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[8] the morning of the 14th of September, that McCook was at Alpine, Thomas in McLemore's cove and Crittenden at Lee and Gordon's mills. The Federal right, therefore, was separated from its left by about forty miles, in a straight line, with a mountain of difficult passage intervening. The Confederate force, at the time, could have been thrown upon either corps.

Rosecrans finally seems to have abandoned the vain imaginings with which he had been possessed, that Bragg was in disorderly retreat, and to have awakened to a sense of the peril of his divided and weakened forces against such masses as the Confederates possibly might move against him. He therefore retired Crittenden to the foot of Missionary ridge, and directed McCook to close on Thomas at Stevens's gap. On the 17th of September these three corps were within supporting distance of each other.

Moving up carefully, General Bragg succeeded by the night of the 17th of September in placing the army in position upon the east side of the Chickamauga, its line extending from McLemore's cove on the left to Reed's bridge on the right; its centre, commanded by General Polk, resting about Lee and Gordon's mills. The Federal army lay along the west side of the stream, its corps in easy supporting distance, the right in the cove, its left at Lee and Gordon's mills, while the reserve corps (Granger's) rested at Rossville; reached that point on the 14th, moving from Bridgeport.

In view of the tempting and magnificent opportunity now offered to the Confederate General, with the army of Rosecrans before him, General Polk proposed a strong demonstration be made at Lee and Gordon's mills. Under cover of that feint the remainder of the army should march rapidly by the right flank as far as Reed's bridge and fords near there, and, having crossed Chickamauga creek and valley, should move at right angles to the Lafayette and Chattanooga road, by that means closing the exit of the opposing forces from the valley in the direction of Chattanooga.

The movement could have been met by the Virginia troops now arriving at Ringgold, and would have effectually imprisoned the Federal army in McLemore's cove, barred its communication with Chattanooga, and placed it in the power of the Confederate General.

This movement, which might have been executed on the night of the 17th of September and morning of the 18th, was unquestionably that upon which General Bragg had determined. In making it, however, the crossing was effected at points too near Lee and Gordon's mills — the enemy's left.

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Fitzhugh Lee (5)
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