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.]
Returning to the campaign in this quarter, I would remark that the battle of Chickamauga
, if not as decisive as could have been desired, was nevertheless one of the most important and hotly contested engagements of the whole war. It was important not merely in its immediate results, which were of great consequence, but in what it saved us from; for if the Confederates
had lost the day, the enemy in all probability would have wintered in Atlanta
As it is, we have gained six months in which to prepare for the great conflict in this quarter next spring, when a struggle will probably ensue along the line of the Georgia State
road which is without a parallel on the Western
Let us lose no time, therefore, in preparing for the approaching struggle.
Time in which to make all needful preparation has been secured to us by Gen. Bragg
and his brave army, and it will be our own fault if we do not avail ourselves of the opportunity.
Monday, the 21st of September, (the day after the battle,) was spent in caring for the wounded and burying the dead, in gathering up the spoils of our brilliant victory, and in reconnoitering the position of the enemy.
A council of war was called that night by the General
commanding, at which it was determined, as I am credibly informed, to put the army in motion up the Tennessee river
the following day, with the intention of crossing that stream, turning the enemy's left flank, and pushing on across the mountains towards Nashville
Accordingly on the next day the troops were moved by the right flank towards Graysville
, and Chickamauga station
, in pursuance of the resolution come to at the council of war; but that night the whole programme was changed by the Commander-in-Chief
, and the head of the column turned back to Chattanooga
It has been said, and I think correctly said, that if the Confederates
had made a vigorous pursuit on Monday and Tuesday after the battle, before the enemy had recovered from the stunning effects of his disastrous defeat, they might have reoccupied Chattanooga
, captured a large part of the Federal
army, and dispersed the remainder through the mountains north of the Tennessee
, where they would have been an easy prey to our cavalry; or, failing to adopt that plan, if the army had been moved across the river above, and had gained the rear of the enemy, as it could easily have done, that the same results would have followed, together with the enforced evacuation of East Tennessee
If, therefore, Gens. Polk
failed to come to time in McLemore's Cove, and thus prevented the destruction of the Federal
army, impartial justice requires it to be stated that the General
commanding fell into an error in the course he pursued which has been, though it was not necessarily, quite as fatal.
It may be that his transportation was insufficient for a march into the heart of Tennessee
, and that time was necessary to prepare his commissariat for so important an undertaking; yet, granting this to be true, there was nothing to prevent an immediate assault upon Chattanooga
, which, if properly conducted, could hardly have failed to be successful.
But Gen. Lee
made a similar mistake at Fredericksburg
from a want of timely information as to the real condition of the enemy — a mistake which the most sagacious commander is liable to commit — and which, therefore, we should not be too hasty to criticise either in Gen. Bragg
or Gen. Lee
Upon his arrival before Chattanooga
, Gen. Bragg
proceeded to invest the place on the south side of the Tennessee
He covered Lookout Mountain
with his forces, and threw his pickets well down the river below the mountain.
The opinion prevailed for some days that Rosecrans
would attempt to evacuate the town by night, and, consequently, demonstrations were made in force on two successive nights to ascertain, it possible, the situation and designs of the enemy.
But the only result of these midnight reconnaissances was the discovery that the enemy had no intention of abandoning his position, and was fortifying himself as fast as possible.
A few days thereafter some of our best guns were put in position along the foot of Missionary Ridge
and on the north face of Lookout, and a fire opened upon the enemy's lines; but it was soon discovered that the distance was too great for our shot to accomplish anything.
In the meantime Gen. Wheeler
, in obedience to orders from headquarters, proceeded to cross the Tennessee
on the 30th September at Cotton Port, a few miles above Chattanooga
, with a cavalry force of about — sabres.
It required several days to make the entire circuit of the Federal
army, the object of the expedition being to cut the enemy's communications, destroy his trains and commissary stores, and thus compel him to retire from Chattanooga
from want of supplies.
The spoils of the expedition may be summed up in round numbers at 1,200 prisoners captured, and about 1,000 wagons with their contents, and immense commissary and quartermaster stores, destroyed, together with a large number of mules, which were killed.
brought away a considerable number of horses and mules, and all the supplies his men could well carry on horseback.--His own loss was heavy in men and horses, though nothing like that of the enemy.
He returned to the south side of the Tennessee
not far from Huntsville
, and thence proceeded to join the army in front of Chattanooga
The difficulty of subsisting the Federal
army increased as the fall months advanced and the wet season set in. The bridges at Bridgeport
and Running-water, on the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad, had been destroyed, and this fact, together with our position in Lookout Valley
, made it necessary for Rosecrans
to rely upon his wagon trains alone for the transportation of his supplies.
The distance and the mountainous country over which these supplies had to be hauled, and the heavy rains and swollen streams by which his trains were delayed, reduced his successor, Gen. Thomas
, to this unpleasant condition: He must either re-open the railroad line, restrict his troops to quarter rations or less, or yield the position and retire upon Nashville
It was this dilemma, foreseen by the Confederate
commander, that probably decided him to invest Chattanooga
rather than move across the river upon the enemy's rear.
Be this as it may, on the night of the 28th of October, Thomas
threw a force over the Tennessee
, at Brown's Ferry, four or five miles below the town by the river, and a little more than one-fourth that distance by land across Moccasin Bend, seized the heights on the south bank, laid down a pontoon bridge, and rushed over a column of infantry and artillery, which began immediately to entrench and fortify itself.
On the 29th, Gen. Longstreet
, who commanded on the left, was directed to reconnoitre the enemy's position in the valley, ascertain his strength, and make the necessary arrangements to dislodge him. Nothing was done, however, that day or the next, which gave Hooker
— who had reached Bridgeport
with two corps d'arme,
of 12,000 men, from the Potomac
— time to march up from Shellmound
and take position in the valley late in the afternoon of the 30th.
During the following night Gen. Jenkins
was ordered by Gen. Longstreet
to make a night attack, not upon the forces at the ferry, but upon the reinforcements that had come up from below and gone into camp two miles from the ferry.--Jenkins
's command consisted of Hood
's division, except Anderson
Three brigades — Benning
's, and Robertson
's — were ordered to hold the forces at the ferry in check, whilst Jenkins
with his own brigade, assaulted Hooker
's column below.
The attack failed, being badly planned and made by an insufficient force.
Thus the enemy got possession of Lookout Valley
, the railroad, and the river from Brown's Ferry down to Bridgeport
; and thus all doubt was removed as to his ability to subsist his forces in Chattanooga
during the winter.
The occupation of the ferry was the turning point in this part of the campaign.
It not only placed the question of supplies beyond reasonable doubt, but, by opening up a shorter route, enabled Hooker
, with their columns, to form a junction with the main army sooner than they otherwise could have done.
Had they been delayed, the battle of Missionary Ridge
would not have been fought so soon, and more time would have been left Longstreet
to complete his work at Knoxville
Indeed, it is the belief of Gen. Bragg
and intelligent officers generally, that but for the adroit manœuvre by which Thomas
got possession of Lookout Valley
, he would have been forced to abandon Chattanooga
some weeks ago. Even the Federal
newspapers admit that the army was reduced to extremity, and that if they had not got possession of the Valley
as soon as they did, no alternative would have been left them but retreat or starvation.
Previous to the events here related Stevenson
had been sent into East Tennessee
to observe the
movements of Burnside
, and preventin junction of his forces with those at Chattanooga
Subsequently, on the 5th of November, Gen. Longstreet
being an experienced officer, was sent to relieved Stevenson
, who returned with his forces to the main army.
took with him McLaw
's and Hood
's divisions, and two divisions of Wheeler
's cavalry, Wheeler
himself accompanying and commanding his troopers.
Of the operations in East Tennessee
I shall not here speak, not being sufficiently informed of what has been done in that quarter.
It may be stated however, that the expedition was undertaken with the knowledge and approbation of the President
, who visited the Army of Tennessee a short time after the battle of Chickamauga
Opinion is divided as to the wisdom of this division of our forces in the face of an enemy who himself was there expecting reinforcements.
If the expedition had not started, however, it is not improbable that Burnside
would have sent a part of this forces to Chattanooga
, and that we should have had to fight them, if not at Knoxville
, then upon Missionary Ridge
It may be that the wiser plan would have been to employ the cavalry to prevent the junction of Burnside
, and keep Longstreet
, and his veterans at the point of greatest danger.
If they had been on our left at Missionary Ridge
on the 25th ult., there can be no doubt but that the Confederates
would have been as victorious there as they were on the 13th of last December at Fredericksburg
With the exception of a daily exchange of shots by the opposing batteries the situation remained without change until about the 21st of November, when the enemy made a feint in the neighborhood of Stephens's Gap, as if he intended to repeat Rosecrans
's movement upon our left flank.
A column was put in motion in that direction, but it had not proceeded far before it was discovered that the enemy had retired.
Information was received about the same time that Sherman
's corps of 20,000 men had probably passed around to the north of Chattanooga
, and gone to the assistance of Burnside
, and this led Gen. Bragg
to order Cleburne
's and Buckner
's corps to take the cars at Chickamauga Station
and proceed with all possible dispatch to Lenoir Station, on the Chattanooga
and East Tennessee
road, and head off Sherman
, or at all events to joint Longstreet
But only Bushrod Johnson
's and Gracie
's brigades had embarked on the cars when it was ascertained that Sherman
had not gone in the direction at Knoxville
, but was in the vicinity of Chattanooga
ready to unite in an assault upon our positions.
's division and Reynolds
's brigade of Buckner
's division, which had not then left the station, were recalled and returned in time to take part in the great events then evidently at hand.
It was now apparent that a master spirit was directing the movements of the Federal
army, and no doubt was felt that Grant
himself was present.
On Monday forenoon, when the fog lifted, it was discovered that the enemy had massed a heavy force on his left.
This force was deployed into lines of battle, and at 2 P. M. the upper fort opened upon our picket lines, the front line of the enemy advancing rapidly and driving our pickets before them.
In a few minutes the Federal
reached Indian hill, midway between their left and our right, where they rested, having effected a lodgment within easy range of our position.
By morning they had thrown up a line of entrenchments extending for some distance in front of our right wing.
The object of this movement, as understood in high official quarters, was to get camping ground for Sherman
's corps, and to procure firewood for the army.
To the unmilitary eye of the writer, however, it seemed to have a wider and more important bearing.
A demonstration in such great force and at so vital a point, looked as if it were the prelude to a battle for the possession of Missionary Ridge
and Lookout Mountain
It was foreseen at the time, as was stated in my letter of that date, that it was the policy of the Federal
commander by threatening our right wing and our depot at Chickamauga
to force Gen. Bragg
to withdraw a portion of his forces from Lookout Mountain
on the extreme left, and thus render it more easy to carry that position by assault.
Accordingly, no reflecting man in the army was surprised next morning, Tuesday, the 24th November, when Hooker
's guns opened on Lookout.--Gen. Hardee
, who, had been in command on the left, was transferred to the right, and Walker
's division, commanded in his absence by Gen. Gist
, was moved from the mountain during the night and posted on Missionary Ridge
to the right.
was left in command on Lookout his own division and Cheatham
's. These , it was believed, if property be sufficient to hold the position in Lookout Valley
, understood corps of 12,000 men, under Hooker
on of Stevenson
's command was posted mountain; the remainder along the west and north face next the river.
A line of breastworks had been thrown up on the north fact, running from the river up towards Lookout Point
, and passing near Craven's house.
The enemy's batteries in the valley and on Moccasin Point
opened at 11 o'clock, and kept up a heavy fire until half-past 12, when his infantry advanced in double lines.
The crest of the mountain was enveloped in a thick fog, which prevented our batteries from responding.
This fog extended down the mountain side as far as the left of Walthall
's brigade, which was posted in front, and was the first, and indeed almost the only, brigade to receive the shock of the enemy's assault.--Under cover of this fog, it is stated, the enemy gained his left flank.
He and his brigade behaved with great gallantry and fought desperately; but with an overwhelming force in front and a gutting fire on his flank, it was unpassable for him to maintain his ground.
He gave way, therefore, slowly and stubbornly, losing many prisoners and a heavy percentage of killed and wounded, but striking back with the desperation of a wounded gladiator who knows no such word as surrender.
In the meantime Gen. Stevenson
was perched upon Lookout Point
, a spectator of the unequal conflict.
He had six other brigades, some of which finally took part in the conflict, especially Pettus
's and Moore
's, which fought well; but I have the authority of the Commander-in-Chief
for saying they were put in too late to accomplish much good, and that if they had been brought forward at the right time and property handled, the enemy would certainly have been beaten back.
But instead of this, our lines were pushed back from the western slope of the mountain, around the north face, and thence past Craven's house to within a few hundred yards of the road leading to the top of the mountain, when Breckinridge
came up with one of his brigades and assisted materially in cheeking the enemy and in finally driving him back some distance.
During the afternoon it was observed that Grant
continued to extend his lines up the river towards the mouth of the Chickamauga.
Heavy forces were sent up the north bank, also, and then crossed over by a small steamer, which the Confederates
had failed to destroy, to the south side.
These movements rendered it plain that the enemy designed to turn our right and get possession of our depot.
Orders were issued, therefore, to withdraw the forces at the foot of Lookout, and for the whole army to retire across the Chickamauga
during the night.
This order was being executed, when it was discovered about midnight that the army and its trains and stores could not be withdrawn by daylight; and in consequence of this fact Gen. Bragg
decided to mass his troops on Missionary Ridge
and fight it out. Accordingly, his trains were sent to the rear and the army posted along the crest of the ridge from McFarlan's Gap up to the Chickamauga
on the right, a distance of five or six miles. The pickets alone were left in the trenches at the foot of the ridge, except in front of Patton Anderson
It was my opinion then, and is now, that it would have been better if Gen. Bragg
had carried out his original intention and retired across the Chickamauga
His loss of men and guns would have been less, whilst the moral courage and prestige of his army would have been preserved intact.
It is but just to add, however, that it was the universal opinion among officers, including the Commander-in-Chief
, that the advantages of their position would enable the Confederates
to hold the ridge even in the face of the tremendous odds against them; and it was considered of great importance to hold the enemy in check until Longstreet
could effect the reduction of Knoxville
— a consummation which had been unexpectedly delayed.
The question of supplies for the Federal
army having been solved by our loss of Lookout Valley
, there was really no reason for our longer remaining in front of Chattanooga
, except to give our forces operating in East Tennessee
time to accomplish the object of their expedition.
The battle on Missionary Ridge
was fought on the following day, Wednesday, the 25th of November. The fight was opened by the enemy at 10 o'clock A. M. on the right, and on the centre and left between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon. --Hardee
commanded the right wing, his forces consisting of Cleburne
's, commanded by Gist
, and Cheatham
's divisions, Cheatham
having arrived the previous evening.
commanded on the left, his divisions being Stewart
's and Bate
's. Patton Anderson
's division, (Hindman
's,) was in the centre, and had been acting under Hardee
, but the latter could not take charge of it during the battle, owing to the intervening distance, and it was consequently left in the hands of Gen. Anderson
, one of the coolest and most sagacious officers in the entire army.--Reynolds
's brigade, of Buckner
's division, having been turned back at Chickamauga Station
, was temporarily attached to Anderson
As it was only a few days ago that you were furnished with an account of the battle, I need not enter much into detail in this review.
maintained his ground intact until night, inflicting heavy loss upon the enemy, capturing seven flags and over 500 prisoners, and finally retired under orders without the loss of a gun or a prisoner.
Unfortunately, we were not so successful in the centre and on the left.
Half of Anderson
's division, under Brig.-Gen. Deas
, was left (perhaps under a misapprehension of orders) in the trenches at the foot of the ridge, with instructions to retire to the crest whenever the enemy advanced within two hundred yards of their line.
In executing this difficult order against which Gen. Deas
is understood to have protected, the men were much exposed as they ascended the ridge, and so completely exhausted when they reached the crest that they were unfit for duty for fifteen minutes, and many of them actually vomited blood!
It was here that our lines first gave way, Anderson
's old brigade, composed of Mississippians, and one of the best in the Confederate
service, being the first to break, and not Reynolds
's, as was first reported.
strove to meet this new danger by forming a line across the ridge, but his men melted away to the rear in spite of all his efforts, until finally his whole di
vision became involved and retreated.
I would add that the reports in circulation in regard to Deas
's brigade and other brigades in this division, beyond what is here stated, are without foundation.
's division, commanded by Bate
, and not Lewis
, as has been stated, was the next on the left, and was the first in receive the enfilading fire of the enemy on the crest.
had repulsed the enemy handsomely, and would have maintained his position had Anderson
on his right and Stewart
on his left been equally successful.
's brigade, commanded by Col. Tyler
, of Tennessee
, until he was wounded, then by Col. Rudler
, of the 37th Georgia, until he was wounded, and then by Lieut. Col. Smith
, of the same regiment, behaved with conspicuous gallantry.
After the right and left had given way, Col. Smith
found no difficulty in rallying the brigade upon a line of bills in the rear, where a stand was made by Gen. Bate
and the enemy handsomely repulsed.
brigade, commanded by Lieut Col. Finley
, and Lewis
's Kentucky brigade, of the same division, taught with equal spirit.
Indeed, I may say of the Florida
troops generally that I have never known them to fail in the hour of trial.
While these events were transpiring on the right and left centre, Hooker
had got possession of McFarlan's Gap at Rossville
, and was moving around to the rear of our left wing.
It is not improbable, therefore, that the left wing, had it maintained its ground much longer, would have encountered a fresh danger in this flank movement.
commanded the Federal
the centre, and Sherman
the left, Grand being in supreme command of the whole.
's forces, at a low calculation, did not number less than 85,000 men, exclusive of cavalry.
's did not number half so many.
This immense superiority of numbers enabled the Federal
commander to hurl two and three and even four heavy lines against our long and attenuated single line.
But while it was necessary to conform our line to that of the enemy, both in its length and direction.
I am still of opinion that the Confederates
ought to have won the day. Indeed, it is impossible to conceive how the same army could have carried the day at Chickamauga
, where the enemy had the advantage in ground and a force one-third larger than ours, and have lost it on Missionary Ridge
, where, it the disparity in numbers was greater, the position was as favorable to us as it was possible to make it.
Our casualties will probably not exceed 900 killed and 1,500 wounded. Our loss in prisoners especially stragglers, is considerable, exceeding, I fear, 5,000, with their arms.
Of guns we lost thirty-four in the battle, two siege pieces which we destroyed at Chickamauga Station
, and four on the retreat.
These last-mentioned guns (Fingerson
's battery,) have been recovered, the enemy being unable to get them off after his bloody repulse by Cleburne
at Ringgold Gap.
Our loss in stores was inconsiderable, and in wagons about one hundred.
The Federal loss in killed and wounded was far heavier than ours.
In front of our right and Bate
's division the ground was blue with their slain.
The army retired to Chickamauga Station
the night after the battle, and next day marched to Ringgold
, and on the succeeding day, the 27th, reached Dalton
, where it is still encamped.
The pursuit of the enemy was vigorous until the 27th, when it was repulsed by Cleburne
with a loss of 300 prisoners, 2,000 killed and wounded, and three flags.
On the 29th Gen. Bragg
, at his own request, was relieved of the command of the army, and Gen. Hardee
appointed to succeed him.
In conclusion, it may be permitted me to add that in this and my last preceding letter I have sought to tell the truth, without giving offence to any one or provoking controversy.
In my correspondence I know no friends and no enemies.
I am certainly not the apologist of Gen. Bragg
, whom I scarcely know, nor the opponent of any of his officers.
On the contrary, I joined this army not free from prejudice against the former, and not without partiality for the latter.
I do not believe, however, that justice has been done Gen. Bragg
either by the public or some of his subordinates, and with this remark I close this review.