The disaster had been terrible; the ammunition trains were gone, no one knew whither, and the troops that remained upon the field were rapidly exhausting their cartridges. Four divisions, complete; save one brigade, were effectually out of the fight. While some of the events above narrated were yet in progress, the battle was critical upon the left. Baird's division, the extreme left, flanked and sorely pressed, was driven back until its line and that of Johnson's formed a right angle with the line of Palmer's and Reynolds's. The enemy pressed on as if determined to make his final effort to possess Rosecrans's line of retreat. Indeed he was already upon the Chattanooga road behind Baird's original position, when relief came. Brannan's reserve (Vandeveer's brigade) came down the road from the right, and quickly forming, dashed upon the victorious enemy at a charging pace. They could not be withstood, and Baird and Johnson, with one of Palmer's brigades, (Grose's,) promptly following the advantage, restored the line. In front of Palmer and Reynolds the enemy made furious attempts to force his columns upon the line, but the steady volleys from the breastworks dismayed his troops, and they went back with loss. These four divisions were now isolated, and there was no corps commander present. Reynolds was obliged to refuse his right flank, which had become exposed by the falling back of Brannan. At about one o'clock of the day, it became known here that some grievous disaster had befallen the right. Staff-officers sent for ammunition reported none to be found, and that the line ended with Reynolds's division; if there were more troops beyond this, there was an interval too great for cooperation between the separated forces. The enemy failing to carry the breastworks, had filled the trees in front with sharp-shooters, and these now worked around Reynolds's right, until, from the woods in the very rear of the whole position, their balls came whizzing at the backs of the men. Several shells coming from the right and rear, had also taken Palmer's line full in reverse. Still there were here four good divisions, their organization intact, and when it was learned that Brannan's and Wood's divisions were in position a mile to the right, and that Steedman's division, from General Granger's reserve corps, had come up, the feeling of despondency passed away, and officers and men thought it was not in the fates that their gallant and successful struggles of two days should be wholly without reward. The fighting ceased, but evidently only to allow time for fresh dispositions of the enemy. Brannan's and Wood's position, upon which the next attack fell, was on the crest of a ridge half a mile behind Reynolds's right. General Thomas was also at this position. It was mostly wooded, and toward the right trended backward until it ran nearly at right angles with the line of Reynolds, Palmer, etc. Through the wooded interval between this line and that of Reynolds ran the Chattanooga road, which, looking directly to the rear from Thomas's position, came into view again beyond the left of Baird's division, which was the left of the entire army. General Thomas had here one brigade (Harker's) of Wood's division; Brannan much reduced in strength but with organization complete; and two brigades of Steedman's division, (Whittaker's and Mitchell's,) reserve corps, with whom came General Granger. Steedman arrived at ten minutes past two o'clock, and at once sent these brigades upon the enemy at a charge. The enemy was driven, but came back in great force, inflicting heavy losses. Several attacks had been repulsed by these forces, and the day was drawing to a close, when the enemy prepared for a final attempt. The sharp crack of the musketry, announcing the bursting of the new storm, was heard with apprehension at the position of the four left divisions, and the necessity of sending relief admitted. In the consultation to determine what portion of the line could best spare a part of its force, General Hazen offered to send his brigade (of Palmer's division) across the interval to General Thomas's support. The offer was accepted, and Hazen safely crossed and formed on the left of General Thomas's line. The enemy attacked with great vigor, but was unable to bring his men up to the crest under the rapid volleys that swept the slope, and finally he abandoned the contest. Just before dark, the withdrawal of the four left divisions was commenced, Reynolds moved back first, and without molestation; then Palmer commenced his movement, then Johnson, and lastly Baird. Palmer, however, had not gained the road in his rear, when the enemy appeared at the breastworks just abandoned. The withdrawal of the two remaining divisions was necessarily hurried. Indeed, before Palmer was out of reach, the enemy had opened upon him with artillery. One of Baird's brigades, (King's,) the last to move, was caught by the oncoming foe, and lost some hundred prisoners. No sooner was it dark, than the entire army, moving quietly on an unfrequented road along Missionary Ridge, retreated in good order to Rossville. The enemy, though following the withdrawing skirmishers at one hundred yards, in his eagerness to occupy the abandoned ground, did not fire a shot at the troops that left Thomas's position, and did not follow the retreat. At daylight of September twenty-first, a new line was formed on Missionary Ridge at Rossville, and after lying during the day without attack, the army that night continued its retreat to Chattanooga. From the above facts it is just to draw conclusions. The first is, that the junction of Crittenden with Thomas, on the fourteenth, was due to a failure in the rebel plan, not to any adequate provision for such a contingency by the Federal commander. That McCook effected his junction successfully, is probably due to his own correct judgment in recrossing the mountain to Winston's Springs, even at the expense of a
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