April 29, 1862.-action at West Bridge, near Bridgeport, Ala.
|No. 1.-Maj. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel, U. S. Army.|
|No. 2.-Brig. Gen. Danville Leadbetter, C. S. Army, with instructions from Maj. Gen. E. Kirby Smith.|
No. 1.-report of Maj. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitohel, U. S. Army.
headquarters Ninth Brigade, Stevenson, Ala., April 29, 1862.The expedition ordered against Bridgeport, consisting of two companies of cavalry, two pieces of artillery and six regiments of infantry, reached Stevenson on Monday [28th]. On that night the wires were cut and one of our bridges on the road attacked by quite a large force, and  a conflict ensued lasting nearly two hours. The guard at the bridge, 26 in number, commanded by a sergeant, repelled the enemy with success. I deemed it my duty to proceed in person to Stevenson, and on this a. m. advanced, with four regiments of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, by the railway, to the burned bridge, within 4 miles of Bridgeport. There we met the enemy's outposts. After driving them in-making the impression that when we advanced it would be by the railroad-we suddenly threw ourselves across the country about a mile to the Stevenson and Bridgeport road, dragging our artillery by hand, reconstructing two bridges by the way, and advancing rapidly upon the enemy, with the view to his surprise. Scouts, while we were rebuilding the bridges and meeting the cavalry of the enemy on outpost duty, charged them so vigorously as to compel them to abandon the Bridgeport road, taking the route to Jasper. We were thus enabled to advance to within 400 yards of the enemy's position on the other side of the bridge and take him completely by surprise. Our first fire emptied redoubt and breastworks, the enemy fleeing across the bridge with scarcely any show of resistance. Having been informed by a person who was in Bridgeport during the day that they were waiting for us with a force of 5,000 infantry and a regiment of cavalry, after opening our fire I deemed it proper to move with caution. The enemy attempted to blow up the big bridge; failing in this, he opened fire at the farther extremity. He then passed around and fired the draw-bridge in spite of the shells from Loomis' guns. Volunteers, called out by myself, from the Second Ohio, Colonel Harris, rushed across the main bridge and saved it. So completely were the enemy surprised, that twenty minutes after the firing commenced a body of 40 or 50 cavalry came dashing through a wheat field in full sight, just below the bridge, supposing our troops to be there, and advanced within 400 yards. Our cavalry dashed after them while our artillery opened fire. How many escaped I do not know. Placing Colonel Sill in command, I left at 7 p. m. for Stevenson. Holding the main bridge, we can cross to the other shore whenever it be deemed advisable.
No. 2.-report of Brig. Gen. Danville Ljeadbetter, C. S. Army, with instruction from Maj. Gen. B. Kirby Smith, C. S. Army.
Hdqrs. First Brigade, Dept. Of East Tennessee, Chattanooga, Tenn., May 5, 1862.Major: I have the honor to report that the enemy, 1,100 or 1,200 strong, advanced against Bridgeport on the 29th ultimo. My command guarding the bridges at that place consisted of 450 infantry of the newly-raised regiments (the Thirty-ninth and Forty-third Georgia), with 150 cavalry, employed only as scouts. The infantry was posted on the heights, in advance of the West bridge, about 500 yards distant, leaving a rear guard of 50 men near the bridge end and on either side of it, covered by musketry breastworks. Two iron 6-pounders (old  guns) had been placed in the position last named, but were withdrawn as soon as the enemy's advance had developed itself as an attack. You are aware that a defense of the place by a small force was very difficult. The two bridges, with the high railroad embankment between them, were a mile and a quarter long, extending in one straight line toward the heights before mentioned, and these heights were of far too great extent to be properly occupied and held by our forces. The enemy could advance in any direction on our front and flanks and cut off our troops from the bridge or else drive them to a disastrous retreat under a fire destructive to their only avenue of escape. To have placed our men at the bridge end and along the river bank would have been to subject them to a plunging fire from the heights, together with the disadvantages before mentioned. On the island or at the east shore of the river, they would have occupied low ground, and been unable to protect the West Bridge against surprise and destruction. Finding, at 5 p. m., that the enemy were near at hand, the two guns were moved on a platform car, and immediately after the troops were defiled across, the rear guard only remaining. At this time I crossed to the east end of the West Bridge, in order to see that everything was prepared for blowing up a span, and while examining the magazine within the bridge the enemy opened fire, apparently with a rifled gun and howitzer. Ascending to the roadway, I found the rear guard crossing the bridge at double-quick, and at the same time observed some 10 or 12 of our scouts at 600 or 800 yards southwest of the bridge end, hesitating to cross. After waiting a reasonable time, and finding that they had apparently decided not to move, I ordered the fuse to be shortened and fired. This was done by Lieutenant Margraves, of the Sappers and Miners, assisted by one man of his company. The charge which was exploded consisted of 200 pounds of powder in one mass; but from the difficulty of confining it the effect was not such as had been hoped for, and the span did not fall. I determined, therefore to carry out the spirit of your instructions and burn the East Bridge. With the assistance of Captain Kain, of the artillery, and Lieutenant Margraves it was soon in flames and impassable to the enemy. During the retreat of the rear guard and the burning of the bridge the enemy kept up a warm fire of shells along the line of the track, but, fortunately, with little effect. Only two of our infantry were hit and slightly wounded by fragments. Finding that the enemy was advancing his guns upon the island and directing his fire toward our encampment, which had never been removed to the west bank, the tents were ordered to be struck and be prepared to move. This was an immediate necessity, and regarding the position there untenable, I determined to evacuate it. As the receipt of supplies depended on the integrity of the railroad track to Chattanooga and the road at several points touches the river bank, it would have been easy for the enemy to cross above us, destroy the track or bridges, or else plant his guns on the opposite side, so as to command the road, closing it to the passage of trains. We would thus have been compelled to retire perhaps across the mountain eastward, leaving the road to Chattanooga open. I preferred to retire to Chattanooga, disembarrassing ourselves of sick, wounded, and baggage; thence turning to a favorable point on the road and hold the enemy under observation, always hoping for re-enforcements. If he advanced, it was reasonably expected it would be with his whole force of 5,000 men. Being unable to find the telegraph or the operator, removed from  Bridgeport in the retreat, and esteeming it my duty to communicate to you at the earliest practicable moment this movement of the enemy, I came up on the train of that evening, bringing up the sick, some men unfortunately wounded by a railroad accident, and about half of the command. A train was sent down for the remainder as soon as possible, and it brought up also the baggage. Before the attack two old iron 6-pounders, of Kain's battery, had been planted on the east bank, in the only place available, but very difficult of access, and were abandoned under the enemy's fire and the heat of the burning bridge. The dispositions made occupied the 30th, and, as our whole force of 450 men composed the brigade of Col. A. W. Reynolds, then serving on court-martial, but naturally anxious to be in the field, I ordered him forward to Whiteside, a strong position, 14 miles toward Bridgeport, on the 1st instant. He was directed to observe the enemy and to retard his advance if practicable. In the mean time I had been advised by Colonel Glenn, under date of the 30th, at Dalton, that he would bring on his unarmed regiment as soon as transportation could be procured, and he was confidently expected on the 1st instant. It was necessary to collect the arms belonging to the sick of the Thirty-ninth and Forty-third Georgia Regiments, and with them to arm Colonel Glenn's command. This I undertook, with the purpose of moving on promptly to Colonel Reynolds' support. Colonel Glenn arrived on the 2d, and was soon armed and supplied with ammunition, but the tenor of Colonel Reynolds' dispatches during the day was such as to lead me to think it judicious to hold the regiment disposable, lest the enemy should move up on the west side and attempt to cross near Chattanooga. About 10 o'clock that night I received from him the following dispatch:
A. W. Reynolds, Colonel, Commanding.
If you are satisfied your information is reliable, burn all the bridges on the railroad and country roads, and fall back with your command to Lookout Mountain. I will meet you there with Colonel Glenn's regiment.
D. Leadbetter, Brigadier-General.
The point indicated is close to the Tennessee River, where the railroad and all the country roads intersect each other. To this dispatch the colonel replied that he would move accordingly. About 4 a. m. of the 3d we met there, and having selected the best line of defense, too extensive, however, for our force, I placed the men in position, and a bridge on the country road over Lookout Creek, in front, was burned. I also ordered the railroad bridge over the same creek to be burned as soon as our pickets should have come in. Colonel Reynolds then proceeded to town. This railroad bridge was actually not burned until late in the day, but I was on the mountain, and supposed that it had been destroyed early. After receiving positive information, therefore, at 1 p. m. that the force of the enemy on this side of the river was small, the order for the destruction of the bridge was not countermanded. It will be restored by means of trestle work in a few days.  The series of events thus related have excited the utmost indignation of a terrified people, and no abuse, whether of a personal or official bearing, has been spared me. Aware, as I am, that all the troops under your command were required at other points, and that you expected the approach of the enemy to be retarded in this quarter mainly by the destruction of the bridges, I shall endeavor to endure this storm of obloquy with such equanimity as may be vouchsafed to me. On Saturday morning the enemy set fire to the West Bridge, at Bridgeport, and it was wholly destroyed. Soon after they evacuated the place precipitately, and at the last advices from Stevenson were hastening their departure from that point. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
headquarters Department of East Tennessee, May 12, 1862.Respectfully forwarded. The small railroad bridge (connecting Chattanooga with the coal mines) referred to in the within report was immediately reconstructed, and trains are now passing over it.
E. Kirby Smith, Major-General, Commanding.
headquarters Department of East Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn., April 29, 1862.Be sure that you blow up or effectively burn the bridge before the enemy get to it. The farther side should be burnt by all means.
headquarters Department of East Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn., April 30, 1862.General: The major-general commanding has been called off to Cumberland Gap in consequence of on attack on that point. He directs that you make the best defense in your power along the line of the Tennessee River. Troops have been ordered up from Georgia to re-enforce you.. He thinks that if all the boats on the river are secured and a force displayed on this side the enemy will not venture to attack. Most respectfully, your obedient servant
headquarters Department of East Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn., May 12, 1862.General: Acknowledging the receipt of your report, dated May 5, of your operations at and near Bridgeport on April 29 and the succeeding days, the major-general commanding directs that you will state whether or not the two pieces of artillery abandoned on the east bank of the river on the 29th ultimo fell into the hands of the enemy. You are also instructed to make a full report of the casualties which occurred at that time.1 Respectfully, your obedient servant,