Doc. 120.-operations in Middle Tennessee.
General Rosecrans's report.
headquarters Department of the Cumberland, Winchester, Tenn., July 24, 1863.General: For the information of the Generalin-Chief and the War Department, I respectfully submit the following report of the preliminaries and operations which resulted in driving the rebels out of Middle Tennessee, from the occupation of Murfreesboro, a point two hundred and twelve miles from the nearest point of supplies. To enable this army to operate successfully in advance of this position, it was necessary-- 1. To establish and secure a depot of supplies at this point. 2. To organize an adequate cavalry force to combat that of the enemy, protect our own line of communication, and take advantage of the enemy should he be beaten or retreat. The depot was established and in a defensible condition by the first of May, as has been reported, but the inferior numbers of our cavalry and the scarcity of long forage wore out our cavalry horses faster than we could replace them, and it was not before the fifteenth of June that we had brought what we had into available condition. The General-in-Chief has been informed of the reasons why an advance was not deemed advisable until all things were prepared. the position of the rebels. Their main base of supplies was at Chattanooga, but a vastly superior cavalry force had enabled them to command all the resources of the Duck River Valley and the country southward. Tullahoma, a large intrenched camp, situated on the “barrens” at the intersection of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad with the McMinnville branch, was their main depot. Its front was covered by the defiles of Duck River, a deep narrow stream, with but few fords or bridges, and a rough, rocky range of hills which divides the “barrens” from the lower level of Middle Tennessee. Bragg's main army occupied a strong position north of Duck River, the infantry extending from Shelbyville to Wartrace, and their cavalry on their right to McMinnville, and on their left to Columbia and Spring Hill, where Forrest was concentrated and threatening Franklin. The position of Bragg's infantry was covered by a range of high, rough, rocky hills, the principal routes passing southward from Murfreesboro toward Tullahoma and line of the enemy's communications. 1. By McMinnville it is seventy-five miles to Tullahoma. Its length precludes it, while the intermediate by-roads between that and Manchester were so difficult as to be regarded as unsuited for the movement of an army; and 2. The Manchester Pike passing these hills through Hoover's Gap and ascending to the “barrens” through a long, difficult canon, called Matt's Hollow. 3. The Wartrace road through Liberty Gap, which passes into the one along the railroad by Bellbuckle Gap. 4. The Shelbyville turnpike running through Guy's Gap. 5. The Middleton dirt road. 6. The road by Versailles, into the Shelbyville and Triune roads, both of which avoid passes and have few defiles. The enemy held all these passes, and his main position in front of Shelbyville was strengthened by a redan line extending from Horse Mountain on the east, to Duck River on the west, covered by a line of abattis. Polk's corps was at Shelbyville. Hardee's headquarters was at Wartrace, and his troops held Hoover's, Liberty, and Bellbuckle Gaps. Polk's corps was generally estimated by intelligent rebels and Union men at about eighteen thousand, infantry and artillery; Hardee's, at twelve thousand, infantry and artillery — making a total of thirty thousand of these arms, and probably eight thousand effective cavalry. Positive information from various sources concurred to show the enemy intended to fight us in his intrenchments at Shelbyville, should we advance by that route, and that he would be in good position to retreat if beaten, and so retard our pursuit through the narrow winding roads from that place which lead up to the “barrens,” and thus inflict severe loss without danger to their own line of retreat to the mountains toward the base. I was determined to render useless their intrenchments, and, if possible, secure their line of retreat by turning their right and moving on the railroad bridge across Elk River. This would compel a battle on our own ground, or drive them on a disadvantageous line of retreat. To accomplish this, it was necessary to make Bragg believe we could advance on him by the Shelbyville route, and to keep up the impression, if possible, until we had reached Manchester with the main body of the army, as this point must be reached over a single practicable road passing through Hoover's Gap, a narrow way three miles in length, between high hills, and then through Matt's Hollow, a gorge two miles long, with scarce room anywhere for wagons to pass each other. These passes were occupied by the enemy, but eight miles from Hardee's headquarters, not more than sixteen miles from their left at Shelbyville. The plan was, therefore, to move General Granger's command to Triune, and thus create the impression of our intention to advance on them by the Shelbyville and Triune pikes, while cavalry movements and an infantry advance toward Woodbury would seem to be feints designed by us to deceive Bragg, and conceal our supposed real designs on their left when the topography and the roads presented comparatively slight obstacles and afforded great facilities for moving in force.