II. Major-General Buckner will move on Tedford's Ford, and there cross the river. Both these columns will be put in motion at six A. M. this day. None but ambulances and artillery wagons will move with these columns. III. Lieutenant-General Polk will move at the same hour, and by pressing, engage the attention of the enemy at Gordon's Mills, and be prepared to move by his right flank to cross the river by the nearest ford. IV. The cavalry of General Pegram will cover the front of Buckner and Walker, and that of General Armstrong the front of General Polk.
Buckner's corps was accordingly early upon the road, and, passing by Pea Vine Church, started for Tedford's Ford by the best and nearest road. His movement was unexpectedly checked, however, by encountering Walker's column, and when relieved by its passage, that of General Cheatham. At eleven o'clock, and while matters were brought to a halt by this collision, the following circular, of same tenor with the previous one, but more ample, was received:
headquarters army of Tennessee, in the field, Leet's Tanyard, September 18, 1863.I. Johnson's column, (Hood's,) on crossing at or near Reid's Bridge, will turn to the left by the most practicable route, and sweep up the Chickamauga toward Lee and Gordon's Mills. II. Walker, crossing at Alexander's Bridge, will unite in this move and push vigorously on the enemy's flank and rear in the same direction. III. Buckner, crossing at Tedford's Ford, will join in the movement to the left, and press the enemy up the stream from Polk's front at Lee and Gordon's Mills. IV. Polk will press his forces to the front of Lee and Gordon's Mills, and if met by too much resistance to cross, will bear to the right and cross at Dalton's Ford, or Tedford's, as may be necessary, and join in the attack wherever the enemy may be. V. till will cover our left flank from any advance of the enemy from the Cove, and by pressing the cavalry in his front ascertain if the enemy is reinforcing at Lee and Gordon's, in which event he will attack them in flank. VI. Wheeler's cavalry will hold the gaps in Pigeon Mountain, and cover our rear and left, and bring up stragglers, etc. VII. All teams, etc., not with troops, should go toward Ringgold and Dalton, beyond Taylor's Ridge. All cooking should be done at the trains. Rations, when cooked, will be forwarded to the troops. VIII. The above movements will be executed with the utmost promptness, vigor, and persistence.
It must be borne in mind that the Chickanauga runs in a course nearly north; that Lee and Gordon's Mills are at the crossing of the Chattanooga and Lafayette road, and that Dalton's, Tedford's, Alexander's, and Reid's are respectively in their order further down the river (north) from Lee and Gordon's Mills. The crossing of the Chickamauga was to begin at the lowest ford and to be effected successively. Breckinridge's division marched by the way of Catlett's Gap and the Crawfish Spring road to the main Chattanooga road. On the seventeenth, Adams's brigade occupied this gap, and from a lofty eminence near, could be seen the enemy's long wagon trains, solid columns of infantry, squadrons of horse, and batteries of artillery, passing all day long, and which seemed interminable. The enemy was evidently making his way across the slope, or south-west point of Lookout, to the Chickamauga, with a view of advancing on the line toward Ringgold and Dalton. Our chances of success against this immense and splendidly equipped army seemed small indeed, but instead of disheartening, it only seemed to nerve our boys and add impetuosity to their eagerness for the fray. At twilight the flood of their tens of thousands rolled on. As the veil of night covered the plain below, it became spangled with the thousands of lights of the enemy's bivouacs, revealing their immense encampment. On Friday morning, the eighteenth, the enemy was found to occupy the opposite side of the west fork of the Chickamauga, which runs east of north, emptying into the Tennessee above Chattanooga. Our army had now advanced to the Chickamauga, General Forrest's cavalry being in front, on our right, reconnoitring and skirmishing with the enemy. General Law's Alabama brigade, Benning's Georgia brigade, and Robertson's Texas brigade, of Longstreet's corps, under command of General Hood, with Johnson's division, came up that morning from Dalton. It was now determined to force the passage of the Chickamauga, the enemy holding Alexander's Bridge in force, as well as the other. General Walker, commanding a sub-corps, composed of Liddell's and Walthall's brigades, under General Liddell, and Ector's, and another, commanded by Colonel Wilson, of Georgia, under General Gist, were ordered to carry this bridge. It was now three P. M., and Walthall's brigade, supported by Liddell's, in command of Colonel D. C. Govan, gallantly advanced for this purpose. A severe fight ensued, the enemy resolutely disputing the passage, but Walthall's men were irresistible, and after a bloody struggle, in which Walthall lost one hundred and two of his men killed and wounded, the point was carried, but the enemy burned the bridge in their retreat. Walker's corps then marched a mile below to Bryam's Ford, and crossed crotch deep. They bivouacked that night in front of Alexander's Bridge, occupying the position held by the enemy that day. At the same time, while Walker was engaging the enemy, Stewart's division of Buckner's corps, composed of Clayton's, Brown's, and Bate's brigades, were moving on Tedford's and