Reports of Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, U. S. Army, commanding Army of the Cumberland, including operations October 31-December 31, and field dispatches, etc.,
November 22-29.NOVEMBER 23-27, 1863.--The Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXI/2 [S# 55]
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,
Chattanooga, December 1, 1863.
Brig. Gen. LORENZO THOMAS,
Adjutant-General U. S. Army.
GENERAL: The following operations of the Army of the Cumberland since October 31 are respectfully submitted to the General-in-Chief:
As soon as communications with Bridgeport had been made secure, and the question of supplying the army at this point rendered certain, preparations were at once commenced for driving the enemy from his position in our immediate front on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, and, if possible, to send a force to the relief of Knoxville. To enable me to dislodge the enemy from the threatening position he had assumed in our front guns of a heavier caliber than those with the army were needed, also additional means for crossing the Tennessee River. Brigadier-General Brannan, chief of artillery, was directed to send for the necessary number of guns and ammunition, and after consulting with Brig. Gen. W. F. Smith, chief engineer, to prepare the batteries for the guns on their arrival. While awaiting the arrival of the guns and ammunition, work was prosecuted on the fortifications around the town. In addition to his duties of superintending the work on the fortifications, General Smith pushed vigorously the construction of two pontoon bridges, to be used in the execution of the movements which were determined upon as necessary to a successful dislodgment of the enemy.
Guerrillas having become somewhat troublesome to the northeast of McMinnville and east of the Caney Fork of the Cumberland, Brigadier-General Elliott, chief of cavalry, was ordered, November 14, to establish his headquarters with the First Division of Cavalry at or near Alexandria, and employ the division in hunting up and exterminating these marauders. Elliott reached Alexandria on the 18th, and on the 27th reports that his scouts met those of Burnside on Flint Ridge, east of Sparta, and that Lieutenant-Colonel Brownlow, with detachments from the First East Tennessee and Ninth Pennsylvania Cavalry, attacked the rebel Colonel Murray on the 26th at Sparta, killing 1, wounding 2, and capturing 10 of the enemy, including a lieutenant of Champ. Ferguson's; he also captured a few horses and some ammunition, and destroyed extensive salt-works used by the rebels. A company of scouts, under Captain Brixey, also encountered a party of guerrillas near Beersheba Springs, capturing 15 or 20, and dispersing the rest.
Brig. Gen. R. S. Granger reports from Nashville, November 2, that--
A mixed command, under Lieutenant-Colonel Scully, First Middle Tennessee Infantry, sent out from Nashville, attacked and defeated Hawkins and other guerrilla chiefs, and pursued them to Centreville, Hickman County, where Hawkins made another stand, attacking our forces while crossing the river. Hawkins was again routed, and pursued until his forces dispersed. Rebel loss from 15 to 20 killed and 6 prisoners; our loss 1 severely and several slightly wounded.
Again, on November 4, that--
Major Fitz Gibbon, Fourteenth Michigan Infantry, came upon the combined forces of Cooper, Kirk, Williams, and Scott (guerrillas), at Lawrenceburg, 85 miles from Columbia, and after a severe hand-to-hand fight defeated them, killing 8, wounding 7, and capturing 24 prisoners: among the latter, 1 captain and 2 lieutenants. Major Fitz Gibbon's loss, 3 men slightly wounded and 8 horses killed. He reports the enemy 400 strong, and his force 120.
Captain Cutler, with one company of mounted infantry and a portion of Whittemore's battery (mounted), belonging to the garrison of Clarksville, had a fight near Palmyra with Captain Grey's company of guerrillas, killing 2, wounding 5, and taking 1 prisoner; Cutler's loss, 1 lieutenant and 1 man wounded.
Scout organized by Brigadier-General Paine, and sent out from Gallatin and La Vergne, returned, and report having killed 5 and captured 26 guerrillas, with horses, sheep, cattle, and hogs in their possession, collected for the use of the rebel army.
Brigadier-General Crook, commanding Second Division of Cavalry, was ordered, November 17, to concentrate his division at or near Huntsville, Ala., and to patrol the north side of the Tennessee from Decatur to Bridgeport, and to hunt up bands of guerrillas reported to be roaming about in that region, arresting and robbing Union citizens. General Crook reports on the 21st that an expedition sent down the Tennessee had destroyed nine boats between Whitesburg and Decatur, some of them 60 feet long. The expedition crossed the river and drove off the rebels, taking their boats. From the best information to be obtained, there were two small regiments of cavalry and one battery on the other side, doing picket duty. Lee and Roddey reported as having gone to Mississippi. Major-General Sherman, commanding Army of the Tennessee, having been ordered with the Fifteenth Corps to this point to participate in the operations against the enemy, reached Bridgeport with two divisions on the 15th. He came to the front himself, and having examined the ground, expressed himself confident of his ability to execute his share of the work. The plan of operations was then written out substantially as follows: Sherman, with the Fifteenth Corps, strengthened with one division from my command, was to effect a crossing of the Tennessee River just below the mouth of the South Chickamauga, on Saturday, November 21, at daylight: his crossing to be protected by artillery planted on the heights on the north bank of the river. After crossing his force, he was to carry the heights of Missionary Ridge from their northern extremity to about the railroad tunnel before the enemy could concentrate a force against him. I was to co-operate with Sherman by concentrating my troops in Chattanooga Valley, on my left flank, leaving only the necessary force to defend the fortifications on the right and center, with a movable column of one division in readiness to move wherever ordered. This division was to show itself as threateningly as possible on the most practicable line for making an attack up the valley. I was then to effect a junction with Sherman, making my advance from the left, well toward the north end of Mission Ridge, and moving as near simultaneously with Sherman as possible. The junction once formed and the Ridge carried, communications would be at once established between the two armies by roads running on the south bank of the river. Further movements to depend on those of the enemy. Lookout Valley was to be held by Geary's division of the Twelfth Corps, and the two brigades of the Fourth Corps ordered to co-operate with him; the whole under command of Major-General Hooker. Howard s corps was to be held in readiness to act either with my troops at Chattanooga or with General Sherman's, and was ordered to take up a position on Friday night on the north side of the Tennessee near the first pontoon bridge, and there held in readiness for such orders as might become necessary. General Smith commenced at once to collect his pontoons and materials for bridges in the North Chickamauga Creek, preparatory to the crossing of Sherman's troops, proper precautions being taken that the enemy should not discover the movement. General Sherman then returned to Bridgeport to direct the movements of his troops. Colonel Long (Fourth Ohio Cavalry), commanding Second Brigade, Second Division Cavalry, was ordered on the 16th to report at Chattanooga on Saturday, the 21st, by noon; the intention being for him to follow up the left flank of Sherman's troops, and if not required by General Sherman, he was to cross the Chickamauga, make a raid upon the enemy's communications, and do as much damage as possible. Owing to a heavy rain-storm, commencing on Friday (20th), and lasting all of the 21st, General Sherman was not enabled to get his troops in position in time to commence operations on Saturday morning, as he expected.
Learning that the enemy had discovered Sherman's movements across Lookout Valley, it was thought best that General Howard should cross over into Chattanooga, thus attracting the attention of the enemy, with the intention of leading him to suppose that those troops he had observed moving were re-enforcing Chattanooga, and thereby concealing the real movements of Sherman. Accordingly, Howard's corps was crossed into Chattanooga on Sunday, and took up a position in full view of the enemy. In consequence of the bad condition of the roads General Sherman's troops were occupied all of Sunday in getting into position. In the meantime, the river having risen, both pontoon bridges were broken by rafts sent down the river by the enemy, cutting off Osterhaus' division from the balance of Sherman's troops. It was thought this would delay us another day, but during the night of the 22d, two deserters reported Bragg had fallen back, and that there was only a strong picket line in our front. Early on the morning of the 23d, I received a note from Major-General Grant, directing me to ascertain by a demonstration the truth or falsity of this report.
Orders were accordingly given to General Granger, commanding the Fourth Corps, to form his troops and to advance directly in front of Fort Wood, and thus develop the strength of the enemy. General Palmer, commanding the Fourteenth Corps, was directed to support General Granger's right, with Baird's division refused and en echelon. Johnson's division, Fourteenth Corps, to be held in readiness, under arms, in the intrenchments, to re-enforce at any point. Howard's corps was formed en masse behind the center of Granger's corps. The two divisions of Granger's corps (Sheridan's and Wood's) were formed in front of Fort Wood; Sheridan on the right, Wood on the left, with his left extending nearly to Citico Creek. The formation being completed about 2 p.m. the troops were advanced steadily and with rapidity directly to the front, driving before them first the rebel pickets, then their reserves, and falling upon their grand guards stationed in their first line of rifle-pits, captured something over 200 men, and secured themselves in their new positions before the enemy had sufficiently recovered from his surprise to attempt to send re-enforcements from his main camp. Orders were then given to General Granger to make his position secure by constructing temporary breastworks and throwing out strong pickets to his front. Howard's corps was moved up on the left of Granger, with the same instructions, and Bridges' (Illinois) battery was placed in position on Orchard Knob. The troops remained in that position for the night. The Tennessee River having risen considerably from the effect of the previous heavy rain-storm, it was found difficult to rebuild the pontoon bridge at Brown's Ferry. Therefore it was determined that General Hooker should take Osterhaus' division, which was still in Lookout Valley, and Geary's division, Whitaker's and Grose's brigades, of the First Division, Fourth Corps, under Brigadier-General Cruft, and make a strong demonstration on the western slope of Lookout Mountain, for the purpose of attracting the enemy's attention in that direction and thus withdrawing him from Sherman while crossing the river at the mouth of the South Chickamauga.
General Hooker was instructed that in making this demonstration, if he discovered the position and strength of the enemy would justify him in attempting to carry the point of the mountain, to do so. By 4 a.m. on the morning of the 24th, General Hooker reported his troops in position and ready to advance.
Finding Lookout Creek so much swollen as to be impassable, he sent Geary's division, supported by Cruft's two brigades, to cross the creek at Wauhatchie, and work down on the right bank, while he employed the remainder of his force in constructing temporary bridges across the creek on the main road. The enemy, being attracted by the force on the road, did not observe the movements of Geary until his column was directly on their left and threatened their rear. Hooker's movements were facilitated by the heavy mist which overhung the mountain, enabling Geary to get into position without attracting attention.
Finding himself vigorously pushed by a strong column on his left and rear, the enemy began to fall back with rapidity, but his resistance was obstinate, and the entire point of the mountain was not gained until about 2 p.m., when General Hooker reported by telegraph that he had carried the mountain as far as the road from Chattanooga Valley to the white house. Soon after his main column, coming up, his line was extended to the foot of the mountain, near the mouth of Chattanooga Creek. His right, being still strongly resisted by the enemy, was re-enforced by Carlin's brigade, First Division, Fourteenth Corps, which arrived at the white house about 5 p.m., in time to take part in the contest still going on at that point. Continuous and heavy skirmishing was kept up in Hooker's front until 10 at night, after which there was an unusual quietness along our whole front.
With the aid of the steamer Dunbar, which had been put in condition and sent up the river at daylight of the 24th, General Sherman by 11 a.m. had crossed three divisions of the Fifteenth Corps, and was ready to advance as soon as Davis' division of the Fourteenth Corps commenced crossing. Colonel Long (Fourth Ohio Cavalry), commanding Second Brigade. Second Division Cavalry, was then ordered to move up at once, follow Sherman's advance closely, and to proceed to carry out his instructions of the day before, if not required by General Sherman to support his left flank.
Howard's corps moved to the left about 9 a.m., and communicated with Sherman about noon. Instructions were sent to General Hooker to be ready to advance on the morning of the 25th from his position on the point of Lookout Mountain to the Summertown road, and endeavor to intercept the enemy's retreat, if he had not already withdrawn, which he was to ascertain by pushing a reconnaissance to the top of Lookout Mountain.
The reconnaissance was made as directed, and having ascertained that the enemy had evacuated during the night, General Hooker was then directed to move on the Rossville road with the troops under his command (except Carlin's brigade, which was to rejoin its division), carry the pass at Rossville, and operate upon the enemy's left and rear. Palmer's and Granger's troops were held in readiness to advance directly on the rifle-pits in their front as soon as Hooker could get into position at Rossville. In retiring on the night of the 24th, the enemy had destroyed the bridges over Chattanooga Creek on the road leading from Lookout Mountain to Rossville, and, in consequence, General Hooker was delayed until after 2 p.m. in effecting the crossing of the creek. About noon, General Sherman becoming heavily engaged by the enemy, they having massed a strong force in his front, orders were given for General Baird to march his division within supporting distance of General Sherman. Moving his command promptly in the direction indicated, he was placed in position to the left of Wood's division of Granger's corps.
Owing to the difficulties of the ground, his troops did not get in line with Granger's until about 2.30 p.m. Orders were then given him, however, to move forward on Granger's left, and within supporting distance, against the enemy's rifle-pits on the slope and at the foot of Missionary Ridge. The whole line then advanced against the breastworks, and soon became warmly engaged with the enemy's skirmishers; these, giving way, retired upon their reserves, posted within their works. Our troops advancing steadily in a continuous line, the enemy, seized with panic, abandoned the works at the foot of the hill and retreated precipitately to the crest, where they were closely followed by our troops, who, apparently inspired by the impulse of victory, carried the hill simultaneously at six different points, and so closely upon the heels of the enemy that many of them were taken prisoners in the trenches. We captured all their cannon and ammunition before they could be removed or destroyed.
After halting for a few moments to reorganize the troops, who had Become somewhat scattered in the assault of the hill, General Sheridan pushed forward in pursuit, and drove those in his front who escaped capture across Chickamauga Creek. Generals Wood and Baird, being obstinately resisted by re-enforcements from the enemy's extreme right, continued fighting until darkness set in, slowly but steadily driving the enemy before them. In moving upon Rossville, General Hooker encountered Stewart's division and other troops. Finding his left flank threatened, Stewart attempted to escape by retreating toward Graysville, but some of his force, finding their retreat threatened from that quarter, retired in disorder toward their right, along the crest of the ridge, when they were met by another portion of General Hooker's command, and were driven by these troops in the face of Johnson's division of Palmer's corps, by whom they were nearly all made prisoners.
It will be perceived from the above report that the original plan of operations was somewhat modified to meet and take the best advantage of emergencies, which necessitated material modifications of that plan. It is believed, however, that the original plan, had it been carried out, could not possibly have led to more successful results. The alacrity displayed by officers in executing their orders, the enthusiasm and spirit displayed by the men who did the work, cannot be too highly appreciated by the nation, for the defense of which they have on so many other memorable occasions nobly and patriotically exposed their lives in battle. Howard's corps (Eleventh) having joined Sherman on the 24th, his operations from that date will be included in Sherman's report; also those of Brig. Gen. J. C. Davis division, of the Fourteenth Corps, who reported for duty to General Sherman on the 21st. General Granger's command returned to Chattanooga, with instructions to prepare and hold themselves in readiness for orders to re-enforce General Burnside at Knoxville. On the 26th, the enemy were pursued by Hooker's and Palmer's commands, surprising a portion of their rear guard near Graysville after nightfall, capturing three pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners. The pursuit was continued on the 27th, capturing an additional piece of artillery at Graysville. Hooker's advance encountered the enemy posted in the pass through Taylor's Ridge, who, after an obstinate resistance of an hour, were driven from the pass with considerable loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners. Our loss was also heavy. A large quantity of forage and some additional caissons and ammunition were captured at Ringgold. On the 28th, Colonel Long (Fourth Ohio Cavalry) returned to Chattanooga from his expedition, and reported verbally that on the 24th he reached Tyner's Station, destroying the enemy's forage and rations at that place, also some cars, and doing considerable injury to the railroad. He then proceeded to Ooltewah, where he captured and destroyed some trains loaded with forage. From thence he proceeded to Cleveland, remaining there one day, destroyed their cop-per-rolling mill and a large depot of commissary and ordnance stores. Being informed that a train of the enemy's wagons was near Charleston, on the Hiwassee, and was probably unable to cross the river on account of the break in their pontoon bridge, after a few hours rest he pushed forward with a hope of being able to destroy them, but found, on reaching Charleston, that the enemy had repaired their bridge and had crossed their trains safely, and were prepared to defend the crossing with one or two pieces of artillery, supported by an infantry force on the north bank. He then returned to Cleveland and damaged the railroad for 5 or 6 miles in the direction of Dalton, and then returned to Chattanooga.
On the 28th, General Hooker was ordered by General Grant to remain at Ringgold until the 30th, and so employ his troops as to cover the movements of General Sherman, who had received orders to march his force to the relief of Burnside by way of Cleveland and Loudon. Palmer's corps was detached from the force under General Hooker and returned to Chattanooga.
I have the honor to annex hereto consolidated returns of prisoners, captured property, and casualties.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. H. THOMAS,
Major-General, U. S. Vols., Commanding.
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