pressed, General Wood was ordered to march instantly by the left flank, pass Brannan, and go to his relief. Davis and Sheridan were to shift over to the left, and thus close up the line. As the occasion was urgent, General Wood drew in his skirmishers with considerable haste, and the rebels for the second time mistaking a withdrawal for a flight, pressed forward like a torrent and poured into the flanks of General Wood a storm of musket-balls, canister, and grape. Moving upon the double-quick, the men endeavored for a time to keep their files in order, but as that pitiless storm of lead and iron continued to be hurled against them, the regiments began to spread out like a fan, wider and wider, until they were finally torn to flinders. This was especially the case with the brigade commanded by Colonel Buell. The undaunted Wood, with Harker's brigade comparatively intact, passed on to his destination. Here was the great turning-point in the battle. Here, indeed, the battle was lost. Davis coming up to fill the vacancy occasioned by Wood's withdrawal, was caught upon the left flank by the flery rebel torrent now pouring through the opening, and pushed off toward the right in utter disorder, like a door swung back upon the hinges and shattered by the same blow. Van Cleve, and what remained of Palmer, were struck upon the other side, and shivered as a sapling by a thunderbolt. Even the personal exertions of Rosecrans himself, who, with drawn sword and at the head of his devoted staff, endeavored to check the rout, was ineffectual. After that fatal break our line of battle was not again re-formed during the day. The army was in fact cut in two; McCook, with Davis, Sheridan, and Wilder, being thrown off to the right, (Crittenden — except one brigade of Wood's — being broken in pieces,) and Thomas, with his indomitable corps, and Johnson's division of McCook's, remaining alone upon the left. In the flerce tornado which had swept over his log breastworks, Thomas had been much shaken, all his divisions fighting desperately, all rallying at the earliest practicable moment, but only General Reynolds retiring from the works toward the hills in any thing like tolerable order. As soon, however, as the corps had reached the foot of Mission Ridge, it formed anew its broken ranks with an alacrity and rapidity less remarkable than the obstinacy with which it so long endured the assault of the enemy upon the level ground below. The great leader himself, General Thomas, assisted by Baird, Reynolds, Brannan, Scribner, Harker, Negley, John Beatty, Wood, and Turchin, reorganized the brigades with wonderful celerity, and immediately began making head against the enemy. From this, McCook disappeared from the general history of the battle, as indeed, extricating himself from his demoralized and routed corps, he headed toward Chattanooga, and at about one o'clock disappeared entirely from the field. His two divisions, Davis's and Sheridan's, forced off toward the right, far behind their original position, were assailed by immense squadrons of the enemy, and fearfully battered. Each had but a handful left as it retired, toward nightfall, upon the Rossville road, but the men must have done gallant fighting or they would not have come off as well as they did. In fact, wherever Sheridan is, whether isolated or in company, and whether the odds against him be one or many, there is certain to be a fight. It was about half-past 12 when, hearing a heavy cannonade upon the right, I galloped over in that direction to see what it might mean. A longitudinal gap in Mission Ridge admits the Rossville road into Chattanooga Valley, and skirts along a large corn-field at the mouth of the gap. Looking across the corn-field from the gap you see thick woods upon the other side. The cornfield itself is a sort of “cove” in the ridge, and here were numbers of all sorts of army vehicles mingled with the debris of dismantled and discomfited batteries. Fragments of Davis's flying squadrons had also lodged in this field. While I stood gazing upon this scene from the summit of the ridge, some rebel skirmishers appeared in the skirts of the woods opposite the gap I have mentioned, and flung perhaps a dozen musket-balls into the field. Instantly men, animals, vehicles became a mass of struggling, oursing, shouting, frightened life. Every thing and every body appeared to dash headlong from the narrow gap, and men, horses, mules ambulances, baggage-wagons, ammunition-wagons, artillery-carriages and caissons were rolled and tumbled together in a confused, inextricable, and finally motionless mass, completely blocking up the mouth of the gaps. Nearly all this booty subsequently fell into the hands of the enemy. Sickened and disgusted by the spectacle, I turned away to watch the operations of General Thomas's corps, upon which alone depended the safety of the army. General Thomas had withdrawn his men almost entirely from the valley, and taken up a position on the side of Mission Ridge. His left still rested on the La Fayette road, and his right upon the ridge near the gap I have already spoken of. Here were collected the shattered remnants of the powerful corps which had so long breasted the fierce assaults of the enemy in the forenoon. Here was Johnson, who seems to have done better work to-day and yesterday than ever before. Here was the unconquerable Wood, with Harker's brigade, and here were also such fragments of Crittenden's corps as could be induced to venture upon another stand. The whole were drawn up in a line forming a circular curve, facing the south-east. A hill near the middle of the curve was the key of the position, and Harker's brigade was appointed to defend the same. Soon after the hill was occupied, a house upon its summit was set on fire by the enemy's shells, and continued to burn for a long time with great fury. Not long was the new line of battle permitted to remain idle. Cannon bellowed against it
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.