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Table of Contents:
1 Sept. 11.
2 Sept. 10.
3 Sept. 12.
4 Sept. 13.
During the 9th, it was ascertained that a column of the enemy had crossed Lookout mountain into the cove, by the way of Stevens's and Cooper's gaps. Thrown off his guard by our rapid movement, apparently in retreat, when in reality we had concentrated opposite his center, and deceived by information from deserters and others sent into his lines, the enemy pressed on his columns to intercept us, and thus exposed himself in detail. A splendid opportunity was now presented to Bragg. The detached force in McLamore's cove was Thomas's corps. Being immediately opposite Lafayette, at and near which Gen. Bragg had all his forces concentrated, it was completely at the mercy of the latter. It was only necessary that Gen. Bragg should fall upon it with such a mass as would have crushed it; then turned down Chattanooga valley, thrown himself in between the town and Crittenden, and crushed him; then passed back between Lookout mountain and the Tennessee river into Wills's valley, and cut off McCook's retreat to Bridgeport; thence moved along the Cumberland range into the rear of Burnside, and disposed of him. No time was to be lost in taking advantage of a Hunder of the enemy, into which he had fallen in his stupid conceit that the Confederates were retreating. Instant orders were given to Maj.-Gen. Hindman to prepare his division to move against Thomas; and he was informed that another division from Lt.-Gen. D. H. Hill's command, at Lafayette, would move up to him and cooperate in the attack. Gen. Hill received his orders on the night of the 9th. He replied that he could not undertake the movement; that the orders were impracticable; that Cleburne, who commanded one of his divisions, was sick; and that both the gaps, Dug and Catlett's, through which they were required to move, were impassable, having been blocked by felled timber. Early the next morning, Hindman was promptly in position to execute his part of the critical movement. Disappointed at Hill's refusal to move, Gen. Bragg, with desperate haste, dispatched an order to Maj.-Gen. Buckner to move from his present position at Anderson, and execute, without delay, the orders issued to Hill. It was not until the afternoon of the 10th, that Buckner joined Hindman; the two commands being united near Davis's cross-roads in the cove. The enemy was stil lin flagrant error: moving his three columns with an apparent disposition to form a junction at or near Lafayette. To strike in detail these isolated commands, and to fall upon Thomas, who had got the enemy's center into McLamore's cove, such rapidity was necessary as to surprise the enemy before he discovered his mistake. Lt.-Gen. Polk was ordered to Anderson's, to cover Hindman's rear; who, at midnight of the 10th, again received orders at all hazards to crush the enemy's center, and cut his way through to Lafayette. The indomitable Cleburne, despite the obstructions in the road, had moved up to Dug gap; was in position at daylight, and only waited the sound of Hindman's guns to move on the enemy's flank and rear. Courier after courier sped from Dug gap to urge Hindman on. But it was too late. The enemy had discovered the mistake that had well-nigh proved his ruin. He had, taking advantage of our delay, retreated to the mountain passes; and so the movement upon thomas, which promised such brilliant results, was lost by an anachronism by which the best-laid military schemes are so frequently defeated.
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