The great battle of Chickamauga.

[from our own Correspondent.]
Near Chattanooga, Tenn., September 23d, 1863.
The most important battle of the war, after that of the first Manassas, has just been fought and won by the Confederate arms.--The result is told in a few words: There is no longer an armed enemy on the soil of Georgia! Only the Federal dead, wounded, and prisoners, now remain. The multitudinous host, swelling with confidence and pride, who lately invaded that powerful State, threatening to overrun her territory and devastate her homes, has been defeated and forced to seek refuge behind barricades and breast works along the banks of the Tennessee river. Let every heart in all our suffering land give thanks to Almighty God for His great kindness for this signal deliverance.

Having been detained on the route, I arrived upon the field too late to witness the battle. I am also almost wholly uninformed of the organization of the various corps, divisions, and brigades which compose the Army of Tennessee. Under these circumstances I am constrained to rely, in great part, upon the statements of others who were in a position to be well informed, and do not pretend to speak with absolute certainty, or to enter much into detail. But there is one fact which may be affirmed with great confidence and emphasis, to wit: that the Confederate troops never fought better; nor did any other troops upon any other battle-field ever conduct themselves with higher courage or more distinguished gallantry. Longstreet's veterans and Bragg's braves entered into a generous rivalry, and each strove to set an example of daring and to out do the other. The one rushed to the conflict with their old battle flags, bearing upon their ample folds the inscriptions of the first and second "Manassas," "Seven Pines," "Malvern Hill," "Fredericksburg," and "Chancellorsville," and fully resolved to wave those glorious standards in triumph over a Western, as they had already done over an Eastern, foe. The other, conscious of their own manhood, and yielding to none in high resolve and dauntless courage, yet stung by the memory of former disasters, went upon the field with their minds and hearts fully made up never to quit it but as victors, nor until they had proven to all the world that they were the worthy brothers of the heroes of the Chickahominy and the Rappahannock. Before men thus animated and thus resolved, many of whom (the Georgians) fought in view of their household gods, nothing could stand and live. Their fierce battle cries rung out above the din and uproar of the mighty strife — the trumpet notes of victory to Confederate arms, and the knell of defeat and death to the enemy.--Great clouds of yellow dust and blue smoke from the guns and burning woods enveloped the field and the struggling combatants, and, ascending from the plains, settled upon the crests of the hills and mountains in festoons of fantastic shape; but, deep as was the gloom, there were flashing eyes there that saw through it all, and followed with a steady gaze the path that led to victory.

Nor were Bragg and Longstreet insensible to the feeling which animated their followers. To them it was the last opportunity to reverse the decrees of a hit hereto unpropitious fortune; to the other it was a new field of hope and ambition, where another blow might be struck for his country, and fresh laurels gathered for his own brow. Each did his duty nobly, as did all then officers and men, and the rewards of a grateful country await them. Only portions of two of Longstreet's divisions arrived in time to take part in the fight, but they were a host within themselves. They were Benning's, Law's, and Robertson's brigades, of Hood's division, and Kershaw's and Humphrey's brigades, of McLaw's. But let us proceed with the battle.

It is already known that General Bragg deemed it prudent to withdraw his forces from Chattanooga and East Tennessee, and to retire into the State of Georgia, and there await reinforcements. The enemy's cavalry penetrated as far as Ringgold and Tunnel Hill, on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, our own cavalry, unfortunately, setting fire to the bridges as they retreated. Several affairs between outposts followed on Thursday and Friday, the 17th and 18th inst., and on the 19th a heavy skirmish ensued, amounting almost, if not quite, to a general battle, in which Hood and his veterans displayed great spirit and resolution. Gen. Bragg advanced upon the enemy, driving in his outposts and skirmishers, and gaining important advantages. He considered it best, probably, to strike before Rosecrans could be reinforced, and even before all his own reinforcements could arrive. The Federal commander was evidently surprised by the vigorous movements of Bragg, from whom he expected only a feeble resistance. Even as late as Sunday morning, when the Confederates deployed on the west bank of the Chickamauga, he was hardly prepared for a serious attack from an army which he supposed would be only too glad to effect its escape.

The great battle was fought on the west bank of the Chickamauga on Sunday, the 20th day of September. The line of battle extended east and west across the boundary line between Walker and Catoosa counties, resting here and there on the bends in the Chickamauga river, a very crooked stream, running east and northeast and emptying into the Tennessee above Chattanooga. D. H. Hill commanded on the right, Polk in the centre, and Longstreet on the left. The command of Longstreet was composed of such of the brigades of Hood's and McLaws's divisions as had come up, and Hindman's, Preston's, Stewart's, and Bushrod Johnson's divisions of the army of Tennessee. The three last constituting the corps of that intrepid officer, Maj. Gen. Buckner. These forces held the extreme left, and were opposed to the right wing of the enemy, which rested upon the mountain and occupied a strong position. Hill's corps on the right was composed of Breckinridge's and Cleburne's fine divisions. I am not yet informed of the composition of Polk's command, which occupied the centre, nor of Walker's corps which was held in reserve.

By order of Gen. Bragg the attack was commenced about 10 o'clock Sunday morning, on the extreme right, and was taken up by each succeeding division to the left, reaching Longstreet's left at 11 o'clock, and thus taking one hour for the wave of battle to roll from one end of the line to the other. On the right and in the centre the attack was not successful in the early part of the day. The enemy had massed a heavy force on this part of the field, and maintained his position with so much stubbornness that Walker was ordered up with his reserves to the support of Hill and Polk. He moved forward in superb style, and fell upon the enemy like a thunderbolt; but the Federal columns still stood their ground and fought with desperate gallantry.

In the meantime Longstreet had been steadily pushing back the enemy on the left, meeting, no check and carrying everything before him. Under his orders Buckner executed a successful flank movement, whilst Hood and others made a vigorous assault in front. The effect of this combined attack was to force the Federals to abandon that part of the field and to seek a position on a high ridge. They had not more than formed their lines, however, before the brigades of Kershaw and Humphreys, of McLaw's division, under command of Kershaw, (McLaw not yet having arrived with the remainder of his division,) were ordered to assault the ridge. Here a desperate struggle ensued.--Kershaw carried the position again and again, and lost it as often. It was evident that the enemy had the advantage both in position and numbers, but the brave Carolinians and Mississippians did not stop to consult the odds against them. Gen. Longstreet very properly, however, sent Gracie's, Kelley's, and Trigg's brigades, of Preston's heroic division, to their support. A vigorous and simultaneous assault was then made, and the enemy finally driven with great slaughter

from the crest of the ridge and down its side. Preston and his entire command behaved with distinguished gallantry, and, like the veteran Kershaw and his loyal followers, excited the admiration of all who witnessed their conduct. Kershaw captured nine guns, a number of small arms, and some prisoners; and Humphreys took 435 prisoners, four regimental standards, and one headquarter flag.

Hindman, whose position was next on the left, was not idle while this struggle was going on. He engaged the enemy in his front, and after a fierce encounter compelled him to retire along with the rest of the Yankee forces.

The advantages which Longstreet had gained on the left could but arrest the attention of Rosecrans, who consequently detached a heavy force from his left wing and centre and sent it to the support of his right.--This important movement did not escape the vigilant eyes of the Confederates. Gen. Law, who succeeded to the command of Hood's division after the latter was dangerously wounded, ordered a battery of ten guns to be pushed forward to a position from which it could enfilade the reinforcing column as it advanced. This was late in the afternoon, and at a time when Preston and Johnson's divisions of Buckner's corps, and Kershaw, and Humphreys, of McLaws's division, had again become engaged with the enemy in a desperate conflict. After gaining possession of the ridge as heretofore described, they had continued the pursuit until they came up with the retiring foe, who turned upon his pursuers and once more attempted to make a stand. The reinforcing column was about to wheel into position, when the battery of ten guns opened upon it a terrific enfilading fire. About the same time Lt. Col. Sorrel, of Longstreet's staff, ordered Stewart's division to advance and Call upon the flank of the column. The shock was terrible.--The enemy halted, staggered backwards, fell into confusion, and finally feed, followed by those to whose assistance they had gone. --Indeed, they were badly whipped on this part of the line, and lost largely in prisoners and killed and wounded. About 3,000 prisoners were taken. In addition to the guns captured by Kershaw, Hood's division took twenty-one, thirteen of which were brought off by Law's brigade, and eight by Benning's. Each of these last-named officers were conspicuous for good conduct. But this was true of all the officers and men, and I need not stop to particularize one more than another. Gen. Hood's wound, which has resulted in the amputation of his thigh, is deplored by the whole army. A more useful and gallant officer is not to be found in the Confederate service.

But the manœuvre by which the Federal commander sought to reinforce his right wing did not escape the notice of Polk, Walker and Hill. They detected the movement and again attacked the enemy's centre and left wing, now reduced by the reinforcements sent to oppose the victorious advance of Longstreet. This time their assault was successful. The foe was driven back at every point, on the right, centre and left. The day had been won; the enemy were flying from the field. Night alone put an end to the conflict, and saved him from a ruinous defeat, if not from annihilation.

Gen. Hill speaks in high terms of Breckinridge and Cleburne, and their brave commands. Polk and Walker acquired fresh renown; and the bold and intrepid Forrest, the gallant Wheeler, and the spirited Wharton, with their hardy troopers, were omnipresent; at one moment harassing the flanks of the enemy, at another beating back his advances; now hovering on the hills and mountains, and anon swooping through the valleys like eagles upon their prey. Indeed, the universal report is that every man did his duty, and none more than General Longstreet. The result speaks for itself, and is the eulogy of all, of the privates as well as the officers.

Of the loss sustained by either side I am not sufficiently informed to speak with any degree of certainty. The number of killed is small compared with the number of wounded, which is unusually large, and the wounds are unusually slight. Many of the wounded of the enemy fell into our hands, and all of his dead, together with about forty pieces of artillery, several thousand small arms, between six and eight thousand prisoners, (some of whom were wounded,) and between twenty-five and thirty stands of colors. Among our own casualties were several general and field officers, including Brig.-Gens. Preston Smith and Deishler killed, Maj.-Gen. Hood badly wounded, and Brig.-Gen. Dan. Adams severely wounded and in the hands of the enemy. Brig.-Gen. Benning received a slight wound, though he still remains in the saddle.

Monday was devoted to the care of the wounded, the burial of the dead, and the gathering up of the arms and other trophies of the battle. The enemy withdrew to Missionary Ridge Sunday night, and on Monday night continued his retreat to Chattanooga and the Tennessee river. Yesterday the Confederates followed up and took position in front of the town, where they still remain. The Federals are crouching on the river bank behind entrenchments, and are busily engaged in erecting additional defences. They have a good position in a bend of the river strongly fortified in front, and their flanks well protected. It is hoped Gen. Bragg will find some way to manœuvre them out of their hole without a direct attack.--Possibly an energetic pursuit Monday morning would have compelled them to recross the river; but this is not certain.


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