It was now past noon, and for five hours Cleburne
had been battling against odds increasing every moment.
Large masses of the enemy at this hour in view justified the belief that most of Grant
's army was now at and near Ringgold
, preparing to throw itself in overwhelming force upon the flanks of the one opposing division.
would be forced back was certain; it was only a question of time.
About 12 o'clock a dispatch was received from General Hardee
to the effect that the trains were now safe and that Cleburne
might withdraw when, in his judgment, it was advisable.
Up to 12:30 the enemy's fire had been exclusively of small arms, but his guns having come up he opened a heavy and rapid artillery fire, but did not again advance his infantry upon the front.
At 1 P. M. Cleburne
's artillery was remasked and run back by hand, followed by the main line of infantry, leaving only skirmishers along the front.
These were retired later, and the bridges across the creek were fired.
This was barely accomplished when the enemy simultaneously marched over the crest of the ridge on the right and advanced through the gap.
took position one mile in rear upon a hill known as “Dick
's ridge,” where slight works were thrown up and preparations made for another contest.
The enemy, however, declined battle, and advancing only to the eastern outlet of the gap abandoned the pursuit.
carried into action 4,157 bayonets, and his loss in killed, wounded and missing was 221.
With the exception of the few cavalrymen before mentioned, and who took no part in the actual battle, it was fought by his division alone.
For over six hours he held at bay the larger part of Grant
's forces, and again saved the wheels of the army.
For this engagement General Cleburne
received a vote of thanks from Congress.
In his official report Cleburne
thus speaks of his command:
The conduct of officers and men in this fight needs no comment.
Every man, as far as I know, did his whole duty.
To Brigadier-Generals Polk and Lowry, and Colonels Govan and Granbury I must return my thanks.
Four better officers are not in the service of the Confederacy.
Lieutenant Goldthwaite, of the artillery, proved himself a brave and skillful officer.
Never was praise more worthily bestowed, nor by one more competent to bestow it.
Remaining in undisturbed possession of the position on “Dick
's ridge” until dark, Cleburne
, in obedience to orders, marched to Tunnel