slowly and leisurely back to Chattanooga.
On the following day the Fifteenth Corps destroyed absolutely and effectually the railroad from a point half way between Graysville and Ringgold back to the State line, and General Grant, coming to Graysville, consented that, instead of returning to Chattanooga, I might send back all my artillery, wagons, and impediments, and make a circuit by the north as far as the Hiwassee.
Accordingly, on the morning of November 29, General Howard moved from Parker's Gap to Cleveland, General Davis by way of McDaniel's Gap, and General Blair, with two divisions of the Fifteenth Corps, by way of Julien's Gap, all meeting at Cleveland that night. Here another good break was made in the Dalton and Cleveland road. On the 30th, the army moved to Charleston, General Howard approaching so rapidly that the enemy evacuated with haste, leaving the bridge but partially damaged, and 5 car loads of flour and provisions on the north bank of the Hiwassee. This was to have been the limit of our journey. Officers and men had brought no baggage or provisions, and the weather was bitter cold.
I half hardly reached the town of Charleston when General Wilson arrived with a letter from General Grant at Chattanooga, informing me that the latest authentic accounts from Knoxville were to the 27th, at which time General Burnside was completely invested, and had provisions only to include the 3d of December; that General Granger had left Chattanooga for Knoxville by the river road, with a steam-boat following him in the river, but the general feared Granger could not reach Knoxville in time, and ordered me to take command of all troops moving for the relief of Knoxville, and hasten to General Burnside. Seven days before we had left our camps on the other side of the Tennessee, with two days' rations, without a change of clothing, stripped for the fight, with but a single blanket or coat per man, from myself to the privates included. Of course, we then had no provisions save what we gathered by the road, and were ill-supplied for such a march. But we learned that 12,000 of our fellow soldiers were beleaguered in the mountain town of Knoxville, 84 miles distant; that they needed relief, and must have it in three days. This was enough, and it had to be done.
General Howard that night repaired and planked the railroad bridge, and at daylight the army passed the Hiwassee and marched to Athens, 15 miles. I had supposed, rightfully, that General Granger was about the mouth of Hiwassee, and sent him notice of my orders; that the general had sent me a copy of his written instructions, which were full and complete, and that he must push for Kingston, near which we would make a junction. But by the time I reached Athens I had had time to study the geography, and sent 37 him orders--which found him at Decatur--that Kingston was out of our way; that he should send his boat to Kingston, but with his command strike across to Philadelphia, and report to me there. I had but a small force of cavalry, which was, at the time of my receipt of General Grant's orders, scouting over about Benton and Columbus. I left my aide, Major McCoy, at Charleston to communicate with this cavalry and hurry it forward. It overtook me in the night at Athens. On the 2d of December, the army moved rapidly north toward Loudon, 26 miles distant.
About 11 a.m. the cavalry passed to the head of the column and was ordered to push to Loudon, and, if possible, save a pontoon bridge across the Tennessee, held by a brigade of the enemy, commanded by General Vaughn. The cavalry moved with such rapidity as to capture every picket, but the brigade of Vaughn had artillery in position covered by earth-works, and displayed a force too respectable to be carried by a cavalry dash, and darkness closed in before General Howard's infantry got up. The enemy abandoned the place in the night, destroying the pontoons, running 3 locomotives and 48 cars into the Tennessee, and abandoning a large quantity of provisions, four guns, and other matériel, which General Howard took at daylight.
But the bridge was gone, and we were forced to turn east and trust to General Burnside's bridge at Knoxville. It was all important that General Burnside should have notice of our coming, and but one day of the time remained.
Accordingly, at Philadelphia, during the night of the 2d of December, I sent my aide, Captain Audenried, forward to Colonel Long, commanding the brigade of cavalry, to explain to him how all-important it was that General Burnside should have notice within twenty-four hours of our approach, and ordering him to select the best material of his command to start at once, ford the Little Tennessee, and push into Knoxville, at whatever cost of life and horse flesh. Captain Audenried was ordered to go along. The distance to be traveled was about 40 miles, and the road villainous. Before day they were off, and at daylight the Fifteenth Army Corps was turned from Philadelphia for the Little Tennessee, at Morganton, where my maps represented the river as very shallow, but it was found too deep for fording, and the water freezing cold. Width, 240 yards; depth, from 2 to 5 feet. Horses could ford, but artillery and men could not. A bridge was indispensable. General Wilson, who accompanied me, undertook to superintend the bridge, and I am under many obligations to him, as I was without an engineer, having sent Captain Jenney back from Graysville to survey our field of battle. We had our pioneers, but only such tools as axes, picks, and spades. But General Wilson, working part with crib-work and part with square trestles, made of the houses of the late town of Morganton, progressed apace, and by dark of December 4, troops and animals passed on the bridge, and by daybreak of the 5th, the Fifteenth Corps, General Blair, was over, and Generals Granger's and Davis' divisions were ready to pass; but the diagonal bracings were imperfect for want of proper spikes, and the bridge broke, causing delay. I had ordered General Blair to move out on the Maryville road 5 miles, there to await notice that General Granger was on a parallel road abreast of him, and in person I was at a house where the roads parted, when a messenger rode up bearing me a few words from General Burnside, dated December 4. Colonel Long had arrived at Knoxville with his cavalry, and all was well then. Longstreet still lay before the place, but there were symptoms of a speedy departure.
I felt that I had accomplished the first great step in the problem for the relief of General Burnside's army, but still urged on the work. As soon as the bridge was mended, all the troops moved forward. General Howard had marched from Loudon and had found a pretty good ford for his horses and wagons at Davis', 7 miles below Morganton, and had made an ingenious bridge of the wagons left by General Vaughn at Loudon, on which to pass his men. He marched by Unitia and Louisville.
On the night of the 5th, all the heads of columns communicated at Maryville, where I met Major Van Buren, of General Burnside's staff, announcing that General Longstreet had the night before retreated on the Rutledge, Rogersville, and Bristol road, leading to Virginia; that General Burnside's cavalry was on his heels; that the general desired to see me in person as soon as I could come to Knoxville. I ordered all the troops to halt and rest, except the two divisions of General Granger, which were ordered to move forward to Little River, and General Granger to report in person to General Burnside for orders.
His was the force originally designed to re-enforce General Burnside, and it was eminently proper that it should join in the chase after Longstreet.
On the morning of December 6, I rode from Maryville into Knoxville and met General Burnside. General Granger arrived later in the day. We examined his lines of fortifications, which were a wonderful production for the short time allowed in their selection of ground and construction of work. It seemed to me that they were nearly impregnable. We examined the redoubt, named Sanders, where, on the Sunday previous, three brigades of the enemy had assaulted and met a bloody repulse. Now, all was peaceful and quiet; but a few hours before, the deadly bullet sought its victim all round about that hilly barrier.
The general explained fully and frankly what he had done and what he proposed to do. He asked of me nothing but General Granger's command, and suggested, in view of the large force I had brought from Chattanooga, that I should return with due expedition to the line of the Hiwassee, lest Bragg, re-enforced, might take advantage of our absence to resume the offensive. I asked him to reduce this to writing, which he did, and I here introduce it as part of my report:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO,
Knoxville, December 7, 1863.
Maj. Gen. WILLIAM T. SHERMAN, Commanding, &c.:
GENERAL: I desire to express to you and your command my most hearty thanks and gratitude for your promptness in coming to our relief during the siege of Knoxville, and I am satisfied your approach served to raise the siege. The emergency having passed, I do not deem for the present any other portion of your command but the corps of General Granger necessary for operations in this section, and, inasmuch as General Grant has weakened the forces immediately with him in order to relieve us, thereby rendering the position of General Thomas less secure, I deem it advisable that all the troops now here, save those commanded by General Granger, should return at once to within supporting distance of the forces in front of Bragg's army.
In behalf of my command, I desire again to thank you and your command for the kindness you have done us.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. E. BURNSIDE,
Accordingly, having seen General Burnside's forces move out of Knoxville, in pursuit of Longstreet, and General Granger's move in, I put in motion my own command to return.
General Howard was ordered to move, via Davis' Ford and Sweet Water, to Athens, with a guard forward at Charleston, to hold and repair the bridge, which the enemy had taken after our passage up. General Jef. C. Davis moved to Columbus, on the Hiwassee, via Madisonville, and the two divisions of the Fifteenth Corps moved to Tellico Plains, to cover a movement of cavalry across the mountains into Georgia to overtake a wagon train which had dodged us on our way up and had escaped by way of Murphy. Subsequently, on a report from General Howard that the enemy held Charleston, I diverted General Ewing's division to Athens, and went in person to Tellico with General Morgan L. Smith's division.
By the 9th, all our troops were in position and we held the rich country between the Little Tennessee and the Hiwassee. The cavalry under Colonel Long passed the mountain at Tellico, and proceeded about 17 miles beyond Murphy, when Colonel Long, deeming his pursuit farther of the wagon train useless, returned on the 12th to Tellico. I then ordered him and the division of General Morgan L. Smith to move to Charleston, to which point I had previously ordered the corps of General Howard.
On the 14th of December, all of my command in the field lay along the Hiwassee. Having communicated to General Grant the actual state of affairs, I received orders to leave on the line of the Hiwassee all the cavalry, and come to Chattanooga with the balance of my command. I left the brigade of cavalry, commanded by Colonel Long, re-enforced by the Fifth Ohio Cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Heath, the only cavalry properly belonging to the Fifteenth Army Corps, at Charleston, and with the remainder moved by easy marches, by Cleveland and Tyner's Depot, into Chattanooga, where I received in person from General Grant orders to transfer back to their appropriate command the corps of General Howard and division commanded by General Jef. C. Davis, and to conduct the Fifteenth Army Corps to its new field of operations. It will thus appear that we have been constantly in motion since our departure from the Big Black, in Mississippi, until the present moment. I have been unable to receive, from subordinate commanders the usual full detailed reports of events, and have therefore been compelled to make up this report from my own personal memory, but as soon as possible subordinate reports will be received and duly forwarded.
In reviewing the facts I must do justice to my command for the patience, cheerfulness, and courage which officers and men have displayed throughout in battle, on the march, and in camp. For long periods, without regular rations or supplies of any kind, they have marched through mud and over rocks, sometimes barefooted, without a murmur. Without a moment's rest, after a march of over 400 miles, without sleep for three successive nights, we crossed the Tennessee, fought our part of the battle of Chattanooga, pursued the enemy out of Tennessee, and then turned more than 120 miles north and compelled Longstreet to raise the siege of Knoxville, which gave so much anxiety to the whole country. It is hard to realize the importance of the events without recalling the memory of the general feeling which pervaded all minds at Chattanooga, prior to our arrival. I cannot speak of the Fifteenth Army Corps without a seeming vanity, but, as I am no longer its commander, I assert there is no better body of soldiers in America than it, or who have done more or better service. I wish all to feel a just pride in its real honors. To General Howard and his command, to General Jef. C. Davis and his, I am more than usually indebted for the intelligence of commanders and fidelity of commands. The brigade of Colonel Buschbeck, belonging to the Eleventh Corps, which was the first to come out of Chattanooga to my flank, fought at the Tunnel Hill, in connection with General Ewing's division, and displayed a courage almost amounting to rashness. Following the enemy almost to the tunnel gorge, it lost many valuable lives, prominent among them Lieutenant-Colonel Taft, spoken of as a most gallant soldier. In General Howard throughout, I found a polished and Christian gentleman exhibiting the highest and most chivalric traits of the soldier.
General Davis handled his division with artistic skill, more especially at the moment we encountered the enemy's rear guard, near Graysville, at nightfall. I must award to this division the credit of the best order during our marches through East Tennessee, when long marches and the necessity of foraging to the right and left gave some reasons for disordered ranks.
Inasmuch as exception might be taken to my explanation of the temporary confusion during the battle of Chattanooga in the two brigades of General Matthies and Colonel Raum, I will here state that I saw the whole, and attach no fault to any one. Accidents will happen in battle as elsewhere, and at the point where they so manfully went to relieve the pressure on other parts of our assaulting line, they exposed themselves unconsciously to an enemy vastly superior in force and favored by the shape of the ground. Had that enemy come out on equal terms, those brigades would have shown their metal, which has been tried more than once before and stood the test of fire. They reformed their ranks and were ready to support General Ewing's division in a very few minutes, and the circumstance would have hardly called for notice on my part had not others reported for my wing of the army at a distance of near 5 miles, from which could only be seen the troops in the open field where this affair occurred.
I now subjoin the best report of casualties I am able to compile from the records thus far received, viz:
COMMAND KILLED WOUNDED MISSING TOTAL Fifteenth Army Corps: First Division 67 364 66 497 Second Division 10 90 2 102 Third Division 89 288 122 499 Fourth Division 72 535 21 628 Total Loss in Fifteenth Army Corps 238 1,277 211 1,726 Eleventh Army Corps: Buschbeck' Brigade 37 145 81 263
General Jef. C. Davis has sent in no report of casualties in his division, but the loss was small.
Among the killed were some of our most valuable officers: Colonels Putnam, Ninety-third Illinois; O'Meara, Ninetieth Illinois; Torrence, Thirtieth Iowa: Lieutenant-Colonel Taft, of the Eleventh Corps, and Major Bushnell, Thirteenth Illinois Volunteers.
Among the wounded are Brig. Gens. Giles A. Smith, J. M. Corse, and Matthies, Colonel Raum, Colonel Wangelin, Twelfth Missouri Volunteers; Lieutenant-Colonel Partridge, Thirteenth Illinois Volunteers; Maj. P. J. Welsh, Fifty-sixth Illinois Volunteers, and Major McCalla, Tenth Iowa Volunteers.
Among the missing is Lieutenant-Colonel Archer, Seventeenth Iowa.
My report is already so long that I must forbear mentioning acts of individual merit. These will be recorded in the reports of division commanders, which I will cheerfully indorse, but I must say that it is but justice that colonels of regiments who have so long and so well commanded brigades, as in the following cases, should be commissioned to the grade which they have filled with so much usefulness and credit to the public service, viz: Col. J. R. Cockerill, Seventieth Regiment Ohio Volunteers; Col. J. M. Loomis,.Twenty-sixth Regiment Illinois Volunteers; Col. C. C. Walcutt, Forty-sixth Regiment Ohio Volunteers; Col. J. A. Williamson, Fourth Regiment Iowa Volunteers; Col. G. B. Raum, Fifty-sixth Regiment Illinois Volunteers; Col. J. I. Alexander, Fifty-ninth Regiment Indiana Volunteers.
My personal staff, as usual, have served their country with fidelity and credit to themselves throughout these events, and have received my personal thanks.
Inclosed you will please find a map of that part of the battle-field of Chattanooga fought on by the troops under my command, surveyed and drawn by Captain Jenney, of my staff.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,
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