previous next

Report of Major-General S. B. Buckner of the battle of Chickamauga.

headquarters near Chattanooga, November 11, 1863.
Colonel Sorrel, Assistant Adjutant-General Longstreet's Corps.
Colonel,—I have the honor to submit, in connection with the reports of my subordinate commanders, the following synopsis of the military movements of Buckner's corps on the 18th, 19th and 20th September, 1863:

The corps consisted of the division of Major-General A. P. Stewart, which was composed of Johnson's Brown's, Bates's and Clayton's [314] brigades, and of the division of Brigadier-General William Preston, composed of the brigades of Brigadier-General Gracie, and of Colonels Trigg and Kelly, of a battalion of artillery to each division, and a battalion of reserve artillery, under Major S. C. Williams, Brigadier-General Johnson's brigade having been detached several days before, by orders from army headquarters, was engaged under its gallant commander under the orders of another corps commander, and did not report to me until two days after the battle.

On the morning of the 18th, I moved from a point on Peavine Creek, midway between Peavine Church and Rock Spring Church, under orders to cross the West Chickamauga river at Thedford's ford, after Major-General Walker's division had succeeded in crossing below me. Part of my route being common with that of Walker's column, my march was somewhat retarded by the encounter of the two columns, but notwithstanding this I occupied, about 2 P. M., with Stewart's division, after a brisk skirmish, the crossing at Thedford's ford, and with Preston's division, without opposition, the crossing at Hunt's or Dalton's Ford. In this position, holding both banks of the stream, I awaited the movements of Walker on my right.

At daylight on the 19th, under instructions from the commanding General, I crossed my entire corps to the west bank and formed it in line of battle—Stewart on the right, (on the left of Hood's division,) facing southwest, in the direction of Lee and Gordon's Mill; General Cheatham's division, as I was informed, being directed to sustain me in the proposed advance. About noon, when the enemy's attack on Walker had been met, and Cheatham's division, which had been sent to sustain him, had become hotly engaged, Stewart's division was detached, by the orders of the commanding General, to support Cheatham. For the operations of his division until he again came under my orders, on the following afternoon, I refer to the report of its able commander.

In obedience to the orders of the commanding General, I remained with my remaining division to hold the extreme left of the line. With this view I deployed Preston's division on a line extending from an abrupt elevation on the bank of the river along a ridge in a northwest direction—the flanks well sustained by artillery. Considerable skirmishing took place towards the right of this line—the enemy falling back in a southwest direction—and the troops were [315] considerably exposed to artillery fire during the day. Being informed by a staff officer of the commanding General, that General Hood, who had advanced to my right, was hard pressed, and being requested to reinforce him, as far as I could, I immediately, about 3 o'clock P. M., sent to his assistance the brigade of Colonel Trigg. The gallant and successful charge of this brigade drove back the advancing enemy and relieved the left of Hood, which was outflanked and retiring before the enemy's heavy attack. During the day both Stewart's division and Trigg's brigade had penetrated the enemy's line and passed beyond the Chattanooga road; but at night both were drawn back into positions which would conform to to the general line, which had pushed forward during the day's action. During the night of the 19th I materially strengthened the position on the left by entrenchments.

On the morning of the 20th, Lieutenant-General Longstreet assumed command of the left wing. About 2 o'clock in the afternoon he, in person, ordered me to conduct Preston's division— leaving one regiment and a battery to hold the left—to the Chattanooga road. Between 3 and 4 o'clock it was formed as follows: Gracie's and Kelly's brigades in two lines, at right angles to the road north of Brotherton's, and just in rear of Poe's, commonly called the ‘Burnt House’; Trigg's brigade just south of Brotherton's house, and supporting Williams's artillery. At this time Stewart was in line, his left advanced in front of Preston's right, his right receding, forming an obtuse angle with Preston's line. In his front was a heavy breastwork of logs, on the summit of a slight ridge heavily wooded and strongly held by the enemy's infantry and artillery. His right flank was opposite the angle of this work; his centre, facing towards the northwest, was opposed to the flank of the work, which was perpendicular to the road. On Stewart's right, in front of the face of the work, and parallel to the Chattanooga road, was Cleburne's division, of Hill's corps. Brigadier-General Law's brigade, of Hood's division, was in line perpendicular to the road to the left, and slightly in advance of Preston, and close by the burnt house (Poe's), near which was a battery of Hood's artillery. A personal reconnoissance, in company with the Lieutenant-General commanding, showed an advantageous position for artillery in front of Poe's burning house, from which point the enemy's main line, which fronted eastward, and was situated a little to the east of Kelly's field, was exposed to an enfilade fire, or rather to a fire slightly in reverse. His right flank, as before stated, was [316] thrown back at right-angles to the road, and was located behind log breastworks, in the heavy wood between Poe's and Kelly's fields. As the enemy's right had been beaten back, it had, by a conversion on this angle of their work as a pivot, been gradually driven to assume a position also at right angles to the road, his right resting on a chain of heights beginning near Snodgrass's house, about a fourth of a mile west of Kelly's house, on the road, and extending westward about one mile to the Crawfish road. These heights constitute the southern spurs which terminate Missionary Ridge—are covered with open woods—have a gentle but irregular slope on the south, the north and the east, and their summits are fully a hundred feet above the level of the surrounding country. A little after four o'clock P. M., under instructions from the Lieutenant-General commanding, I ordered Preston, with Gracie's and Kelly's brigades, to support Kershaw's brigade in the attack on the heights near Snodgrass's house, sustaining him afterwards by Trigg's brigade, under the able direction of Brigadier-General Preston, the first two brigades passed Kershaw's and Anderson's brigades, which had suffered severely in the action, and, with great impetuosity assailed the enemy in his almost impregnable position. Trigg, on coming up, was directed to the left of Kelly, and joining in a simultaneous movement of Brigadier-General B. R. Johnson's division still farther to the left, pierced and turned the enemy's line, and, in conjunction with Kelly, Gracie and Robertson drove him from his strong position into the ravines beyond, where a large number of prisoners were captured. For the details of this brilliant action, I refer you to the graphic report of Brigadier-General Preston.

While this action was progressing, the Lieutenant-General commanding directed Stewart's division to advance, and to aid the combined attack, I ordered, by his authority, Williams's battalion of reserve artillery to be placed in position in front of Poe's house. This was done under the immediate direction of Major Porter, my chief of artillery. About this time the enemy were moving rein-forcements to sustain his right, which was staggering under the terrific assault of Preston. Williams, with eleven pieces of artillery, opened upon this re-inforcing column with destructive effect, dispersing it in every direction, and silencing his artillery. At the same time Stewart assaulted the enemy's works, and captured a number of prisoners, who dared not cross the stream of fire which Williams poured across their path. Stewart, in advancing, also [317] threw forward one of his batteries, which joined in the fire. As he advanced, I conducted Darden's battery, of Williams's artillery, to Kelly's field; but this battery, as well as Stewart's division, it now being nightfall, was withdrawn into the edge of the wood, as we encountered in our advance the right wing of our army, which joined in the assault of the enemy's works, and was moving in a direction perpendicular to our line of march. The continued cheers of the army announced, at dark, that every point of the field had been gained. Stewart bivouacked within the entrenchments he had assaulted; Preston, upon the heights he had so gallantly won.

For the details of the action, of which this report is only a brief synopsis, and a notice of individual conduct, I respectfully refer you to the reports of the division, brigade, and regimental commanders, and of the chief and battalion commanders of the artillery, which are herewith transmitted.

To the gentlemen of my staff I am indebted for their prompt and gallant discharge of duty on every occasion. No commendation from me can add to the well earned reputation of Major-General Stewart and his able brigadiers—Johnston, who was detached, and in command of an improvised division, Brown, Bate and Clayton. They were worthy leaders of the brave troops, nearly all of them veterans, whom they so gallantly led.

Upon Brigadier-General Preston and his brigade commanders, Brigadier-General Gracie, and Colonels Trigg and Kelly, I cannot bestow higher praise than to say, that their conduct and example were such as to convert a body of troops, but few of whom had before been under fire, into a division of veterans in their first battle. Stewart's veterans maintained the reputation they had won on many fields. Preston's troops emulated their example and equalled them in merit.

The recapitulation of the heavy losses sustained in both divisions, is a sad testimony of the soldierly qualities of the survivors. Few troops, who have suffered so heavily, have been victorious on the field of their losses. But the result is only another evidence of the invincible spirit of our people, which, under the guidance of Providence, must finally win us our independence as a nation.

I am, Colonel, very respectfully,

Youth obedient servant,

S. B. Buckner, Major-General, lately commanding Buckner's Corps.

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 Places (automatically extracted)
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.
18th (2)
November 11th, 1863 AD (1)
September 20th, 1863 AD (1)
September 19th, 1863 AD (1)
20th (1)
19th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: