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[327] the other two divisions of the corps. This was done during the afternoon of the twelfth. My two brigades remained quiet during the thirteenth, enjoying much needed rest. During the evening of the thirteenth a copy of a letter of instructions from the commanding General to the Corps commander was furnished me by the latter, in which he was directed to leave my command at Gordon's Mill, and proceed with the other two divisions to a position on Missionary Ridge, with a view to facilitating the concentration with the other corps of the army. My orders directed me to try stoutly to maintain the position at Gordon's Mill, but if attacked by a superior force, to fall back slowly, resisting stoutly, to Rossville, where it was supposed I would be supported by Major-General Granger's force, in case of extremity; and in case I should not be supported at Rossville by Granger, I was directed to select a position guarding the roads leading to Chattanooga and around the point of Lookout Mountain, and hold them at all hazards. Resolved to make the most stubborn resistance at Gordon's Mill, I took advantage of the creek, a very strong and defensible position, and barricaded my entire front and flanks strongly. So strengthened, I could have successfully resisted a front attack of a vastly superior force.

With the exception of an occasional firing on my pickets, the enemy left me undisturbed at Gordon's Mill till between eleven A. M. and twelve M., of Friday, the eighteenth instant. A rapid advance of his light troops, supported by troops in a solid line on my right front, drove in my pickets as far as the creek, but no effort was made to pass the stream. Such an attempt would have been foiled, and cost the enemy dearly. At about one o'clock P. M. a force, apparently about a brigade of four regiments, emerged from the woods on the southern side of the creek, nearly opposite the centre of my position, apparently with the intention of forcing a passage at the ford near the mill. A few well-directed shots from Bradley's battery soon forced him to relinquish this design, and seek the shelter of the woods. The enemy continued to hover in my front during the whole afternoon, making, however, no serious attempts, and I accordingly became reasonably satisfied that his demonstrations were only a mask to his real design, that of passing a heavy force across the creek lower down, with a view to turning our left, and cutting our communications with Chattanooga. I communicated my opinion on this point to the commanding General at his headquarters during the evening of the eighteenth. It was verified by the opening of a terrific engagement on our left as early as half past 8 A. M. on the nineteenth; troops had been moved to our left during the night of the eighteenth to meet the exigency. The battle continued throughout the forenoon and into the afternoon, but my command was left at Gordon's Mill until three o'clock P. M. At this hour I received a verbal order from the Corps commander, through one of his staff, to move with my command, and to take position, as well as I now remember, on the right of some part of General Van Cleve's division. Throughout the entire preceding part of the day I had distinctly observed a considerable force in front of my position at Gordon's Mill, and just before I had received the order to move into action a “contraband” came into my lines, from whom I learned that this force was the division of General Bushrod Johnson.

Knowing that it would pass the creek immediately on my evacuating my position, if it should not be occupied by some other troops, I despatched one of my Aids-de-camp to the commanding General, to inform him of the presence of this force in my then front, and to suggest that at least a brigade should be sent to occupy the position so soon as I should vacate it. On his way to the headquarters of the commanding General my Aid-de-camp encountered Major-General McCook, to whom he communicated the object of his mission to headquarters. General McCook immediately ordered a brigade from his corps to move into position at Gordon's Mill. My Aid-de-camp rode on to headquarters and reported what had been done to the commanding General, who approved the disposition. No delay, however, had occurred on this account in the movement of my command from Gordon's Mill. Immediately on the receipt of the order my command was put in rapid motion for the scene of the great conflict. As already remarked, the order directed me to take position on the right of General Van Cleve's command, but as I was totally ignorant of his position in the battle, and met no one on my arrival on the field to enlighten me, I found myself much embarrassed for the want of information, whereas I could bring my command judiciously and effectively into action. It should be borne in mind that many of the troops were engaged in the woods, and that it was next to impossible to gain information by sight of the arrangement of the troops already engaged.

This information could only be given by general and staff officers, posted in advance to aid in bringing the troops arriving freshly on the ground into action properly. Fortunately, shortly after my arrival on the field I met General Davis, from whom I received some useful information in regard to the status of the conflict. From him I learned that his left brigade, Haynes's, was sorely pressed and needed assistance. While I was in conference with him, a staff officer informed him that Colonel Haynes reported he could not maintain his position, and at the same instant I saw a stream of fugitives pouring out of the woods across the Rossville and Lafayette road, and over the field to the west of it. These, I learned, belonged to Haynes's brigade of Davis's division. It was evident a crisis was at hand; the advance of the enemy, before which these men were retiring, must be checked at once, or the army would be cut in twain. Desiring Major Mendenhall, of the Corps commander's staff, who chanced to be near me at the moment, to go and rally the fugitives rushing across the field on the west side of the road, I at once commenced my dispositions to check the advancing foe. When I first met General Davis on the field I had inquired of him where the fight was.

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William J. Haynes (3)
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