Rosecrans' planning was
flawed, but Thomas stood like a rock and saved the Union army.
Bragg planned well enough, but some of his subordinate generals (Polk and Hindman) failed him.
Braxton Bragg (1817-76)
Nothing is as it first seems.
|NPS map of 1901 (CWCK2_11
from collection of Office of Coast Survey)
After the Tullahoma Campaign (23
June - 3 July 63), Rosecrans prepared
his movement toward and around Chattanooga very carefully, all the
while exchanging acrimonious telegrams with Halleck who demanded that
he get moving. His simple explanation that he had to wait for
the corn crop to ripen, so that he wouldn't have to carry with him the
fodder for his animals, found no hearing with generals insulated in
Washington. As soon as his preparations were complete he crossed
the Cumberland mountains and sent Minty's cavalry part way to Knoxville
and had Wilder demonstrate opposite Chattanooga
(thus binding two of Bragg's divisions) in order to give the impression
that he intended to cross the Tennessee upstream. The impression was
reinforced by Burnside's occupation of Knoxville on 6 Sept. 63. As
Rosecrans would then have been able to link up with Burnside, this was
the crossing which Bragg expected and was preparing for. However, on 29
Aug. 63 Rosecrans' main force crossed the Tennessee downstream
from Chattanooga at 4 points in the vicinity of Bridgeport, Ala.
He then sent the AotC in 3 groups on a 50 mile wide front
around Chattanooga. McCook was to the south of Lookout Mountain, Thomas
occupied Cooper's and Stevens' Gaps in the middle of Lookout Mountain
(with the help of a local Union sympathizer), and Crittenden was to
occupy Chattanooga. He moved into it without opposition on 9 Sept. 63
after Bragg had left upon learning that
the Union troops were in control of Lookout mountain. However, all
reports that Bragg was fleeing in disorder toward Atlanta or Rome, Ga.
were false and/or planted. Thomas warned Rosecrans that Bragg was not
far away and dangerous to Rosecrans' widely dispersed forces, and that
it was much safer to first concentrate and consolidate the Union hold
on Lookout Valley and Chattanooga before going further.
However, Rosecrans was under ceaseless pressure from Stanton and Halleck to pursue and "destroy" Bragg, and Rosecrans decided to go after him. He was also upset because he had received practically no recognition for his brilliantly concieved and executed Tullahoma campaign and Tennesse River crossing, and he wanted advancement as much as many another general.
Guided by his assumption that Bragg was in full retreat,
Rosecrans had ordered McCook at the southern end of Lookout Mountain to
descend into Broomtown Valley and move toward Summerville in order to
attack Bragg's army in the flank. When McCook got as far as Alpine and
discovered that Bragg was not at all retreating, but rather was
concentrated just to his north, he stopped, sent his trains back up the
mountain, requested instructions, and waited. On the 13th he received
orders from Thomas to bring his command to McLemore's Cove and unite
with the 14th Corps "as rapidly as possible." However, even after
having spent a week in the Alpine area, he was still poorly
informed of the roads. Instead of taking the most direct road via
Dougherty Gap into the cove, or the parallel road
along the ridge to Steven's Gap, he passed by both roads on his right,
descended into Lookout Valley, and recrossed Lookout Mountain further
north at Steven's Gap. This almost doubled his marching
distance and, more importantly, added a second mountain crossing.
True, it was the safest route, but it cost him 5 days to cover what he
could have done in 1 or 2 days. McCook's report throws little light on
his reasons for his choice of route, but if Rosecrans had heeded
Thomas' warnings, McCook wouldn't have been sent to Alpine in the first
place. The map below shows the route he took and the two shorter ones
he could have taken:
War Department Map of 1896 (CWCK10 from collection of Office of Coast Survey
The red dots show the route McCook actually took, and the blue line passing through Dougherty Gap shows the shortest route he could have taken into McClemore's Cove (barred by Confederate troops?). There was also the parallel road along the ridge to Steven's Gap (the blue dots), but it wasn't indicated on some of the period maps, and it appears that neither McCook nor Thomas knew about it. A mystery here: How could their scouts have missed it? Not taking this middle route delayed McCook by 2 days.
Driving Tour of McLemore's Cove
To better understand the events in and around McLemore's Cove (which set up the battle of Chickamauga), I suggest the following 2 hour driving tour. Start at Point Park on Lookout Mountain and take highway 157 south along the ridge for 15 miles. Turn left on Dougherty Gap Road and descend through hairpin turns into McClemore's Cove. Notice how narrow the valley is at that point. Go left at the first fork and pass through Cedar Grove. While driving look up to see the ridge above you on the left. When you reach highway 193 you are where Bailey's Crosscroads was. Turn right and drive 2 miles east to Davis Crossroads which was Thomas' and Negley's forward position on 10-11 Sept. Then drive 2 more miles east to Dug Gap, a climb with switchbacks, Bragg's forward position. Turn around and return to Davis Crossroads, continue on highway 193 until you reach highway 138. Turn left, and drive up to Steven's Gap. At the top you will have rejoined highway 157 which, if you turn right, will take you back to Point Park. If you have time, drive back down to Davis Crossroads and turn left toward the Chickamauga visitors' center. As you drive, notice how this end of the valley opens out. This tour will give you a good idea of what the commanders of those times had to face. Remember, they had to carry most of their supplies with them in horse-drawn wagons.
As a result of McCook's detour, the rest of Rosecrans' army, instead
of retiring in an orderly manner into the fortifications of Chattanooga
or at least Rossville, had to wait for McCook in a position of
extreme vulnerability. Fortunately for the Federals, Bragg had
decided to wait for the arrival of Longstreet before making any more
attacks. The head of McCook's column reached Thomas on the 17th, but
the tail didn't reach Rosecran's right wing until the morning of the
20th (Col. Jonathan R. Miles of the Twenty-seventh Illinois
Infantry who joined Wilder). In chapter 12 of his 1894 "History
of the Army of the Cumberland," Henry M. Cist sums up this
situation as follows:
Bragg had prepared a trap. Hindman was to attack Negley from the
wide open valley opening to the north, and Daniel. H. Hill was to
attack from Dug Gap in the East upon the signal of the sound of
Hindman's attack. Negley might have been caught in a bottle if Hindman,
fearing himself an attack against his right flank, hadn't perceived
discretion in his orders and delayed. Bragg, waiting with Hill at Dug
Gap and listening for gunfire from the north side of the Cove,
hesitated also. His "resolution weakened during the day as he imagined
Crittenden and McCook were closing in on his flanks" (Cozzens, This
Terrible Sound, p. 74-75). Moreover, his experience of the last
couple of months must have made him suspect some sort of ruse on
Rosecrans' part, not knowing that, this time, Rosecrans hadn't drawn
the card to fill his straight flush. While Bragg attempted to get
Hindman to move, which would have firmed up his own indecision, his
intended prey pulled part-way back west out of the Cove, Baird came
down and reinforced Negley's flank, and Bragg's moment passed.
McLemore's CoveHighway 157 on the left follows the top of Lookout Mountain (see Driving Tour above). The original road (blue dots) between Steven's Gap and Bailey's Crossroads no longer goes through, and the connecting road to Cooper's Gap (green splotch) also no longer exists. The squiggle near Estelle at the right is Dug Gap where the Confederates' advanced position was located. The main part of Bragg's army was at La Fayette, about 5 miles to the east. On 9 Sept. Negley got as far as the red star at Davis Crossroads and stopped. His scouts told him there were a lot of enemy soldiers in front of him. They were right.
Bragg then ordered Polk to attack the isolated corps of
Crittenden near Chattanooga, but Polk fumbled it. On 13 Sept., when his
skimishers encountered those of Crittenden, Polk overestimated the size
of the force facing him, perhaps thanks to Wilder's firepower, and had
his men fortify. He called for reinforcements, but only Bragg came
to find out what had happened. The shouted invective of the two
generals was easily heard by the troops outside the tent. By the way,
until the 20th Wilder had practically an independent command and was
called to reinforce threatened points all along Rosecrans' six-mile
During the next week Bragg undertook nothing while he waited for Longstreet whose arrival would give him numerical superiority. This was perhaps the only major battle of the war in which the Confederate forces (about 70,000) outnumbered the Federal forces (about 58,000). To the Confederate total should be added several thousand men of the Georgia militia which had taken over guard duties in the rear "in order to give Bragg every available fighting man" (Coppée, General Thomas, 1893, pg. 131). Rosecrans had received a report that troops from the Army of Northern Virginia had been spotted traveling south, so he must have at least suspected where they were headed. In the weeks preceding the battle he made repeated requests to the War Department, which was hounding him to destroy Bragg, to send him more men. Burnside at Knoxville was repeatedly ordered to go to Rosecrans, but he also felt shorthanded, had ambiguous instructions from Halleck (connect with Rosecrans but do not, repeat, do not relinquish East Tennessee), and was under pressure from Governer Johnson in Nashville to not abandon East Tennessee. At first Burnside stayed put. Finally he did move but, when the battle began at Chickamauga, he had got no further than Kingston, 25 miles outside of Knoxville. He turned back when he learned the outcome of the battle. Grant at Vicksburg was not shorthanded and his troops were not seriously engaged or threatened anywhere. On 13 Sept. he also had been ordered to send Rosecrans reinforcements, but he was absent from his command (partying in New Orleans), his second in command Sherman undertook nothing, and the reinforcements weren't sent until 27 Sept., after the battle had been fought. Read or reread my summary of the battles of Iuka and Corinth to find out what may have motivated Grant to act like that.
According to Ambrose Bierce, topographical engineer under Hazen during the battle of Chickamauga, the battle was about "control of a road," namely La Fayette Road. There were actually three roads leading from the Union lines back toward Rossville - Dry Valley Rd. (the escape route of Rosecrans' right wing on the 20th, McFarland Road (Thomas' route of retreat the evening of the 20th), and La Fayette or State Rd. (the main road to Rossville Gap which Bragg wanted to cut).
The first large scale contact actually took place on the 18th between the respective cavalries as Bragg prepared to put his army across the Chickamauga. The terrain was utterly unsuited for a coordinated attack or defense as most of the area was virgin forest. Steele writes: "Neither army knew the exact positions of the other...It is probable that division commanders on either side hardly knew where their own commands were, in the thick woods, let alone the other troops of their own army, or the troops of the hostile army. The lines were at this time about six miles long." Add to this the arrival of Longstreet's corps on the same day and the arrival of Longstreet himself the next night, and it is easy to imagine the confusion in the dispositions on both sides.
All of Thomas' intelligence indicated that Bragg intended to aim
his heaviest blow at the Union left. During the night of the 18th
Thomas therefore moved his corps north from the Union center, around
and behind Crittenden, and to the Union left, thus placing his corps on
the roads leading back to Rossville Gap and Chattanooga. At dawn Baird
had reached Kelly Field. It was this shift which thwarted Bragg's plan
of attack and made the saving of the Union army possible. At
this point Bragg would have been very surprised to hear anyone describe
Thomas as being slow. Thomas made this risky move, albeit screened by
forest and Chickamauga Creek, in the face of Confederate units under
Polk less than a mile away. Neither force was aware of the presence of
the other, but the Confederates camped while Thomas rode back and forth
along his columns moving north. "Why, it's old Pap hisself," a
surprised soldier would exclaim when Thomas in person appeared to clear
a traffic jam. In the morning Thomas' unrested troops prepared
breastworks*, and Croxton attacked Forrest. This brought on
the general engagement which turned into an all day melee in which
neither side could claim any advantage. Neither Rosecrans nor
Bragg could exercise meaningful command, and brigades fought brigades
independently, as both armies sidled north. That evening after dark
Cleburne attacked the Union left, but was beaten off.
For the next day Bragg made his usual complicated battle plan
which dictated a dawn attack in Polk against the Union left which would
then ripple down the line, but there was no early attack. Polk either
did not pass the order on to Hill, or he did pass on the order, but
Hill received it too late to get an early start. The truth is buried in
the murk of accusation and counter-accusation, but in any case Polk
adhered to his pattern of not taking Bragg's battlefield
directives seriously. Longstreet, having arrived the previous evening
and been given command of Bragg's left, was to attack upon hearing the
battle begin on the other end of the line, but when there was no attack
at either end, Bragg sent orders to move forward directly to the
division commanders. Thomas on the left began to feel heavy pressure
from Confederates trying to get around his left and called for
reinforcements. This led Rosecrans to shift some units in his
direction, which resulted in a hole being created inadvertently on the
Union right when Rosecrans sent the following order to Wood:
HEADQUARTERS, September 20--10.45 a.m.
Brigadier-General WOOD, Commanding Division:
The general commanding directs that you close up on Reynolds as fast as possible and support him.
Respectfully, FRANK S. BOND, Major, and Aide-de-Camp.
Rosecrans' order presupposed a gap between Wood and Reynolds, but there was none, but rather the division of Brannan was there. There was a small space between Brannan and Reynolds which a courrier had noticed and reported to Rosecrans. Brannan had been ordered to Thomas, but he hesitated to leave while in the face of imminent attack. To obey the letter of at least part of the order and close up on Reynolds, Wood therefore had to pull out of line and move behind Brannan.
The oft repeated tale that Wood willfully, on his own, and out of
spite carried out an order he knew to be ill-advised is probably
exagerated. Most commentators fault Wood because he certainly
knew that to move just then was risky, as Longstreet's
skirmishers were already advancing. However, he had already been twice
upbraided by Rosecrans for not rigidly following orders, most recently
earlier that same morning for failing to promptly carry out, you
guessed it, an ambiguous order. He had been ordered to fill Negley's
place in line who had been ordered to join Thomas. But Negley didn't
move, and Wood could not relieve him. Rosecrans, overwrought and unable
to control his emotions, blamed Wood for Negley's tardiness and said so
in public using insulting and threatening language. Now
Wood was handed a poorly written order, and McCook, exhausted and
confused, his superior in rank although not his direct commander, told
him to try and carry it out, and that he would fill the gap with other
troops. McCook made this offer after having received information from
his skirmishers that a large Confederate force was heading in his
direction. However, at that point there wasn't much McCook could have
done. He was stretched to the breaking point by the troops taken from
him and sent to Thomas, and Sheridan and Davis were in motion when
Longstreet's column of 20,000 men struck the gap left by Wood. Glen
Tucker summed up the other point of view when he wrote: "There can be
little doubt that Wood acted in good faith" ("Chickamauga," pg. 258).
Regardless of McCook's ability or lack of it in a crisis, Rosecrans was
at fault for again having put McCook in that spot. Rosecrans had not
followed Thomas' advice, proferred at the council of war in Widow
Glen's house the previous evening, to move the entire right wing up to
the Dry Valley Road. Perhaps Rosecrans was reluctant to impose yet
another night march, even of a couple of miles, on an overworked army.
This is what can happen when an abstract plan is rigidly carried
through in spite of unforseen exigencies. Rosecrans had let himself be
seduced by the beauty of his plan.
McCook, Negley and Crittenden were later brought before a court
of inquiry, but not convicted for leaving the field of battle. They
were found to have committed no more than an "error of judgment"
(ar50_1053), but their active roles in the war ceased
nevertheless. Judging from McCook's performances at Perryville and
Murfreesboro it should have ended earlier, but the McCook family was
influential. He was genial and personally courageous, but incompetent
as a corps commander. Wood was not tried, perhaps because he was felt
to be not at fault, or because later that day he played an essential
role in stabilizing Thomas' position on Snodgrass Hill. In a message
dated 15 Oct. 63 Rosecrans praised Wood's performance and even
recommended him for promotion (ar53_387). However, he was
censured by the Negley court of inquiry for "severe reflections upon
the conduct of Major General Negley, applying to him coarse and
offensive epithets" (ar50_1044). Sheridan also
plied Negley with offensive language, but was not censured. The whole
question of responsibility for opening the gap is moot because
Rosecrans, by initially misreading Bragg's intentions, by disregarding
on repeated occasions sound advice from Thomas, and by shrugging off
intelligence that Bragg was being reinforced, had already created a
chaotic command situation in which any error would have dire
consequences, and there are always errors. Under such circumstances,
Longstreet's attack may have overwhelmed the Union right anyway.
In any case a hole was made, and the massed column under Hood
happened to find it while making one of his all-or-nothing attacks, and
the Federal right, already in a state of confusion, collapsed.
Rosecrans, McCook, Crittenden, Davis, Negley (taking with him most of
the Union artillery), and Sheridan left the field. When Rosecrans
arrived at Rossville he met his chief of staff, Garfield, and debated
what to do. According to Henry Cist, another of Rosecrans' staff who
may actually have been a witness, Garfield advised Rosecrans to go back
to Chattanooga while he, Garfield, would report to Thomas (Cist,
"History of the Army of the Cumberland," chapt. 12). This was bad
advice from a man who before the crossing of the Tennessee had been
sending back secret reports to Chase unfavorable to Rosecrans, so
Garfield left the field that evening, when Thomas withdrew, with
something on his conscience.
After the collapse, the only unit remaining on the Union right
was Wilder's brigade of mounted infantry armed with Spencer repeaters which made so much
noise that Longstreet hesitated to order his men forward, thinking that
Wilder represented a large force on his flank. This at least
bought some time for Thomas to get set on Snodgrass Hill. Wilder sent
an aid to ask Sheridan, who was retreating, for help, and Sheridan told
him, "to get out of there" (Samuel C. Williams, "General John T.
Wilder," 1936, pg. 33, quoted also in Tucker, pg. 316). The
day before at the other end of the line, and that morning on the Union
far right, Wilder had stopped Confederate attacks cold. Now,
after the collapse of the Union right, he was about to attack
Longstreet in the flank and cut his way through to Thomas, because
anyone with ears and a clear mind knew that Thomas hadn't quit. Then
a panicked Charles Dana, Assistant Secretary of War and Stanton's very
capable but not battle-tested informant, was riding in the wrong
direction toward Confederate lines and, luckily for him, ran into
Wilder. He told Wilder that the entire army was routed and Rosecrans
killed or captured. He positively ordered Col. Wilder to escort him
back to Chattanooga, and to fall back to Lookout Mountain in order to
"hold it at all hazards" (Tucker, pg. 317). Being only a colonel
and not knowing that Dana did not have the authority to give such
orders, Wilder stopped his preparations, sent Dana back to Chattanooga
with some scouts, and began to restore order in his sector. His brigade
remained on the field until the next morning and, along with Dan
McCook's brigade on the other wing, was the last to retire.
All of the commanders on the division level and above who left
the field on the 20th were sidelined for the rest of the war, except
Davis and Sheridan. Davis saved himself later
that afternoon by the gesture of promptly or fairly promptly reversing
direction when so ordered, but Sheridan decided that his battle was
over and marched away, allegedly with the intention of returning via
Rossville to support Thomas's northern flank. Col. Thruston,
chief of staff of McCook's XX Corps (to which Davis and Sheridan
belonged) had reported to Thomas that Sheridan, along with Negley and
Davis with about 7000 men were still close by. Thomas sent
Thruston to direct the three division commanders to come back to "aid
his right," something which they should have done anyway, without
orders. Forcing his way through along a road clogged with
retreating men and equipment, Thruston found them still at McFarland's
Gap and conveyed Thomas' order. Davis allowed his soldiers get water,
and then headed back toward Thomas' right, taking some of Negley's
troops with him, albeit without getting very far. But Sheridan and
Negley kept on toward Rossville. As Thruston wrote in his article The Crisis at Chickamauga
in "Battles and Leaders" (Vol III, pg. 665):
"Sheridan was still without faith. He may have thought there
was danger at Rossville, or that his troops had not regained their
fighting spirit. He insisted on going to Rossville. Darkness would
catch him before he reached the field from that direction. Negley was
vacilating; he finally went to Rossville."
Piatt ("Life of Thomas," pg. 430-31) writes the following about
"General Thruston, in making his statement, omitted from the writing precisely what General Sheridan did say, and this language the gallant young chief of staff omitted from a mistaken sense of propriety. The fact is, the insubordinate subordinate, in a sentence glaring with profanity, swore he would obey no such orders and take his men into a slaughter organized by fools....A braver man never trod the field of danger. His mind was clear and his nerves calm, and he knew that in that roar that rose behind him as he marched away brave men were being done to death, while heroic officers were looking eagerly to the right and left for aid in this hour of death-tainted anxiety."
Sheridan played no further role in the battle, but for some
reason he got a pass while Negley lost his command, as did Rosecrans,
McCook, Crittenden, and Van Cleve, regardless of the pressing reasons
they put forth in defense of their decisions. It is possible that the
War Department had been waiting for an opportunity to get rid of these
commanders anyway. Rosecrans' abrasiveness and perhaps his ambition had
long grated on Halleck, and the government wanted to deflect criticism
that it hadn't properly supported Rosecrans, so he would do as a
scapegoat. McCook had struck out a third time in a major battle, and
nobody wanted to serve under him any more. Crittenden had apparently
lost heart, perhaps because the war was taking a direction he hadn't
predicted, perhaps the family plantation back in Kentucky was not doing
well as restive slaves slipped away. Dana could not have been far off
the mark when wrote the following about the two:
"The feeling in the case of McCook is deepened by the recollection of his faults at Perryville and Murfreesborough, and of the great waste of life which they caused; while toward Crittenden it is relieved somewhat by consideration for his excellent heart, general good sense, and charming social qualities. Against these, however, is balanced the fact, which I can testify to from my own observation, that he is constantly wanting in attention to the duties of his command, never rides his lines, or exercises any special care for the well-being and safety of his troops, and, in fact, discharges no other function than that of a medium for the transmission of orders."
Consider this exchange reported by Parkhurst who had been
collecting stragglers and fugitives fleeing from the field:
"The troops from the front continued to rush on toward my line in great confusion, and at this moment I discovered Major-General Crittenden, of the Twenty-first Army Corps, with some of his staff. I immediately rode up to him and respectfully asked him to stop and take command of the forces I was collecting and had then collected, and place them in a position to resist an attack or take them back to the battle-field, which I then supposed and now believe could have been successfully accomplished. Major-General Crittenden declined to take command, saying, "This," meaning the forces there collected, 'is no command for me.' I remarked to the general that the force I then had collected and should succeed in collecting was too much of a command for me. General Crittenden replied, 'You have done marvelously well and you had better keep command.'"
No high ranking officer who displayed such an attitude in such a situation could remain in his position. Negley also had some explaining to do. Well before Longstreet's attack Thomas had ordered him to place his artillery (about 50 guns) on the far Union left in order to cover the main road. However, when Longstreet's attack developed he was still a mile from his objective and got involved with the rout of McCook's corps, taking with him those 50 guns which had not fired a shot. Thomas put it kindly in his report when he wrote that Negley "must have misunderstood my order" (ar50_251). He had performed well at Murfreesboro, but he had a terrible day at Chickamauga. True, he was suffering from dysentery, which was no laughing matter as it could be fatal in those days before the role of bacteria in causing disease had been discovered. Perhaps the fact that he hadn't attended West Point, was, as he later maintained, a factor in the decision to sideline him. More importantly, when he had the chance to redeem himself, he kept on going to Rossville. True, he made himself quite useful there by gathering and organizing stragglers, but he didn't have Sheridan's robust p.r. instincts and effrontery to fake a return to the field. Van Cleve, 53 years old and already graying, lost his composure on the 2nd day of Chickamauga, was entirely separated from his command, and let himself be swept along to Chattanooga. In memorium to an unsung hero of the battle of Murfreesboro, I quote here from Hazen's memoirs ("A Narrative of Military Service," 1885, pg. 127-28):
"As I hastened forward to learn the condition of affairs, I
met General Van Cleve, a division commander of Crittenden's corps,
riding wildly up the road, with tears running down his cheeks, who
asked if I had any troops as they were wanted badly 'just down there,'
- pointing in the direction I was going, - saying he had not a man he
could control....His distress was not feigned."
Sheridan had not had much of a day either. Even if we accept his
report as being partly true, he still disregarded Thomas' order to
return to Snodgrass Hill, and he contributed nothing to solve the
dilemma in which the Union army found itself that afternoon, without
consequences for his subsequent career. Did Sherman's friendship and
Halleck's protection have anything to do with it? The matter would be
of little interest if this man hadn't risen later to the position of
Commander-in-Chief of the Army (1884-1888) and four star general
(1888). My essay on Sheridan's Ride at
Chickamauga contains a more detailed analysis of his movements
the afternoon and evening of 20 September.
By noon or thereabouts, Thomas was alone with about 25,000 men on
the field against about 60,000 Confederates. As his situation became
clear to him, Thomas concentrated troops around Snodgrass Hill, left
those in Kelly Field where they were, and resolved to stay and fight
until nightfall, which he did. He was helped by the relative passivity
of Polk, whose troops were apparently fought out. The keys, however, to
Thomas' survival that afternoon were the lack of coordination of the
mainly frontal attacks which an overconfident Longstreet (who sat down
at 2 PM for lunch) carried out from the southern end of the Confederate
line, and the arrival on Thomas' left of Granger
and Steedman in the afternoon with the reserve corps.
They brought with them about 4000 men (a bit more than 2 brigades),
some artillery, and much needed ammunition. Thomas is supposed to have
said, "General Steedman, I have always been glad to see you, but never
so glad as now." Steedman brought his men behind the Union position and
personally led the charge which drove off a contingent of Longstreet's
troops who were threatening to envelope Thomas' right. At one point
Steedman even carried the colors in order to rally a unit of wavering
soldiers. Steedman's 2 brigades alone suffered about 1000 casualties
Thomas constantly rode back and forth along his perimeter
stretching from Snodgrass Hill to the end of Horseshoe Ridge, placing
his units, encouraging his men: "Steady, there, steady. Shoot low and
pick your man." Plugging gaps as they opened and readjusting the
lines as new threats appeared, "he issued orders to restore the line in
the quiet conversational tone that politeness prescribes for a ladies'
drawing room. It was the discipline of a lifetime concentrated in a
moment" (Wilbur Thomas, pg. 392). At least once he got as far as La
Fayette Road, because, according to Reynold's report, Thomas personally
directed Turchin's final attack which stabilized the left flank for the
withdrawal to McFarland's Gap. I quote the entire passage here because
it perfectly illustrates Thomas' command presence and style when he was
in the thick of battle:
"Arriving at the Rossville road, the command was met by the corps commander in person, and I was directed to form line perpendicular to the Rossville road. This done General Thomas pointed in the direction of Rossville and said, "There they are; clear them out." The division was faced about and a charge ordered and executed in two lines at double-quick, through the rebel lines, dispersing them and capturing more than 200 prisoners under a fire of infantry in front and artillery in flank.
I understood that this movement was intended to open the way to Rossville for the army, and did not then know of any other road to that point. I therefore pressed right on in the charge, expecting the whole division to do the same until the rebel lines and batteries were cleared and the road opened, and found myself with only about 150 of the Third Brigade, under Colonel Lane, Eleventh Ohio, near the field hospital [Cloud's] of the Fourteenth Corps.
The remainder of the division proceeded to the high ground on the left by order of General Thomas. The Third Brigade was reformed by Brigadier-General Turchin, who had his horse shot under him in the charge. The Second Brigade was reformed by Col. M. S. Robinson, who succeeded to the command of that brigade after the death of Col. E. A. King. The advanced party rejoined the division on the ridge to the west of the road, and the whole division marched to Rossville by the Valley road."
Thomas said that his opponents that day "fought without system." It helped also that Thomas' men were the best prepared soldiers in either or any army, and that Thomas had the knack of getting extraordinary performances from subordinate officers, some of whom on this day were from other commands and had found him by following the sound of battle. They did fight with system, and Thomas had trained them, soldiers and officers, to do just that by sending them out constantly on sorties (to the detriment of parade ground drill). The performance and personal heroism of Granger, Brannan, Richard W. Johnson, Reynolds, Steedman, Palmer, Cruft, Hazen, Grose, Baird, Turchin, Opdycke, Willich, Stanley, Barnes, Van Derveer, Harker, Robinson, Whitaker, Mitchell, and Wood on this day deserve special mention. Brigade commanders fought in the line like privates, among them Sirwell, Stoughton, and John Beatty. Thomas himself thanked mostly his ordinary soldiers. In fact, during the final withdrawal he got down from his horse to shake the hand of a nameless private.
Although some commentators like to speculate that Rosecrans and Thomas could have counter-attacked a weakened Bragg on the 21st, most write of Thomas' precarious situation at the end of that day. However, it is apparently not widely understood just how precarious it was. Of modern authors only Tucker ("Chickamauga," pg. 353) deals with this problem. There was namely, as the following map shows, a gap between Kelly Field on the right, and Snodgrass Hill on the left.:
|Snodgrass Hill and, to the left,
Horseshoe Ridge. Thomas' HQ was at the star. Separated by a stretch of
woods was the fortified position of Kelly Field. Willich
had a brigade with which to make a lot of noise if the Confederates
moved in force in his direction.
The space was wooded, and Thomas had posted there only a brigade
under Willich (circled in red) in the hopes that the trees would
mask the weakness. Moreover, Willich**
was once drawn away to aid Baird (ar50_535), during which time the gap
Thomas was bluffing the entire afternoon of the 20th, or, to put
it more kindly, was forced to speculate on Confederate errors. We
get an idea of one of these errors from Humphreys, the Confederate
brigade commander adjacent to Willich, who stated the following in his
"I immediately informed General Longstreet of the enemy's position and strength, and received orders from him to hold my position without advancing, while he sent a division to attack him on the right and left. The attack on my left was first made with doubtful success; the attack on my right was successful, driving the enemy from his position in great confusion. It was now dark and no farther pursuit was made."
In fact, Longstreet carried out one frontal attack after another against Snodgrass Hill until very late in the day. Longstreet himself counted 25 of them. Humphreys does not state what he related to Longstreet, nor does Longstreet mention Humphreys' intelligence in his own report, but Humphreys had five hours to reconnoitre his left flank. If he did discover Willich's weakness and reported it, then Longstreet did not react quickly enough. Of Polk's division commanders Stewart was the closest to the gap, but he was receiving conflicting orders from Bragg, Longstreet, and Buckner (ar51_364). His report doesn't mention any attempt to reconnoiter his left flank. In any case, if one of the many Confederate divisions in that area had brushed Willich aside at any time that afternoon, or if Preston had been informed of the gap when he was brought in, Thomas would have been quickly driven from the field in disorder, and that would have been that. Those 7000 men under Davis, Negley and Sheridan would have done nicely to help Thomas fill that gap and reinforce a flank, and from about 2 to 4 PM that afternoon, they were only a couple of miles away. With that gap filled, Thomas would have had a least a choice to withdraw or not to withdraw. Sheridan, occasionally a man of energy, could have got them to Thomas. You be the judge.
When the day ended the attacks gradually ceased. Thomas was able
to withdraw through McFarland Gap to Rossville in stages and in a
fairly orderly manner, and he thus saved the Union army. However, the
withdrawal from Kelly field was contested, as the following extract
from Baird's report shows:
"As my men fell back the enemy pressed after them, and in crossing the open field very many were struck down. They reached the woods, west of the road, in as good order as could be expected, but then, uncertain which direction to take, and having no landmark to guide them, many became separated from their regiments, and in groups joined other commands, with which they fell back to Rossville, where all were united during the night. A number, doubtless, became confused at this time and marched into the lines of the rebels. We had, during the day, been fired into from every point of the compass, and when we fell back, no other portions of our troops being in sight, it was impossible to tell where they could be found or when we would encounter the enemy. My loss, up to the time of falling back, was small compared with the punishment in-dieted on the rebels. In retiring, it was great."
This is confirmed by Palmer's report:
"At about 5 o'clock I received an order from Major-General Thomas, by a staff officer, to retire. Under the impression that it was intended that I should, after retiring toward the rear of the center, form to resist the attacks which were coming on both flanks, I sent my orders to my brigade commanders, and rode to the Rossville road to await the head of the column. I reached the road and looked back across the field some 400 yards; my men were half way across. The enemy had already discovered the movement, and were crossing the barricades and firing. Batteries opened on us from the left and right, sweeping the road and field from opposite directions. It seemed impossible to bring men across the field in anything like good order. Grose was thrown into confusion, but Cruft came off in good style, and both with little loss. Cruft's brigade was retired slowly after leaving the field, frequently halting to serve as a nucleus for the reformation of our scattered troops. These brigades were conducted to the top of the ridge, formed and held until large crowds of stragglers passed, and, as I received no orders from any quarter, at late dusk I gave orders to the brigades to descend into the valley, throw out strong guards in the rear and front to resist any possible attack, and march to Rossville. The head of the column reached there at 8.40 p.m."
Longstreet was content with the day's work, as this sentence from
his report shows:
"A simultaneous and continuous shout from the two wings announced our success complete. The enemy had fought every man that he had, and every one had been in turn beaten."
This is echoed in this passage from Ambrose Bierce:
"At last it grew too dark to fight. Then away to our left and
rear some of Bragg's people set up the 'Rebel yell.' It was taken up
successively and passed around to our front, along our right and in
behind us again, until it seemed almost to have got to the point where
it started. It was the ugliest sound that any mortal ever heard - even
a mortal exhausted and unnerved by two days of hard fighting, without
sleep, without rest, without food and without hope. There was, however,
a space somewhere at the back of us
across which that horrible yell did not prolong itself; and through
that we finally retired in profound silence and dejection, unmolested."
However, it can be said that, in the military sense, Thomas advanced
to Rossville and Chattanooga. For this exploits he became known
as the Rock of Chickamauga, perhaps in reference to Dana's report of
the afternoon of the 20th which stated that, "Our troops were as
immovable as the rocks they stood on" (ar50_194). It is often
asserted that a message of that afternoon from Garfield to Rosecrans
contained the phrase: "Thomas standing like a rock." However, such a
message is not contained in the Official Records. There is, however, a
message of 15 Oct. 63 from Rosecrans to Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas
in which he stated that Brannan with his division "stood like a rock"
(ar53_387). Another of the Civil War's mysteries.
More than a year later, in recognition of his stunning victory at the battle of Nashville, Thomas was promoted to major general of the regular army. Upon learning of this Thomas, in a departure from his usual reticence, said, "I suppose it is better late than never, but it is too late to be appreciated; I earned this at Chickamauga." His reaction would perhaps have been stronger had he known then that Grant had caused the promotation to be delayed for a few weeks so that Meade's, Sherman's and Sheridan's promotion to the same rank would predate Thomas'.
The casualty statistics are eloquent. Out of 58,000 Union effectives there were around 16,000 casualties (27%), and out about 70,000 Confederate effectives there were more than 18,000 casualties (around 26 %). This battle has been called the bloodiest two days of the war. Bragg had won a victory of sorts, but his army was as bad off as Rosecrans'. Bragg was not willing, and his army was probably not able to pursue, so Rosecrans held onto Chattanooga. Bragg's victory was barren, while Rosecrans's loss was, in the long run, inconsequential.
Even today many commentators fault Bragg for not having vigorously pursued on the following day. They overlook the fact that every victorious Civil War army on either side, after having sustained such high losses, required days or even weeks to recover some degree of organization, repair damaged equipment and transport, and to replace horses, of which hundreds or even thousands died in every major battle. The victors generally recognized the advantages of a successful pursuit, but their armies were not capable of it. The commentators also leave the Thomas factor out of their calculations. On 20 Sept. 1863 Thomas had not been defeated, and on the following day his corps was still a powerful force to be reckoned with. Bragg and other Western Theater commanders on both sides knew what that meant after having either faced Thomas or fought beside him, or otherwise observed Thomas' career up to that point.
At Chickamauga Thomas' contribution was unique and decisive. The reluctance of many to accord him his rightful place in history has various reasons. Some of his fellow Union officers could not advance their careers unless they checked his and tarnished his reputation. Even today some Southern commentators regard him as a traitor to their cause, discounting the possibility that he acted also in the South's long-term interest (see my Essay Bring Thomas Home). Northern commentators, even today, perhaps would rather not admit that the Union victory was largely the work of a Virginian.
So what's your excuse?
* From "Chickamauga - The Great
Battle of the West" in "Battles and
Leaders", essay by D.H. Hill, editors' note: "General Thomas had
wisely taken the precaution to make rude works about breast-high along
his whole front, using rails and logs for the purpose. The logs and
rails ran at right angles to each other, the logs keeping parallel to
the proposed line of battle and lying, upon the rails until the proper
height was reached. The spaces between these logs were filled with
rails, which served to add to their security and strength. The spade
had not been used."
Thomas van Horne in Major
General George H. Thomas, 1882, p. 143:
"Seldom in war has such a burden of responsibility fallen upon a
subordinate, as upon General Thomas at Chickamauga. The battle was left
to him before noon on the 20th. He received no instructions
from the commanding general. He was ignorant of the disaster on the
right until the on-coming left wing of Bragg's army revealed it.
Uninformed as to the general situation, he could not anticipate
emergencies, but he was strong and versatile to master them as they
were developed. It was not a light matter to command the Army of the
Cumberland, as a whole, against a vast army that had been gathered from
the East and West to crush it; an army superior in numbers, and
inspired by the hope that in winning a decisive victory the general
contest would be decided also. But, to take command of half of the Army
of the Cumberland, with no supporting cavalry, with exposed flanks, and
unconnected lines - to be supreme on the field by the demands of the
situation rather than by the orders of a superior, and under such
circumstances to contend successfully against Bragg's whole army,
infantry and cavalry, was an achievement that transcends the higher
successes of generals."
** Willich, a refugee from the 1848 revolution in Germany, performed amazingly well that afternoon, according to Johnson's report:
"By having Willich in reserve he was enabled to engage the enemy in four different directions, and by his prompt movements he saved the troops from annihilation and capture....Brig. Gen. A. Willich, commanding First Brigade, was always in the right place, and by his individual daring rendered the country great service. This gallant old veteran deserves promotion, and I hope he may receive it."
Willich did not receive his promotion until after the war, and then only to brevet Maj. Gen. USV, a meaningless rank in peacetime. A possible reason for this may have been his politics, as he was an avowed socialist. Consider, for example, what "der rote Willich" wrote toward the end of his Chickamauga report:
"I do not feel competent to bestow praise on the officers and men of my command; for their bravery and self-denial they are above praise. They have again and again proven that they are true sons of the Republic, who value life only so long as it is the life of freemen, and who are determined to make the neck of every power, slaveratic [sic] or monarchical, bend before the commonwealth of the freemen of the United States of America."
To some of his fellow and superior officers, such sentiments must have seemed as frightening as those of the Confederate opponents.
1. Rosecrans US
2. Thomas US
3. Wood US
4. Parkhurst US provost marshall
5. Dana US dispatches
6. Bragg CS plus correspondence
7. Longstreet CS
8. Polk CS
9. Cleburne CS
Other articles on this battle:
1. Thomas van Horne on the battle of Chickamauga and background
2. excerpt from The Crisis at Chickamauga by Gates P. Thruston, brevet Brig.-Gen. USV
3. excerpt from Reenforcing Thomas at Chickamauga by J. S. Fullerton, brevet Brig. Gen. USV
4. excerpt from Notes on the Chickamauga Campaign by Emerson Opdycke, brevet Maj.-Gen., USV
5. Chickamauga by Arthur R. Stone ©1999 The Cincinnati Civil War Round Table
6. Staff Ride Handbook for the Battle of Chickamauga by officers of the Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
THE ARMY CROSSES THE TENNESSEE RIVER - GENERAL BRAGG EVACUATES
CHATTANOOGA - PURSUIT IS OPPOSED BY THOMAS, BUT NEVERTHELESS
ORDERED - THE THREE CORPS WIDELY SEPARATED - THOMAS' TROOPS
MEET THE ENEMY AT DUG GAP - BRAGG'S ARMY CONCENTRATED BUT
FAILS TO STRIKE EITHER OF THE ISOLATED CORPS - ARMY OF THE
CUMBERLAND CONCENTRATED ON THE l8TH - FIRST DAY OF BATTLE
Late in August, in compliance with peremptory orders from
Washington, the army again moved forward, crossed the Cumberland
Mountains, the Tennessee River, and the mountains immediately south of
that river, and on the 8th of September, was encamped in
Lookout Valley, near the western base of Lookout Mountain. Here General
Rosecrans had his army in hand, except four brigades that had advanced
directly towards Chattanooga from the north. The position of the army
in Lookout Valley threatened General Bragg's communications south from
Chattanooga. The Twenty-first corps was near the northern base of
Lookout Mountain, on the direct road to Chattanooga, the Fourteenth
corps was before Stevens' Gap, with its advance on the summit of the
mountain, and the Twentieth corps was at Winston's with its foremost
troops also upon the summit. The mountain then separated the two
armies. General Bragg had been withdrawing his army for two days on the
road leading to Lafayette, Georgia, and late on the 8th his
rear guard retired from Chattanooga. Very early the next morning
General Rosecrans was informed of the evacuation of the town.
Page 103 - BRAGG EVACUATES CHATTANOOGA
General Bragg abandoned Chattanooga in expectation of soon regaining it. His supplies were not sufficient for a siege, and his army was not large enough to hold Chattanooga and cover his communications. He consequently moved south a few miles to save his communications and meet expected reenforcements, where his army might face the mountain passes and strike unsupported corps, as they should debouch from different mountain gaps into the eastern valley. At this time the Confederate authorities were making efforts to give Bragg such an army as, in their judgment, would enable him to vanquish the Army of the Cumberland, to carry the war again to the north, and in the farthest reach of hope to end the war with the independence of the Southern States. But to give strategic force to a retreat that was imperative. General Bragg used various stratagems to conceal his purposes. He sent men into the National army to induce the belief that his army was retreating far to the south, and moved his forces as far as practicable to manifest such a purpose.
The strategy which had compelled the evacuation of Chattanooga was consummate. The forces sent by General Rosecrans first to Pikeville and afterwards directly towards Chattanooga, had effectually covered the movement of the army towards General Bragg's communications with Georgia, and had, at the same time, so threatened his communications with Knoxville, and the forces holding East Tennessee, that Buckner's little army had been withdrawn, and the easy possession of that region by General Burnside had been thereby assured. The only effect of this strategy which had not been favorable to the ultimate success of Rosecrans, had been the reenforcement of Bragg's army before Rosecrans by Buckner's command.
To gain Chattanooga the strategy was perfect, but for immediate
offensive operations south from that important point it was radically
defective. When Rosecrans' army was in Lookout Valley, and his detached
forces - four brigades - on the north bank of the Tennessee, with open
ways into Chattanooga from
Page 104 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
the north and the south, he had gained the objective of his campaign, and the concentration of his army in that town could have been effected without resistance by the enemy. But the pursuit of the enemy, not the occupation of Chattanooga in force, became his object as soon as he was informed that the town had been abandoned.
On the morning of the 9th, General Rosecrans sent the following message to General Thomas:
HEADQ'RS DEP'T OF THE CUMBERLAND, Trenton, September 9th, 3.30 A. M.
At the time of the abandonment of Chattanooga by the enemy, two
corps of the Army of the Cumberland were within a day's march of that
place ; one of these being very near, since Wood's division of the
Twenty-first corps occupied Chattanooga at noon of the 9th.
The Twentieth corps was about
Page 105 - URGES CONCENTRATION OF THE ARMY
forty miles distant, and could have marched to Chattanooga by noon on the 10th. By that time the main army could have been concentrated in the town with strong detachments on the road to Bridgeport. The mountain would have covered the movement of the Fourteenth and Twentieth corps down Lookout Valley, and Crittenden's corps could have held the town and covered the approaches from the south and east, aided by the brigades from the north bank of the Tennessee. The concentration could have been effected, if it had been the purpose of General Bragg to oppose; but that it was not his intention is expressly stated in his official report, and was evinced at the time by his retreat far towards Lafayette, Georgia. Bragg was not ready for battle in proximity to Chattanooga, and his army was not in a position to prevent the concentration of the Army of the Cumberland in the town, had that been General Rosecrans' object. But the situation gave room for an easy, unrestricted occupation by the whole army. All the roads on the west side of Lookout Mountain were held by the National army, and all converged upon the one which passes over the 'nose' of Lookout, where that mountain abuts the Tennessee River, three miles from Chattanooga, and there was no enemy near to prevent, or even contest, the use of that road. There was not, therefore, a single obstacle to the concentration, and this fact taken in connection with the actual movement of a division into the place from the south, the crossing of troops into it from the north bank of the river, and the march of two divisions in front of it from Lookout Mountain to Rossville on the 10th, proves beyond question that General Rosecrans had gained his objective before he ordered the pursuit of the enemy. He must have thought so himself, or he would not have established his headquarters at Chattanooga behind his army.
In view of the manifest practicability of the concentration of the
army at Chattanooga, Thomas urged Rosecrans to abandon his scheme of
pursuit and establish his army at that
Page 106 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS.
point and perfect communications with Bridgeport and Nashville. After this had been done, the offensive could have been taken from Chattanooga as a base. General Thomas did not know how far Bragg intended to retreat, but independently of the enemy's plans he was urgent that what had been gained should be made secure. He was opposed to a movement that might bring on a battle when the army having nearly exhausted its supplies, transported from Bridgeport, could not follow up a victory, in the event of winning one; and where, if defeat should be the issue, the problem of supplies would be difficult of solution.
But believing that Bragg was retreating on Rome, Rosecrans rejected Thomas' advice, and in doing so entered upon a series of mistakes which culminated, when, by his orders, movements were made on the second day of the battle of Chickamauga, which gave the enemy the opportunity to break and rout the right of his army.
The views of the commanding generals in regard to the situation before the battle of Chickamauga, and in reference to the supposed possibilities to each, are clearly given in their official reports.
These extracts from General Bragg's report reveal his views, purposes and movements.
"Immediately after crossing the mountains to the
Tennessee, the enemy threw a corps by way of Sequatchie Valley to
strike the rear of General Buckner's command, while Burnside occupied
him in front. * * * As soon as this change was made, the corps
threatening his rear was withdrawn; and the enemy commenced a movement
in force against our left and rear. On the last of August it became
known that he had crossed his main force over the Tennessee River at
and near Caperton's Ferry, the most accessible point from Stevenson. By
a direct route he was now as near our main depot of supplies as we
were, and our whole line of communication was exposed, whilst his was
partially secured by mountains and the river. * * * The nature of the
Page 107 - R0SECRANS (ORDERS PURSUIT)
the want of supplies in it, with the presence of Burnside's force on our right, rendered a movement on the enemy's rear with our inferior force impracticable. It was therefore, determined to meet him in front whenever he should emerge from the mountain gorges. To do this and hold Chattanooga was impossible, without such a division of our small force as to endanger both parts. Accordingly our troops were put in position on the 7th and 8th of September, and took position from Lee and Gordon's mill to Lafayette, on the road leading south from Chattanooga and fronting the slope of Lookout Mountain."
General Rosecrans thus referred to the situation and the pursuit in his report :
"The weight of evidence gathered from all sources was, that Bragg was moving on Rome and that his movement commenced on the sixth 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."
After his consultation with General Thomas, General Rosecrans issued the following order:
TRENTON, GA., September 9, 1863, 10 A. M.
Page 108 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
Nothing but the certainty that the enemy was retreating with scattered forces to some remote point, could have warranted such a separation of the three corps of the Army of the Cumberland, as resulted from obedience to this order. The movements in compliance gave General Bragg the advantage for maneuver and battle. He had his army in hand behind the mountains, with short lines to each of the three corps of the National army in their complete isolation.
General Rosecrans had been bold to cross the Tennessee River without assured support on right, or left. But when he had gained his objective it was more than bold to send one corps to the rear of General Bragg's concentrated army, another towards its centre, and a third to its left, and each of the three in perilous isolation. And it was one of the most wonderful series of operations of the war, which brought these corps from isolation into union in front of the enemy, in time for battle.
Bragg had a large army when he left Chattanooga. The five divisions that fought the battle of Stone River were with him, two divisions had joined him from Mississippi, and Buckner's two divisions from East Tennessee joined immediately south of Chattanooga. He had then an army of nine divisions of infantry immediately after leaving that town.
General Thomas was nearest this large army, and his designated line
of advance was directly towards its centre. He was therefore the first
in peril. Besides no general would forget that the overthrow of the
central corps of an army would doubly expose the other two. It was
well, therefore, that the conduct of the perilous advance of this corps
was committed to as prudent a general as Thomas.
* Reynolds' division Fourteenth corps.
Page 109 - CROSSES LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN
On the 9th Negley's division moved over Lookout Mountain and debouched into McLemore's Cove, and threw forward skirmishers to Bailey's cross-roads. In the evening Baird's division crossed the mountain to the eastern base. Reports reached Thomas that the enemy's cavalry was drawn up in line in front of Negley, and that a heavy force consisting of infantry, cavalry and artillery, was concentrated at Dug Gap, beyond Negley's position.
Bragg was apprised of this advance, and promptly prepared to meet it. The following extract from his report gives his general plan of operations as well as his purpose in respect to Thomas' movement: "During the ninth it was ascertained that a column, estimated at from four to eight thousand, had crossed Lookout Mountain into the cove, by way of Stevens' and Cooper's Gap. Thrown off his guard by our rapid movement - apparently in retreat, when, in reality, we had concentrated opposite his centre and deceived by the information from deserters and others sent into his lines, the enemy pressed on his columns to intercept us, and thus exposed himself in detail." That night Bragg formed a combination of three divisions and a cavalry force to move against Negley the next day.
Early on the 10th it was ascertained that Dug Gap had
been obstructed and occupied by the enemy's pickets. If this was a
device to invite the advance of Thomas it failed of its object, since
he was the more cautious in consequence of an equivocal precaution on
the part of the enemy. General Bragg made effort during the day to move
his forces against Negley, but twice, his subordinates failed to carry
out his orders. He did not however abandon the project and at night
gave orders for a far heavier combination for the 11th.
Negley's division was exposed in three directions, through Dug Gap,
farther to the left, through Catlett's Gap, both in Pigeon Mountain,
and on the low ground
Page 110 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
to the north. That evening Baird's division moved towards Negley's position, and Reynolds and Brannan were ordered to move forward early in the morning. The caution evinced by General Thomas called forth the following despatch from General Rosecrans:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND, Chattanooga, September 10, 1863 - 9:45 P. M.
Page 111 - BRAGG ORDERS ATTACK
These instructions exhibited an utter misapprehension of the situation. Rosecrans still believed that Bragg was retreating and his plans had reference to pursuit. And Thomas' slow advance under the circumstances did not imperil either McCook or Crittenden, since the longer Bragg was induced to operate against Thomas, the longer would the other two corps be safe. Bragg had choice of corps, as each in isolation was exposed to attack, and it was not in the power of Thomas, McCook or Crittenden to give aid to each other except as each could hold the enemy to the offensive against himself. To be slow therefore under the semblance of offense was the best policy. But at the time that Rosecrans was framing his instructions to Thomas to hasten his movements on Lafayette, Bragg had just moved his headquarters to that place from Lee and Gordon's mill, and was planning to move seven or eight divisions of infantry and a force of cavalry against the foremost divisions of the Fourteenth corps in McLemore's Cove, as the following order and extract from his official report plainly show:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY TENNESSEE, Lafayette, Ga., 12 p. M., September io, 1863.
Page 112 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
promptly done, and by daylight he was ready to move. The obstructions in Catlett's Gap were also ordered to be removed to clear the road in Hindman's rear. Breckinridge's division, Hill's corps, was kept in position south of Lafayette to check any movement the enemy might make from that direction. At daylight I proceeded to join Cleburne at Dug Gap and found him waiting the opening of Hindman's guns, to move on the enemy's flanks and rear."
General Hindman had been joined by Buckner's corps the day before, so that Buckner's, Folk's and Walker's corps and one division of Hill's corps, and a cavalry force, under General Bragg in person, were included in the combination against the two advanced division of the Fourteenth corps. And yet these divisions and the other two behind them, escaped overthrow because they had not advanced in compliance with the orders of General Rosecrans.
At 8 A. M., on the 11th, Baird's division was formed on the right of Negley's. By this time it was known that the enemy had removed the obstructions from Catlett's and Dug Gap. Later in the day the enemy advanced through them in heavy force, while another column approached from the north. By skilful maneuvers and gallant fighting Negley's and Baird's divisions, step by step, withdrew from the midst of the three converging columns, and falling back towards Lookout Mountain, were soon within supporting distance of the other divisions of the corps. The strength of the enemy's columns developed the fact that there was a large army before the Fourteenth corps. And yet General Rosecrans was so far from apprehending the actual situation that he sent the following despatch to General Thomas :
CHATTANOOGA, Sept. 12, 1863, 11.15 A. M.
Page 113 - THE ENEMY AT LEE AND GORDON'S MILL
withdrew more through prudence than compulsion. He trusts that our loss is not serious, and that there will be no difficulty in holding the gap. He despatched you last night to communicate with General McCook and call him up if you thought necessary. He trusts this has been done, if not, no time should be lost. * * * * It is very important, at this time, for you to communicate promptly, that the General commanding may know how to manage General Crittenden's corps, which will attack the enemy as soon as it can be gotten in position.
Page 114 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS.
advance north of the mill. General McCook had crossed Lookout Mountain to Alpine, and General R. B. Mitchell's cavalry - Crook's and McCook's divisions - had reconnoitred far toward Rome and Summerville without finding the enemy. This fact, and the capture of prisoners of Longstreet's corps from Virginia, indicated the presence of Bragg's army north of Alpine. McCook had thereupon thrown his trains back upon the mountain, and having sent a cavalry force towards Lafayette to develop the facts, was, on the 12th, holding his troops in readiness to recross the mountain upon receipt of orders to do so, or in the event of the return of the cavalry with positive knowledge of the concentration of Bragg's army at Lafayette. On the 12th Crittenden's corps took position on the line of the Chickamauga, with Van Cleve's division thrown across that stream on the direct road to Lafayette, in the immediate front of the enemy. And on the day that General Rosecrans proposed that "Crittenden's corps should attack the enemy as soon as it could be gotten into position," General Bragg turned from Thomas to direct Folk's corps and other forces against Crittenden, first to crush his corps, and then to turn again against the Fourteenth. Fortunately for the National army this plan also miscarried, through the default of subordinate commanders. Bragg's order for the movement against Crittenden is subjoined:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE. Lafayette, Ga., 6 p. M., September 12.
Page 115 - ENEMY CONCENTRATED FOR BATTLE
Afterwards, Buckner's corps was moved in support. General Bragg thus refers to the movement and its failure: "Early on the thirteenth I proceeded to the front, ahead Buckner's command, to find that no advance had been made on the enemy, and that his forces had formed a Junction and recrossed the Chickamauga. Again disappointed, immediate measures were taken to place our trains and limited supplies in safe positions, when all our forces were concentrated along the Chickamauga, threatening the enemy in front."
Lafayette was five miles distant from Dug Gap, ten miles from Lee and Gordon's mill, eighteen from Alpine, and fifteen from Ringgold. Bragg's army was mainly between Lafayette and Dug Gap on his left, and Lee and Gordon's mill in his front, and hence he held interior lines of extreme shortness for operations against an army divided into three parts.
It is, therefore, demonstrable that had General Thomas moved rapidly on the direct road to Lafayette, through Dug Gap, as ordered, the defeat of his corps, or its capture would have been inevitable, and the fate of that corps would have been the fate of the army. It is accordingly not surprising, that when General Rosecrans had full knowledge of the facts, he frankly stated in his official report that "It was, therefore, a matter of life and death to effect the concentration of the army."
When it was evident that General Bragg's army was concentrated north
of Lafayette, McCook's corps was forty miles distant from Crittenden's
by the nearest road, and the distance from Lee and Gordon's mill, and
from McLemore's Cove to Bragg's army, was less than between the
positions of Thomas and Crittenden, while McCook's corps was much
farther from Thomas' position than from the enemy before Lafayette.
But, notwithstanding the wide separation of the corps, the intervening
mountains, and the concentrated forces of the enemy in' proximity to
Crittenden, the Army of the
Page 116 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGES H. THOMAS
Cumberland was united in time for battle. In abandoning the offensive from the 13th to the 18th, Bragg lost his best opportunity to overwhelm a single corps. During this time Crittenden's corps stood before his army on the opposite bank of the Chickamauga. Had he moved his army forward, he would have forced this single unsupported corps back upon Chattanooga, or westward upon Lookout Mountain, and while doing this he could have covered his communications through Ringgold to Dalton.
At midnight on the 13th McCook received orders to move
two of his divisions to Thomas' support, and guard his trains with the
third. On the following day the corps moved up the mountain, and on the
17th it was concentrated in McLemore's Cove. In the meantime
the Fourteenth corps had moved gradually towards Lee and Gordon's mill,
to be in readiness to connect in one direction with Crittenden and in
the other with McCook. The enemy's forces were lying along the line of
march on the right, but not in such strength, at any time, as to arrest
the movement of Rosecrans' forces to the left. In the evening of the 18th
General Thomas' head of column reached Crawfish Springs, and there he
received orders to move to the Chattanooga and Lafayette road, at
Kelley's farm, and to connect his right with Crittenden's left, at Lee
and Gordon's mill. This night march was rendered necessary by the
movement of General Bragg's forces to his right, down the right bank of
the Chickamauga, on the l8th. He had intended to cross that stream and
attack General Crittenden on that day, but he had been disappointed by
the unexpected slowness of his forces in moving to position across the
stream, in part resulting from Wilder's resistance. Bragg had been
reenforced until he had ten divisions of infantry, comprised in five
corps of two divisions each. The divisions comprised from three to five
brigades each. He had four divisions of cavalry, two on his right
covering the movement of his forces by that flank, and two on his left,
Page 117 - ROSECRANS' ARMY CONCENTRATED
to hold the gaps in Pigeon Mountain, and if possible, to direct attention from the real movement on the other flank. General Bragg had failed in three distinct efforts to strike the Fourteenth and Twenty-first corps in their isolation, and it was his purpose in moving his army down the Chickamauga and across it, to envelop Crittenden's corps, as the left of the National army. Had Bragg made the attack on the 18th he could have done this, but losing a day he lost the opportunity altogether, although his plan of operations for the 18th was based upon the belief that it was still practicable to move his forces upon General Rosecrans' left flank, at Lee and Gordon's mill, and interposing between the National army and Chattanooga, to drive it back in rout upon the mountain passes.
When the three corps of the Army of the Cumberland were united on
the evening of the 18th it was then practicable to withdraw
to Chattanooga, had General Rosecrans been averse to fighting a battle
on the left bank of the Chickamauga. That stream divided the two
armies, and General Bragg had no thought of crossing where there were
opposing forces. A part of his army had already moved down the stream,
and was across far below Lee and Gordon's mill, and his plan of battle
was such as to give Rosecrans on the night of the l8th the best
possible opportunity to withdraw his army without harm. Rosecrans had
command of three roads to Chattanooga, the Lafayette road, the Dry
Valley road, and the one leading along the eastern base of Lockout
Mountain. The two most easterly roads passed through gaps in Missionary
Ridge, and the third passed most of the way between Lookout Mountain
and high hills. These main roads and intersecting roads would have
afforded facilities for rapid movement and easy defense. By a forced
march, on three roads practicable for the movement of troops in column,
the army could have reached Chattanooga by the morning of the 19th,
since the most distant brigade was not more than fifteen
Page 118 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
miles from that place. It was not unusual during the war for armies to retreat from the presence of other armies under circumstances less favorable for quick movement than in this case. Had, therefore, General Rosecrans elected to withdraw, he might have lost some of his wagons, but it is highly probable that he could have saved them all. It is certain that withdrawal was practicable, and he accepted battle on the field of Chickamauga from choice, and not from compulsion.
General Thomas reached Kelley's farm with Baird's division about
daylight, and having been informed by Colonel Wilder that the enemy had
crossed the Chickamauga in force the evening before at Reid's and
Alexander's bridges, faced his troops towards these bridges across the
roads leading to them. Wilder's brigade of Reynolds' division had taken
position on the west of the Lafayette road, about half way from
Kelley's farm to General Crittenden's position. General Thomas intended
to place the other two brigades of that division on the right of Baird
to connect his right with Wilder's left. When Brannan's division
arrived at Kelley's farm, Thomas posted it on the left of Baird. Soon
after it was reported that there was a brigade of Bragg's army in
proximity, which had been cut off the night before by the burning of
Reid's bridge by Colonel Daniel McCook of the Reserve corps. In hope of
capturing this isolated brigade General Brannan was directed to move
forward on the road to the burnt bridge, to capture the brigade or
drive it back across the Chickamauga. This movement developed the enemy
and opened the battle, at a point far north of the one where General
Bragg expected to take the initiative against General Rosecrans' left
flank. Brannan soon encountered Forrest's cavalry, which was covering
the right of Walker's corps, as that corps, Hood's and Buckner's, and
Cheatham's division of Folk's were moving with a left wheel upon
Crittenden. The cavalry having, after a sharp conflict, given way
Page 119 - CHICKAMAUGA
Bragg moved Walker's corps to Forrest's support. This corps, after a
temporary success against Baird's division was driven back, when other
forces of the enemy were turned to the right. In the meantime the first
divisions engaged on the left of the National army were reenforced, and
from Brannan's initiative both armies extended their lines towards Lee
and Gordon's mill. Early in the day Crittenden had sent a brigade to
his left to develop the enemy, if coming against his position. Soon
after, the battle having opened far to his left, while no enemy was
threatening his position, he sent Palmer's division to General Thomas.
This division went into position to the right of Baird. In the meantime
General Rosecrans had placed General McCook in command of all the
troops on the right of Crittenden, and directed him to send his own
divisions to the left as they should come upon the field. Negley's
division at the time was in position on the Chickamauga and was
included with the cavalry in McCook's command. The first division sent
from the right to Thomas was Johnson's division of McCook's corps, and
this division went into line on the left of Palmer. Soon after, General
Reynolds' division extended the line to the right. Thus five divisions
were thrown before the enemy as his line was extended to his left. The
lines of neither army were able to maintain continuity, and each at
times was broken. The battle-field for the most part was thickly
planted with forest trees, which were a barrier to regularity in the
movement of troops and the maintenance of connected lines, in the
alternations of aggression and defense. Gradually, however, with the
oft repeated repulse of the enemy, General Thomas' line of five
divisions became continuous and stable. Having failed to drive Thomas
from position. General Bragg advanced fresh troops - Buckner's corps -
towards the unoccupied space on the right of Reynolds. To meet this
effort to divide his army, General Rosecrans directed Jeff. C. Davis'
division of McCook's corps, and
Page 120 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
Van Cleve's division of Crittenden's corps, to the right of Thomas' line. These divisions were soon heavily engaged, and Sheridan's division from McCook's corps, and Wood's of Crittenden's were also sent to their support. Later in the day Negley's division of Thomas' corps was also sent to this part of the field. Early in the afternoon General Thomas sent Brannan's division from his extreme left to drive back the enemy who had penetrated the line of battle on Reynolds' right. The enemy's success at this point was the most threatening of the day, but Brannan's timely support restored the connection of Reynolds with the troops on his right.
In this action General Bragg's plan entirely miscarried. Expecting
to move seven divisions of infantry and two of cavalry upon the left
flank of Rosecrans' army at Lee and Gordon's mill, and then unite his
entire army on that flank, the battle was forced upon him so far to the
north that one of Crittenden's divisions had been posted opposite
Bragg's centre and the other two had moved at least a mile to confront
the left of his line of battle. And instead of using the remainder of
his infantry against the front of Crittenden's corps near Lee and
Gordon's mill he was compelled to send it down the Chickamauga to cross
in the rear of his other forces. To the defeat of this plan General
Thomas contributed largely. He was sent to the left by General
Rosecrans but, except in compliance with this order, he was virtually
in independent command of more than half of the infantry divisions of
the army. Thomas disposed five divisions for battle, and the troops
under his command formed about five-sevenths of the connected line of
battle, and in transferring Brannan's division from his left to the
right of Reynolds he drove back the enemy after the line of battle had
been pierced. No general, in chief or subordinate command, was ever
more quick or judicious in his dispositions, or more forceful in
fighting an enemy.
Page 121 - NIGHT OF THE NINETEENTH
Late in the evening Thomas retired the left of his line a short distance to better ground, and directed the division commanders to construct barricades of logs in front of their troops. It was so evident that the battle had been indecisive in general issue, that both armies were conscious that the renewal of the conflict was inevitable.
During the night the corps commanders were called together for consultation at the headquarters of the commanding general. At this conference General Thomas was urgent that the right and right centre of the army should be withdrawn to Missionary Ridge and the transverse hills to the right and rear of the centre. The ridge and these hills commanded the Dry Valley road and much of the ground between that road and the one leading to Lafayette by Lee and Gordon's mill. Had this suggestion been adopted the defensive strength of the right would at least have been doubled. The strength of the transverse hills was proved on the following day, when Thomas with a part of the army saved the whole of it. But had the entire right of the army been where he would have placed it on the second day of the battle, neither that part nor any other would have been defeated.
The general trend of Missionary Ridge is north and south, but this
ridge is cut into separate hills and series of hills by deep
depressions or gaps. A long depression stretches from McFarland's
house, first to the south and then to the south-east, and cuts the
ridge to its base. Through this depression runs the Dry Valley road. At
McFarland's another gap running to the east is equally deep. These two
gaps isolate a series of hills, which trend south from McFarland's to
Villetoe's house on the Dry Valley road, and, making nearly a right
angle at the latter house, stretch to the east. On the south of the
hills there is first low ground and then other hills, lower than the
main ridge, extending nearly to Widow Glen's house. On the right side
of this road, to one moving south, is Missionary
Page 122 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
Ridge; and on the left are the hills which connect themselves almost to Widow Glen's. The right of the army, if it had been withdrawn as General Thomas advised, would have rested on the main ridge and upon the detached hills.
The ridge trending north from the Dry Valley road at Villetoe's, was the position taken by Steedman's, Brannan's and Wood's divisions in the afternoon of the 20th, whose strength was then fully tested. It should be mentioned in this connection that had the right of the army, cavalry included, been retired to these defensive positions, most of the field hospitals would have been entirely uncovered. These hospitals had been established on the 19th, near Crawfish Springs, far in the rear and far to the right of the line of battle on that day. They would have fallen into the hands of the enemy had the right of the army been withdrawn the night of the 19th, but had this been done, they would have been speedily regained as one of the fruits of victory.
In seeming deference to General Thomas' suggestion, General Rosecrans ordered Generals McCook and Crittenden, to withdraw their troops. The former was to establish a new line for the right, and the latter was to place his troops to the left of the new line in reserve. At 11.45 P. M., the following order was given to McCook:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,
Page 123 - THE ORDERS FOR THE TWENTIETH
Crittenden was ordered to place his two divisions in reserve to support McCook or Thomas:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,
All the movements required by General Rosecrans' orders were made during the night. General McCook posted Sheridan's division on the slope of Missionary Ridge to the right and rear of Widow Glen's with Davis' division to the left of Sheridan, while General Crittenden placed Wood's and Van Cleve's divisions still further to the left on the eastern slope of the ridge. Wilder's brigade of mounted infantry of Reynolds' division, by direction of the commanding general, reported to McCook for orders, and this brigade was placed on the right of Sheridan. McCook, in compliance with orders, made his dispositions to command the Dry Valley road, and to hold the gap near Widow Glen's house. Defenses were constructed during the night and early morning which, with the natural strength of the position, gave great firmness to the right flank of the army. But, although four divisions had then been withdrawn nearly a mile, there had been no corresponding recession of Negley's and Brannan's divisions and the right flank of the former was in air and far from supporting forces.
Very early in the morning of the 20th - 6 A. M. - General
Thomas requested that Negley's division should be sent to him to take
the position on the left of Baird which Brannan's division had occupied
at the opening of the battle. Brannan's division was then in line on
the right of Reynolds, where it was needed, and Thomas desired to
strengthen his left flank with Negley's division, anticipating that the
battle of the 20th would open at that point.
Page 125 - HE ASKS FOR NEGLEY
At 6 A. M., General Thomas sent the following message to General Rosecrans:
H'DQ'RS FOURTEENTH A. C. DEPT. OF THE CUMBERLAND, Near McDaniels’ House, Sept. 20, 1863 - 6 A. M.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND, September 20, 1863 - 6.35 A. M.
Page 126 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
His two divisions were required by a previous order to extend the line of battle from General Thomas' right to Missionary Ridge, in rear of Widow Glen's, - General Rosecrans' headquarters. General Davis had only two brigades on the field, and had lost about forty per cent. of his men on the 19th. McCook's troops could not form a strong line from Negley's right to the point designated for the right flank, much less from Brannan's right to that point. This order then required that General McCook should move his forces to the left, or use the discretion so plainly given. If this order had been given to General Crittenden, who had Wood's and Van Cleve's divisions in reserve on the eastern slope of Missionary Ridge in readiness to support Thomas or McCook, Negley might have been relieved early in the day and been in position on the left of Baird when the battle opened.
The following extract from the report of General Thomas, in relation to the removal of Negley's division to the left, is subjoined:
"After my return from department headquarters, and about 2 A. M., on the 20th, I received a report from General Baird that the left of his division did not rest on the Reid's Bridge road as I had intended, and that he could not reach it without weakening his line too much. I immediately addressed a note to the commanding general, requesting that General Negley be sent to take position on General Baird's left and rear, and thus secure our left from assault. During the night the troops threw up temporary breastworks of logs, and prepared for the encounter which all anticipated would come off the next day. Although informed by note from General Rosecrans headquarters that Negley's division would be sent immediately to take post on my left, it had not arrived at 7 A. M. on the 20th, and I sent Captain Willard of my staff to General Negley to urge him forward as rapidly as possible, and to point out his position to him."
Lieutenant-General Polk, commanding the right wing of the
Confederate army, was ordered by General Bragg to assault General
Rosecrans' extreme left at dawn on the 20th and his
divisions were directed to attack in turn to
Page 127 - AWAITING ATTACK
the left. Lieutenant-General Longstreet, commanding the left wing, was to attack in the same order as soon as Folk's left division was in motion, "and the whole line was then to be pushed vigorously and persistently against the enemy throughout its extent." But the commander of the right wing was not prompt in compliance and, during his absence from his command, Bragg ordered a reconnoissance, which developed the fact that the road to Chattanooga to the left of Rosecrans' army was open, and this knowledge intensified the eagerness of the enemy to attack and turn Thomas' left flank. The reconnoissance reported by Bragg, and the advance of the enemy on his left mentioned by Thomas, were doubtless identical.
General Thomas had done all in his power to strengthen the point
selected by Bragg for his initial attack. Thomas' plan was to place the
artillery of Negley's division on the eastern base of Missionary Ridge
to the left and rear of Baird's division, so as to sweep the space
accessible for a flank movement, and to place Negley's three brigades
on the left and in close connection with Baird. With an entire division
supported by three batteries of artillery, he believed that the left
flank of the army could be held against the attacks of the enemy. But
Negley was not permitted by the commanding general to leave position
until relieved by other troops. The division at one time was actually
withdrawn, and was forming for the march to the left, but was remanded
to the line by General Rosecrans. At 8 A. M. Beatty's brigade in
reserve was permitted to go to Thomas, but the other two brigades of
Negley's division were not relieved until much later in the morning
when Wood's division occupied the position vacated by Negley. Beatty
reached Thomas before the opening of the battle, but his brigade, in a
thin line, was unable to check Breckinridge's division, which marched
round Baird's flank at the time he was receiving an attack in front.
Page 128 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
General Thomas' plan had miscarried through the retention of Negley's two brigades and all his artillery on the right. Thomas knew that the left of the army was both vulnerable and vital, and yet he was baffled in all his efforts to give it strength.
When Beatty's brigade was broken and driven back, Breckinridge advanced southward on the Lafayette road far towards the rear of the centre of our army. Fortunately there were two brigades and some reserve regiments which Thomas could move against this daring division. Stanley's brigade of Negley's division, and Van Derveer's, of Brannan's, advanced directly against the enemy, and a few regiments of Palmer's division, which General Thomas had previously sent to the support of Baird, faced to the rear and struck him in flank. After a sharp conflict Breckinridge's forces fled with broken ranks and heavy loss around Baird's left flank to the sheltering woods beyond. Not only was this turning movement signally defeated, but every attack on Thomas' line, as it was taken up by Bragg's divisions in succession to the enemy's left, was repulsed from first to last. This line was secure, not from the strength of its own left at Baird's position, but from the exhaustion of Bragg's right wing. But on the right of the general line of battle the enemy had been successful to a degree that put the whole army in jeopardy
The line formed by General McCook, in compliance with the order of the commanding general, requiring him to post his troops to hold the gap at Widow Glen's and cover the Dry Valley road, although seen by General Rosecrans during the early hours of the morning, did not finally meet his approval; and having decided upon another change he directed that the troops on the right should be moved to the front and left.
In compliance, Sheridan's division was moved forward from Missionary
Ridge, one brigade advancing abreast, but not in connection with the
right of Wood's division, which had at 9.45 A. M. taken Negley's
position, and the
Page 129 - THE ORDERS TO McCOOK
other two brigades taking posts to the right and rear of the first. Davis' division was directed at first to the left and forward by General McCook but, afterwards, by a direct order to General Davis from General Rosecrans, it was advanced to an unoccupied space between Wood's right and the left of Sheridan's advanced brigade. These movements in some measure restored the line of the previous evening, Davis having found in his designated position a rail barricade which had sheltered troops on the 19th. The right of this line, however, did not rest as far forward as on that day, and on the right of Davis was not closely connected at any time. There was a space of about three hundred yards between Davis' right and the left of Sheridan's advanced brigade, and the interval between that brigade and the other two of the division, posted to the rear and right, was about one fourth of a mile, while Wilder's brigade was still further to the rear and right. It was necessary to post these four brigades so as to hold the ground on that flank as far back towards the Dry Valley road as possible, and the distance was too great for them to form a connected line. This flank of the army as then formed was exceedingly weak, but a series of changes was soon after ordered by General Rosecrans, which made it easy for the enemy to rout the infantry on the right of the army, and completely isolate the cavalry. The orders for these new movements are subjoined:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE CUMBERLAND, In the field, September 20th - 10.10 A. M.
Page 130 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND, In the field, September 20 - 10.30 A. M.
At 10.35 A. M. General Rosecrans sent the subjoined note to Thomas:
HEADQUARTERS D. C., September 20, 1863 - 10.35 A. M.
The enemy are pushing me so hard that I cannot make
any changes. The troops are posted behind temporary breast-works.
Page 131 - THE ORDER TO WOOD
It thus appears that when General Rosecrans asked Thomas if he could not extend his line northward with his reserves, that McCook and Crittenden should remain on his right, two of Sheridan's brigades had been sent to Thomas, leaving with McCook only three brigades of his corps. And in ten minutes after Rosecrans had made this inquiry of Thomas, and before the answer of the latter could possibly have been received, the following was issued which took from Crittenden all of his command on the right except the two brigades of Van Cleve's division:
September 20, 10.45 A. M.
Page 132 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
last brigade was leaving position, the overlapping lines of the enemy, at about 11.15 A.M., advanced upon Davis' two brigades in furious assault, striking also Buell's brigade of Wood's division in flank and rear. By the quick retirement of this brigade, Davis' two brigades, of fourteen hundred men in aggregate, were completely isolated. The line on their left was open to Brannan's right, and on their right was the space, previously held by Sheridan's advanced brigades, upon which Laibold's brigade, while marching in column by divisions to close to the left, was struck by the enemy in front and flank, and immediately routed.
In this situation the only safety for Davis' division was in quick
withdrawal, and McCook, who had gone to the right from Wood's position
to order his remaining troops to close rapidly to the left on Brannan,
said to Davis, as he rode up and saw lines five-fold stronger than his
own short, isolated line: "We must either stay here and be killed or
captured, or we must retreat." And then, seeing the hopelessness and
futility of resistance, ordered Davis to fall back. When Davis'
division, and the supporting but distant brigade of Wilder, moved to
the rear under a terrific fire from the enemy, the whole line from
Brannan's right was gone. Sheridan's two brigades, in swift motion to
the left on the Dry Valley road, were halted to resist the enemy as he
swept over the vacant ground, but successful resistance was then
impossible, and, in the vain effort, General Lytle fell, and with him
many officers and men. Under the pressure of the enemy's vastly
superior forces, Sheridan's division and Wilder's brigade moved to the
right towards Crawfish Springs, while Davis' division was deflected to
the left over Missionary Ridge. Generals McCook, Sheridan and Davis,
and numerous officers of the staff and line, did all that was possible
to rally the troops, but, under a severe fire, this was impracticable.
Page 133 - ROSECRANS RETIRES TO CHATTANOOGA
The left wing of Bragg's army, strengthened during the night by fresh troops from Virginia, moved first upon a feeble division without support on either flank, and resistance thereafter was hopeless.
Two brigades of Van Cleve's division, also in motion to the left, in
compliance with orders from General Rosecrans, were also broken and
driven upon Missionary Ridge from the rear of Brannan's position.
Brannan's right was exposed by the withdrawal of Wood's division, and
his right brigade, attacked in front and flank, bent back for safety.
Soon after, General Brannan retired both brigades - Croxton's and
Connell's - and posted them some distance to the rear on a high,
rounded knoll on the line of hills which trends eastward from the Dry
Valley road. The cavalry and Wilder's brigade of mounted infantry moved
across Missionary Ridge into Chattanooga Valley. A part of the infantry
forces also drifted into that valley. McCook ordered his two divisions
to Rossville, and by a detour they moved into the Dry Valley road north
of Thomas' final line. General Rosecrans rode immediately to
Chattanooga, to look after his pontoon bridges and affairs in the rear
of his army. Crittenden, his entire corps having been ordered from him,
followed, first to Rossville and then to Chattanooga to report to the
commanding general. General McCook, with General Morton, chief engineer
of the army, and other staff officers, crossed Missionary Ridge to the
west, to reach Rossville by a circuit. Noticing the ascending lines of
dust, and taking observations with a prismatic compass, General Morton
decided that the whole army was retreating. The guide, against the
protest of General McCook, bore to the northwest, until Spear's brigade
was met. Learning, upon inquiry, that General Rosecrans was at
Chattanooga, and that he was himself nearer that place than Rossville,
and believing that by swift riding he could confer with Rosecrans, and
arrive at Rossville as soon as his troops, dashed into Chattanooga.
Upon arrival he was directed to remain with the commanding general.
Page 134 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE S. THOMAS
The only apparent reason for the orders of General Rosecrans, which
weakened the right of his army until successful resistance was
impossible, was his belief that General Bragg was moving his army by
the right flank, and that, consequently, there was no danger of an
attack in force from his left. On the supposition that such an attack
was probable, the orders which opened the line at intervals were
injudicious in the extreme. That part of his line of battle had been
twice radically changed in a few hours, and the fact that General
Rosecrans gave direct orders to division commanders relieved his corps
commanders of the responsibility of maintaining a strong connected line
of battle even if they had had enough troops for such a line. His order
to General McCook of 6.35 A. M. plainly manifested his conjecture that
the enemy was moving by the right flank, and his subsequent orders to
that general to select a new position for the right and make
dispositions to withdraw his troops, and afterwards for the actual
withdrawal of a part of them, are not easily explained except on this
hypothesis. But there had been no reconnoissance to determine the
presence or absence of the enemy in front of his right, and General
Thomas had not been consulted, in time, as to the actual state of
affairs on the left. Doubtless, the repeated requests of Thomas for
reenforcements had, in General Rosecrans' view, increased the
probability that Bragg's army was moving to the north to interpose
between the battle-field and Chattanooga. But, in fact, Thomas was only
anxious to give stability to the left of his line, which he knew could
not be effected without the troops which had been promised early in the
morning. He had himself weakened that flank the day before to drive
back the troops that had pierced the line of battle on the right of
Reynolds, and the long delay of promised reenforcements made frequent
applications necessary. And notwithstanding orders were given by
General Rosecrans for the movement of Negley's, Sheridan's and Van
Cleve's divisions to Thomas, only
Page 135 - DELAY OF REENFORCEMENTS
two brigades - Beatty's and Stanley's - joined him from these
divisions, until the crisis on his left had passed. With these two
brigades, arriving separately, and the reserves of the divisions under
his own command, he had driven the enemy in rout from his rear, and
thus defeated the movement, which, according to General Bragg's plan of
battle, was the most important of all. The withdrawal of Sheridan's and
Wood's divisions from line did not help Thomas in defeating Bragg's
leading project, though it brought disaster to the right of the army.
If the order to General Wood to close up on Reynolds and support him
did not have reference to the transfer of other troops to the left
besides Sheridan's and Van Cleve's divisions, the reason for it is
certainly hidden. lf Brannan's division was out of line, as was
partially indicated by the relation of its left to Reynolds' right, it
would have been far easier to put that division into line than to move
Wood a division interval "to close up on Reynolds," who was not needing
support. It was not necessary to move Wood at all, unless Brannan was
needed on some other part of the field, and it had been decided to send
him to the left, where so many other troops were going. Brannan had two
brigades in line, and, consequently, occupied the usual division
interval. In his official report General Rosecrans thus mentioned
General Thomas' requests for support, and the reason for the order to
"The battle in the meanwhile roared with increasing fury and approached from the left to the centre. Two aids arrived successively within a few minutes, from General Thomas, asking for reenforcements. The first was directed to say that General Negley had already gone, and should be nearly 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.
Page 136 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
and that General Reynolds' right was exposed.* Orders were despatched 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 Thomas was related to the movements on the right of the army
only through his requests for reenforcements and these repeated
applications for promised troops lost their true significance through
no fault of his own. In view of all the facts it is manifest that had
Negley's division, as a whole, been sent to General Thomas early in the
morning, no calls for reenforcements would have gone from the left to
the commanding general. Thomas did not need more than one division to
render his left invulnerable, and he did not expect that the right
would be opened to the enemy by sending troops that had not been
promised. His requests were repeated because there was first delay, and
then troops were sent by brigades, too slowly, to give firmness to the
only weak point in his line. Had he called for reenforcements after
receiving a division, in its unity, or even after he had been joined by
three brigades, in turn, he would have sustained a nearer relation to
the orders of the commanding general.
* Colonel Kellogg has stated, that riding in rear of the line of
battle, he observed that Brannan's left was in rear of Reynolds' right,
and, upon being questioned, mentioned the fact to General Rosecrans.
Page 137 - HE AGAIN ASKS FOR NEGLEY
At l l A. M., Thomas sent the following note to Rosecrans:
HEADQUARTERS FOURTEENTH ARMY CORPS, DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND.
After noon General Thomas hearing firing on his right, which was not
explained by known facts, rode in that direction. He then had no
knowledge of the state of affairs on the right of the army or even on
the right of his own line. He first met General Wood with Barnes'
brigade, who reported that he had been ordered to support Reynolds.
General Thomas replied that Reynolds did not need support, and directed
him to move to the left to make that flank secure. Barnes' brigade was
thereupon sent to Baird's position, and General Wood turned back to
meet his other brigades and take them to the same point. In the mean
time, however, there were unexpected developments on the right of
Reynolds. Captain Kellogg, who had been sent to conduct Sheridan's
division to the left, reported that he had
Page 138 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
been fired upon by a line of skirmishers, advancing in front of a heavy force, in the rear of Reynolds' position. General Wood had previously thrown Marker's and Buell's brigades to the front on a hill to the left of Brannan's position. An advancing column was now in view in their front, and at first it was hoped that this was Sheridan's division, expected from the direction in which this column was advancing. But it was soon probable that foes not friends were approaching, and measures were taken to ascertain their identity. A flag was raised, and the fire thus elicited, made known that the enemy was in rear of Brannan's former position and indicated that changes had occurred on the right which were plainly suggestive of disaster, but not of its real magnitude.
As another indication of what had occurred, General Thomas learned
that Brannan was far from the position which he held in the morning.
His position was on the line of hills upon which Thomas had advised
Rosecrans to establish his line of battle. Necessity had done, in part,
what generalship had previously demanded. A small force on these hills
was now to fight a desperate battle, not to win a victory, but to save
the army. The situation on the right of Reynolds was now exceedingly
critical. There was a wide space between Reynolds and Wood, another
more narrow between the latter and Brannan. And on the right of Brannan
to the Dry Valley road there were no supporting forces. General Negley
with his third brigade and all his artillery had stopped for a short
time in this strong position but had disappeared, and with him had gone
Beatty's brigade from the left of the line, while its commander was
doing service in the combination which drove the enemy from the rear of
that line . Although Brannan's and Wood's troops were not connected,
the strength of the two positions compensated in a great degree for the
lack of continuity of line. Nothing saved the right of this new line
but the slowness of the enemy in availing
Page 139 - ARRIVAL OF GRANGER
himself of the open way on the right of Brannan, to turn his position and take his line in reverse. In Brannan's and Wood's commands there were nominally six brigades, but the aggregate including broken forces was about five thousand men. The successful resistance of these men to several fierce assaults by the left wing of Bragg's army made it possible for help to come from an unexpected source when the enemy in heavy force had wheeled upon the hills on the right of Brannan, and was moving to his rear. The long line of the enemy easily overlapped Thomas' short line. He had not been able to connect the parts of that line short as it was. From all the troops that had been assigned to his command or drifted to him during the battle, he could not spare a skirmish line to meet the enemy on the hill made vacant by the retirement of Negley. Opportunely General Gordon Granger, commanding the Reserve corps, reported to him in advance of two of his brigades. This corps commander had been manoeuvering for several days south and south east from the Rossville Gap, near the Lafayette road, and having observed that the noise of battle on the right was nearer than in the morning, had directed General James B. Steedman with General Whittaker's and Colonel John G. Mitchell's brigades of his division to advance towards the manifest conflict. General Thomas ordered these troops to charge the enemy and drive him over the hills. The charge accomplished this grand result, and then the troops extended the line of battle from Brannan's right to the Dry Valley road. In the mean time General Thomas had put Hazen's brigade of Palmer's division between Wood and Reynolds. The line of battle was then nearly continuous throughout its length.
Against this line the left wing of Bragg's army was moved in assault
until it was completely shattered.*
* At 3 P.M., General Longstreet asked for reenforcements and General
Bragg replied, that the troops of his right wing had been so badly
beaten back that they would be of no service. Bragg's losses in
aggregate were forty per cent. Longstreet lost thirty-six per cent of
his command on the second day, mainly in the afternoon.
Page 140 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS.
Both wings of that great army were broken in turn, by Thomas' troops on the left and right of his line of battle. Late in the afternoon many of his troops having exhausted their ammunition, repulsed the enemy's attacks with the bayonet. The ammunition train of the Fourteenth corps, and some of the division trains had been sent to the rear by some unauthorized person. Late in the day ammunition was taken from Steedman and given to troops on his left.
It is not practicable to compute with accuracy the number of troops on the last line of battle. There were twenty brigades of infantry, including those that were mere fragments, and all but two had been engaged on the first day and nearly all had been heavily engaged during the forenoon of the second day. The aggregate could not have exceeded twenty-five thousand men, and it may not have included more than twenty thousand, or an average of one thousand men to a brigade. With this meagre force General Thomas repulsed thirty-five brigades of infantry and five or six of cavalry, some of the latter fighting as infantry. The mere statement of this disparity is enough to prove the brilliant achievements of Thomas and the remnant of the Army of the Cumberland.
At 3.35 P. M. General Garfield and Colonel Thruston, chief-of-staff
to General McCook, joined General Thomas. The former bore instructions
from General Rosecrans, giving Thomas discretion as to the immediate
withdrawal of the army. The reply was brief but emphatic: "It will ruin
the army to withdraw it now. This position must be held till night."
Colonel Thruston gave information of the presence of Sheridan's and
Davis' divisions in the long gap leading from Villetoe's house to
McFarland's. General Thomas promptly requested Thruston to ask the
commanders of these troops to move upon that road to his right. Colonel
Thruston immediately rode over the hills to the gap, and found not only
Generals Sheridan and Davis, but General Negley, also. These generals
Page 141 - DAVIS MOVES FORWARD
holding a conference at McFarland's. When the message was delivered Davis turned to his command and put it in motion to the front, while the other two generals moved with their troops to Rossville. From that place Sheridan passed through the gap to the left of the army on the Lafayette road.
After the left wing of Bragg's army had been gathered in line of
battle, before General Thomas' right, or new line, it was practicable
for troops to move across the hills east of the Dry Valley road to
Brannan's position, and the way was open from McFarland's house through
a transverse gap to Thomas' field position in the afternoon. Through
this gap a road passed east to the Lafayette road in rear of the army.
The distance from the Dry Valley road to the left of the line of
battle, or Baird's position, was about two miles. All the troops,
therefore, that reached the Dry Valley early in the afternoon, could
have moved across the hills or through the transverse gap to any point
in the line, or they could have moved south on that road to the
immediate right of Steedman's flank, after he had driven the enemy from
the ridge on the right of Brannan. Colonel Thruston passed from the
extreme right to General Thomas, and so did Surgeons F. H. Gross, and
J. Perkins, medical directors respectively of the Fourteenth and
Twentieth corps. Dr. Gross was on his way to Crawfish Springs, to look
after the wounded of his corps, when the disaster occurred. He was
unable to reach his destination, but he and Dr. Perkins remained for
several hours amongst the retreating troops, caring for the wounded and
securing, as far as possible, transportation for them to Chattanooga,
and they finally crossed the Dry Valley road to the rear of Thomas'
line. Two regiments of Van Cleve's division, the Forty-fourth Indiana
and Seventeenth Kentucky, also reached the new line.
Page 142 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
There were from seven to ten thousand men in fighting condition in the vicinity of McFarland's house by 2 P. M., or a little later, and if one half of these had been moved against Bragg's left flank before four o'clock, his army might have been totally defeated. When Longstreet was fighting cavalry as infantry on that flank, there was fear of an attack up on his left. The adjacent hills offered splendid positions for artillery and for an enfilading fire of artillery and musketry. But unfortunately there was no general of rank in that valley to take the responsibility of moving the idle troops against the enemy at the most vulnerable point in his line. Had General Rosecrans stopped at McFarland's house, gathered his broken forces together, and led them against the enemy on Thomas' line, or to the right of it, he would have gained the chief glory of a decisive victory. But in going to Chattanooga in ignorance of the steadfastness of the left and the left centre of his army he lost an opportunity for great distinction. The subjoined extract from his official report gives the circumstances under which he went to Chattanooga, and the reasons for his action.
"At the moment of the repulse of Davis' division, I
was standing in the rear of his right, waiting the completion of the
closing of McCook's corps to the left. Seeing confusion among Van
Glebe's troops, and the distance Davis's 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 movements 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 and Major Bond,of my staff, and a few
of the escort, under a shower of grape, canister and musketry for two
or three hundred yards, and attempted to rejoin General Thomas and the
troops sent to his support by passing to the rear of the broken
position 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."
Page 143 - THE ROCK OF CHICKAMAUGA
All these objects could have been attained by orders issued on the field, except the selection of a good position for his army in the rear, but a new position was only a consequence of utter defeat, and as to this General Rosecrans' was in doubt when he left the battle-field.
Seldom in war has such a burden of responsibility fallen upon a subordinate, as upon General Thomas at Chickamauga. The battle was left to him before noon on the 20th. He received no instructions from the commanding general. He was ignorant of the disaster on the right until the on-coming left wing of Bragg's army revealed it. Uninformed as to the general situation, he could not anticipate emergencies, but he was strong and versatile to master them as they were developed. It was not a light matter to command the Army of the Cumberland, as a whole, against a vast army that had been gathered from the East and West to crush it; an army superior in numbers, and inspired by the hope that in winning a decisive victory the general contest would be decided also. But, to take command of half of the Army of the Cumberland, with no supporting cavalry, with exposed flanks, and unconnected lines - to be supreme on the field by the demands of the situation rather than by the orders of a superior, and under such circumstances to contend successfully against Bragg's whole army, infantry and cavalry, was an achievement that transcends the higher successes of generals.
General Thomas did all that was possible with his forces on both
days of battle. He suggested for the whole army a position whose
strength he demonstrated with a part. He discerned the importance of
turning all the troops gathered on the Dry Valley road, against the
enemy's left flank. His generalship in this battle cannot be measured
alone by his success in repulsing all the forces that moved against his
Page 144 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
lines on both days. What he suggested, as well as what he achieved, must be taken to give full breadth to his military skill. Had his advice been taken, the battle of Chickamauga would never have been fought, but Chattanooga would have been fortified from choice, as it afterwards was from necessity. He saved his corps and with it the army, by his cautious advance towards Lafayette. And in the battle which he would have avoided he used every resource with the greatest skill to defeat the enemy. A general less calm and self-reliant in undefined emergencies, less stubborn in defense, less quick in disposing troops in the crises of battle or less masterful of resources and advantages, would never have saved the Army of the Cumberland at Chickamauga.
No commanding general fought such a battle during the war, and no other subordinate commander wrought such a deliverance for an imperiled army and an imperiled cause. There was but one Chickamauga and but one Thomas. It should not therefore be a matter of surprise that when General D. H. Hill, after the war, mentioned three distinct causes for the failure of the Southern arms, one of these was the stubborn resistance of Thomas in this battle. Neither is it strange that he was ever afterwards known as the ROCK OF CHICKAMAUGA. After arriving at Chattanooga, General Rosecrans sent the following despatch to his chief of staff:
CHATTANOOGA, Sept. 20,1863.
Page 145 - GARFIELD TO ROSECRANS
General Garfield sent the subjoined note after joining Thomas:
HEADQUARTERS GENERAL THOMAS,
CHATTANOOGA, 9.10 P. M. Sept. 20, 1863.
Page l46 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
In the evening Thomas received orders from General Rosecrans to withdraw the army, as shown by General Thomas' official report, and by General Garfield's letter from Rossville.
"I soon after received a despatch from General Rosecrans, directing me to assume command of all the forces, and, with Crittenden and McCook, take a strong position, and assume a threatening attitude at Rossville, sending the unorganized forces to Chattanooga for reorganization, stating that he would examine the ground at Chattanooga and then join me; also, that he had sent out rations and ammunition to meet me at Rossville. I determined to hold the position until nightfall, if possible, in the mean time sending Captains Barker and Kellogg to distribute the ammunition, Major Lawrence, my chief of artillery, having been previously sent to notify the different commanders that ammunition would be supplied them shortly. As soon as they reported the distribution of the ammunition, I directed Captain Willard to inform the division commanders to prepare to withdraw their commands as soon as they received orders."
At 5.30 P. M., General Reynolds was directed to withdraw from position and form a line near the Ridge road,* to cover the retirement of the other divisions. In moving as directed, General Reynolds encountered a brigade of the enemy's troops that had moved round his right flank to his rear. This brigade was routed by Turchin's brigade, and was finally driven round Baird's flank by Willich's brigade of Johnson's division.
When Reynolds' division had formed near the road, the divisions, as
rapidly as practicable, left the line and moved towards Rossville.
Baird, Johnson and Palmer were attacked as they withdrew, and this fact
gave the Confederate generals opportunity to report that their last
attack dislodged our forces.
* The one leading through the gap to the Dry Valley road at
Page 147 - WITHDRAWS TO ROSSVILLE
General Thomas and his troops had doubtless prepared the way for a victory on the 21st, if the Army of the Cumberland had been gathered together in front of the enemy during the night of the 20th. General Bragg's army was not in condition to renew the conflict. He had lost at least two-fifths of his men, the remaining three-fifths had been shattered, and he had no reserves. After such repulses and losses, he could not have taken the offensive vigorously on the 21st. But in a battle on the 21st General Rosecrans could have had nearly, or quite, twice as many troops as fought under Thomas on the afternoon of the 20th. Sheridan's division, Spear's brigade of fresh troops, Col. Dan. McCook's brigade, which had been only slightly engaged, and Minty's brigade of cavalry could have been thrown on the left of Thomas' line; while the troops of Davis, Negley and Van Cleve, Wilder's brigade of mounted infantry, and five brigades of cavalry, could have moved against Bragg's left flank. It is true that the condition of the enemy was not then known, but the fact that Thomas had held his position against Bragg's entire army would, doubtless, have suggested to a commanding general who was on the field and cognizant of the condition and positions of all his divisions and brigades, that it was possible to defeat the enemy by taking the offensive on the 21st. But General Rosecrans was too far away to apprehend the situation and make provision for another battle on the field of Chickamauga.
As soon as his troops were in motion towards Rossville, General
Thomas rode thither, and, upon arrival, commenced the formation of the
army to resist the advance of the enemy. He placed Crittenden's corps
on Missionary Ridge to the left of the Ringgold Gap, near Rossville,
his own corps covering that gap and extending to the right upon the Dry
Valley road; McCook's across the valley towards Chattanooga Creek, and
the cavalry still further to the right. The enemy approached very
cautiously the next day, but beyond an artillery duel there was no
Page 148 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
At 8.40 P. M. General Garfield sent the following communication by telegraph:
HEADQUARTERS DEPT. OF THE CUMBERLAND.
Page 149 - THE ARMY WITHDRAWN TO CHATTANOOGA
are now moving back and will be here in good shape and strong position before morning. I hope you will not budge an inch from this place but come up early in the morning, and if the rebels try it on accommodate them. General Mitchell left Crawfish Springs at 5 P. M. Our trains are reported safe with him. We have not heard from General McCook. General Crittenden is reported with you. General Lytle killed; also Col. King and many officers. If I am not needed at headquarters to-night, I will stay here ; I am half dead with fatigue. Answer if I can do anything here.
To this despatch the following reply was sent:
CHATTANOOGA, 9.30 p. M. Sept. 20, 1863.
General Thomas considered the position untenable, since all the gaps south of Rossville had been given to the enemy, who could concentrate through them against General McCook, and, by pressing him back, cut off the other corps from Chattanooga. Thomas therefore advised Gen. Rosecrans to withdraw the army to the town. And, in anticipation of an order for this movement, he made preparations during the day for its execution at night. He received orders at 6 p. M. to withdraw, and, in consequence of the anticipatory preparations, the whole army, without the loss of a man, moved to position before Chattanooga by 7 o'clock the next morning. The fortifications, commenced on the 21st, were carried to completion as soon as practicable, when the army was safe from all danger except starvation. General Longstreet was opposed to the attempt to besiege Chattanooga, and proposed to General Bragg that his army should cross the Tennessee River east of the town, and by operating northward, force Rosecrans to fall back to Nashville:
Page 150 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
and after this had been effected, if insufficient transportation should prevent a direct advance to the north, to follow the railroad to Knoxville, destroy Burnside and then from that point threaten General Rosecrans' communications north of Nashville. But General Bragg rejected this plan, because in his view it was forbidden by military considerations, as well as, by insufficient transportation. Believing that he could force General Rosecrans to abandon Chattanooga, by preventing the passage of his supply trains from Bridgeport, Bragg disposed his infantry and cavalry so as to bring starvation to the army which he failed to crush at Chickamauga.
NOTE:- In his account of the battle of Chickamauga, published in the Washington National Tribune of March 25th, 1882, General Rosecrans has made this statement:
General Thomas, in the exercise of the discretion he had from me, withdrew the troops from position to Rossville, where they were formed in line of battle, where we remained through the next day.
But while this assertion directly contradicts the statements of Generals Thomas and Garfield, it is not congruous with the following extract from General Rosecrans' sworn testimony, given at Louisville, February 4th, 1864:
"The next time I saw him "(General McCook) "he
arrived at Chattanooga and reported to me at Wagner's Headquarters - I
should think about 4.30 or 5 P.M. I directed him to wait a short time
until I should hear from General Garfield's report from the extreme
front, informing him that he still held the field, that Granger had
gone up from Rossville, that portions of his and Crittenden's corps
were reported near Rossville, and that the arrival of a further report
from General Garfield would enable me to give him more definite
instructions - both to him and General Crittenden. On the arrival of
the report from General Garfield, I read it to him, or stated its
substance, and directed him to go out to Rossville and assume command
of his corps, that he would occupy a position near there, which General
Thomas had been directed to select. This was given to General McCook
about 9.30 o'clock P. M."
Originally published in 1887 by Robert Underwood Johnson and
Clarence Clough Buell, editors of the "The Century Magazine".
[scanned, reformatted and corrected; maps and illustrations are ommitted]
excerpt from THE CRISIS AT CHICKAMAUGA.*
BY GATES P. THRUSTON, BREVET
BRIGADIER-GENERAL, U. S. V.
*Condensed from the "Southern Bivouac" for December, 1886.-EDITORS.
THE furious initial attack on the Federal left on the morning of the 20th, although repulsed, unfortunately led to changes in Rosecrans's army materially affecting the results of the general conflict. Thomas, discovering his position turned and his front assaulted, hurried messengers to Rosecrans for assistance. Two aides, in rapid succession, called for reenforcements. All was still on the Federal right. The fight was raging with grand fury on the left.
Rosecrans felt that his apprehensions of the morning were to be realized. The Confederates were doubtless massing on his left. They had reached the much-coveted Chattanooga road. McCook was at once notified that Thomas was heavily pressed, that the left must be held at all hazards, and that he must be ready to reenforce Thomas at a moment's warning. Five minutes later came the order to hurry Sheridan's two brigades to the left. Negley's troops, replaced by Wood, had started. Van Cleve, with two brigades, was also sent to aid Thomas. McCook was now left with one of Sheridan's brigades and two of Jefferson C. Davis's, all depleted by Saturday's losses. They were unable to form a connected front, but joined Wood on their left. Captain Kellogg, of Thomas's staff, hurrying along the line with orders unfortunately reported to Rosecrans that he had noticed "Brannan was out of line, and Reynolds's right exposed"
Turning to an aide (Major Frank Bond), Rosecrans directed him to order Wood "to close up on Reynolds as fast as possible and support him." In fact, Reynolds was not needing help, and Brannan was in position on his right, but slightly in rear. Wood, whose left connected with Brannan's right, passed to the rear of Brannan to reach Reynolds's position thus a wide gap was left in the; Union line. McCook had already called up Wilder to strengthen his front, and sent for the main cavalry to protect the right. The right had unexpectedly become, as it were, the rear of the army.
Unhappily for the National army, Bragg was not now massing his forces on our left. He had just been defeated and repulsed there. Bragg's main plan had failed; but in the quiet forest, within almost a stone's-throw of our right, and in the still overclouding mist, were Longstreet and Buckner, with the left wing of the Confederate army massed in battle array, impatiently awaiting the signal for attack.
Longstreet's troops were placed in column of brigades at half distance,--a masterpiece of tactics. Hood, a soldier full of energy and dash, was to lead the column, his own division being massed five brigades deep, with the brigades of Kershaw and Humphreys as additional supports.
The order to advance came at last. The deep Confederate lines suddenly appeared. The woods in our front seemed alive. On they came like an angry flood. They struck McCook's three remaining brigades, the remnants of the Federal right. Under the daring personal exertions of McCook and Davis, they made a gallant but vain resistance. The massed lines of the enemy swarmed around their flanks. Pouring through the opening made by Wood's withdrawal, they struck his last brigade as it was leaving the line. It was slammed back like a door, and shattered. Brannan, on Wood's left, was struck in front and flank. His right was flung back; his left stood fast. Sheridan, hastening to the left with two brigades, was called back, and rushed to the rescue. His little force stayed the storm for a time. Wave after wave of
Confederates came on; resistance only increased the multitude. Brannan's artillery, attacked in flank, rushed to the rear for clearer ground, and, with the Confederates at their heels, suddenly plunged into Van Cleve marching to the aid of Thomas. Disorder ensued; effective resistance was lost. The Reserve Artillery of the center, well posted in rear, unable to manoeuvre in the undergrowth, hedged around by infantry a half hour before, was now without immediate support. The sudden rush of Longstreet's compact column through the forest had foiled all plans. The astonished artillerists were swept from their guns. General Negley, with one of his brigades isolated in rear, shared the general fate of the right.
When Longstreet struck the right, Rosecrans was near McCook and Crittenden. Seeing our line swept back, he hurried to Sheridan's force for aid. With staff and escort he recklessly strove to stem the tide. They attempted to pass to the left through a storm of canister and musketry, but were driven back.
All became confusion. No order could be heard above the tempest of battle. With a wild yell the Confederates swept on far to their left. They seemed everywhere victorious. Rosecrans was borne back in the retreat. Fugitives, wounded, caissons, escort, ambulances, thronged the narrow pathways. He concluded that our whole line had given way, that the day was lost, that the next stand must be made at Chattanooga. McCook and Crittenden, caught in the same tide of retreat, seeing only rout everywhere, shared the opinion of Rosecrans, and reported to him for instructions and cooperation.
Briefly, this is the story of the disaster on our right at Chickamauga: We were overwhelmed by numbers; we were beaten in detail. Thirty minutes earlier Longstreet would have met well-organized resistance. Thirty minutes later our marching divisions could have formed beyond his column of attack.
But Longstreet had now swept away all organized opposition in his front. Four divisions only of the Union army remained in their original position--Johnson, of McCook's corps; Palmer, of Crittenden's, and Baird and Reynolds, of Thomas's. Three had been cut off and swept away. Longstreet's force separated them. He says he urged Bragg to send Wheeler's cavalry in pursuit. Strange to report, no pursuit was ordered.
An incident of the battle perhaps contributed to the delay. When Sheridan and others were sent to the left, the writer hastened down toward Crawfish Springs, instructed by McCook to order the cavalry to the left to fill the gaps made by the withdrawal of infantry. I was but fairly on the run when Longstreet struck our right. The storm of battle was sweeping over the ground I had Just left. Hastily giving the orders and returning, I found the 39th Indiana regiment coming from a cross-road,--a full, fresh regiment, armed with Spencer's repeating-rifles, the only mounted force in our army corps. Calling upon Colonel T. J. Harrison, its commander, to hurry to the left, we led the regiment at a gallop to the Widow Glenn's.
The sound of battle had lulled. No Union force was in sight. A Confederate line near by was advancing against the position. Harrison, dismounting his men, dashed at the enemy in a most effective charge. Wilder, coming up on our right, also attacked. Wilder had two regiments armed with the same repeating-rifles. They did splendid work. Longstreet told Wilder after the war that the steady and continued racket of these guns led him to think an army corps had attacked his left flank. Bragg, cautious by nature, hesitated. By the time he was ready to turn Longstreet's force against Thomas, valuable time had elapsed.
Brannan, partly knocked out of line, had gathered his division on a hill at right angles to his former position, and a half mile in rear of Reynolds. General Wood came up with Harker's brigade and part of George P. Buell's, and posted them near Brannan's left. Some of Van Cleve's troops joined them, and fragments of Negley's.
General Thomas, ignorant of these movements and of the disaster to the right of the Union army, had again been attacked by Breckinridge and Forrest. They were again in Baird's rear with increased force. Thomas's reserve brigades, Willich, Grose, and Van Derveer, hurried to meet the attack. After a fierce struggle the Confederates were beaten back. Thomas, expecting the promised assistance of Sheridan, had sent Captain Kellogg to guide him to the left. Kellogg, hurrying back, reported that he had been fired on by a line of Confederates advancing in the woods in rear of Reynolds, who held the center of our general line.
The men in gray were coming on his right instead of Sheridan! Wood and Harker hoped the force advancing in the woods on their new front was a friendly one. The National flag was waved; a storm of bullets was the response. It was Stewart and Bate coming with their Tennesseans. They had finally forced their way across the ragged edge of the Federal right, and were following Hood. Fortunately Thomas had just repulsed Breckinridge's attack on his left, and Stanley, Beatty, and Van Derveer had double-quicked across the "horseshoe" to our new right. They did not come a moment too soon. The improvised line of Federals thus hastily formed on "Battery Hill" now successfully withstood the assault of the enemy. The Union line held the crest. Longstreet was stayed at last. Gathering new forces, he soon sent a flanking column around our right. We could not extend our line to meet this attack. They had reached the summit, and were coming around still farther on through a protected ravine. For a time the fate of the Union army hung in the balance. All seemed lost, when unexpected help came from Gordon Granger and the right was saved.
When Longstreet first struck our right I was hurrying toward Crawfish Springs, as stated above, to order the cavalry to the left. I brought bach with me Harrison's regiment, which, with Wilder's brigade, gallantly charged the Confederates in flank. Harrison captured some two hundred prisoners and turned again upon the enemy. Finding no Federal infantry in sight, I passed to the northward, taking with me Harrison's disarmed prisoners,
partly under charge of my small escort, to prevent their recapture. We had a lively double-quick race, pushing our prisoners at the point of sword and carbine to get them to a place of safety. Only the predominance of the gray uniforms prevented the Confederates, three hundred yards away, from riddling our little party in the chase. We soon reached our retreating forces. Placing the prisoners in safe custody, I turned and rode over the Ridge toward the front, no enemy appearing.
Riding on, I struck the Dry Valley road, running along the east slope of the Ridge. Near by, on the left, I found Sheridan and Davis, with the remnants of their five brigades. General Phil was furious. Like the great Washington on several occasions, he was swearing mad, and no wonder. The devoted Lytle and the truest and bravest had fallen in vain resistance around him. His splendid fighting qualities and his fine soldiers had not had half a chance. He had lost faith. Hearing the sound of battle on our left, I offered to ascertain the situation with Thomas on the left, and report as soon as possible. I hurried off at a racing gallop, directly through the open woodland, with my few faithful soldiers of the 2d Kentucky cavalry (of the Headquarters escort), toward the increasing sound of musketry. As we neared the firing we came suddenly upon a line of gray much too close to be agreeable. Fortunately it was intent on other game in its front, and we escaped with only a few whizzing compliments. We were too far to the right. We had struck the wrong side, and were behind the Confederates. Circling to the left we were soon among the soldiers in blue in rear of the Union lines.
Galloping through the wounded as best we could, I checked my horse before the form of an officer borne in the arms of his comrades to find that it was an old home friend, Colonel Durbin Ward, a moment before severely wounded.
I soon reached General Thomas. He was intently watching the conflict near the crest, a few steps in rear of the battle-line. General Wood and other officers were near. I reported briefly the situation on the right. Thanking me, he requested me to try to bring up Sheridan's and Davis's troops to aid his right. In his official report he states that I came with General Garfield. We probably reached him about the same time, but General Garfield had come out from Rossville, by the Lafayette road, and I had crossed almost directly from the extreme right. We gave him the first tidings from the troops cut off. Hurrying back on my mission, full of hope that the day was not lost, we soon reached the identical spot on the Dry Valley road where we had left Sheridan and Davis. Strange to say, no Confederate cavalry or infantry appeared, and there seemed still no pursuit. Forrest, Wheeler, Wharton, Roddey,--half the cavalry of the Confederacy,--were with Bragg, yet no cavalry apparently came through the gap of a mile or more to pursue or follow our retreating forces on the right. At our recent fight at Murfreesboro', Wheeler's whole force had been smashing around in our rear. It had been about as uncomfortable for nervous recruits there as on the battle-front.
Unfortunately Sheridan's and Davis's force had drifted down the road toward Rossville. Hastening after them, we found they had already entered the narrow road or defile at McFarland's Gap. I tried to halt the rear of the column, but without success. The miseries of a mounted officer trying to pass marching infantry on a narrow roadway can be well imagined. Time was precious. I rode furiously through the thicket, alongside, and appealed to officers. "See Jeff, Colonel?" they said. "See Phil?" Some old trudger in the ranks called out, "We'll talk to you, my son, when we get to the Ohio River!" A long half-hour was lost in scrambling along this wretched defile before I reached the head of the column. There I found Generals Sheridan, Davis, and Negley. We were about half-way between the field and Rossville. We held a hasty conference. Davis ordered a "right-about" at once, and marched briskly to the front; Lieutenant-Colonel William M. Ward followed with the 10th Ohio. Sheridan was still without faith. He may have thought there was danger at Rossville, or that his troops had not regained their fighting spirit. He insisted on going to Rossville. Darkness would catch him before he could reach the field from that direction. Negley was vacillating: he finally went to Rossville.
We soon reached the battle-field with Davis's and Ward's troops, but
the night was then near. They did not get into action, but it was a
cheerful sight to see at least some of the troops cut off in the
morning in line again on the right of General Thomas, ready for an
Originally published in 1887 by Robert Underwood Johnson and
Clarence Clough Buell, editors of the "The Century Magazine".
[scanned, reformatted and corrected; maps and illustrations are ommitted]
excerpt from REENFORCING THOMAS AT
BY J. S. FULLERTON BREVET BRIGADIER-GENERAL U. S. V
AT CHICKAMAUGA CHIEF-OF-STAFF TO GENERAL GORDON GRANGER.
ON the 19th day of September, 1863, the Reserve Corps of the Army of the Cumberland, General Gordon Granger in command, was distributed over a long stretch of country, its rear at Murfreesboro' and its van on the battle-field of Chickamauga. These troops had been posted to cover the rear and left flank of the army. During September 19th, the first day of the battle, they were engaged in some skirmishing and stood at arms expecting an attack. On the evening of the 19th every indication pointed to a renewal of the battle early the next day. The night was cold for that time of the year. Tell-tale fires were prohibited. The men slept on their arms. All was quiet save in the field-hospitals in the rear. A bright moon lighted up the fields and woods.
Along the greater part of a front of eight miles the ground was strewn with the intermingled dead of friend and foe. The morning of Sunday, the 20th, opened with a cloudless sky, but a fog had come up from the warm water of the Chickamauga and hung over the battle-field until 9 o'clock. A silence of desertion was in the front. This quiet continued till nearly 10 o'clock; then, as the peaceful tones of the church-bells, rolling over the land from the east, reached the meridian of Chickamauga, they were made dissonant by the murderous roar of the artillery of Bishop Polk, who was opening the battle on Thomas's front. Granger, who had been ordered at all hazards to hold fast where he was, listened and grew impatient. Shortly before 10 o'clock, calling my attention to a great column of dust moving from our front toward the point from which came the sound of battle, he said, "They are concentrating over there. That is where we ought to be." The corps flag marked his headquarters in an open field near the Ringgold road. He walked up and down in front of his flag, nervously pulling his beard. Once stopping, he said, "Why the ______ does Rosecrans keep me here? There is nothing in front of us now. There is the battle"--pointing in the direction of Thomas. Every moment the sounds of battle grew louder, while the many columns of dust rolling together here mingled with the smoke that hung over the scene.
At 11 o'clock, with Granger, I climbed a high hayrick near by. We sat there for ten minutes listening and watching. Then Granger Jumped up, thrust his glass into its case, and exclaimed with an oath: "I am going to Thomas, orders or no orders!" "And if you go," I replied, "it may bring disaster to the army and you to a court-martial." "There's nothing in our front now but ragtag, bobtail cavalry," he replied. "Don't you see Bragg is piling his whole army on Thomas? I am going to his assistance."
We quickly climbed down the rick, and, going to Steedman, Granger ordered him to move his command "over there," pointing toward the place from which came the sounds of battle. Colonel Daniel McCook was directed to hold fast at McAfee Church, where his brigade covered the Ringgold road. Before half-past 11 o'clock Steedman's command was in motion. Granger, with his staff and escort, rode in advance. Steedman, after accompanying them a short distance, rode back to the head of his column.
Thomas was nearly four miles away. The day had now grown very warm, yet the troops marched rapidly over the narrow road, which was covered ankle-deep with dust that rose in suffocating clouds. Completely enveloped in it, the moving column swept along like a desert sandstorm. Two miles from the point of starting, and three quarters of a mile to the left of the road, the enemy's skirmishers and a section of artillery opened fire on us from an open wood. This force had worked round Thomas's left, and was then partly in his rear. Granger halted to feel them. Soon becoming convinced that it was only a large party of observation, he again started his column and pushed rapidly forward. I was then sent to bring up Colonel McCook's brigade, and put it in
position to watch the movements of the enemy , to keep open the Lafayette road, and to cover the open fields between that point and the position held by Thomas. This brigade remained there the rest of the day. Our skirmishers had not gone far when they came upon Thomas's field-hospital, at Cloud's house, then swarming with the enemy. They came from the same body of Forrest's cavalry that had fired on us from the wood. They were quickly driven out, and our men were warmly welcomed with cheers from dying and wounded men.
A little farther on we were met by a staff-officer sent by General Thomas to discover whether we were friends or enemies; he did not know whence friends could be coming, and the enemy appeared to be approaching from all directions. All of this shattered Army of the Cumberland left on the field was with Thomas; but not more than one-fourth of the men of the army who went into battle at the opening were there. Thomas's loss in killed and wounded during the two days had been dreadful. As his men dropped out his line was contracted to half its length. Now its flanks were bent back, conforming to ridges shaped like a horse-shoe.
On the part of Thomas and his men there was no thought but that of fighting. He was a soldier who had never retreated, who had never been defeated. He stood immovable, the "Rock of Chickamauga." Never had soldiers greater love for a commander. He imbued them with his spirit, and their confidence in him was sublime.
To the right of Thomas's line was a gorge, then a high ridge, nearly at right angles thereto, running east and west. Confederates under Kershaw (McLaws's division of Hood's corps) were passing through the gorge, together with Bushrod Johnson's division, which Longstreet was strengthening with Hindman's division;. divisions were forming on this ridge for an assault; to their left the b ns of a battery were being unlimbered for an enfilading fire. There was not a man to send against the force on the ridge, none to oppose this impending assault. The enemy saw the approaching colors of the Reserve Corps and hesitated.
At 1 o'clock Granger shook hands with Thomas. Something was said about forming to fight to the right and rear.
"Those men must be driven back," said Granger, pointing to the gorge and ridge. "Can you do it" asked Thomas.
"Yes. My men are fresh, and they are just the fellows for that work. They are raw troops, and they don't know any better than to charge up there."
Granger quickly sent Aleshire's battery of 3-inch rifle guns which he brought up to Thomas's left to assist in repelling another assault about to be made on the Kelly farm front. Whitaker's and Mitchell's brigades under Steedman were wheeled into position and projected against the enemy in the gorge and on the ridge. With ringing cheers they advanced in two lines by double-quick over open fields, through weeds waist-high, through a little valley, then up the ridge. The enemy opened on them first with artillery, then with a murderous musketry fire. When well up the ridge the men, almost exhausted, were halted for breath. They lay on the ground two or three minutes, then came the command "Forward!" Brave, bluff old Steedman, with a regimental flag in his hand, led the way. On went the lines, firing as they ran and bravely receiving a deadly and continuous fire from the enemy on the summit. The Confederates began to break and in another minute were flying down the southern slope of the ridge. In twenty minutes from the beginning of the charge the ridge had been carried.
Granger's hat had been torn by a fragment of shell; Steedman had been wounded; Whitaker had been wounded, and four of his five staff-officers killed or mortally wounded. Of Steedman's two brigades, numbering 3500, twenty per cent. had been killed and wounded in that twenty minutes; and the end was not yet.
The enemy massed a force to retake the ridge. They came before our men had rested; twice they assaulted and were driven back. During one assault, as the first line came within range of our muskets, it halted, apparently hesitating, when we saw a colonel seize a flag, wave it over his head, and rush forward. The whole line instantly caught his enthusiasm, and with a wild cheer followed, only to be hurled back again. Our men ran down the ridge in pursuit. In the midst of a group of Confederate dead and wounded they found the brave colonel dead, the flag he carried spread over him where he fell.
Soon after 5 o'clock Thomas rode to the left of his line, leaving Granger the ranking officer at the center. The ammunition of both Thomas's and Granger's commands was now about exhausted. When Granger had come up he had given ammunition to Brannan and Wood, and that had exhausted his supply. The cartridge-boxes of both our own and the enemy's dead within reach had been emptied by our men. When it was not yet 6 o'clock, and Thomas was still on the left of his line, Brannan rushed up to Granger, saying, "The enemy are forming for another assault; we have not another round of ammunition--what shall we do?" "Fix bayonets and go for them," was the reply. Along the whole line ran the order, "Fix bayonets." On came the enemy--our men were lying down. "Forward," was sounded. In one instant they were on their feet. Forward they went to meet the charge. The enemy fled. So impetuous was this counter-charge that one regiment, with empty muskets and empty cartridge-boxes, broke through the enemy's line, which, closing in their rear, carried them off as in the undertow.
One more feeble assault was made by the enemy; then the day closed, and the battle of Chickamauga was over. Of the 3700 men of the Reserve Corps who went into the battle that afternoon, 1175 were killed and wounded; 613 were missing, many of whom were of the regiment that broke through the lines. Our total loss was 1788, nearly 50 per cent.
Gordon Granger was rough in manner, but he had a tender heart. He
was inclined to insubordination, especially when he knew his superior
to be wrong. Otherwise he was a splendid soldier. Rosecrans named him
well when he wrote of him, "Granger, great in battle."
Originally published in 1887 by Robert Underwood Johnson and
Clarence Clough Buell, editors of the "The Century Magazine".
[scanned, reformatted and corrected; maps and illustrations are ommitted]
excerpt from NOTES ON THE CHICKAMAUGA
BY EMERSON OPDYCKE, BREVET MAJOR-GENERAL, U. S. V.
CHATTANOOGA was the indispensable key to all the objects committed to the Army of the Cumberland, and General Halleck planned two widely separated movements toward their accomplishment. General Burnside, starting from the OhioRiver with one column, was to cross the mountains of eastern Kentucky. To overcome the great advantage of the enemy's position and works, and secure at one blow a decisive victory, General Rosecrans conceived a series of brilliant movements from Murfreesboro' where his four corps were concentrated. On the 23d of June he began the formidable operations which sent the enemy out of middle Tennessee and left our army at the western base of the Cumberland mountains.
General Rosecrans halted there till the 16th of August, and between him and Halleck the question of delay was renewed with spirit. Rosecrans justly urged that, before crossing the Tennessee River, his right and rear ought to be protected by the part of our army made idle by the surrender of Vicksburg, because the enemy's superiority in cavalry forced him constantly to weaken his line of battle, to protect the long line over which supplies were brought to him. This sound view, however, did not prevail, and if General Bragg had perceived the advantage to him of Halleck's error I am sure that the peremptory order by which Rosecrans was sent across the Tennessee River and into the mountains between Bridgeport and Chattanooga would have proved disastrous.
If Bragg had stubbornly defended his several positions, he certainly could have retained Chattanooga and assumed the offensive, for reenforcements soon made his army larger than. ours. It would have been rash for Rosecrans to move his force on the theory that the enemy would not defend at least some of the formidable positions that now separated the two armies. He had to assume that his adversary's conduct would be stubbornly defensive.
On the 16th of August he put his army in motion, crossed the Cumberland mountains, and caused his main columns to appear at several points on the river, the extremes fifty miles apart. These movements so deceived Bragg that he was comparatively harmless where we really wished to cross; and by the 4th of September the army, followed by its artillery, wagons, and beeves, safely reached the south bank of the Tennessee River. Then, throwing as much energy into his movements as though he had approved them, Rosecrans promptly marched upon Chattanooga.
With but slight opposition his columns wound through the defiles of Raccoon Mountain and came to the western base of the Lookout range. On its highest point the enemy's signal-flags were seen announcing to Bragg in Chattanooga the presence of our army. There are only three routes by which armies can cross the range, respectively 2 miles, 26 miles, and 42 miles south of Chattanooga. Unless Bragg should defend these passes, he could remain in the town only to surrender, because the two more distant routes would give us
ready access to his line of supplies and enable us to close all avenues of retreat.
Time had now become of pressing importance to him, because heavy reenforcements were advancing to his aid: two divisions from Mississippi, one from Knoxville, and a renowned corps under Longstreet from the army of General Lee. He was in a few days to feel the mistake of allowing us so easily to come to the last barrier of Chattanooga. Fortunately for our army, the Confederate general, while easily defending the pass nearest the town, gave no attention to the other two. Thomas was directed to the 26 and McCook to the 42 mile pass, while Crittenden made demonstrations near Chattanooga. These admirable movements endangered Bragg's communications and forced him to choose between immediate retreat and ultimate surrender. He retreated; and on the 9th of September Crittenden entered Chattanooga. These operations drew Buckner from Knoxville to the aid of Bragg, and Burnside marched into Knoxville.
It is surprising that the events of the last sixty days did not suggest to General Halleck concentrations that must have ended the war in 1863. By the 4th of July Meade had seriously defeated and permanently weakened Lee at Gettysburg, and Grant, by giving us Vicksburg and 30,000 prisoners, had ended all important operations near the Mississippi River. In the main, this left Grant's army of 75,000 men free to be sent in whatever directions lay the best chance of decisive work. Is it mot, therefore, clear, that Rosecrans should have been heavily reenforced and made able to crush Bragg at Chickamauga? He then could have marched irresistibly through east Tennessee, to the aid of Meade against Lee, whose army could not have existed a single day if it had held its ground, before such a concentration of forces. The order thus to reenforce the Army of the Cumberland could have been as easily made and executed before as after Chickamauga. I am convinced that it would have saved us the slaughter and the expense of 1864. But Halleck only ordered Burnside to reenforce Rosecrans. Burnside, though without an opposing force of importance, failed utterly to obey the orders of Halleck, as well as the plain suggestions of the situation.
Up to the 9th of September--the day Rosecrans entered
Chattanooga--his plans and movements, aside from the delay in
beginning operations, had been brilliant and faultless. He had not achieved the highest success-the destruction of his adversary, but he had forced from the enemy strategic advantages from which immense results were afterward gained by his successors. But the moment he entered Chattanooga he should have concentrated his army there long enough to accumulate supplies, ascertain the position and intentions of his adversary, and whether or not Burnside would reenforce him. He was now 337 miles from the Ohio River, 150 from Nashville, and his prudence, not his impetuosity, should have increased. Halleck, himself deceived, misled Rosecrans, who Judged that his present work was to pursue an alarmed adversary, and, accordingly, on the 10th of September, ordered Crittenden's corps to seek the enemy in the direction of Ringgold,--thus still farther separating his army.
General Wood's division, to which I belonged, happened to be the rear of Crittenden's column and in the evening a simple negro informed Wood of the position of Bragg's army. Instead of an alarmed retreat, the enemy's movement had been a leisurely march of thirty miles south to Lafayette. The divergent movements which had placed Thomas near to and west of Lafayette, McCook sixteen miles farther south, and was now placing Crittenden farther north than McCook was south of the Confederate army, made it convenient for Bragg to overwhelm in succession our separated corps before any two of them could be united. Wood hurried the momentous information to Rosecrans at Chattanooga; and, notwithstanding the incredulity with which it was received, Harker's brigade of Wood's division was ordered to countermarch at daybreak to the Lafayette road, and to make a reconnoissance in the direction indicated by the negro. Soon meeting an opposing force that was feeling its way toward Chattanooga, Harker slowly forced it back across the Chickamauga River, at Lee and Gordon's Mills, only eighteen miles from Lafayette. Crittenden was now ordered to the mills, Thomas to Lafayette, and McCook to Summerville, twenty-five miles south of Lafayette; for Rosecrans did not yet believe that the enemy's entire army was there, preparing to assume the offensive. Most happily, Bragg, although correctly informed of the isolation of our corps, took no decisive advantage of our helplessness.
McCook found that the enemy's cavalry, when driven, always retreated in the direction of Lafayette; and in advancing toward that place Thomas met a resistance that convinced him that he was in the presence of the Confederate army, while Crittenden's reconnoissance south from the mills sustained the opinion of Thomas.
On the 12th, however, Rosecrans also became at last convinced that the enemy had faced about at Lafayette, and orders were issued to attack them at that place.
By the 15th he learned that the enemy was receiving heavy reenforcements. Doctor Hale, chief of-scouts for General Thomas, found large numbers of prisoners whom Grant' had paroled at Vicksburg. They spoke freely of the fact that they had been ordered on duty, although not yet exchanged, and all were confident that the concentration then going on would result in our annihilation. Stunned by the disasters to their cause at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the Confederate chiefs were secretly hurrying reenforcements to Bragg, hoping to neutralize the effects of those disasters by overwhelming Rosecrans. These well-planned movements were not, until too late, even suspected by Halleck, who sent us the report that Bragg was reenforcing Lee!
As already indicated, if Rosecrans had opened his campaign. when the other two great armies were carrying forward the Gettysburg and Vicksburg campaigns, his operations could not now have been disturbed by these reenforcements.
If he should be defeated when so far from his base, and with such obstacles to the rear, the destruction of his army would be probable; while if he should have the good fortune to defeat his adversary, it would not be possible, without surplus supplies at Chattanooga, to pursue far enough to gather the fruits of a victory. With so much to lose and so little to gain, it is clear that the battle of Chickamauga ought not to have been fought.
It has been said that this battle was necessary to secure us Chattanooga. But the error of that assertion may be seen in the fact that Rosecrans, before the battle, still had time to assume impregnable positions around that town. Three days were enough for this, and it was seven days before Bragg seriously interfered with the freedom of our movements. Moreover, Chattanooga, won at the cost of Chickamauga, became a peril instead of a gain. But, deciding not to fall back, Rosecrans slowly concentrated his corps on the north bank of the Chickamauga River, at Lee and Gordon's Mills, twelve miles south of Chattanooga. Bragg decided to move down the valley up which he had retired because, first, of all the routes open to him that one was least obstructed; and, secondly, because it would continue his army near the railway of his supplies, which was also bringing him Longstreet.
Rosecrans did not get his corps united and well in position, before tho enemy, on the 19th, began the battle of Chickamauga.
The country in which the next two days' operations took place lies between the river and Missionary Ridge, and was covered by woods of varying density, broken here and there by cleared fields. The Chickamauga River, winding slowly through the forest of the region, flows into the Tennessee eight miles above Chattanooga. Bragg's aim was to turn our left and gain the road into Chattanooga, now indispensable to the existence of our army. Thomas commanded our left; and as Bragg sent division after division against that wing, Rosecrans sent successive divisions to Thomas. The fighting was close and stubborn; batteries were taken and retaken till the day closed, without material advantage to either side. It was clear, however, that we were outnumbered; for, while we had put nearly every regiment into the action, the enemy, meeting us with equal numbers in line of battle, still had heavy reserves.
In the night both commanders prepared for the decisive conflict which all felt must come on the 20th. Still covering the Chattanooga road, Rosecrans placed his army in a somewhat better position, both flanks well refused. From left to right his divisions were: Baird's, R. W. Johnson's Palmer's, Reynolds's, Brannan's, Negley's, Davis's, Sheridan's; Wood's and Van Cleve's were in reserve; and three brigades of Granger's corps were near Rossville, four miles away. Thomas commanded six divisions at the left, McCook two at the right, and Crittenden the two in reserve. Thomas covered his front with a slight barricade of rails and old logs found in the woods, and so greatly aided his men.
Early in the morning Thomas discovered, and reported to Rosecrans, that another division was needed to maintain our extreme left against the enemy's longer line. Rosecrans, therefore, brought Wood from reserve to relieve Negley, and ordered Negley at once to report his division to Thomas; and Thomas was informed that Negley would immediately join him at the left. But Negley, disappearing from the line, drifted away from the field to Rossville. Two of his brigades reached the left, but so far apart, and so ill-timed, as to be of little value. It is important to remember Negley's conduct, because from it came the misapprehension that were soon to result in disaster to our right wing.
The Confederate plan was to turn and envelop our left, and then to advance upon our divisions in succession, and involve the whole in one common ruin. Their right wing was commanded by Polk, and their left by Longstreet.
Polk was ordered to begin the battle at daybreak, but the first shots were not heard before 8: 30; and, in an hour, the action at the left became furious. Polk's right division began to envelop our left and to appear upon our rear; but Thomas hurried some reserves against it and drove it away in disorder. Having been able, in the absences of Negley's division, to find the way to our left and rear, the enemy would naturally reappear there with decisive numbers. Thomas, therefore, knowing nothing of Negley's conduct, and wishing to add only a division to his left, sent again and again for the promised reenforcement. The attack soon extended heavily to Johnson, Palmer, and Reynolds; and, by 10:30, lightly to Brannan. Naturally supposing that Negley had already reached Thomas, Rosecrans inferred, from the requests of Thomas and from other indications, that Bragg was moving his left wing to the extreme right of the Confederate line of battle. The conflict had been raging against Thomas for two hours, while Wood, Davis, and Sheridan were untouched; and, not suspecting that Longstreet (a reconnoissance of ten minutes would have developed it) was already formed for attack and about to advance in full force against our right wing, Rosecrans, in the short space of fifteen minutes, 10: 30 to 10: 45,-ordered to his left Van Cleve, from the reserve, and Sheridan, from the extreme right; and, by the blunder of an aide in wording an order, sent Wood out of line to "close up on Reynolds and support him as soon as possible", while McCook was to move Davis by the left flank into the position vacated by Wood. These disconnected and fatal movements of Van Cleve, Wood, Sheridan, and Davis were in progress when Longstreet attacked them with six divisions of the Confederate left wing. Disaster was the immediate and inevitable result.
Sheridan's routed division moved back to Rossville. Heroism could not save Davis; his division was overwhelmed, and scattered in fragments that were afterward collected behind Missionary Ridge. Wood's movement uncovered Brannan's right, and, in temporary confusion, that division hurried away to a new position. This exposed Reynolds's right, made it necessary for him to change front to the rear at right angles on his left; but there he held firmly to Palmer's right. The rush of disordered troops
and artillery, disintegrating Van Cleve's division destroyed its further usefulness in this battle.
Rosecrans, seeing this appalling demolition of his right wing, and finding that the enemy had interposed between him and Thomas, hastened around to Rossville. Finding there men of Negley's division, which he had supposed to be with Thomas, Rosecrans thought the day lost, and deemed it his duty to hasten to Chattanooga, there to prepare for the reception and disposition of what seemed to him his disordered and defeated army. Rosecrans and Garfield, his chief-of-staff, separated at Rossville-Rosecrans riding to Chattanooga and Garfield to Thomas at the front. Rosecrans says that he sent Garfield to the front; while Garfield has many times said that he himself insisted upon going-that the sound of the battle proved that Thomas was still holding the enemy in check. McCook and Crittenden soon joined Rosecrans at Chattanooga; but Thomas remained on the field. Brannan brought his division to a good position, but so far to the right of Reynolds that the space of a division lay open between them. While Wood was moving toward this gap, Longstreet, advancing to complete the work, came within musket-range.
The moment was critical, because if Wood should be unable to occupy and hold the gap, Longstreet would pass through, permanently cut off Brannan, again turn, and then overwhelm Reynolds, and attack the rear of Palmer, Johnson, and Baird, who were still confronted by Polk. Wood coolly changed front under fire, so as to face south instead of east, and caused one of his brigades to charge with fixed bayonets. The audacity of the charge probably made the enemy believe that there was force enough near to sustain it, for they soon bolted, and then Hod out of range just before our bayonets reached their ranks. The needed moments were snatched from the enemy, and Wood brought his division into the gap between Reynolds and Brannan.
Except some fragments from the broken divisions, our line was now composed of Baird's, Johnson's, Palmer's, Reynolds's, Wood's, and Brannan's divisions, naming them from left to right. In front stood the whole army of the enemy, eager to fall upon us with the energy that comes from great success and greater hopes. But close behind our line rode a general whose judgment never erred, whose calm, invincible will never bent; and around him thirty thousand soldiers resolved to exhaust the last round of ammunition, and then to hold their ground with their bayonets. Soldiers thus inspired and commanded, are more easily killed than defeated.
For five long hours the shocks and carnage were as close and deadly as men could make them. Thomas often came within speaking distance of his men, and wherever the energy of the attack most endangered our line, he strengthened it with cannon and regiments drawn from points in less peril; and when the soldiers asked for more ammunition Thomas said: "Use your bayonets." At about 3:30 in the afternoon I saw General Thomas looking in the direction of Chattanooga, watching with anxious interest a column of dust rising in the air. Our suspense was relieved when Granger and Steedman emerged from the dust, and Garfield dashed up to Thomas.
To prevent a turning movement on the road from Ringgold, through Rossville to Chattanooga, Granger, with three brigades, had been stationed on the Ringgold road; and, by a sound, soldierly Judgment, leaving one brigade to do the work assigned to the three, brought two brigades to the field. Thomas himself was then only a little way down the rear slope of the low ridge on which Wood's division was fighting, with every man in the line, and with no reserves. We were hard pressed, and many muskets became so hot that loading was difficult; but Thomas sent up two cannon with the words: "The position must be held." The reply was: "Tell General Thomas that we will hold the position or go to heaven from it."
At about 4 o'clock Longstreet drew back and asked for reenforcements, but was answered that the right wing was already so shattered that it could not aid him. He then brought forward his reserves and re-formed his lines; and, extending beyond our right, advanced in a final attack.
Thomas ordered Granger's reenforcements to the right of Brannan, where the enemy had already begun to appear. The conflict there, and on the divisions of Brannan and Wood, was soon at its fiercest. Our short-range ammunition from the cannon cut great gaps through the enemy's columns, and the steady volleys of musketry, aided by our bayonets, did their remorseless work for about thirty minutes; and then the Confederate left wing, shattered, bleeding, defeated, withdrew from sight. The battle was ended--Thomas had saved the army.
The sun had not yet gone down, and there was time enough to renew the action, but Bragg, if we may trust his official report, had lost two-fifths of his infantry; his army was incapable of making another effort. What now would have been the consequences if General Rosecrans had come upon the field with ammunition and the few thousand soldiers collected near Rossville?
On the 21st Bragg was too prudent to attack, and on the 22d our army was placed in positions around Chattanooga.
Of our men under fire, w e had lost more than one-third, and a number of batteries in the woods fell to the enemy by the disaster on the morning of the 20th. About 30, 000 men -- both sides -- were killed and wounded in this battle.
On the 23d and 24th the Confederates came slowly into position on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, connecting the two by a line of earth-works across Chattanooga Valley; and, by sending a force into Lookout Valley, they commanded our 26-mile wagon route to Bridgeport for supplies. This forced us to an almost impassable mountain route of sixty miles to the same point. Knowing that it would be impossible long to subsist an army by this route, Bragg waited the process of starvation with some probability of success.
THE OPPOSING FORCES AT CHICKAMAUGA, GA. September 19th - 20th, 1863.
For much of the information contained in this list and in similar lists to follow, the editors are indebted (in advance of the publication of the "Official Records") to Brigadier-General Richard C. Drum, Adjutant-General of the Army. K stands for killed; w for wounded; m w for mortally wounded; m for captured or missing; c for captured.
THE UNION ARMY.
ARMY OF THE CUMBERLAND-Major-General William S. Rosecrans.
General Headquarters: 1st Battalion Ohio Sharpshooters, Capt. Gershom M. Barber; 10th Ohio Infantry, Lieut.-Col. William M. Ward; 15th Pa. Cav., Col. William J. Palmer. Loss: w, 2; m, 4 = 6.
FOURTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Maj.-Gen. George H. Thomas. Staff loss: m, 1.
Escort: L, 1st Ohio Cav., Capt. John D. Barker.
FIRST DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. Absalom Baird.
First Brigade, Col. Benjamin F. Scribner: 38th Ind., Lieut.-Col. Daniel F. Griffin; 2d Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Obadiah C. Maxwell (w), Maj. William T. Beatty (w and c), Capt. James Warnock; 33d Ohio, Col. Oscar F. Moore; 94th Ohio, Maj. Rue P. Hutchins; 10th Wis., Lieut: Col. John H. Ely (m w and c), Capt. Jacob W. Roby. Brigade loss: k, 55; w, 254; m, 423=732. Second Brigade, Brig.-Gen. John C. Starkweather: 24th Ill., Col. Geza Mihalotzy (w), Capt. August Mauff; 79th Pa., Col. Henry A. Hambright; 1st Wis., Lieut.-Col. George B. Bingham; 21st Wis., Lieut.-Col. Harrison C. Hobart (w), Capt. Charles H. Walker. Brigade loss: k, 65; w, 285; m, 256 = 606. Third Brigade, Brig.-Gen. John H. King: 1st Battalion 15th U. S., Capt. Albert B. DOD; 1st Battalion 16th U. S., Maj. Sidney Coolidge (k), Capt. Robert E. A. Crofton; 1st Battalion 18th U. S., Capt. George W. Smith; 2d Battalion 18th U. S., Capt. Henry Haymond; 1st Battalion 19th U. S., Maj. Samuel K. Dawson (w), Capt. Edmund L. Smith. Brigade loss: k, 61; w, 255; m, 523 = 839. Artillery: 4th Ind. (Second Brigade), Lieut. David Flansburg (w and c), Lieut. Henry J. Willits; A, 1st Mich. (First Brigade), Lieut. George W. VanPelt (k), Lieut. Almerick W. Wilber; H, 5th U. S. (Third Brigade), Lieut. Howard M. Burnham (k), Lieut. Joshua A. Fessenden (w). Artillery loss included in that of brigades.
SECOND DIVISION, Maj.-Gen. James S. Negley.
First Brigade, Brig.-Gen. John Beatty; 104th Ill., Lieut.-Col. Douglas Hapeman; 42d Ind., Lieut.-Col. William T. B. McIntire; 88th Ind., Col. George Humphrey; 15th Ky., Col. Marion C. Taylor. Brigade loss: k, 17; w 189; m, 104 = 310. Second Brigade, Col. Timothy R. Stanley (w), Col. William L. Stoughton: 19th Ill., Lieut.-Col. Alexander TV. Raffen; 11th Mich., Col. William L. Stoughton, Lieut.-Col. Melvin Mudge (w); 18th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Charles H. Grosvenor. Brigade loss: k, 20; w, 146; m, 49=215. Third Brigade, Col. William Sirwell: 37th Ind., Lieut.-Col. William D. Ward; 21st Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Dwella M. Stoughton (m w ), Maj. Arnold McMahan (w) Capt. Charles H. Vantine; 74th Ohio, Capt. Joseph Fisher; 78th Pa.; Lieut.-Col. Archibald Blakeley. Brigade loss: k, 29; w, 95; m, 142 = 266. Artillery: Bridges's Ill. Battery (First Brigade), Capt. Lyman Bridges; G, 1st Ohio (Third Brigade), Capt. Alexander Marshall; M, 1st Ohio (Second Brigade), Capt. Frederick Schultz.
Artillery loss included in brigades to which attached.
THIRD DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. John M. Brannan. Staff loss: w, 1.
First Brigade, Col. John M. Connell: 82d Ind., Col. Morton C. Hunter; 17th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Durbin Ward (w); 31st Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Frederick W., Lister. Brigade loss: k, 49; w, 323; m, 70=442. Second Brigade, Col. John T. Croxton (w), Col. William H. Hays: 10th Ind., Col. William B. Carroll (m w), Lieut.-Col. Marsh B. Taylor; 74th Ind., Col. Charles W. Chapman, Lieut.-Col. Myron Baker; 4th Ky., Lieut.-Col. P. Burgess Hunt (w), Maj. Robert M. Kelly 10th Ky., Col. William H. Hays, Maj. Gabriel C. Wharton; 14th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Henry D. Kingsbury. Brigade loss: k, 131; w, 728; m, 79 = 938. Third Brigade, Col. Ferdinand Van Derveer: 87th Ind., Col. Newell Gleason; 2d Minn., Col. James George; 9th Ohio, Col Gustave Kammerling; 35th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Henry V. N. Boynton. Brigade loss: k, 144; w, 594; m, 102=840. Artillery: D, 1st Mich. (First Brigade), Capt. Josiah W. Church; C, 1st Ohio (Second Brigade), Lieut. Marco B. Gary; I, 4th U. S. (Third Brigade), Lieut. Frank G. Smith. Artillery loss included in brigades to which attached.
FOURTH DIVISION, Maj.-Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds. Staff loss: w, 1; m, 1=2.
First Brigade,(1) Col. John T. Wilder: 92d Ill., Col. Smith D. Atkins; 98th Ill., Col. John J. Funkhouser (w), Lieut.-Col. Edward Kitchell; 128th Ill., Col. James Monroe; 17th Ind., Maj. William T. Jones; 72d Ind., Col. Abram O. Miller. Brigade loss: k, 13; w, 94; m, 18 = 125. Second Brigade, Col. Edward A. King (k), Col. Milton B. Robinson: 68th Ind., Capt. Harvey J. Espy (w); 75th Ind., Col. Milton S. Robinson, Lieut.-Col. William O'Brien; 101st Ind., Lieut.-Col. Thomas Doan; 105th Ohio, Maj. George T. Perkins (w). Brigade loss: k, 50; w, 363; m, 71 = 484.
Third Brigade, Brig.-Gen. John B. Turchin: 18th Ky., Lieut.-Gol. H. Kavanaugh Milward (w), Capt. John B. Heltemes; 11th Ohio, Col. Philander P. Lane; 36th Ohio, Col. William G. Jones (k), Lieut.-Col. Hiram F. Duvall; 92d Ohio, Col. Benjamin D. Fearing (w), Lieut.-Col. Douglas Putman, Jr. (w). Brigade loss: k, 30; w, 227; m, 86=343. Artillery: 18th Ind. (First Brigade), Capt. Eli Lilly; 19th Ind. (Second Brigade), Capt. Samuel J. Harris (w), Lieut. Robert G. Lackey; 21st Ind. (Third Brigade), Capt. William W. Andrew. Artillery loss included in brigades to which attached.
TWENTIETH ARMY CORPS, Maj.-Gen. Alexander McD. McCook.
Provost-Guard: H, 81st Ind., Capt. Will'm J. Richards.
Escort: I, 2d Ky. Cav., Lieut. George W. L. Batman.
FIRST DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. Jefferson C. Davis.
Second Brigade, Brig.-Gen. William P. Carlin: 21st Ill., Col. John W. S. Alexander (k), Capt. Chester K. Knight; 38th Ill., Lieut.-Col. Daniel H. Gilmer (k), Capt. Willis G. Whitehurst; 81st Ind., Capt. Nevil B. Boone, Maj. James E. Calloway; 101st Ohio, Lieut.-Col. John Messer (w), Maj. Bedan B. McDanald (w), Capt. Leonard D. Smith; 2d Minn. Batt'y, (2) Lieut. Albert Woodbury (m w), Lieut. Richard L. Dawley. Brigade loss: k, 54; w, 299; m, 298=6,51. Third Brigade, Col. Hans G. Heg (k), Col. John A. Martin: 25th Ill., Maj. Samuel D. Wall (w), Capt. Wesford Taggart; 35th Ill., Lieut.-Col. William P. Chandler; 8th Kans., Col. John A. Martin, Lieut.-Col. James L. Abernethy; 15th Wis., Lieut.-Col. Ole C. Johnson (c); 8th Wis. Batt'y, Lieut. John D. McLean. Brigade loss: k, 70; w, 519; m, 107 = 696.
SECOND DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. Richard W. Johnson. Staff loss: k, 1; m, 2 = 3.
First Brigade, Brig.-Gen. August Willich: 89th 111., Lieut.-Col. Duncan J. Hall (k), Maj. William D. Williams 32d Ind., Lieut.-Col. Frank Erdelmeyer; 39th Ind., (1) Col. Thomas J. Harrison; 15th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Frank Askew; 49th Ohio, Maj. Samuel F. Gray (w). Capt. Luther M. Strong; A, 1st Ohio Art'y, Capt. Wilbur. Goodspeed. Brigade loss: k, 63; w, 355; m, 117 = 535.
Second Brigade, Col. Joseph B. Dodge: 79th Ill., Col. Allen Buckner; 29th Ind., Lieut.-Col. David M. Dunn; 30th Ind., Lieut.-Col. Orrin D. Hurd; 77th Pa., Col. Thomas E. Rose (c), Capt. Joseph J. Lawson; 20th Ohio Battery , Capt. Edward Grosskopff. Brigade loss: k, 27; w, 200; m, 309 = 536. Third Brigade, Col. Philemon P. Baldwin (k), Col. William W. Berry: 6th Ind., Lieut.-Col.
(1)Detached and serving as mounted infantry
(2) Captain William A. Hotchkiss, chief of division artillery.
Hagerman Tripp (w), Maj: Calvin D. Campbell; 5th Ky., Col. William W. Berry, Capt. John M. Huston; 1st Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Bassett Langdon; 93d Ohio, Col. Hiram Strong (m w), Lieut.-Col. Wm. H. Martin; 5th Ind. Bat'y, Capt. Peter Simonson. Brigade loss: k, 57; w, 385; m, 126 = 568.
THIRD DIVISION, Maj.-Gen. Philip H. Sheridan.
First Brigade, Brig.-Gen. William H. Lytle (k), Col. Silas Miller: 36th Ill., Col. Silas Miller, Lieut.-Col. Porter C. Olson; 88th Ill., Lieut.-Col. Alexander S. Chadbourne; 21st Mich., Col. William B. McCreery (w and c), Maj. Seymour Chase; 24th Wis., Lieut.-Col. Theodore S.
West (w and c), Maj. Carl von Baumbach; 11th Ind. Battery, Capt. Arnold Sutermeister. Brigade loss: k, 55; w, 321; m, 84=460. Second Brigade, Col. Bernard Laiboldt: 44th Ill., Col. Wallace W. Barrett (w); 73d Ill., Col. James F. Jaquess; 2d Mo., Lieut.-Col. Arnold Beck; 15th Mo., Col. Joseph Conrad; G (Capt. H. Hescock, chief of division artillery), 1st Mo. Art'y, Lieut. Gustavus Schueler.
Brigade loss: k, 38; w., 243; m, 108 = 389. Third Brigade, Col. Luther P. Bradley (w), Col. Nathan H. Walworth: 22d Ill., Lieut.-Col. Francis Swanwick; 27th Ill., Col. Jonathan R. Miles; 42d III., Col. Nathan H. Walworth, Lieut.-Col. John A. Hottenstine; 51st Ill., Lieut.-Col. Samuel B. Raymond; C, 1st Ill. Art'y, Capt. Mark H. Prescott. Brigade loss: k, 58; w, 374; m, 64=496.
TWENTY-FIRST ARMY CORPS, Maj.-Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden.
Escort: K, 11th Ill. Cav., Capt. S. B. Sherer. Loss: w, 3.
FIRST DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. Thos. J. Wood. Staff loss: w , 1.
First Brigade, Col. George P. Buell: 100th Ill., Col. Frederick A. Bartleson (w aud c), Maj. Charles M. Hammond; 58th Ind., Lieut.-Col. James T. Embree; 13th Mich., Col. Joshua B. Culver (w), Maj. Willard G. Eaton; 26th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. William H. Young. Brigade loss: k, 79; W, 443; m, 129 = 651. Third Brigade, Col. Charles G. Harker: 3d Ky., Col. Henry C. Dunlap; 64th Ohio, Col. Alexander McIlvain; 65th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Horatio N. Whitbeck (w), Maj, Samuel C. Brown (m w), Capt. Thomas Powell; 125th Ohio, Col. Emerson Opdycke. Brigade loss: k, 51; w , 283; m, 58 = 392. Artillery: 8th Ind. (First Brigade), Capt. George Estep (w); 6th Ohio (Third Brigade), Capt. Cullen Bradley. Artillery loss: k, 2; w, 17; m, 7=26.
SECOND DIVISION, Maj.-Gen. John M. Palmer. Staff loss: k, 1; w, 2; m, 3=6.
First Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Charles Cruft: 31st Ind., Col. John T. Smith; 1st Ky. (5 co's), Lieut.-Col. Alva R. Hadlock; 2d Ky., Col. Thomas D. Sedgewick; 90th Ohio, Col. Charles H. Rippey. Brigade loss: k, 24; w, 213; m, 53 =290. Second Brigade, Brig.-Gen. William B. Hazen: 9th Ind., Col. Isaac C. B. Suman; 6th Ky., Col. George T. Shackelford (w), Lieut.-Col. Richard Rockingham(k), Maj. Richard T. Whitaker; 41st Ohio, Col. Aquila Wiley; 124th Ohio, Col. Oliver H. Payne (w), Maj.James B. Hampson. Brigade loss: k, 46; w, 378; m, 76 = 500.
Third Brigade, Col. William Grose: 84th Ill., Col. Louis H. Waters; 36th Ind., Lieut.-Col. Oliver H. P. Carey (w), Maj. Gilbert Trusler; 23d Ky., Lieut.-Col. James C. Foy; 6th Ohio, Col. Nicholas L: Anderson (w), Maj. Samuel C. Erwin; 24th Ohio, Col. David J. Higgins. Brigade loss: k, 53; w 399; m, 65=517. Artillery, Capt. William E. Standart: B, 1st Ohio (First Brigade), Lieut. Norman A. Baldwin; F, 1st Ohio (Second Brigade), Lieut. Giles J. Cockerill; H, 4th U. S. (Third Brigade), Lieut. Harry C. Cushing; M, 4th U. S. (Third Brigade), Lieut. Francis D. L. Russell. Artillery loss: k, 10; w, 39; m, 6 = 55.
THIRD DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. H. P. Van Cleve. Staff loss: m, 1.
First Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Samuel Beatty: 79th Ind., Col. Frederick Knefler; 9th Ky., Col. George H. Cram; 17th Ky., Col. Alexander M. Stout; 19th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Henry G. Stratton. Brigade loss: k, 16; w, 254; m, 61 = 331. Second Brigade, Col. George F. Dick: 44th Ind ., Lieut.-Col. Simeon C. Aldrich; 86th Ind., Maj. Jacob C. Dick; 13th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Elhannon M. Mast (k), Capt. Horatio G. Cosgrove; 59th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Granville A. First. Brigade loss: k, 16; w, 180; m, 83 = 279. Third Brigade, Col. Sidney M. Barnes: 35th Ind., Maj. John P. Dufficy; 8th Ky., Lieut.-Col. James D. Mayhew (c), Maj. John S. Clark; 51st Ohio, Col. Richard W. McClain (c), Lieut.-Col. Charles H. Wood; 99th Ohio, Col. Peter T. Swaine. Brigade loss: k, 20; w, 135; m, 144 = 299.
Artillery: 17th Ind., Capt. George R. Swallow; 26th Pa., Capt. Alanson J. Stevens (k), Lieut. Samuel M. McDowell; 3d Wis., Lieut. Cortland Livingston. Artillery loss: k, 4; w, 35; m, 13=52.
RESERVE CORPS, Maj.-Gen. Gordon Granger. Staff loss: k, l.
FIRST DIVISION, Brig. Gen. James R. Steedman.
First Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Walter C. Whitaker: 96th III., Col. Thomas E. Champion; 115th Ill., Col. Jesse H. Moore; 84th Ind., Col. Nelson Trusler; 22d Mich., Col. Heber Le Favour (c), Lieut.-Col. William Sanborn (w), Capt. Alonzo M. Keeler (c); 40th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. William Jones; 89th Ohio, Col. Caleb H. Carlton (c), Capt Isaac C. Nelson; 18th Ohio Battery, Capt. Charles C. Aleshire. Brigade loss: k, 154; w, 654; m, 518 = 1326.
Second Brigade, Col. John G. Mitchell: 78th III., Lieut.-Col. Carter Van Vleck (w), Lieut. Geo. Green; 98th Ohio , Capt. Moses J. Urquhart (w), Capt. Armstrong J. Thomas; 113th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Darius B. Warner; 121st Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Henry B. Banning; M, 1st Ill. Art'y, Lieut.
Thos. Burton. Brigade loss: k, 58; w, 308; m, 95=461.
Second Brigade, Col. Daniel McCook: 85th Ill.,Col. Caleb J. Dilworth; 86th Ill., Lieut.-Col. D. W. Magee; 125th Ill., Col. Oscar F. Harmon; 52d Ohio, Maj. J. T. Holmes; 69th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. J. H. Brigham; I, 2d Ill. Art'y, Capt. C. M. Barnett. Brigade loss: k, 2; w, 14; m 18=34.
CAVALRY CORPS, Brig.-Gen. Robert B. Mitchell.
FIRST DIVISION, Col. Edward M. McCook.
First Brigade, Col. Archibald P. Campbell: 2d Mich ., Maj. Leonidas S. Scranton; 9th Pa., Lieut.-Col. Roswell M. Russell; 1st Tenn., Lieut.-Col. James P. Brownlow.
Brigade loss: k, 2; w, 6; m, 7 = 15. Second Brigade, Col. Daniel M.
Ray: 2d Ind., Maj. Joseph B. Presdee; 4th Ind., Lieut.-Col. John T.
Deweese; 2d Tenn., Lieut.-Col. William R. Cook; 1st Wis., Col. Oscar H.
La Grange; D, 1st Ohio Art'y
(Section), Lieut. Nathaniel M. Newell.
Brigade loss: k, 2; w, 10; m, 11=23. Third Brigade, Col. Louis D. Watkins: 4th Ky., Col. Wickliffe Cooper; 5th Ky., Lieut.-Col. William T. Hoblitzell; 6th Ky., Maj. Louis A. Gratz. Brigade loss: k, 2; w, 8; m, 236 = 246.
SECOND DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. George Crook.
First Brigade, Col. Robert H. G. Minty: 3d Ind. (detachment), Lieut.-Col. Robert Klein; 4th Mich., Maj, Horace Gray; 7th Pa., Lieut.-Col. James J. Seibert; 4th U. S., Capt. James B. McIntyre.. Brigade loss: k, 7; w, 33; m, 8=48. Second Brigade, Col. Eli Long: 2d Ky., Col. Thomas P. Nicholas; 1st Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Valentine Cupp (m w), Maj. Thomas J. Patten; 3d Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Charles B. Seidel; 4th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. Oliver P. Robie. Brigade loss: k, 19; w, 79; m, 38=136. Artillery: Chicago Board of Trade Battery, Capt. James H. Stokes.
Total Union loss: killed 1656, wounded 9749, captured or missing 4774= 16,179.
Effective Strength (partly from official reports and partly
Fourteenth Army Corps (estimated)...............20,000
Twentieth Army Corps (estimated)………….11,000
Twenty-first Army Corps (reported)………...12,052
Reserve Corps (reported)…..………………..3,913
Cavalry Corps (estimated).............................10,000
THE CONFEDERATE ARMY.
ARMY OF TENNESSEE -General Braxton Bragg.
RIGHT WING, Lieut.-Gen. Leonidas Polk.
CHEATHAM'S DIVISION [Polk's Corps], Maj.-Gen. B. F. Cheatham. Escort: G, 2d Ga. Cav., Capt. T. M. Merritt.
Jackson,'s Brigade, Brig.-Gen. John K. Jackson: 1st Ga. (Confed.) and 2d Ga. Battalion, Maj. J. C. Gordon;. 5th Ga., Col. C. P. Daniel; 2d Ga. Battalion Sharp shooters, Maj. R. H. Whiteley; 5th Miss., Lieut.-Col. W.
L. Sykes (k), Maj. J. B. Herring; 8th Miss., Col. J. C. Wilkinson.
Brigade boss: k, 55; w, 430; m, 5=490. Maney's Brigade, Brig.-Gen.
George Maney: 1st and 27th Tenn., Col. H. R. Feild; 4th Tenn. (Prov.
Army), Col. J. A. McMurry (k), Lieut.-Col. R. N. Lewis (w), Maj. O. A.
Bradshaw (w), Capt. J. Bostick; 6th and 9th Tenn., Col. George C.
Porter; 24th Tenn. Battalion Sharp-shooters, Maj. Frank Maney. Brigade
loss: k, 54; w, 317; M., 15 = 386. Smith's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Preston
Smith (k), Col. A. J. Vaughan, Jr.: 11th Tenn., Col. G. W. Gordon; 12th
and 47th Tenn., Col. W. M. Watkins; 13th and 154th Tenn., Col. A. J.
Vaughan, Jr., Lieut.-Col. R. W. Pitman; 29th Tenn., Col. Horace Rice;
Dawson's Battalion (1) Sharpshooters, Maj. J. W . Dawson (w), Maj.
William Green. Brigade loss: k, 42; w, 284; m, 36 = 362. Wright's
Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Marcus J. Wright: 8th Tenn., Col. John H. Anderson;
16th Tenn., Col. D. M. Donnell; 28th Tenn., Col. S. S. Stanton; 38th
Tenn. and Murray's (Tenn.) Battalion, Col. J. C. Carter; 51st and 52d
Tenn., Lieut.-Col. John G. Hall. Brigade loss: k, 44; w, 400; m, 43=
487. Strahl's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. O. F. Strahl: 4th and 5th Tenn., Col.
J. J. Lamb; 19th Tenn., Col. F. M. Walker; 24th Tenn., Col. J. A.
Wilson; 31st Tenn., Col. E. E. Tansil; 33d Tenn.,__ . Brigade loss: k,
19; w , 203; m, 28=250. Artillery, Maj. Melancthon Smith: Tenn.
Battery, Capt. W. W. Carnes; Ga. Battery, Capt. John Scogin; Tenn.
Battery (Scott's), Lieut. J. H. Marsh (w), Lieut. A. T. Watson; Miss.
Battery (Smith's), Lieut. W. B. Turner; Miss. Bat'y, Capt.
T. J. Stanford.
HILL'S CORPS, Lieut.-Gen. Daniel H. Hill.
CLEBURNE's DIVISION, Maj.-Gen. P. R. Cleburne.
Wood's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. S. A. M. Wood: 16th Ala., Maj. J. H. McGaughy (k), Capt. F. A. Ashford; 33d Ala., Col. Samuel Adams; 45th Ala., Col. E. B. Breedlove; 18th Ala. Battalion, Maj. J. H. Gibson (k), Col. Samuel Adams; 32d and 45th Miss., Col. M. P. Lowrey; Sharpshooters, Maj. A. T. Hawkins (k), Capt. Daniel Coleman.
Brigade loss: k, 96; w, 680=776. Polk's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Lucius E. Polk: 1st Ark., Col. J. W. Colquitt; 3d and 5th Confederate, Col. J. A. Smith; 2d Tenn., Col. W. B. Robertson; 35th Tenn., Col. B. J. Hill; 48th Tenn., Col. G. H. Nixon. Brigade loss: k, 58; w, 541; m, 6 = 605. Deshler's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. James Deshler (k), Col. R t,,l. Mills: 19th and 24th Ark., Lieut.-Col. A. S.
Hutchinson; 6th, 10th, and 15th Tex., Col. R. Q. Mills, Lieut.-Col. T. Scott Anderson; 17th, 18th, 24th, and 25th Tex., Col. F. C. Wilkes (w), Lieut.-Col. John T. Coit, Maj. W. A. Taylor. Brigade loss: k, 52; w, 366=418.
Artillery, Maj. T. R. Hotchkiss (w), Capt. Henry C. Semple: Ark. Battery (Calvert's), Lieut. Thomas J. Key; Tex. Battery, Capt. J. P. Douglas; Ala. Battery, Capt. Henry C. Semple, Lieut. R. W. Goldthwaite.
BRECKINRIDGE'S DIVISION, Maj.-Gen. J. C. Breckinridge.
Helm's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Benjamin H. Helm (k), Col. J. H. Lewis: 41st Ala., Col. M. L. Stansel; 2d Ky., Col. J. W. Hewitt (k), Lieut.-Col. J. W. Moss; 4th Ky., Col. Joseph P. Nuckols, Jr. (w), Maj. T. W. Thompson; 6th Ky., Col. J. H. Lewis, Lieut.-Col. M. H. Cofer; 9th Ky., Col. J. W. Caldwell (w ), Lieut.-Col. J. C. Wickliffe.
Brigade loss: k, 63; w, 408 = 471. Adams's Brigade, Brig.-Gen.
Daniel W. Adams (w and c), Col. R. L. Gibson: 32d Ala., Maj. J. C.
Kimbell; 13th and 20th La., Col. R. L. Gibson, Col. Leon von Zinken,
Capt. E. M. Dubroca; 16th and 25th La., Col. D. Gober; 19th La.,
Lieut.-Col. R. W. Turner (w), Maj. L. Butler (k), Capt. H. A. Kennedy;
14th La. Battalion, Maj. J.
E. Austin. Brigade loss: k, w and m = 429. Stovall's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. M. A. Stovall: 1st and 3d Fla., Col. W. S. Dilworth; 4th Fla., Col. W. L. L. Bowen; 47th Ga., Capt. William S. Phillips (w), Capt. Joseph S. Cone; 60th N. C., Lieut.-Col. J. M. Ray (w), Capt. J. T. Weaver. Brigade loss: k, 37; w, 232; m, 46=315. Artillery, Maj. R. E. Graves (k): Ky. Battery, Capt. Robert Cobb; Tenn. Battery, Capt. John W. Mebane; La. Battery, Capt. C. H. Slocomb.
RESERVE CORPS, Maj.-Gen. W. H. T. Walker.
WALKER'S DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. S. R. Gist.
Gist's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. S. R. Gist, Col. P. H. Colquitt (k), Lieut.-Col. L. Napier: 46th Ga., Col. P. H. Colquitt, Maj. A. M. Speer; 8th Ga. Battalion, Lieut.-Col. L. Napier; 24th S. C., Col. C. H. Stevens (w), Lieut.-Col. Ellison Capers (w). Brigade loss: k, 49; w, 251; m, 36= 336. Ector's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. M. D. Ector: Stone's Ala. Battalion, __; Pound's Miss. Battalion,__; 29th N. C.,__; 9th Texas,__; 10th, 14th, and 32d Tex. Cav. (dismounted),__ . Brigade loss: k, 59; w, 239; m, 138 = 436. Wilson's Brigade, Col. C. C. Wilson: 25th Ga., Lieut.-Col. A. J. Williams (k); 29th Ga., Lieut. G. R. McRae; 30th Ga., Lieut.-Col. James S. Boynton; 1st Ga. Battalion Sharp-shooters,__; 4th La. Battalion,__ . Brigade loss: k, 99; w, 426; m, 80=605. Artillery: Martin's Battery,__ .
LIDDELL's DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. St. John R. Liddell.
Liddell's Brigade. Col. Daniel C. Govan: 2d and 15th Ark., Lieut.-Col. R. T. Harvey; 5th and 13th Ark., Col. L. Featherston (k), Lieut.-Col. John E. Murray; 6th and 7th Ark., Col. D. A. Gillespie (w), Lieut.-Col. Peter Snyder; 8th Ark. and 1st La., Lieut.-Col. George F. Baucum (w), Maj. A. Watkins. Brigade loss: k, 73; w, 502; m, 283=858. Walthall's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. T. C. Walthall: 24th Miss., Lieut.-Col. R. P. McKelvaine (w), Maj. W. C. Staples (w), Capt. B. F. Toomer, Capt. J. D. Smith (w); 27th Miss., Col. James A. Campbell; 29th Miss., Col. William F. Brantly; 30th Miss., Col. Junius I. Scales (c), Lieut.-Col. Hugh A. Reynolds (k), Maj. J. M. Johnson (w); 34th Miss., Maj. W. G. Pegram (w), Capt. H. J. Bowen, Lieut.-Col. H. A. Reynolds (k).
Brigade loss: k, 61; w, 531; m, 196 = 788. Artillery, Capt. Charles Swett: Ala. Battery, Capt. W. H. Fowler (w); Miss. Battery (Warren Light Art'y), Lieut. H. Shannon. Artillery loss included in loss of brigades.
LEFT WING, Lieut.-Gen. James Longstreet.
HINDMAN'S DIVISION [Polk's Corps], Maj.-Gen. T. C. Hindman (w), Brig.-Gen. J. Patton Anderson. Staff loss: w, 1. Anderson's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. J. Patton Anderson, Col. J. H. Sharp: 7th Miss., Col. W. H. Bishop; 9th Miss., Maj. T. H. Lynam; 10th Miss., Lieut.-Col. James Barr; 41st Miss., Col. W. F. Tucker; 44th Miss., Col. J. H. Sharp, Lieut.-Col. R. G. Kelsey; 9th Miss. Batt. Sharp-shooters, Maj. W. C. Richards; Ala. Battery, Capt. J. Garrity .
Brigade loss: k, 80; w, 464; m, 24 = 568. Deas's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Z. C. Deas: 19th Ala., Col. Samuel K. Mc Spadden; 22d Ala., Lieut.-Col. John Weedon (k), Capt. H. T. Toulmin; 25th Ala., Col. George D. Johnston; 39th Ala., Col. W. Clark; 50th Ala., Col. J. G. Coltart; 17th Ala. Batt. Sharp-shooters, Capt. Jas. F. Nabers; Robertson's Battery, Lieut. S. H. Dent. Brigade loss: k, 123; w, 578; m, 28=729. Manigault's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. A. M. Manigault: 24th Ala., Col. N. N. Davis; 28th Ala., Col. John C. Reid; 34th Ala., Maj. John N. Slaughter; 10th and 19th S. C., Col. James F. Pressley; Ala. Battery (Waters's), Lieut. Charles W. Watkins. Brigade loss: k, 66; W , 426; m, 47 = 539.
BUCKNER'S CORPS, Maj.-Gen. Simon B. Buckner.
STEWART'S DIVISION, Maj.-Gen. Alexander P. Stewart.
Staff loss: w, 1; m, 1 =2.
Johnson's Brigade (attached to Johnson's Provisional Division), Brig.-Gen. Bushrod R. Johnson, Col. J. S. Fulton: 17th Tenn., Lieut.-Col. Watt W. Floyd; 23d Tenn., Col. R. H. Keeble; 25th Tenn., Lieut.-Col. R. B. Snowden; 44th Tenn., Lieut.-Col. J. L. McEwen, Jr. (w), Maj. G. M. Crawford; Ga. Battery, Lieut. W. S. Everett. Brigade loss: k, 28; w, 271; m, 74 = 373.
Brown's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. John C. Brown (w), Col. Edmund C. Cook: 18th Tenn., Col. J. B. Palmer (w), Lieut.-Col. W. R. Butler (w), Capt. Gideon H. Lowe; 26th Tenn., Col. J. M. Lillard (k), Maj. R. M. Saffell; 32d Tenn., Col. Edmund C. Cook, Capt. C. C.. Tucker; 45th Tenn., Col. A. Searcy; 23d Tenn. Batt., Maj. T. W. Newman (w), Capt. W. P. Simpson. Brigade loss: k, 50; w, 426; m, 4 = 480. Bate's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. William B. Bate: 58th Ala.. Col. Bushrod Jones; 37th Ga., Col. A. F. Rudler (w), Lieut.-Col. Joseph T. Smith; 4th Ga. Battalion Sharp-shooters, Maj. T. D. Caswell (w), Capt.
(1) Composed of two companies from the 11th Tenn. two from the 12th and 47th Tenn. (consolidated), and one from the 154th Senior Tenn.
B. M. Turner (w), Lieut. Joel Towers; 15th and 37th Tenn., Col. R. C. Tyler (w), Lieut.-Col. R. D. Fray ser (w), Capt. R. DT. Tankesley; 20th Tenn., Col. T. B. Smith (w), Maj. W. M. Shy. Brigade loss: k, 63; w, 530; m, 11 =604. Clayton's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. H. D. Clayton (w): 18th Ala., Col. J. T. Holtzclaw (w), Lieut.-Col. R. F. Inge (m w); Maj. P. F. Hunley; 36th Ala., Col. L. T. Woodruff; 38th Ala., Lieut.-Col. A. R. Lankford. Brigade loss: k, 86; w, 518; m, 15 = 619. Artillery, Maj. J. W. Eldridge: 1st Ark. Battery, Capt. J. T. Humphreys; Ga. Battery (Dawson's), Lieut. R. W. Anderson; Eufaula Art'y, Capt. McD. Oliver. Artillery loss: k, 4; w, 23 =27.
PRESTON'S DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. William Preston.
Gracie's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Archibald Gracie, Jr.: 43d Ala., Col. Y. M. Moody; 1st Ala. Battalion, ,(1) Lieut.-Col. J. H. Holt (w), Capt. G. W. Huguley; 2d Ala.
Battalion, .(1) Lieut.-Col. Bolling Hall, Jr. (w), Capt. W. D. Walden (w); 3d Ala. Battalion, (1) Maj. Joseph W. A. Sanford; 4th Ala., (1). Maj. J. D. McLennan; 63d Tenn., Lieut.-Col. A. Fulkerson (w), Maj. John A. Aiken. Brigade loss: k, 90; w, 576; m, 2 = 668. Trigg's Brigade, Col. Robert C. Trigg: 1st Fla. Cav. (dismounted), Col. G. T. Maxwell; 6th Fla., Col. J. J. Finley; 7th Fla., Col. R. Bullock; 54th Va., Lieut.-Col. John J. Wade. Brigade loss: k, 46; W, 231; m, 4 = 281. Kelly's Brigade, Col. J. H. Kelly: 65th Ga., Col. R. H. Moore; 5th Ky., Col. H. Hawkins; 58th N. C., Col. John B. Palmer (w); 63d Va., Maj. J. M. French. Brigade loss: k, 66; w, 241; m, 3 = 310. Artillery Battalion, Maj. A. Leyden: Ga.
Battery, Capt. A. M. Wolihin; Ga. Battery, Capt. T. M. Peeples; Va. Battery, Capt. W. C. Jeffress; Ga. Battery (York's). Artillery loss: w, 6.
RESERVE ARTILLERY, Maj. S. C. Williams: Baxter's (Term.) Battery; Darden's (Miss.) Battery; Kolb's (Ala.) Battery; McCant's (Fla.) Battery. Artillery loss: k, 2; w, 2=4.
JOHNSON'S DIVISION, (2) Brig.-Gen. Bushrod R. Johnson.
Gregg's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. John Gregg (w), Col. C. A. Sugg: 3d Tenn., Col. C. H. Walker; 10th Tenn., Col. William Grace; 30th Tenn.,__; 41st Tenn., Lieut.-Col. James D. Tillman (w); 50th Tenn., Col. C. A. Sugg, Lieut.-Col. T. W. Beaumont (k), Maj. C. W. Robertson (w), Col. C. H. Walker; 1st Tenn. Battalion, Maj. S. H. Colms (w), Maj. C. W. Robertson; 7th Texas, Col. H.B. Granbury (w), Maj. K. M. Vanzandt; Mo. Battery (Bledsoe's), Lieut. R. L. Wood. Brigade loss: k, 109; w, 474; m, 18 = 601. McNair's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. E. McNair (w), Col. D. Coleman: 1st Ark. Mounted Rifles, Col. Robert R. Harper (m w); 2d Ark. Mounted Rifles, Col. James A.Williamson; 25th Ark., Lieut.-Col. Eli Hufstedler (w); 4th and 31st Ark. and 4th Ark. Battalion, Maj.J. A. Ross; 39th N. C., Col. D. Coleman; S. C. Battery, Capt. J. F. Culpeper. Brigade loss: k, 51;w, 336; m, 64 =451.
LONGSTREET'S CORPS, (3) Maj.-Gen. John B. Hood (w). Staff loss: w, 1.
McLAWS'S DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw, Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws.
Kershaw's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw: 2d S. C., Lieut.-Col. F. Gaillard; 3d S. C., Col. James D. Nance; 7th S. C., Lieut.-Col. Elbert Bland (k), Maj. John S. Hard (k), Capt. E. J. Goggans; 8th S. C., Col. John W. Henagan; 15th S. C., Lieut.-Col. Joseph F. Gist; 3d S. C. Battalion, Capt. J. M. Townsend (k). Brigade loss: k, 68; w, 419; m, 1=488. Wofford's Brigade,(4) Brig-Gen. W. T. Wofford: 1st Ga.,__; 18th Ga., 24th Ga.,__; 3d Ga. Battalion Sharp-shooters,__; Cobb's (Ga.) Legion,__; Phillips's (Ga.) Legion,__ .
Humphreys's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Benjamin G. Humphreys: 13th Miss.,__; 17th Miss.,__; 18th Miss .,__; 21st Miss.,__ . Brigade loss: k, 20; w, 132 =152. Bryan's Brigade, (4) Brig.-Gen. Goode Bryan: 10th Ga .,__; 50th Ga.,__; 51st Ga.,__; 53d Ga.__.
HOOD'S DIVISION, Maj.-Gen. John B. Hood, Brig.-Gen. E. McIver Law.
Jenkins's Brigade, (5) Brig.-Gen. Micah Jenkins; 1st S. C.,__; 2d S. C. Rifles, __; 5th S. C.,__; 6th S. C.,__; Hampton Legion, __; Palmetto (S. C.)
Sharp-shooters,__ .Law's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. E. McIver Law, Col. James L. Sheffield: 4th Ala__; 15th Ala.__, Col. W. . C. Oates; 44th Ala.,__; 47th Ala., __; 48th Ala.,__ . Brigade loss: k, 61; w, 329= 390. Robertson's Brigade, (5) Brig.-Gen. J. B. Robertson , Col. Van. H. Manning: 3d Ark., Col. Van H. Manning; 1st Texas, Capt. R. J. Harding; 4th Texas, Col. John P.
Bane (w), Capt. R. H. Bassett (w); 5th Texas, J. C. Rogers (w), Capt. J. S. Cleveland (w), Capt. T. T. Clay.
Brigade loss: k, 78; w, 457; m, 35 = 570. Andersen's Brigade, (6) Brig.-Gen. George T. Anderson: 7th Ga ., __; 8th Ga.,__; 9th Ga., __; 11th Ga.,__; 59th Ga.,__ . Benning's Brigade, Brig: Gen. Henry L. Benning: 2d Ga., Lieut.-Col. William S. Shepherd (w).
Maj. W. W. Charlton; 15th Ga., Col. D. M. Du Bose (w), Maj. P. J. Shannon; 17th Ga., Lieut.-Col. Charles W. Matthews (m w); 20th Ga., Col. J. D. Waddell. Brigade loss: k, 46; w, 436; m, 6 =488.
CORPS ARTILLERY, (5) Col. E. Porter Alexander: B. C. Battery (Fickling's); Va. Battery (Jordan's); La. Battery (Moody's); Va. Battery (Parker's); Va. Battery (Taylor's); Va. Battery (Woolfolk's).
RESERVE ARTILLERY, ARMY OF TENNESSEE, Maj. Felix H. Robertson: Barret's (Mo.) Battery; Le Gardeur's (La.) Battery; Havis's (Ala.) Battery; Lumsden's (Ala.) Battery; Massenburg's (Ga.) Battery. Artillery loss: k, 2; w, 6 = 8.
CAVALRY, Maj: Gen. Joseph Wheeler.
WHARTON'S DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. John A. Wharton.
First Brigade, Col. C. C. Crews: 7th Ala.,__; 2d Ga.,__; 3d Ga.,__; 4th Ga., Col. Isaac W. Avery .
Second Brigade, Col. Thomas Harrison: 3d Confederate, Col. W. N. Estes; 1st Ky., Lieut.-Col. J. W. Griffith; 4th Tenn., Col. Paul F. Andersen; 8th Texas,__; 11th Texas,__; Ga. Battery (White's).
MARTIN'S DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. William T. Martin.
First Brigade, Col. J. T. Morgan; 1st Ala.,__; 3d Ala., Lieut.-Col. T. H. Mauldin; 51st Ala.,__; 8th Confederate,__ . Second Brigade, Col. A. A. Russell: 4th Ala., (7)__; 1st Confederate, Col. W. B. Wade; Ark. Battery (Wiggins's). Roddey's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. P. D. Roddey; 4th Ala., (7) Lieut.-Col. William A. Johnson; 5th Ala.,__; 53d Ala.,__; Tenn. Reg't (Forrest's); Ga. Battery (Newell's). Loss of Wheeler's cavalry (estimated), 375 killed, wounded, and missing.
FORREST'S CORPS, Brig.-Gen. N. B. Forrest.
ARMSTRONG'S DIVISION, Brig.-Gen. Frank C. Armstrong.
Armstrong's Brigade, Col. J. T. Wheeler: 3d Ark; 1st Tenn.,; 18th Tenn. Battalions, Maj. Charles McDonald. Forrest's Brigade, Col. G. G. Dibrell: 4th Tenn., Col. W. S. McLemore; 8th Tenn., Capt. Hamilton McGinnis; 9th Tenn., Col. J. B. Biflle; 10th Tenn., Col. N. N. Cox; 11th Tenn., Col. D. W. Holman; Shaw's Battalion, Maj. J. Shaw; Tenn. Battery, Capt. A. L. Huggins; Tenn. Battery, Capt. John W. Morton. PEGRAM'S DIVISION (composition of division uncertain).
Brig.-Gen. John Pegram.
Davidson's Brigade, Brig.-Gen. H. B. Davidson: 1st G a., __; 6th Ga.__, Col. John R. Hart; 6th N. C.,__; Rucker's Legion, __; Tenn. Battery (Huwald's).
Scott's Brigade, Col. J. S. Scott: 10th Confederate, Col. C. T. Goode; Detachment of Morgan's command, Lieut.-Col. R. M. Martin; 1st La.,__; 2d Tenn.,__; 5th Tenn.,__; 12th Tenn. Battalion,__; 16th Tenn. Battalion, Capt. J. Q. Arnold (w); La. Battery (section),__ . Brigade loss: k, 10; w, 39=49.
Total Confederate loss: killed, 2389; wounded, 13,412; captured or missing, 2003= 17,804.
(1) Hilliard's Legion.
(2) Provisional, embracing Johnson's and, part of the time, Robertson's brigades, as well as Gregg'sand McNair's. Sept. 19, attached to Longstreet's corps under Hood.
(3) Organization taken from return of Lee's army for Aug. 31, 1863. Pickett's division was left inVirginia.
(4) Longstreet's report indicates that these brigades did not arrive in time to take part in the battle.
(5) Did not arrive in time to take part in the battle.
(6) Served part of time in Johnson's Provisional Division..
(7) Two regiments of the same designation. Lieut.-Col. Johnson commanded that in Roddey's brigade.
As to the strength of the Confederate army at Chickamauga, Major E.C. Dawes contributed to "The Century" magazine, for April, 1868, the following note:
"An examination of the original returns in the War Department, which
I have personally made, shows the following result: General Bragg's
reports, 31st of August, 1863, shows under the heading 'present for
duty," officers and men, 48,998. This return does not include the
divisions of General Breckinridge or General Preston, the brigades of
Generals Gregg and McNair, or the reenforcement brought by General
Longstreet. The strength of each is accurately given in Confederate
official returns. The total Confederate force available for battle at
Chickamauga was as follows: General Bragg's army, 31st of August, for
duty, 48,998; Longstreet's command (Hood's and McLaw's
divisions), by return of Army of Northern Virginia, 31st of August,
1863, for duty, 11,716; Breckinridge's division, by his official report
in 'Confederate Reports of Battles,' for duty, 3769; Preston's
division, by his official report in 'Confederate Reports of
Battles,' for duty, 4509; Brigades of Gregg and McNair, by General
Bushrod Johnson's official report (So. Hist. Soc. Papers, Vol. XIII.),
for duty, 2559, --total, 71,551."
Armed with their new, lethal seven-shot Spencer rifles, Wilder's
Lightning Brigade was all that stood between the Union Army
and the looming disaster at Chickamauga Creek.
By Hubert M. Jordan
Historically, the Battle of Chickamauga is recorded as a two-day battle
September 19, 1863. For the men of Colonel John T. Wilder's mounted infantry brigade,
the fabled "Lightning Brigade," the battle actually started a day earlier. And, as events
would prove, the Lightning Brigade was not only one of the first units from the Army of
the Cumberland to be engaged at Chickamauga, but also the last unit to leave the field.
The men in the Lightning Brigade reflected the fighting spirit of their
commander. John T. Wilder was an imaginative man who took great pride in his work
and was determined to build one of the finest fighting units in the Union Army. Originally
from New York, Wilder moved to Ohio when he was 19 and took a job as a draftsman
and millwright in a mill in Columbus. Later, he moved to Greensburg, Ind., where he
established his own foundry. He became an expert in hydraulic engineering, erecting
numerous mills in the North and the upper South.
When the Civil War started, Wilder was determined to form his own
artillery battery, and
he cast two cannons in his foundry. However, his application was turned down--the state
of Indiana had already met its quota of artillery batteries. Undaunted, Wilder joined the
17th Indiana Infantry as a captain and was quickly appointed lieutenant colonel.
As an infantry unit, the 17th Indiana constantly skirmished with
Confederate cavalry. One
day, frustrated because there was not enough Union cavalry to protect the infantry,
Wilder ordered his men to mount mules used to pull the regiment's supply wagons. The
mules were not used to being ridden and did not take kindly to the foot soldiers' attempts
to ride them. As fast as the men mounted the mules, they were thrown off, much to the
amusement of the men from other units who had gathered to watch. Wilder, however,
was convinced that his men should be mounted, and he requested permission to do so.
Three months later, on February 12, 1863, permission was granted.
Wilder's next goal was to provide his soldiers with the best weapons
available, and he
attended a demonstration of Christopher Spencer's new repeating rifle. The Spencer had
a tubular magazine that held seven rimfire cartridges and, it would soon prove to be one of
the most deadly weapons in the Civil War. Wilder arranged for a bank loan back in
Indiana to finance the purchase of the Spencers, while his men agreed to have money
deducted from their pay to help reimburse their commander. In May 1863, Wilder's men
received their new rifles, becoming one of the first mounted infantry units in the Army of
the Cumberland to be equipped with repeating rifles.
Wilder's brigade at the start of the Chickamauga campaign consisted of
the 17th and
72nd Indiana and the 92nd, 98th and 123rd Illinois. The brigade's artillery support was
supplied by Captain Eli Lilly's 18th Indiana Battery, which featured six 3-inch Rodman
The Lightning Brigade had been assigned to Maj. Gen. Joseph Reynolds'
division of Maj.
Gen. George Thomas' XIV Corps. However, the brigade had what amounted to an
independent commission to support all three corps in Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans' army
during its advance through Middle Tennessee toward the strategic railroad town of
Chattanooga, on the Georgia border.
Confederate General Braxton Bragg planned to lure Rosecrans into a
false sense of
security, hoping to make him think that the Confederate army was demoralized and
retreating toward Atlanta. To convince Rosecrans that his army was in bad shape, Bragg
had some of his men pose as deserters and report that the Rebel army was demoralized
and unable to offer any resistance to the swift Union advance.
Bragg's plan worked like a charm, and by early September Rosecrans'
army was spread
out over a large area, with the three corps separated by 60 miles of mountainous, heavily
wooded terrain. The rough terrain made it hard for the three corps to maintain contact.
Each of the three corps commanders was operating in the dark, not knowing where the
enemy army was located.
In truth, Bragg had concentrated his army on the east side of
Chickamauga Creek, hidden
in the dense forest from the eyes of the Union army. While Federals laboriously inched
southward, Bragg's army was preparing for battle. Bragg had been heavily reinforced with
two divisions from the Army of Mississippi and an entire corps from the Army of
Northern Virginia. The original plan was to attack Thomas' corps as it crossed
Chickamauga Creek and began its climb up the Pigeon Mountain, and to crush the corps
before help could arrive. Other segments of Bragg's army would wait for Maj. Gen.
Thomas Crittenden's corps and then attack it. Finally, the full weight of the Confederate
army would be brought down on Maj. Gen. Alexander McCook's corps, destroying the
Army of the Cumberland corps by corps.
By September 10, Rosecrans had begun to realize that Bragg's army was
not in retreat.
Units from Thomas' corps began to report the presence of large Rebel units. Major
General James Negley's division encountered a strong Rebel force when it crossed the
Chickamauga, and Negley was forced to retreat. Thomas reported back to Rosecrans
that the enemy was no longer falling back in disarray, as they had been led to believe.
Both Thomas and McCook were concerned about being spread so far apart. After
consulting with Thomas, McCook started making plans to shift his corps northward and
closer to Thomas' corps.
Wilder's brigade was now attached to Crittenden's corps and on
September 11 had
marched near Ringgold, Ga., where it had skirmished with Colonel J.S. Scott's brigade of
Confederate cavalry, driving it toward Tunnel Hill, then skirmished for half an hour with a
second Rebel force before driving the enemy back toward Buzzard Roost.
The next day the brigade was ordered back to Ringgold. About four miles
destination, the brigade encountered pickets from Brig. Gen. John Pegram's division of
Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's Confederate cavalry. The brigade attacked and
drove Pegram's units down the road to LaFayette. Soon Wilder learned that Brig. Gen.
Otto F. Strahl's Confederate brigade was deployed across the road to Lee and Gordon's
Mill. Wilder's brigade was cut off, virtually surrounded by enemy forces. Luckily for
Wilder, the Confederates hesitated to attack his brigade, not knowing the composition of
the Union force that had suddenly appeared in their midst.
At dusk, Wilder ordered his men to build fires over a large area to
make the enemy
believe that a large force was camping for the night. While the 72nd Indiana and the 98th
and 123rd Illinois formed a line of battle with Lilly's battery, the 17th Indiana started
searching for a way out. Scouts were sent out to round up some local inhabitants who
were threatened with death if they failed to lead the Union forces out of the trap.
By 8 p.m., the 17th Indiana had found a way out, and the brigade began
to march north
past the pickets of Strahl's brigade. The brigade got out of the situation without losing a
man. Wilder's brigade reached Crittenden's position about midnight, tired and exhausted
from the long and arduous march, yet happy to have escaped certain capture.
With more and more units reporting encounters with Rebel units,
Rosecrans decided to
unite his three corps, and messages were sent to Thomas and McCook to concentrate
their forces on Crittenden's corps. The Army of the Cumberland was still vulnerable to
attack--and now Bragg was ready to attack.
On September 15, Bragg announced his final plans at a meeting of his
senior officers. He
intended to march northward and then west to interpose the army between Chattanooga
and the Union forces. This would force Rosecrans to either fight or fall back across the
Tennessee River to keep his supply line open.
By September 17, the forces on both sides were moving northward, and it
was only a
matter of time before they would collide with each other. Rosecrans realized that the vital
crossings over Chickamauga Creek needed to be defended, yet he was still not fully
convinced that the Rebels had anything more than a few cavalry units in the area. To
counter any threat by Confederate cavalry, he ordered Wilder's brigade, along with
Colonel Robert Minty's cavalry, to defend Reed's and Alexander's bridges. The two
brigades were all that would stand in the way of Bragg's effort to cut off the Union army
To complicate matters, Wilder's five regiments were now reduced to
four. The 92nd
Illinois had been sent to Missionary Ridge outside Chattanooga to guard the courier line
for the army. Minty's brigade consisted of the 4th Michigan, 7th Pennsylvania and 4th
U.S. Cavalry troops, along with a battalion of the 3rd Indiana. Supporting his brigade was
a section from the famous Chicago Board of Trade Artillery Battery. Due to sickness and
lack of fresh remounts, both the units were under strength. Minty's brigade numbered less
than 1,100 men, while Wilder's brigade numbered about 2,000.
On the morning of September 17, Wilder's brigade headed for Alexander's
miles north of Lee and Gordon's Mill, while Minty's brigade was sent to Reed's Bridge.
Both commanders saw evidence of strong Confederate forces in the immediate area. Dust
clouds could be seen rising from the east side of the creek. Minty reported his concerns to
Crittenden, who discounted the reports, believing that it was only scattered Confederate
In spite of continued reports of increased Confederate activity in the
area, the Union
commanders failed to realize the importance of safeguarding the crossings over the
Chickamauga, in effect leaving only two undersized brigades to defend the entire left flank
of the army against 16,000 Confederates. During the night of September 17, Minty sent
several worried dispatches to Crittenden, stating that he could hear train after train arriving
at Ringgold and unloading Confederate infantry. Convinced that an attack was imminent,
Minty had his men awakened before daylight. They fed their horses and ate their meal as
the first rays of daylight came over the mountains. At daylight, the horses were saddled
and the artillery harnessed. Camp was struck and the gear loaded and sent to the rear.
At 5 a.m., Minty sent out two reconnaissance parties of 100 men each to
try to locate the
Rebels. Men of the 4th U.S. Regiment were sent toward Leet's Tan Yard, and 100 men
from the 4th Michigan and 7th Pennsylvania, under the command of Captain Hebert
Thompson, were dispatched toward Ringgold. By 6 a.m., Thompson reported the enemy
moving in force toward his position. Minty moved the 4th U.S., the 4th Michigan and a
section of artillery east about a mile and a half to a ridge overlooking Pea Vine Valley. To
buy more time, he reinforced his pickets and sent them halfway down the east slope of
Pea Vine Ridge. Meanwhile, the Thompson scouting party fought a skirmish with units of
Colonel John S. Fulton's infantry brigade, supported by a battery of Georgia artillery. The
intense musketfire, coupled with deadly artillery, forced Thompson and his men to fall
back and take cover on Pea Vine Ridge.
At 11 a.m., Minty sent the following message to Brig. Gen. Thomas Wood:
enemy has driven in my scouts from toward Ringgold and are following up apparently in
force. Cavalry and infantry are reported. I am now skirmishing heavily. I have had one
man killed and several wounded. Please report my signal to Generals Rosecrans and
For the men of Wilder's brigade, the morning of September 18 was clear
The men had foraged for breakfast, and by midmorning the smell of eggs, bacon and
chicken wafted over the area of Alexander's Bridge. Units of the 72nd Indiana and 123rd
Illinois had been posted on the east side of the bridge to act as pickets. For time being all
was quiet, until men of the 72nd Indiana who had been foraging on the east side of the
creek returned suddenly, reporting Rebel infantry to the northeast. "Boots and Saddles"
was blown by the buglers of each regiment, immediately followed by orders to fall in. The
entire brigade took up positions in preparation for battle.
From atop Pea Vine Ridge, Minty could see long lines of Confederate
toward Dyer's Bridge and ford a mile to his north. Both crossings were unprotected.
Minty sent a courier to Wilder asking him to send reinforcements to guard the crossing
points. Shortly after 11 a.m., Wilder received Minty's request and promptly dispatched
seven companies of the 72nd Indiana, along with the 123rd Illinois and a section of Lilly's
After sending the units northward, Wilder deployed the 17th Indiana to
the right of
Alexander's Bridge, with the 98th Illinois on the left side. Dense woods in the immediate
area around the bridge on the west side of the creek helped shield the two units. The
creek at that point was narrow and deep with steep banks. The enemy had no choice but
to try to take the bridge or find another place to ford the creek. Four hundred yards
southwest of the bridge, the four remaining guns of Lilly's battery were emplaced on a
knoll. Wilder had fewer than 1,000 men to oppose 8,000 Confederate infantry, plus part
of Forrest's vaunted cavalry, all supported by artillery.
At Reed's Bridge, the 123rd Illinois was deployed to occupy and hold
while the 72nd Indiana was sent to guard the ford farther downstream. As one company
of the 72nd moved near the ford, it was ambushed by enemy troops who had already
crossed the ford. A sharp skirmish ensued, driving the 72nd back toward Dyer's Bridge.
A few minutes later, the 72nd was ordered to withdraw and report back to Minty.
Minty, in the meantime, had regrouped his command east of the bridge
and ordered an
advance against the lead elements of the enemy corps, driving them over the ridge and
back into the Pea Vine Valley. The Confederates now established a crescent-shaped line
that extended from the creek above Dyer's Ford across the ridge into Pea Vine Valley.
The men in gray numbered nearly 10,000, including 15 regimental stands of colors.
Minty's men were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the enemy and
unable to hold on
to the eastern side of the bridge. The best they could do would be to try to delay the
Confederates as long as possible before withdrawing across the bridge. To that end,
Minty formed a new line 500 yards east of the bridge with the 4th Michigan, two
battalions of the 4th U.S. and the remaining companies of the 7th Pennsylvania. He
ordered the artillery and one squadron of the 4th U.S. to set up an ambush near the
bridge in a densely wooded patch. The rest of the 4th U.S. was ordered back across the
bridge. There they formed on the high ground immediately west of the creek.
As the Confederates swept by the Reed house on the battlefield, the
ambush was sprung.
The four guns of the Board of Trade Battery opened up on the surprised Rebels, raking
them with double-shotted canister. When the Southerners stopped to redeploy, Minty
sent the 4th Michigan across the bridge, followed closely by the 7th Pennsylvania. To
cover the withdrawal, a squadron of the 4th U.S., led by the Lieutenant Wirt Davis, made
a brave saber charge that gave the beleaguered cavalrymen time to get across the bridge.
Crossing the bridge behind them, Davis and his men stopped under heavy fire and ripped
up the flooring on the bridge, tossing the planks into the creek.
Minty now formed a line on the high ground west of the bridge. For the
next two hours his
brigade held the entire Rebel force in check. But by 3 p.m. the Confederates had crossed
the bridge, and other forces were finding shallow places to cross the creek as well. Seeing
that he could no longer hold out against vastly superior numbers being brought to bear on
his tired troopers, Minty sent word to the 123rd Indiana to withdraw, adding that he was
unable to hold out much longer.
Meanwhile, at Alexander's Bridge, Wilder and his two regiments were
large Confederate force. At 10 a.m., a company of Southern infantry made the first
attempt to cross the bridge, but was quickly driven back by the pickets of the 72nd
Indiana. After the initial attack, members of the regiment ripped up the planking on the
bridge and built a lunette fort on the west side of the bridge astride the road. Thirty-seven
men from Company A then took up positions in the lunette, waiting for the next
Lilly's battery of four rifled guns opened fire with long-range
canister and percussion
shells. Captain William Fowler's Alabama battery returned fire. One of the Rebel battery's
first shells landed near Lilly's No. 2 gun, ricocheting and hitting the corner of the
Alexander house and bouncing back among members of the battery. Private Sidney
Speed alertly ran over, picked up the live shell and hurled it over the log house, where it
For the next several hours, Wilder's men traded fire with the 30th and
who had taken positions in a cornfield on the east side of the creek. The Confederates
continued to charge the bridge, only to be driven back by Company A, reasonably secure
in their lunette.
For almost five hours, Wilder's brigade held off the Rebel attack. But
Confederate units began to find places where they could cross without opposition. With
Minty withdrawal from Reed's Bridge, the Southerners gained a secure foothold on the
west side of the creek. At 4 p.m., Wilder reported the crossing of the enemy: "The enemy
are crossing [infantry and cavalry] Chickamauga Creek at Alexander's and Byram's Ford
below. Colonel Minty has fallen back toward Roseville; has two of my regiments. Colonel
Minty reports cannonading toward Cleveland last night. This forenoon a column of dust
arose in Napier Gap; three hours in passing. A large camp fire is now seen at Napier's.
The column that attacked me came through Napier's Gap; another column came from the
direction of Peeler's. Colonel Minty reports infantry flanking him on both flanks."
Wilder's men were being pressed from all sides. Time was rapidly
approaching when they
could no longer hold their position and would have to withdraw. Wilder had already
received word from Minty that he was being forced to withdraw from Reed's Bridge.
With Minty gone, the Confederates began streaming across Chickamauga Creek and
heading south towards Alexander's Bridge and Wilder's left flank.
At 5 p.m., Lilly's battery fired its last rounds, limbered up its guns
and withdrew. The 17th
Indiana covered their withdrawal, and the 98th Illinois slowly fell back, fighting as they
withdrew. After these units started withdrawing, the men of Company A realized they
would soon be surrounded and captured if they did not try to escape. The men knew that
they could not all leave at once, so they decided to let two men at a time slip away.
Sergeant Joseph A. Higinbotham, in running 30 yards, was shot five times--in the head,
face, right arm, left side and right leg. Remarkably, he recovered from his wounds, but
later died at Corinth, Miss, in January 1864. In all, the company lost two wounded, as
well as 31 of their 37 horses killed.
Wilder's brigade fell back about three miles before stopping and
setting up a new
defensive line. There they threw up breastworks of fence rails, rocks and trees. The
horses were sent to the rear, and the brigade prepared to meet another onslaught from the
Confederate army. The 72nd Indiana and 123rd Illinois rejoined the brigade and were
placed in line on the left. Minty's brigade took up positions to the right of Wilder's
Five Confederate brigades moved down the west bank toward Lee and
Marching as fast as they could, they ran right into Wilder's brigade. The Southern skirmish
line was halted immediately by the deadly fire of the Lightning Brigade's Spencer rifles.
Captain Joseph Vale of Minty's command found General Crittenden,
General Wood and Wilder, at the Viniard house. He reported that Minty had been
engaged since 7 a.m. Crittenden asked the captain: "Who is it that is coming? What have
you been fighting out there?" Vale responded, "Buckner's corps, Hood's division of
infantry and artillery, and some of Forrest's cavalry." Crittenden refused to believe the
report, saying, "Wilder has come in with the same outlandish story; there is nothing in this
country except Pegram's dismounted and Forrest's mounted cavalry, with a few pieces of
Minty himself rode up a few minutes later and reported to Crittenden
that the Rebels were
now on the west side of the creek and advancing toward his position. Crittenden, still
believing that the enemy did not have such a force in front of them, ordered Wood to take
a brigade of infantry and drive off the Rebel units. While Wood was organizing his
brigade, Wilder and Minty rode back to their units.
Wood moved his brigade up to Wilder's position and, accompanied by
up to Wilder and demanded to know where the enemy was. Wilder replied, "Ride
forward, General, ten paces, and you will see for yourself." Wood ordered his brigade to
form a line of battle in front of Wilder's men. Crittenden added a further dig at Wilder,
smirking, "Colonel, we expect to hear a good report for you."
Wood's infantry advanced into the woods and suddenly met a tremendous
musketry from both front and flank. The infantry broke and ran, bowling over Wilder's
and Minty's men in panic. Wilder turned to Minty and remarked loudly, "Well, Colonel
Minty, the general has got his report." Wilder and Minty then rushed forward to counter
the enemy attack. Meanwhile, Wood galloped off toward Lee and Gordon's Mill, but not
before exclaiming, "By Gad, they are here!"
The Confederates advanced toward the rail barricades behind which
Wilder's and Minty's
men waited. When the Rebels got within 30 yards, Wilder ordered his men to open fire.
Both brigades sent a hail of bullets from their Spencers into the enemy. The Confederates
were cut down in droves. The graybacks wavered and fell back, leaving many casualties
on the field.
The survivors of the first attack re-formed in the tree line and
emerged again with fresh
units, advancing toward the men of the Lightning Brigade. As soon as they were close
enough, the brigade again opened fire, supported by Lilly's battery, and whole sections of
the Confederate line ceased to exist. Again the Rebels were forced to withdraw to the
safety of the woods. The Confederates gave up and broke off the attack around 10 p.m.
For the men of Wilder's and Minty's brigades, the fighting finally came
to an end. The
night of September 18 was cold and miserable, made even worse by the lack of blankets
and food for the men because their horses had been moved to the rear, along with their
bedrolls and equipment. No fires were allowed, so the exhausted men just lay down in
their positions and went to sleep.
All night long, as Wilder's men tried to catch some sleep, the sounds
of thousands of
marching infantry and hundreds of caissons and wagons filled the night air. The entire
Union army was on the march. Rosecrans had ordered a realignment of his three corps,
and Thomas was ordered to march his XIV Corps north beyond Crittenden and extend
the line northward in order to neutralize Bragg's flanking maneuver.
At 4 a.m., Wilder and Minty were relieved and moved their brigades to
the west out of
the Viniard house. For the first time in 24 hours the men and horses were fed--sweet
potatoes for the men and two ears of corn for each horse. Wilder and his officers met to
discuss the actions of the previous day and to prepare plans for the upcoming battle. The
day before they had been the left flank of the Union army. Now they found themselves
protecting the right flank, as the Union forces had shifted position during the night.
The bravery of the men of Wilder's Lightning Brigade and Minty's
cavalry had prevented
total disaster from befalling the Army of the Cumberland. Without the valiant Union stand
on the banks of Chickamauga Creek, the Confederate army would have swept down the
Union flank, and the Battle of Chickamauga would have been lost on the very first day.
Once again, the Spencer rifles had proved their worth.
Author Hubert Jordan's great-grandfather served in the 17th Indiana,
Wilder's Lightning Brigade. For further reading, see Lightning at Hoover's Gap: The
Story of Wilder's Brigade, by Glenn W. Sutherland; or Chickamaiga: Bloody Battle in
the West, by Glenn Tucker.