1. George H. Thomas
2. Ulysses S. Grant
3. Joseph Hooker
4. William T. Sherman
5. Peter J. Osterhaus
6. August Willich
7. Henry W. Halleck
8. Braxton Bragg
9. Patrick R. Cleburne
10. Alexander P. Stewart ?
HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., THIRD DIV., FOURTH ARMY CORPS,
Strawberry Plains, Tenn., December 31, 1863.
SIR: In conformity with orders, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my brigade in the late engagements at Chattanooga:
On the 23d of November, at 11 a.m., I received orders to form my brigade in front of Fort Wood, for reconnaissance toward Missionary Ridge. After having formed my brigade, the order was so far modified that I should take Orchard Knob, 1 ¼ miles in front of Fort Wood, and hold it until further orders.
Formation of the brigade: Eighth Kansas, Colonel Martin commanding, in front as skirmishers.
First line, Fifteenth Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Askew commanding, on the right; Forty-ninth Ohio, Major Gray commanding; Twenty-fifth Illinois, Colonel Nodine commanding; Thirty-fifth Illinois, Lieutenant-Colonel Chandler commanding.
Second line, Thirty-second Indiana, Colonel Erdelmeyer commanding, on the right; Eighty-ninth Illinois, Lieutenant-Colonel Williams commanding; Sixty-eighth Indiana, Lieutenant-Colonel Espy commanding; Fifteenth Wisconsin, Captain Gordon commanding.
The first line deployed in line of battle, the second line in double column on the center, closed en masse.
On the division signal, which was given as soon as the Second Brigade had formed to my right, I gave the command march. Under a lively skirmish fire the brigade advanced in quick time into the position assigned to me. The small loss, 4 killed and 10 wounded, is explained by the impetuosity of the advance, which did not permit the enemy to reform after being once broken by our skirmishers.
Only a short time before this engagement the Eighth Kansas, Sixty-eighth Indiana, Twenty-fifth Illinois, Thirty-fifth Illinois, and Fifteenth Wisconsin had been attached to my old brigade. The splendid advance of the skirmish line of the Eighth Kansas, the steady and determined pressing on of the other regiments established at once between them and the old regiments of my brigade a feeling of companionship and of mutual confidence, which became apparent, two days later, in the storming of Missionary Ridge.
Under orders, I erected an epaulement on the crest of Orchard Knob, and breastworks in front and on both sides of it, under a heavy artillery fire from the enemy's guns, which was but little heeded by the men, and with all its terrific appearance did very little damage.
Some uneasy feeling prevailed among the men concerning General Howard's corps, which had formed to the left of our division, but <ar55_264> which did not come up to a line with us, though our division had twice cleared the rifle-pits in their front.
The position above indicated we held during the afternoon of the 23d, 24th, and the former part of the 25th of November.
At 9 a.m. on the 25th, under orders, our pickets drove the enemy back to their rifle-pits at the foot of Missionary Ridge. At 11 a.m. I received an order to prepare for an advance, and to advance toward Missionary Ridge at the signal of six rapid cannon shots.
I understand since that the order was given to take only the rifle-pits at the foot of the ridge; by what accident, I am unable to say, I did not understand it so; I only understood the order to advance [boldface mine].
I formed the brigade, the first line, Fifteenth Ohio, Forty-ninth Ohio, Twenty-fifth Illinois, Thirty-fifth Illinois; second line, Thirty-second Indiana, Eighty-ninth Illinois, Eighth Kansas, Sixty-eighth Indiana; last reserve, Fifteenth Wisconsin. Both lines deployed on account of the heavy artillery fire we were exposed to.
On the given signal the brigade advanced in quick time, but shell and spherical case fell very thick, and all the regiments double-quicked until they reached the rebel rifle-pits and camps at the foot of the ridge, driving the enemy's infantry before them, all his artillery being on the crest of the ridge. It was evident to every one that to stay in this position would be certain destruction and final defeat; every soldier felt the necessity of saving the day and the campaign by conquering, and every one saw instinctively that the only place of safety was in the enemy's works on the crest of the ridge.
My adjutant, Captain Schmitt, was already at the extreme left. I sent my aide, Lieutenant McGrath, and ordnance officer, Lieutenant Foot (who on this occasion was wounded by a shell), to different regiments, I myself, with my inspector, Lieutenant Green, went to the Eighth Kansas, and the command forward was soon heard all along the lines, though I verily believe that even without any command the regiments would have stormed, as a great number of skirmishers were already climbing up the ridge before the command was given.
The part of the ridge which fell to the share of my brigade formed a kind of a crescent; two roads, one on the right, one on the left, leading up the hill, there joining with the roads on the crest of the ridge and forming the main road to Chickamauga Station, the only good line of retreat of the enemy.
The ascent was (in the closer quarters) defended by one battery to the right and two batteries to the left, on two different sallying points.
Many men fell down exhausted in climbing up under the enemy's fire, some fainted, but irresistible was the general advance.
What so often is uttered in eloquent speeches in comfortable salons, in State houses, and in halls of Congress, "Victory or death," was here an uncomfortable reality. The right of the brigade reached first, and mounted the enemy's breastworks, consisting of men from all the regiments of the center and right. From these works they had to charge the rallying enemy and received the fire from the batteries on the right and on the left. The battery on the right was taken in a very few moments by the right of mine and the left of General Hazen's brigade. The Thirty-second Indiana and Sixth Ohio claim the honor of being the first to plant their colors on the crest; but a few moments [elapsed] and all the colors of the brigade were in the enemy's works. The Thirty-fifth Illinois, Twenty-fifth Illinois, supported <ar55_265> by the Sixty-eighth Indiana, and a portion of the Eighth Kansas, took the first battery on the left, drove the enemy from the guns, and passed it. This battery was afterward claimed as a trophy by another command. Lieutenant-Colonel Chandler, carrying his regimental colors after 7 color sergeants had been killed or wounded, the colors receiving more than thirty bullet holes, planted them on the works, where they were soon joined by those of the Sixty-eighth Indiana, Eighty-sixth Indiana, and Fifty-ninth Ohio (the two latter of General Beatty's brigade). Here Lieutenant-Colonel Chandler wheeled the Thirty-fifth Illinois and Sixty-eighth Indiana, and portions of the Eighty-sixth Indiana and Fifty-ninth Ohio to the left, and charged the enemy in the flank, while the other regiments of the brigade followed the fleeing enemy down the east slope of the ridge and took from him five pieces of artillery and eight caissons, which had already reached on their flight a half to three-quarters of a mile from the crest.
Colonel Chandler followed up the charge in the flank of the enemy for 1 ½ miles, joined by men of Generals Beatty and Baird's commands, who had gained the crest in the wake of the charge.
I then recalled my regiments from the pursuit, and received orders from General Grant in person to reform the brigade on the crest for further eventualities, which I did.
Our trophies, credited to my brigade, are 5 pieces of artillery, 8 caissons, 1,200 stand of small-arms, 2 battle-flags, and between 300 and 400 prisoners, though properly it is entitled to more.
It should be a rule that no command has a right to claim a trophy which it finds and from which it does not drive the enemy by force of arms.
The loss of the brigade is 7 officers killed, 17 officers wounded, 46 enlisted men killed, 267 enlisted men wounded; total, 337.(*)
This, compared with the result, slight loss is explained, as on the 23d, by our rapid advance.
To speak of the bravery and patriotism of the officers and men of the brigade would only be a repetition of what I had to say of the Thirty-second Indiana, Forty-ninth Ohio, Fifteenth Ohio, Eighty-ninth Illinois, already so often after each battle in which they fought and conquered, and who have found in the Eighth Kansas, Twenty-fifth Illinois, Thirty-fifth Illinois, Fifteenth Wisconsin, and Sixty-eighth Indiana their peers.
I must decline to mention names of braves among the brave. The name of Lieutenant-Colonel Chandler I had to mention to elucidate the claims of other commands farther to the left to have reached the works on the ridge first, or simultaneously with us. For the names of our noble dead and for deeds of individual gallantry, I respectfully refer to the regimental reports.
I respectfully call the attention of the higher commanders again to the fact that by the fate of battle the regiments of my command have been reduced to less than one-fourth their strength, and urgently ask that steps be taken to fill up the regiments, so that our invaluable veterans do not waste away altogether.
I have the honor to remain, your obedient servant,
A. WILLICH, Brigadier-General.
Capt. E. T. WELLS, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.