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[224] The battle began on the extreme left at half-past 8 A. M., and it was forty-five minutes past nine o'clock when Negley was relieved.

An aid arriving from General Thomas requesting that Negley's remaining brigades be sent forward as speedily as possible to succor the left, General Crittenden was ordered to move Van Cleve with all possible despatch, to a position in the rear of Wood, who closed in on Brannan's right. General McCook was ordered to move up to close in on Wood, and fill an opening in the line.

On my return from an examination of the ground in the rear of our left centre, I found to my surprise that General Van Cleve was posted in line of battle on a high ridge, much too far to the rear to give immediate support to the main line of battle, and General Davis in line of battle in rear of the ridge occupied by General Negley's reserve in the morning. General Crittenden was ordered to move Van Cleve at once down the hill to a better position, and General Davis was also ordered to close up the support of the line near Wood's right.

The battle, in the mean while, roared with increasing fury and approach 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.

A message from General Thomas soon followed that he was heavily pressed, Captain Kellogg, A. D. C., the bearer, informing me at the same time that General Brannan was out of line, and General Reynolds's 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 Davis was ordered to close on General Wood, and General McCook was advised of the state of affairs, and ordered to close his whole command to the left with all despatch.

General Wood, overlooking the direction to “close up” on General Reynolds, supposed he was to support him by withdrawing from the line and passing to the rear of General Brannan, who, it appears, was hot out of line, but was in echelon, and slightly in rear of Reynolds's right. By this unfortunate mistake a gap was opened in the line of battle, of which the enemy took instant advantage, and striking Davis in flank and rear, as well as in front, threw his whole division in confusion.

The same attack shattered the right brigade of Wood before it had cleared the space. The right of Brannan was thrown back, and two of his batteries, then in movement to a new division, were taken in flank and thrown back through two brigades of Van Cleve, then on the march to the left, throwing his division into confusion, from which it never recovered until it reached Rossville.

While the enemy poured in through this breach, a long line, stretching beyond Sheridan's right, was advancing. Lerbold's brigade shared in the rout of Davis. Sheridan's other two brigades in movement toward the left, under orders to support Thomas, made a gallant charge against the enemy's advancing column, but were thrown into disorder by the enemy's line advancing on their flank, and were likewise compelled to fall back, rallying on the Dry Valley road, and repulsing the enemy, but they were again compelled to yield to superior numbers, and retired westward of the Dry Valley, and by a circuitous route reached Rossville, from which they advanced by the La Fayette road to support our left.

Thus Davis's two brigades, one of Van Cleve's, and Sheridan's entire division were driven from the field, and the remainder, consisting of the divisions of Baird, Johnson, Palmer, Reynolds, Brannan, and Wood, two of Negley's brigades, and one of Van Cleve's, were left to sustain the conflict against the whole power of the rebel army, which, desisting from pursuit on the right, concentrated their whole effort to destroy them.

At the moment of the repulse of Davis's division, I was standing in rear of his right, waiting the completion of the closing of McCook's corps to the left. Seeing confusion among Van Cleve'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 movement 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 ridges 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 portion of our line, 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 disposition either to forward ammunition and supplies, should we hold our ground, or to withdraw the troops into good position.

General Garfield despatched me from Rossville, that the left and centre still held its ground. General Granger had gone to its support. General Sheridan had rallied his division, and was advancing toward the same point, and General Davis was going up the Dry Valley road to our right. General Garfield proceeded to the front,

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