Review of Bragg's last campaign,
Beginning with the Evacuation of Chattanooga
in September, and Ending with the Retreat Upon Dalton
[from our own correspondent.]
The fall campaign in Northern Georgia
has closed, and with it the career of Gen. Bragg
as chief commander of the Army of Tennessee.
The occasion presents a fit opportunity to pass in review the military operations in this quarter, commencing with the evacuation of Chattanooga
on the 7th and 8th of September, and closing with the retreat of the Confederate army upon Dalton
on the 27th ult. This task I now propose to undertake, not in the interest of any leader or faction, but in the interest of history, and to the end that truth may be established and justice done, as far as human frailty will admit, to all concerned.
The campaign just closed constitutes one of the most interesting and important passages in our whole struggle; and while I cannot hope to escape error in the effort to gather up the materials which are necessary to a correct understanding of it, and which now depend for their preservation, at least to a considerable degree, upon the frail memorize of men, themselves as perishable as the paper upon which I write, I shall nevertheless bring to the discharge of the duty a mind free from partiality and prejudice, a calm spirit and an unruffled temper, and an honest resolution to "be just and fear not."
Geography of the country.
A map of the surrounding country would enable the reader to appreciate more fully the physical difficulties against which the Confederates
have had to contend — difficulties not less serious than the great superiority of the enemy's forces.
, as is well known, is situated in a bend in the Tennessee
just above the point where the river cleaves its way through the great Cumberland Mountains
On the South
side of the river these mountains are known by different names, and, like the river, they run in a southwesterly direction, finally disappearing in Alabama
. Raccoon Mountain
and Sand Mountain
, which lie next to the river, are parts of the same range, being separated by Nickajack Cove
To the east of this range, and separated by a narrow valley, is Lookout Mountain
This valley is known as Lookout Valley
up to the water-shed, and as Willis's Valley beyond, the dividing line being where the water runs northeast and southwest in opposite directions.
To the east of Lookout Mountain
is Chattanooga Valley
, so called after the creek of that name, and then comes, still further to the east Missionary Ridge
Each one of these mountain ranges abuts upon the Tennessee river
. Missionary Ridge
disappears in a series of kills a few miles below Chattanooga
, only to reappear again under the name of Peavine Ridge
, and again lower down under the name of Pigeon Mountain
; the latter uniting near the Alabama
line with Lookout Mountain
, and forming an acute angle. --The space enclosed between these two mountains is known as McLemore's Cove, the entrance to which from the west is by Stephens's and Cooper's Gaps
in Lookout Mountain
, and from the east by Dug Gap in Pigeon Mountain
North of Chattanooga
and beyond the Tennessee
are Walden's Ridge
and the Cumberland Mountains
proper stretching away to the northeast.
The distance from Chattanooga
is twenty miles; to Bridgeport
, twenty-eight; to Caperton's Ferry, on the Tennessee
, opposite Stevenson
, about forty.
's ferry there is a public road leading across Sand Mountain
, in Willa's Valley, and thence through Stephens's and Cooper's Gaps
in Lookout Mountain
, passing through McLemore's Cove and across Pigeon Mountain
at Dug Gap.
is about sixty-five miles southwest of Chattanooga
, and is reached by a good wagon road, which passes through Lafayette
, about twenty-three miles distant, and is known as the Lafayette
This road crosses the Chickamauga
, which lies east of Missionary Ridge
, at Lee
& Gordon's Mills, twelve miles from Chattanooga
Hoping the reader will bear these general geographical outlines in his memory, I pass on to a resume of the
Operations Preceding the battle of Chickamauga.
The Federal army consisted of four corps--Thomas
's, and Granger
's — the whole numbering about 75,000 men, exclusive of Stanley
's cavalry corps, estimated at 15,000, making 90,000 in all.
's corps having taken position immediately beyond the heights which overlook the Tennessee river
, the main body of the enemy, consisting of Thomas
's and McCook
's corps, (Granger
's being held in reserve,) crossed the river on the 1st of September at Caperton's Ferry, and moved across Sand Mountain
into Wills's Valley, in the direction of Rome
, thus placing themselves on our left flank, the range of Lookout Mountain
, varying from 1,500 to 2,000 feet in height, intervening.
This movement rendered it necessary for Gen. Bragg
to retire from Chattanooga
and move his forces in the direction of Rome
also, in order to strike the enemy as he debouched from the mountains into the open country.
was accordingly ordered to watch carefully the mountain passes, and General Forrest
to cover the front of our advance.
The army moved on the evening of the 7th and morning of the 8th of September, in two columns, Gens. Polk
on the direct road to Lafayette
, and Gens. Walker
on the Peavine Church road.
On the night of the 8th Polk
bivouacked on the banks of the Chickamauga, near Lee
& Gordon's mills, where the General
commanding established his headquarters.
On the 9th Gen. Polk
remained quiet, Gen. Hill
moved on to Lafayette
, and Walker
continued in the same direction, wading slowly through the dust which, ankle deep under foot when disturbed by the tread of so many thousands of men and horses, floated up in a dense, hazy, yellow cloud, which completely obscured the troops from view and choked them almost to suffocation in the evening it was reported that a considerable force of the enemy, supposed to be a portion of Thomas
's corps, had emerged from Wills's Valley through Stephens's Gap into McLemore's Cove.
This cove or valley is from five to six miles in width at its widest part, and opens out into the level country east of the Lookout
range, nearly opposite to Lee
's and Gordon
's Milist the place known as Crawfish Springs being situated directly in its entrance or mouth.
Along its lowest level, but separated by a prolongation of Missionary Ridge
, run Chattanooga creek
and the Chickamauga
, on their way to the Tennessee
, into which they empty their waters, the former between Chattanooga
and the base of Lookout, and the latter about five miles above Chattanooga
There are several good roads in the cove, the intersection of the principal one of which with the road leading from Stephens's Gap, through Dug Gap, to Lafayette
, constitutes what is known as Davies's Cross Roads.
It having been ascertained that the force in the cove did not exceed eight or ten thousand men, comprising, it was subsequently learned, two divisions of Thomas
's corps, under Negley
, Gen. Bragg
determined to crush them by a combined movement of a superior force.
Accordingly, on the night of the 9th Gen. Hindman
, of Polk
's corps, was ordered to move his division rapidly into the cove (by the Anderson
road) to Davies's Cross Roads, where he would communicate with Gen. Hill
, who was at the same time ordered to send or take Cleburne
's division from Lafayette
by the Dug Gap road to the same point, the combined force to fall suddenly upon the enemy at the foot of Stephens's Gap, and overpower him. Hindman
moved promptly from the mill, but Hill
having reported the morning of the next day (the 10th) that he would be unable to cooperate in consequence of obstructions in the road through Dug Gap, which he stated could not be removed in less than 24 hours, the former was halted at Morgan's house, about four miles from Devices a Cross Roads
In consequence of the difficulties reported by Gen. Hill
's corps was ordered to join Hindman
; the junction, however, was not effected until some time during the afternoon.
In the meantime Gen. Bragg
, who was still at Lee
& Gordon's Mills, was informed that McCook
's corps and the greater part of the enemy's cavalry, after proceeding down Wills's Valley in advance of Thomas
, were endeavoring to cross the mountain opposite to Alpine
, fifteen or twenty miles southwest of Lafayette
, for the purpose of destroying our lines of communication and cutting off our retreat, and that Crittenden
's corps had crossed the Tennessee
, and was pressing on our rear toward Lee
& Gordon's Mills by the road to Lafayette
The situation had now become exceedingly interesting and exciting. --Rosecrans
, evidently under the impression that our little army was flying before him like a flock of frightened sheep, and determined that it should not escape, had divided his forces into three columns, which were moving upon us from as many different quarters.
To fall upon these columns separately and overcome them in detail, before they could unite, was the plain teaching no less of common sense than of military science; but the strategical skill necessary to enable a commander, operating against a largely superior force, to manœuvre his army into so favorable a position, is possessed by few, and has seldom before been exhibited during the present war. Elated with the prospect, the commanding General
, as he mounted his horse that night to proceed to Lafayette
, remarked to one of his staff officers (Surgeon T. G. Richardson
) that "no commander ever had a better opportunity to annihilate his adversary;" and added, "if we fall it is our own fault,"
Having sent orders to Gen. Hindman
, who had now not less than 15,000 men in his command, to resume his movement up the cove and strike the enemy at daylight the following morning, Gen. Bragg
rode to Lafayette
, where he arrived after midnight, and conferring with Gen. Hill
, who did not seem to appreciate the situation, he determined to take charge in person of the movement through Dug Gap.
With this view he ordered Cleburne
to remove the obstructions in the read, which was accomplished in two hours time, instead of twenty-four.
To insure success beyond all peradventure, Walker
was directed to move out to the support of Cleburne
, and Gen. Polk
, with Cheatham
's division, to halt at Dr. Anderson
's house, where he could check Crittenden
, in case the latter should press down and attempt to get in the rear of Hindman
At S. A. M. orders were repeated to Hindman
to attack the enemy in flank and rear at daylight at all hazards, informing him at the same time that Cleburne
, supported by Walker
, would move as soon as his (Rindman's) guns were heard.
The greatest promptness and dispatch were accessary, as Crittenden
was approaching in rear, and McCook
threatening the lines below.
The General and his staff were in the saddle before daylight, and accompanied Walker
's corps to Dug Cap, which, it will be understood, is about five miles west of Lafayette
Here, almost within eight of the enemy, who had moved down from Stephens's Gap, and were encamped around Davis's Cross Roads, he waited hour after hour, anxiously but vainly listening for Hindman
Thus slowly passed the forenoon; every hour seemed a day. Staff officers had been sent to Gen. Hindman
to ascertain the cause of the delay and to urge him forward, regardless of what he might think would be the consequences.
About one o'clock, fearing lest Crittenden
, who had reached Lee
& Gordon's mills, might press down and, overpowering Chestham with a largely superior force, enter the cove in the rear of Hindman
, another staff officer was dispatched to the latter to say to him that, as he had failed to make the attack at the time directed, he must now exercise his discretion, and move forward or retire, as he might deem most prudent.
About two hours there after guns were heard in the cove below, and Cleburne
's division moved promptly down, but only to see the rear of the enemy retiring through Stephens's Gap.
He had discovered his danger and fled; but it was satisfactorily ascertained from citizens in the vicinity that he did not begin to retreat before 12 o'clock.
The causes of the failure on the part of Gen. Hindman
have not been made public, but his subsequent suspension is sufficient evidence that his report was not considered satisfactory.
If the attack had been made as ordered, the enemy would have been completely overwhelmed, and McCook
would have been as completely at our mercy.
Indeed, by a rapid movement upon Crittenden
, who would then have been easily destroyed, we could have crossed the Tennessee
, and falling upon Rosecrans
's lines of communication, have isolated McCook
, who could not possibly have escaped; or our army could have been divided, and one-half sent through Stephens's Gap to cut off McCook
, then many miles below at Alpine
, and the other thrown back upon Crittenden
Thus, with but trifling loss on our part, would have been accomplished the annihilation of the grand army of the Cumberland, and nothing would have intervened to prevent us from marching our victorious columns to the banks of the Ohio
, and there demanding a peace from our insolence.
Notwithstanding the mortifying failure of Gen. Hindman
in McLemore's Cove there was still another opportunity, which, if promptly taken advantage of, promised hardly less brilliant results.
This was to turn upon Crittenden
, who, having crossed the Chickamauga
with a part of his corps, and sent the remainder in the direction of Ringgold
, advanced beyond Lee
and Gordon's Mills, and crush him before Thomas
could reach him. Forrest
, and Armstrong
, had with a small force of cavalry been bravely contesting his advance, but still he continued slowly to progress.--The plan here indicated was immediately determined upon, and the next day, (Saturday, the 12th,) General Polk
was ordered to move his corps and Walker
's division to Rock Spring
, about midway between Lafayette
and Gordon's Mills, and fail immediately upon Crittenden
, whose forces, it will be borne in mind, were not concentrated, a portion having gone in the direction of Ringgold
at noon, and General Hindman
reached Rock Spring
at dusk, and during the night reported to the General
commanding that the enemy was in line of battle before him, and that he (Polk
) had, after calling a council of his officers, determined to take a defenses position!
In reply Gen. Bragg
renewed the order to strike the enemy at daylight and to add to the security of the movement, notwithstanding our superiority in point of numbers, he directed Buckner
to march his corps five miles on the road to be in supporting distance.
To make the order, if possible, more binding Gen. Bragg
also wrote to Polk
a letter, to which the importance of the movement was fully set forth, and a desire expressed that his order would be carried out as promptly as possible.
So great was his anxiety about the success of the movement, that Gen. Bragg
, notwithstanding his exhaustion from want of rest, determined to be present, and accordingly the next morning found him in the saddle.
He reached Gen. Polk
's headquarters about half-past 8 o'clock, and found him still occupying his excellent line of defence, hoping that the enemy, whom he had been sent to attack, would come up and attack him A reconnaissance in force was then ordered, and it was discovered about the middle of the day that Crittenden
had retired a few hours before beyond the Chickamauga
No reason has been furnished the public for this non-compliance with orders which were most emphatic and unmistakable; yet, one cannot but hope and trust that an officer of such great intelligence, a veteran who has rendered such valuable services, will be able to explain his conduct in his official report to the satisfaction of the country.
If Gen. Polk
had beaten Crittenden
, which he could easily have done in two hours time, one-third of the enemy's forces would have been placed hors du combat;
and with the advantages thus gained, we could have marched directly to Chattanooga
and beyond; or, in case Thomas
had come up, have massed our whole army upon them, and scattered them to the four winds of Heaven.
In the meantime, whilst Crittenden
was thus slipping from the hands of Gen. Polk
had reached Alpine
, distant about twenty miles to the southwest of Lafayette
On Sunday the 13th, his advance cavalry appeared in sight of Lafayette
, on the Alpine
road, and vigorously assaulted the picket line of Gen. Breckinridge
; but they were quickly repulsed and considerably damaged.
The events here related at length awakened Gen. Rosecrans
to a full appreciation of his critical situation.
He saw at once that he had not to contend with a retreating and disheartened army; but, on the contrary, he had before him compact and solid messes, eager to measure strength with him wherever he might be found.
He accordingly issued orders for a concentration of his forces, with a view to ward off an attack, and gain, if possible, his new base at Chattanooga
Accordingly, on the 13th McCook
was directed to retrace his steps from Alpine
, and send two divisions of his corps to support Gen. Thomas
He was ordered to reach Daugherty's Gap, at the head of McLemore's Cove, that night.
On the person of Brig--Gen. Lytle
, after the battle of Chickamauga
, was found an order from McCook
to return to the head of the valley and await further instructions.
On this order was the echograph endorsement of Lytle
, in these words: "Gen. Stanley
says this command ought to get out of here before morning." On the 15th McCook
had reached Johnson
's creek, in Lookout Mountain
, and be matched thence into the cove by Stephens's Gap.
On the 17th orders were most urgent and often repeated for him to move up, and on the night of the 18th and morning of the 19th nearly the whole of his corps appeared on the field of Chickamauga
, where Thomas
had preceded him, and where Crittenden
The whole Federal army, which a few days before was widely separated, was thus concentrated.
On the other hand, Gen. Bragg
having been fooled by the disobedience of his leading officers in his efforts to destroy the enemy in detail, determined to mass his forces and burl them upon the combined and greatly superior army of his adversary.
He as yet did not know of reinforcements coming from Virginia
, beyond the fact that a brigade had arrived at Atlanta
, and rumor stated that others would be there in a few days.
The movement was therefore determined upon irrespective of the approaching assistance, which, however, was by no means unacceptable, and was of the most essential service in the great battle that followed on the 19th and 20th of September.
In execution of this design, on the 16th Buckners and Walker
were directed to move the next day and take position on Peavine Creek
to take position on the left of Buckner
, and extending toward Glass's Mills, on the Chickamauga
to bring up the rear, moving in the direction of Lee
& Gordons's Mills, and watching the mountain passes on the left; Forrest
to cover the front and right flank, and Wheeler
to pass to the left of Polk
and protect his flank.
Gen. Bushrod Johnson
's brigade was at Ringgold
, to which point the reinforcements as they arrived at Atlanta
These orders were executed on the afternoon of the 17th, at which time army headquarters were established at Lee's Tanyard, about five miles from the Chickamauga
, and near the centre of the movement across that stream.
Crossing of the Chickamauga.
Early on the morning of the 18th of September the necessary orders were issued for the crossing of the Chickamauga
was to cross at Read
's bridge, and then turn to the left and sweep up the stream towards Lee
& Gordon's Mills.
was to cross at Alexander
's bridge, or the fords near the bridge; Buckner
, at Tedford's ford, and unite in the movement.
was directed, if not too strongly opposed by the enemy, to cross at Lee
& Go don's Mills; but should he meet with much resistance, he would move to the right and cross at Dallon's or Tedford
's, whichever might be most practicable.
was to cover the left flank against any advance of the enemy from the cove, and press forward the cavalry to the front to develop the strength and movements of the enemy.
If this movement were successful to the extent of the designs of the General Commanding
, the Confederates
should secure possession of the Lafayette
road, and thus be on the rear and flank of the enemy, and cut him off from Chattanooga
, with the right column, pressed forward and crossed at Read's Bridge early in the afternoon, after stubborn resistance, and advanced westwardly about a mile to a steam saw mill, wheeled to the left, and at night bivouacked nearly opposite Tedford's ford.
, with the brigade's of Liddell
and Walchall, met the enemy at Alexander's Bridge
and drove him across the river after a severe fight, but was forced to move further down the stream and cross at Byron's ford in consequence of the destruction of the bridge by the enemy.
It was into when he crossed, though from no fault of his, and advancing a short distance westwardly towards the Lafayette
read he bivouacked a little to the left and in rear of Johnson
, after a sharp resistance, crossed one division over, Polk
bivouacked on the east bank of the Chickamauga.
On the morning of the 19th line of battle was formed by the troops.
, of Longstreet
's corps, who had arrived during the night, took command of Johnson
's column, and formed the right, being in the first line, Walker
forming the second line.--Buckner
was on the left in the first lines Chestham in his rear in the second.
The line thus formed was ordered to move up the Chickamauga
was directed to move down the east bank of the stream, and cross at the nearest ford and support the line of battle.
Battle of Chickamauga.
The battle of Chickamauga
, which ensued upon these movements, was fought on Saturday and Sunday, the 19th and 20th of September, and resulted in one of the most complete victories which have crowned the Confederate
arms during the war.--So much has been written about the battle, however, and it is so well understood by the public, that I need not stop to furnish a fresh description of it. The Federal had greatly the advantage, both in position and numbers, and yet we drove them from all their positions, captured near 8,600 prisoners, 43 guns, 25,000 small arms, more than a score of flags, and other trophies and material.
Our own loss was heavy, being about 14,000 killed and wounded, and some prisoners.
But many of the wounds were comparatively slight.
Complete as the victory was it would have been much more decisive if the orders of the Commander-in-Chief
to renew the conflict at daylight Sunday morning had been obeyed.
Indeed, had his orders here and in McLemore's Cove been carried out, there is not little reason to doubt that the Confederate army would to-day be in Nashville
or beyond, instead of at Dalton
Whose fault is it that we are not now well on the way to the Chief
Is it Gen. Bragg
's? Let the people do justice, even at the cost of inveterate prejudices.
Let us conclude this account, already too long, with the following apposite extract from Napier
's Peninsular War:
"When Sylis, after all his victories, styled himself a happy rather than a great General, be discovered his profound knowledge of the military art. Experience had taught him that the speed of one legion, the inactivity of another, the obstinacy, the ignorance, or the treachery of a subordinate officer, was sufficient to mar the best concocted plan — nay, that the intervention of a shower of rain, an unexpected ditch, or an apparently trivial accident, might determine the fare of a whole army.
It taught him that the vicissitude of war are so many that disappointment will attend the wisest combinations; that a ruinous defeat, the work of chance, often closes the career of the boldest and most sagacious of Generals
, and that to judge of a commander's conduct by the event alone is equally unjust and unphilosophical — a refuge of vanity and ignorance.
In my next letter I shall resume the narrative of events in this quarter, and bring it down to the retirement of Gen. Bragg
from the command of this army.