previous next

Chapter 9

I found in Dalton a part of the instructions promised me by the President in his telegram of the 18th of December, in the following letter from the Secretary of War, Mr. Seddon, dated the 20th:

You have been instructed by the President to proceed to Dalton and take command of the army now under the charge of Lieutenant-General Hardee. You were also informed that you would there receive fuller instructions. Such I now aim, in behalf of this department, to communicate.

It is apprehended the army may have been, by recent events, somewhat disheartened, and deprived of ordnance and material. Your presence, it is hoped, will do much to reestablish hope and inspire confidence, and through such influence, as well as by the active exertions you are recommended to make, men who have straggled may be recalled to their standards, and others, roused to the dangers to which further successes of the enemy must expose the more [263] Southern States, may be encouraged to recruit the ranks of your army. It is desired that your early and vigorous efforts be directed to restoring the discipline, prestige, and confidence of the army, and to increasing its numbers; and that at the same time you leave no means unspared to restore and supply its deficiencies in ordnance, munitions, and transportation. It is feared also that under the grave embarrassments to which the commissariat is exposed, both from the deficiencies of supplies in the country, and the impediments which unfortunately the discontents of producers and the opposition of State authorities to the system of impressment established by the law of Congress have caused, you may find deficiences in and have serious difficulties in providing the supplies required for the subsistence of the army. You will use all means in your power to obtain supplies from the productive States around you, and strong confidence is entertained that you may be enabled to rouse among the people and authorities a more willing spirit to part with the means of subsistence for the army that defends them. Meantime the efforts of the Commissary Bureau will be directed to aid in your supply, and General Polk will be instructed to afford from your late department such resources as can be spared.

The movements of the enemy give no indications of a purpose to attack your army, and it is probable that they may mean to strengthen themselves in the occupation of the portions of Tennessee they have overrun. It is not desirable they should be allowed to do so with impunity, and, as soon as the condition of your forces will allow, it is hoped [264] you will be able to resume the offensive. Inactivity, it is feared, may cause the spirit of despondency to recur, and the practice of desertion and straggling to increase. Should the enemy venture to separate his army, or send off detachments on different expeditions, it is hoped you may be able early to strike them with effect. While, however, these suggestions are ventured, your own experience and judgment are relied on to form and act on your plans of military operations, and there will be the fullest disposition on the part of this department to sustain and cooperate with them. With this view you are invited to communicate freely with the department, and to disclose your conceptions of the military situation, and how the most efficient cooperation may be given you. At the same time it is feared the other imperative claims on the department must confine you almost exclusively to the resources of your present department, and such general aid as it may be in the power of General Polk to render, with whom consultation, as to the general ends to be accomplished by both, is recommended.

Although unable at the time to discover the Honorable Secretary's object in addressing such a letter to one thought competent, apparently, to the second military position in importance in the Confederacy, or to find in it much that was instructive, I replied immediately, and gravely.

I had the honor to receive your “letter of instructions” yesterday. Having perused it carefully more than once, I respectfully inclose it herewith, [265] that you may do me the favor to affix your signature and return it.

Having arrived but two days ago, I have been able to obtain no information, directly, of the enemy's positions and strength; and the principal officers of the army can give me but little. It is believed by them that the army in our front amounts to about eighty thousand men; occupying Chattanooga, now strongly fortified, Bridgeport, and Stevenson. I find the country unfit for military operations, from the effect of heavy rains. Its condition prevents military exercises — a most important means of discipline.

The duties of military administration that you point out to me shall be attended to with diligence. The most difficult of them will be the procuring supplies of food. Foreseeing this before leaving Mississippi, I applied for permission to bring Major W. E. Moore with me, to be chief commissary of the army. The reply of the adjutant and inspector general was, that Major Moore had been collecting supplies in Mississippi so long that it was deemed inexpedient to transfer him. General Cooper was mistaken. Major Moore has not served long in Mississippi, nor collected large supplies there. He made his reputation in this army. Major Dameron directs the purchase and impressment of provisions in Mississippi. So that Major Moore's position is not an important one. Therefore Lieutenant-General Polk, from interest in this army, is anxious that he should be its chief commissary. I therefore most respectfully repeat my application.

This army is now far from being in condition to [266] “resume the offensive.” It is deficient in numbers, arms, subsistence stores, and field transportation.

In reference to the subsistence of the army, you direct me to “use all means in my power to obtain supplies from the productive States around me.” Let me remind you that I have little if any power to procure supplies for the army. The system established last summer deprives generals of any control over the officers of the quartermaster's and subsistence departments detailed to make purchases in the different States. I depend upon three majors in each State, neither of whom owes me obedience. Having no power to procure means of feeding, equipping, and moving the army, I am also released from the corresponding responsibilities. I refer to this matter in no spirit of discontent — for I have no taste, personally, for the duties in question-but to beg you to consider if the responsibility for keeping the army in condition to move and fight ought not to rest upon the general, instead of being divided among a number of officers who have not been thought by the Government competent to the duties of high military grades.

On the 31st I received the following letter from the President, dated 23d. Like that of the Secretary of War, it was ostensibly intended for my instruction.

This is addressed under the supposition that you have arrived at Dalton, and have assumed command of the forces at that place. The intelligence recently received respecting the condition [267] of that army is encouraging, and induces me to hope that you will soon be able to commence active operations against the enemy.

The reports concerning the battle at Missionary Ridge show that our loss in killed and wounded was not great, and that the reverse sustained is not attributable to any general demoralization or reluctance to encounter the opposing army. The brilliant stand made by the rear-guard at Ringgold sustains this belief.

In a letter written to me soon after the battle, General Bragg expressed his unshaken confidence in the courage and morale of the troops. He says: “We can redeem the past. Let us concentrate all our available men, unite them with this little army, still full of zeal, and burning to redeem its lost character and prestige-hurl the whole upon the enemy, and crush him in his power and his glory. I believe it practicable, and that I may be allowed to participate in the struggle which may restore to us the character, the prestige, and the country, we have just lost. This will give us confidence and restore hope to the country and the army, while it will do what is more important, give us subsistence, without which I do not see how we are to remain united.”

The official reports made to my aide-de-camp, Colonel Ives, who has just returned from Dalton, presented a not unfavorable view of the material of the command.

The chief of ordnance reported that, notwithstanding the abandonment of a considerable number of guns during the battle, there was still on hand, owing to previous large captures by our [268] troops, as many batteries as were proportionate to the strength of the army, well supplied with horses and equipment; that a large reserve of small-arms was in store at readily-accessible points; and that the supply of ammunition was abundant.

Comparatively few wagons and ambulances had been lost, and sufficient remained for transportation purposes, if an equal distribution were made throughout the different corps. The teams appeared to be generally in fair condition. The troops were tolerably provided with clothing, and a heavy invoice of shoes and blankets daily expected.

The returns from the commissary department showed that there were thirty days provisions on hand.

Stragglers and convalescents were rapidly coming in, and the morning reports exhibited an effective total, that, added to the two brigades last sent from Mississippi, and the cavalry sent back by Longstreet, would furnish a force exceeding in number that actually engaged in any battle on the Confederate side during the present war. General Hardee telegraphed to me on the 11th instant: “The army is in good spirits; the artillery reorganized and equipped, and we are now ready to fight.”

The effective condition of your new command, as thus reported to me, is a matter of much congratulation, and I assure you that nothing shall be wanting on the part of the Government to aid you in your efforts to regain possession of the territory from which we have been driven. You will not need to have it suggested that the imperative demand for prompt and vigorous action arises not only from the [269] importance of restoring the prestige of the army, and averting the injurious and dispiriting results that must attend a season of inactivity, but from the necessity of reoccupying the country, upon the supplies of which the proper subsistence of our armies materially depends.

Of the immediate measures to be adopted in attaining this end, the full importance of which I am sure you appreciate, you must be the best judge, after due inquiry and consideration on the spot shall have matured an opinion. It is my desire that you should communicate fully and freely with me concerning your proposed plan of action, that all the assistance and cooperation may be most advantageously afforded that it is in the power of the Government to render.

Trusting that your health may be preserved, and that the arduous and responsible duties you have undertaken may be successfully accomplished, I remain

Very respectfully and truly yours, (Signed) Jefferson Davis.

I was unable then, as now, to imagine any military object for which this letter could have been written, especially by one whose time was supposed to be devoted to the most important concerns of government. The President could not have thought that I was to be taught the moral and material condition of the army around me by him, from the observations of his aide-de-camp, who had never seen military service, instead of learning them by my own. Nor could he have believed that the army [270] which he so described was competent to recover “the territory from which it had been driven.” He had visited it some two months before, and seen that it could make no forward movement for the purpose then, when the opposing Federal army had not been increased by the corps of twenty thousand veterans, led from Mississippi by Sherman; nor ours weakened by the withdrawal from it of Longstreet's corps,1 and its losses at Missionary Ridge. Those losses must have been severe, for such troops are not easily driven from strong and intrenched positions; still less, easily routed. As I had much better means of information on the subjects of this paper than its author, it could not have been written for my instruction.

The two high executive officers expressed in their letters very different opinions of the effect of its recent defeat, upon the army. The Secretary of War expressed plainly his consciousness of the great losses it had suffered in men, morale, and material. The President, on the contrary, regarded “the effective condition” of the army as “a matter of much congratulation.” And, to give a distinct idea of its strength, he asserted that “the morning report exhibited an effective total that, added to the two brigades last sent from Mississippi,2 and the cavalry sent back by Longstreet,3 would furnish a force exceeding in number that actually engaged in any battle, on the Confederate side, during the present war.”

To disprove this assertion, it is not necessary to [271] go back to the previous years of the war, and the greatest of the Confederate armies-those directed by General Lee against McClellan and Pope. It is enough to refer to the recent history of this very army — the remnant of that which fought at Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge. On the first of those occasions a number more than double the “effective total” in question must have been led into battle, for it lost eighteen thousand men then.4 At least seven thousand were killed, wounded, dispersed, or taken at Missionary Ridge, and in the retreat thence to Dalton, and fifteen thousand five hundred5 had been sent from it in Longstreet's corps, and Ector's and McNair's brigades. On the other land, “the two last brigades sent from Mississippi” had an effective total of three thousand, and four thousand of the fugitives of Missionary Ridge had rejoined their regiments at Dalton. According to these figures, forty thousand men had been lost, and seven thousand gained by this army. So that its “effective total” scarcely exceeded half the number that fought on the Confederate side at Chickamauga. Cavalry is not included in the foregoing figures. The number of troops of that arm had been reduced also, and, as Martin's division fought at Chickamauga, its presence at Dalton would not have affected the above statement materially, for hard service had told so severely upon its horses that much less than half were effective. [272]

Heavy rains, which were prevailing at the time of my arrival at Dalton, and the consequent deep mud, prevented the immediate bringing out of the troops for inspection, to ascertain their condition. In replying to the President's letter on the 2d of January, I endeavored to avoid erring on the unfavorable side of the case. Fuller information, soon obtained by personal observation, showed that the statements in it relating to the clothing of the troops, and the condition of the horses and mules of the army, were much .too favorable. That reply was as follows;

Dalton, January 2, 1864.
Mr. President:
I have received the letter which you did me the honor to write to me on the 23d ultimo.

Having been here but six days, during four of which it rained heavily, I have not been able to observe the condition of the army. I judge, however, from the language of the general officers, that it has not entirely recovered its confidence, and that its discipline is not so thorough as it was last spring. The men are, generally, comfortably clothed; a few shoes and blankets are wanting in each brigade, which the chief quartermaster promises to supply very soon.

According to the return of December 20th, the effective total of the army (infantry and artillery) is not quite thirty-six thousand; the number present about forty-three thousand; that present and absent about seventy-seven thousand. The reports of the adjutant-general show that about four thousand men have returned to the ranks since the battle of Missionary Ridge. My predecessor estimated the enemy's [273] force at Chattanooga, Bridgeport, and Stevenson, at about eighty thousand.

Major-General Wheeler reports that about two-thirds of his cavalry is with General Longstreet. He has about sixteen hundred in our front; Major-General Wharton has eight hundred and fifty near Rome, and Brigadier-General Roddy, with his brigade, is supposed to be near Tuscumbia-his strength not reported. I am afraid that this cavalry is not very efficient — that want of harmony among the superior officers causes its discipline to be imperfect. I will endeavor to improve it during the winter.

The artillery is sufficient for the present strength of the army, but is deficient in discipline and instruction, especially in firing. The horses are not in good condition. It has about two hundred rounds of ammunition. Its organization is very imperfect.

We have more than one hundred and twenty rounds of infantry ammunition, and no difficulty in obtaining more.

The chief quartermaster reports that, besides the baggage-wagons of the troops, he has enough to transport eight days rations, but that will leave no means of transporting forage and other stores of his department. The teams are improving, but are far from being in good condition. One hundred and twenty wagons are expected from the Department of Mississippi, promised by Lieutenant-General Polk.

The army depends for subsistence upon an officer at Atlanta (Major Cummings), who acts under the orders of the Commissary-General. The chief [274] commissary of the army reports that that officer has provided for the next month, but we depend upon the railroad for bringing supplies to the troops. As yet rations for but five days have been accumulated here, with a supply for three previously placed at Calhoun, twenty miles to the rear. We have had no receipts for two days, for want, it is said, of good fuel on the road. The practice of transporting beef-cattle by railroad has made it impossible to accumulate stores here. I propose, as soon as the arrangement can be made, to have the cattle driven, but the change will require time. The men are not entirely satisfied with the ration, it is said.

Your Excellency well impresses upon me the importance of recovering the territory we have lost. I feel it deeply, but difficulties appear to me in the way.

The Secretary of War has informed me that I must not hope for reinforcements. To assume the offensive from this point, we must move either into Middle or East Tennessee. To the first, the obstacles are Chattanooga, now a fortress, the Tennessee River, the rugged desert of the Cumberland Mountains, and an army outnumbering ours more than two to one. The second course would leave the way into Georgia open. We have neither subsistence nor field transportation enough for either march. General Bragg and Lieutenant-General Hardee, in suggesting the offensive, proposed to operate with a powerful army formed upon this as a nucleus. The former was unable to advance before the arrival of Sherman had added twenty-five thousand men to the Federal army, and the march of Longstreet into East Tennessee had [275] reduced ours by twelve thousand. The latter, in his letter to you of the 17th ultimo, expresses the opinion that this army is too weak to oppose the enemy should he advance.

There would be much less difficulty, I think, in advancing from Northern Mississippi, avoiding the mountains.

I can see no other mode of taking the offensive here, than to beat the enemy when he advances, and then move forward. But, to make victory probable, the army must be strengthened. A ready mode of doing this would be by substituting negroes for all the soldiers on detached or daily duty, as well as company cooks, pioneers, and laborers for engineer service. This would give us at once ten or twelve thousand men. And the other armies of the Confederacy might be strengthened in the same proportion. Immediate and judicious legislation would be necessary, however.

I earnestly ask your Excellency's consideration of this matter. A law authorizing the Government to take negroes for all the duties out of the ranks, for which soldiers are now detailed, giving the slave a portion of the pay, and punishing the master for not returning him if he deserts, would enable us to keep them in service. This is the opinion of the seven or eight ranking officers present.

My experience in Mississippi was, that impressed negroes run away whenever it is possible, and are frequently encouraged by their masters to do so; and I never knew one to be returned by his master.

I respectfully suggest the division of this army into three corps, and, should your Excellency adopt [276] that suggestion, the appointment of lieutenant-generals from some other army.

Very respectfully, J. E. Johnston.

I supposed, from the information given me by the ranking general officers, that Dalton had not been selected by General Bragg for its value as a defensive position, but that the retreat from Missionary Ridge had ceased at that point, because it was ascertained there that the pursuit had been abandoned by the Federal army. Each division, consequently, was occupying the position it had taken for the encampment of a night, and on it had constructed huts for its winter quarters. These divisions formed two corps: one commanded by Lieutenant-General Hardee, composed of Cheatham's, Breckenridge's, Cleburne's, and Walker's divisions; the other, commanded by Major-General Hindman, was composed of his own, Stevenson's, and Stewart's divisions.

Major-General Wheeler, with such of his cavalry as was fittest for active service, amounting to about sixteen hundred, was at the village of Tunnel Hill, on the railroad, seven miles from Dalton, in the direction of Ringgold; his pickets on Taylor's Ridge, in front, and on the left, but extending to the right beyond the Cleveland road. Cleburne's division occupied the crest of Tunnel Hill, on both sides of the wagon-road from Dalton to Ringgold. Stewart's division had one brigade in front of, one in, and two immediately in rear of Mill-Creek Gap. Breckenridge was between the Gap and Dalton; Hindman's, [277] two miles southwest of Dalton, except a brigade on the Cleveland road; Stevenson's, near Hindman's; Walker's, three miles east of Dalton; and Cheatham's, near and to the south of Walker's.

The Federal army in our front — that by which ours had been driven from Missionary Ridge to Dalton — was estimated by our principal officers, who had been confronting it for almost two years, at eighty thousand men, exclusive of cavalry. This was undoubtedly an over-estimate.6 These troops occupied Chattanooga, Bridgeport, and Stevenson. Besides them, the Ninth and Twenty-third Corps, twenty-five or thirty thousand, were at Knoxville. Longstreet's corps and Martin's cavalry division of the Army of Tennessee were in observation of these troops, forty miles from them, toward Virginia.7

The position of Dalton had little to recommend it as a defensive one. It had neither intrinsic strength nor strategic advantage. It neither fully covered its own communications nor threatened those of the enemy. The railroad from Atlanta to Chattanooga passes through Rocky-Faced Ridge by Mill-Creek Gap, three miles and a half beyond Dalton, but very obliquely, the course of the road being about thirty degrees west of north, and that of the ridge about five degrees east of north. As it terminates but three miles north of the gap, it offers little obstacle to the advance of a superior force [278] from Ringgold to Dalton. Between Mill-Creek and Snake-Creek Gaps, this ridge protects the road to Atlanta on the west, but at the same time covers any direct approach from Chattanooga to Resaca or Calhoun-points on the route from Dalton to Atlanta-or flank movement in that direction, by an army in front of Mill-Creek Gap. These considerations would have induced me to draw the troops back to the vicinity of Calhoun, to free our left flank from exposure, but for the earnestness with which the President and Secretary of War, in their letters of instructions, wrote of early assumption of offensive operations and apprehension of the bad effect of a retrograde movement upon the spirit of the Southern people.

An active campaign of six months, half of it in the rugged region between Chattanooga and Dalton, had so much reduced the condition of the horses of the cavalry and artillery, as well as of the mules of the wagon-trains, that most of them were unfit for active service. The rest they had been allowed at Dalton had not improved their condition materially; for, from want of good fuel, the railroad-trains had not been able to bring up full supplies of forage. This continued until near the end of January, when the management of the railroad had been greatly improved by the intervention of Governor Brown, and a better system introduced in the manner of forwarding military supplies.

This scarcity of food made it necessary to send almost half of the artillery-horses and all the mules not required for camp-service to the valley of the Etowah, where long forage could be found, and the [279] sources of supply of grain were nearer. In that connection, I find, in a letter to the President dated January 15th, this passage: “Since my arrival, very little long forage has been received, and nothing like full rations of corn — that weevil-eaten. The officer commanding the artillery of a division that I inspected to-day reported that his horses had had but thirteen pounds each, of very bad corn, in the last three days.”

In the course of the inspection made as soon as practicable, I found the condition of the army much less satisfactory than it had appeared to the President on the 23d of December. There was a great deficiency of blankets; and it was painful to see the number of bare feet in every regiment. In the letter quoted in the last paragraph, the President was informed that two of the four brigades inspected by me that day were not in condition to march, for want of shoes. There was a deficiency, in the infantry, of six thousand small-arms. The artillery-horses were generally still so feeble from long, hard service and scarcity of forage, that it would have been impossible to manoeuvre our batteries in action, or to march with them at any ordinary rate on ordinary roads. It was long before they could draw the guns through fields. Early in February, when the supply of forage had become regular, and the face of the country almost dry, after the review of a corps, the teams of the Napoleon guns were unable to draw them up a trifling hill, over which the road to their stables passed.

On the 15th and 16th, Quarles's and Baldwin's brigades, “the last two sent from Mississippi,” returned [280] to that department in obedience to orders from the Secretary of War. At the same time Governor Brown transferred two regiments of State troops to the army. They were placed as guards for the protection of the railroad-bridges between Dalton and Atlanta. Intrenchments for this object were then in course of construction, under the direction of the chief-engineer of the army, Brigadier-General Leadbetter.

To supply the great want of effective cavalry, Brigadier-General Roddy was ordered to join the army with his brigade, except one regiment, which he was instructed to leave near Tuscumbia. Soon after his arrival, however, I was directed by the Secretary of War to send him back to his former position. I was taught in this way that my authority over that brigade was ostensible only. About one-third of the brigade, under Colonel Hannon, was retained by me, and served with the army in the campaign of that year.

The time of winter was employed mainly in improving the discipline and instruction of the troops, and attention to their comfort. Before the end of April, more than five thousand absentees had been brought back to their regiments. The establishment of a system which allowed furloughs to all the men in turn, it was thought, contributed greatly to this result. Military operations were confined generally to skirmishing between little scouting-parties of cavalry of our army with pickets of the other. On the 28th of January, however, a strong body of infantry, advancing from Ringgold, drove in our cavalry outposts and approached Tunnel Hill, closely enough to [281] see that it was still occupied. It then returned, as if the object of the expedition had been accomplished.

On the 11th of February, intelligence was received from Lieutenant-General Polk that General Sherman was leading an army of thirty-five thousand infantry and artillery eastwardly from Vicksburg, had crossed Pearl River at Jackson, and was moving along the railroad toward Meridian. Mobile was assumed to be the object of this expedition. Orders by telegraph were received on the same day from the President, directing me to aid Lieutenant-General Polk, either by sending him reenforcements or by joining him myself “with what force I could.” The President urged that the enemy should be met before he had established a new base to which supplies and reinforcements might be sent by sea. I replied on the same day, and suggested that it would be impossible for troops from Dalton to meet this Federal army before it reached the Gulf, and therefore asked instructions in that view of the case. This dispatch did not reach the.President's hands, and on the 13th he asked me by telegraph what I could do toward striking at the enemy while in motion, and before he had established a new base. I replied that such an expedition would require two-thirds of the Army of Tennessee and would involve the abandonment of “that line.”

On the 16th I was instructed to “detach for temporary service, unless immediately threatened, enough infantry to enable Lieutenant-General Polk to beat the detachment which the enemy had thrown so far into the interior of our country.” My reply, [282] on the same day, was to the effect that such a detachment, either marching or transported by railroad, would be too late for the object.

On the 17th the President directed me, by telegraph, to dispatch Lieutenant-General Hardee to Mississippi with Cheatham's, Cleburne's, and Walker's divisions of his corps, with instructions to unite with Lieutenant-General Polk as soon as possible. This order was obeyed as promptly as our means of transportation permitted.

The Federal commanders in Tennessee seem to have anticipated such a detachment, and to have exaggerated its strength; for, on the 14th, General Grant, who, the day before, had instructed Major-General Thomas to move to Knoxville with all the troops that could be spared from Chattanooga, “to cooperate with the Army of the Ohio in driving Longstreet from East Tennessee,” countermanded that order, and directed a movement to the immediate front instead, “to gain possession of Dalton, and as far south of that as possible.” 8 On the 22d, intelligence was received from Lieutenant-General Polk's headquarters, at Demopolis, that Sherman's invading column, after passing Meridian, which it destroyed, had turned, and was marching back toward Vicksburg; and Lieutenant-General Hardee's corps, of which only the leading troops had reached that place, were about to return. At night our scouts reported that the Federal army, in marching order, had advanced from Chattanooga to Ringgold that day, and that a large body of infantry and [283] artillery, accompanied by Long's9 brigade of cavalry, had, at the same time, marched from Cleveland to Red Clay.

To meet these movements, Stewart's and Breckenridge's divisions were posted in the eastern outlet of Mill-Creek Gap, Hindman's in reserve near, and Stevenson's in front of Dalton, on the Cleveland road. This was on the morning of the 23d. The two bodies of Federal troops united in front of Ringgold in the afternoon, and, advancing upon the Confederate cavalry, drove it from the village of Tunnel Hill to Cleburne's abandoned camp. After being annoyed by the fire of General Wheeler's artillery from this commanding position, near night, the Federal army drew back three or four miles, and encamped.

On the 24th the Federal army advanced in three columns, the centre one directed against the Confederate cavalry. The horse-artillery, by its accurate fire, checked this column until those of the right and left had advanced so far as, by threatening their flanks, to compel General Wheeler's troops to retire. They were led through the gap, and placed in observation in Crow Valley (that lying east of Rocky-Face Ridge), two miles to the north. The Federal army encamped in the valley immediately west of the pass.

In the morning of the 25th the Federal skirmishers engaged those of the two divisions in the pass, and desultory firing was maintained during the day. [284] Later, Major-General Wheeler reported that two strong columns had passed around the mountain and were moving down Crow Valley toward us, one following the base of the mountain, and the other the parallel ridge to the east of it. The first was formed by a division and six regiments under General Crufts; the other was General Baird's division. Major-General Hindman was directed to meet this demonstration with Stevenson's division and Clayton's brigade of Stewart's. He chose the best position for this purpose, and disposed his troops in it skillfully: Clayton's and Reynold's brigades on a detached hill near the base of the mountain and in the intermediate pass, and Stevenson's three other brigades (Brown's, Pettus's, and Cummings's) on the opposite height to the east. The skirmishers soon became engaged on both sides of the valley, and the enemy halted. The skirmishing continued, however, with more or less spirit, until near night. Late in the afternoon a sharp attack was made upon Hindman's left, falling principally upon Clayton's brigade, but, after a brisk engagement of half an hour, the assailants were repulsed. The other Federal division retired at the same time, having engaged Stevenson, only with its skirmishers and artillery. In Mill-Creek Gap one threat of serious assault was made by a body of troops which entered it on the north side of the stream, and advanced against Stewart's division; they met, however, the fire of a battery in their front and musketry from the hill above, which drove them back in confusion.

When I returned to Dalton after nightfall, it was reported to me that the guard posted in Dug Gap had [285] been driven from it by a regiment of Federal mounted infantry, and without resistance. Fortunately, Granberry's “Texas” brigade, the foremost of the returning troops of Hardee's corps, had just arrived at the railroad-station and was leaving the train. He was directed to march by the Villanow road, which passes through the Dug Gap, to the foot of the mountain, to bivouac there, and at dawn next morning to recover the position.

That gallant officer executed these instructions with the intelligent courage he always exhibited in presence of the enemy. The appearance of a part of his brigade on the crest of the mountain, at a point commanding the Gap, and that of another in front at the same time, dislodged the Federal troops before sunrise, and they abandoned the ground with a precipitation that amused the Texans greatly.

It was ascertained soon after that the Federal army had retired during the night.

In his report of these operations, dated March 10, 1864, General Thomas wrote: “Being convinced that the rebel army at Dalton largely outnumbered the strength of the four divisions I had opposed to it, and the movement against Johnston being a complete success, inasmuch as it caused the recalling of the reinforcements sent to oppose General Sherman's expedition against Meridian, I concluded to withdraw my troops to the position they occupied before the reconnaissance.” When writing this passage the general had forgotten, apparently, a previous one, in which he stated that this expedition was made by General Grant's order, and for the purpose of occupying Dalton, “and as far south of that as [286] possible.” In relation to that object, for which the expedition was ordered, it certainly was not “a success,” “complete” or partial. And as to any relation between General Thomas's operations near Mill-Creek Gap, and General Sherman's “against Meridian,” the latter was abandoned on the 20th, and the retrograde movement to Vicksburg began on the 21st. In consequence of this, Hardee's troops ( “the reinforcements” referred to above), only the foremost of which had reached the Tombigbee, were recalled by the President on the 23d, before General Thomas's designs had been discovered. It is incredible that the skirmishing about Mill-Creek Gap on the 25th and 26th of February could have been intended to “cause the recalling” of Hardee's troops, for they had been on their way back two or three days; or for the relief of Sherman, who was four or five days march on his return to Vicksburg, while Lieutenant-General Polk's troops were on the Tombigbee. As to being outnumbered, the Federal army had four divisions and six regiments-probably at least seventeen brigades; it encountered seven Confederate brigades on the 25th, and eleven on the 26th.

1 About fourteen thousand of the best of the Confederate troops.

2 Quarles's and Baldwin's brigades, sent back to Mississippi by the President two weeks after.

3 No cavalry had been sent back by Longstreet; Martin's division, referred to, rejoined us in April following.

4 Statement of General Mackall, General Bragg's chief-of-staff.

5 Longstreet's corps had fourteen thousand infantry and artillery (see General Bragg's letter of March, p. 293). Ector's and McNair's brigades numbered about fifteen hundred when they returned to Mississippi.

6 This number was estimated to be sixty-five thousand by an officer who belonged to General Grant's staff at Chattanooga.

7 Besides these, there were about eight hundred and fifty men under General Wharton's command, in a sort of camp for broken-down horses, to the south of Rome, and Brigadier-General Roddy's strong brigade near Tuscumbia.

8 General Thomas's report of March 10, 1864.

9 This officer was instructed to give instant information to General Crufts, if the Confederate troops had abandoned Dalton, that he might promptly advance to the place.

Creative Commons License
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.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
March 10th, 1864 AD (2)
April (2)
23rd (2)
17th (2)
January 2nd, 1864 AD (1)
December 23rd (1)
December 20th (1)
December 18th (1)
March (1)
February 26th (1)
February 25th (1)
February 11th (1)
February (1)
January 28th (1)
January 15th (1)
January 2nd (1)
January (1)
31st (1)
26th (1)
25th (1)
24th (1)
22nd (1)
21st (1)
20th (1)
16th (1)
15th (1)
14th (1)
11th (1)
1st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: