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Joins the Western army—Chickamauga.

About the 10th of July, 1863, President Davis called at General Hill's quarters three miles east of Richmond, and after many kind and complimentary comments upon his conduct as an officer during the preceding year, informed him that he was appointed a Lieutenant-General, and would be ordered to report forthwith to General Joseph E. Johnston, near Vicksburg, Mississippi. Orders having been issued accordingly, on the 13th of July General Hill with his staff set out immediately for his new field. When he reached his home in Charlotte he was notified that his destination had been changed, and he would report for duty to General Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga.

Lieutenant-General D. H. Hill found the army of Bragg encamped along the Tennessee river in and around the small town which has since assumed the proportions of a city. Colonel Archer Anderson, chief of Hill's staff, in his able address upon the battle of Chickamauga, says: ‘The corps of Hardee had lately gained as a commander a stern and dauntless soldier from the Army of Northern Virginia in D. H. Hill, whose vigor, coolness and unconquerable pertinacity in fight had already stamped him as a leader of heroic temper. Of the religious school of Stonewall Jackson, his earnest convictions never chilled his ardor for battle, and, in another age, he would have been worthy to charge with Cromwell at Dunbar with the cry, “ Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered.” ’

Hill received from Bragg the warm welcome of a comrade who had seen his metal tried on the hard-fought fields of Mexico. Not less cordial was the greeting of his old class-mate, A. P. Stewart, and [141] of the plucky Pat. Cleburne, who seemed from the first to feel that he had found a soldier-affinity in the congenial spirit of Hill. When at last the scattered hosts had concentrated and confronted each other on the Chickamauga, it was not till after the night of the first day that Bragg made public his purpose to give the entire management of the right wing to Polk and the control of the left to Longstreet. If the enemy's left under the stalwart Thomas could be driven from the Lafayette road, the communication with Chattanooga would be cut off and the retreat and ruin of the enemy inevitable. To accomplish this end Bragg seemed more intent on hurried, than concentrated effort. That grand man, officer and statesman, John C. Breckinridge, at his own request was allowed to take the extreme right, flanked by Forrest and supported in this forward movement by Cleburne on the left. Stewart, having been transferred to Buckner, these two divisions constituted Hill's corps. In rear of the line from which Breckinridge and Cleburne moved to the attack, at nine in the morning, on the last decisive day, was the corps of the old veteran known as ‘Fighting Bill’ Walker, and as eager for the fray as a school-boy for frolic. His command was composed of his own and Liddell's divisions, embracing six brigades led by such dashing soldiers as Ector, Gist and Walthall. But the first lesson learned by a staff officer, who went from the east to the west, was that even an old war-horse like Walker dared not to fire a gun or move an inch, acting upon his own best judgment, without an order brought with due formality through all of the regular channels. The Virginia Brigadier struck his blows where opportunity offered, and reported to his superior that he was striking. The western Brigadier lost his opportunity to strike, waiting for permission to do so. Still, behind Walker stood Frank Cheatham with his splendid division, like their leader, chafing under restraint.

Such were the dispositions in Hill's rear when the impetuous charge of Breckinridge's two right brigades broke the left of Thomas and crossed the fateful road. With 2,000 infantry and a battery of artillery Breckinridge swung his line around at a right angle to that of the enemy and started to sweep down upon their flank; but the left of Breckinridge had encountered an earthwork, as had Cleburne's whole line, and their western foe standing firm, one or two brigades gave way. Another advancing line to fill the gap and the day would be won before noon, and the enemy driven across the Tennessee or [142] captured before night. In vain might Hill plead or Walker swear, when no orders came and no chief could be found to give them. Chafed and disappointed the grand Kentuckian found himself for want of support at last exposed to destruction or capture, and slowly and stubbornly both he and Cleburne fell back and reformed, but much nearer to the enemy than the line from which they advanced. Scarcely had the decimated forces of Hill reformed, when, all too late, Walker went forward with another single line, to be hurled back by the fresh troops that the enemy was rapidly massing on his left to meet the design now developed by our ill-managed movement. Cheatham, meanwhile, was not allowed to budge an inch or fire a gun. Thus was the plan frustrated and the attacking force driven back and cut to pieces in detail for want of a present, active-moving head to strike with the two arms of the right wing at one time. The fierce onslaught of Hill failed, as did the no-less impetuous charge of Walker, because as a chain is no stronger than its most defective link, so, a single advancing line is no stouter than its weakest point.

The splendid conduct of our troops on our right and the dread inspired by Breckinridge's bold charge of the morning, bore fruit, however, in a way entirely unexpected, when it led the enemy to mass so much of his force behind Thomas. This was the occupation of the enemy while Hill and Forrest were riding up and down in front of our line and drawing the fire of the enemy upon the young troop who followed at their heels, and when there was a temporary lull in front of Longtreet on the left and left center.

At last the thunder of artillery and the roar of musketry again burst upon us from along the whole front of the Virginia Lieutenant, while Hill in vain sent messenger after messenger to beg that three lines be formed and a general advance ordered on the right as well as on the left. Just before night General Polk permitted Hill to take charge of the forward movement of the three lines, Walker in front, his own corps composing the second and Cheatham the third. The advance of our attacking column on the left, before that time steady, now became impetuous, and with a momentary wavering of a brigade on the right, we rushed over the breastworks of Thomas and caught 5,000 prisoners in the angle, where Longstreet and Hill met, as they had on many hard-fought fields before, to discuss the events of that day and prepare, as they had hoped, for a still more eventful one that was to follow. But a short time had elapsed when they were [143] joined by Forrest, impatient for orders to pursue the flying foe. When some hours had been passed in the vain effort to learn where the headquarters of the commanding general were located, Longstreet and Hill agreed to divide the responsibility of ordering the immediate pursuit by Forrest, with an assurance that they would ask the privilege of pushing forward to his support at early dawn.

Unable by the most diligent inquiry to open communication with Bragg till the next afternoon, they failed to secure for Forrest the infantry support that would have swept the single division of Thomas out of the gap on Missionary Ridge, or flanked and captured it, without another obstruction in the road to Chattanooga and on to Nashville. Such might have been the fruits of our victory, which, being lost by delay, the last hope of the tottering Confederacy to regain the prestige and restore the confidence lost at Gettysburg and Vicksburg was gone forever.


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