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Doc. 123.-battle of Chickamauga.

A National account.1

headquarters army of the Cumberland, Monday, Sept. 21, 1863.
The rebel army, after evacuating Chattanooga, retired to La Fayette, twenty-eight miles to the southward, concentrated his troops at that point, restored their courage and hopes by the promise of reenforcements, and awaited the arrival of the same. Meantime he took possession of the gaps in Pigeon Mountain, (which General Rosecrans must cross in order to reach the Georgia State road and the great railroad which formed Bragg's line of communication with Atlanta,) and carefully fortified them. This obstruction delayed for some hours the advance of our forces, which had already crossed the Raccoon and Lookout Mountains, and gave the enemy time not only to recover their spirits, but to receive a portion of their reenforcements.

Hitherto our army had been marching in three great columns — Crittenden, followed by Granger, by way of Chattanooga; Thomas, by way of Trenton; and McCook, with Stanley's cavalry, still further to the southward. The daily increasing numbers and boldness of the enemy compelled a concentration of our forces as rapidly as the nature of the case would admit, and by evening of the tenth inst., the whole army was in line along the West-Chickamauga, between the Lookout and Pigeon Mountains, and just to the east of that low chain of wooded hills called Mission Ridge.

On Thursday, the seventeenth, the army shifted toward the north, contracted its lines, and, as the enemy's demonstrations became each hour more threatening, prepared for battle.

On Friday morning the extreme left of the army rested upon the Chickamnauga, at Gordon's Mill, the point where the La Fayette road crosses the Chickamauga, about twelve miles south-west of Chattanooga. The right could only be loosely defined, and was in a constant state of preparation to shift northward, in order to baffle the rebels, who seemed bent on turning our left and getting between us and Chattanooga.

About eleven A. M., hearing some cannonading to the northward, I started from near the centre of our lines, and, riding past Palmer's and Van Cleve's divisions, came upon General Wood's troops at Gordon's Mill. Here had this dauntless commander been stationed for a week, liable at any moment to be attacked from La Fayette by the whole army of the enemy, and cut to pieces before assistance could reach him. But it was a matter of the first importance that, while Crittenden's main body was moving to form a junction with Thomas, the rebels should not be allowed to get in the rear of the former and take Chattanooga. Consequently, Wood was ordered to hold this important point at all hazards, and as long as possible, and if over-powered, to fall back to Rossville, renew the fight there, and then, if he could not sustain himself, to retreat to the foot of Lookout Mountains, and at the narrow passage between it and the river to fight while a man remained. To execute his difficult and perilous task General Wood had but two brigades, Harker's and Buell's, General Wagner's command, of his division, having been left in Chattanooga.

On Thursday night the concentration of our forces in the vicinity of the mill promised these faithful guardians relief; but on Friday morning, at the hour I have mentioned, General Wood found that his two brigades, still in position, constituted the extreme left division of the army in line, only Wilder's mounted infantry and Minty's cavalry being any further down the Chickamauga.

A stronger position naturally than that which General Wood occupied can scarcely be imagined. The creek at Gordon's Mill bends round in the form of a semicircle, the convexity being toward the south, whence the enemy would have advanced toward General Wood. An eminence, forming what would be a diameter of the circle if completed, runs from east to west, uniting the extremities of the bend. Upon this, General Wood had placed his artillery. The creek itself, of considerable depth, and with a bank several feet high upon our side of it, constituted a splendid ditch, and all along its bank lay Wood's [410] men, behind a rude but efficient breastwork of logs and rails.

I am particular in describing this position, because the enemy's movements made for the purpose of avoiding it were the immediate cause of bringing on the battle of Saturday.

This state of things continued until one o'clock, when Van Cleve moved from his place in line, and took position upon Wood's left, while Palmer, marching by the left flank, came into communication with Wood's right. This made an immense opening between General Crittenden's corps and the left wing of General Thomas, which was eventually filled by another general shifting from south to north.

Meantime the sound of a brisk cannonade in the direction of Ringgold indicated either that our mounted troops or General Granger's corps were engaged with the enemy. From half-past 1 to three, couriers came dashing past, now from Minty and now from Wilder, bearing despatches to Wood, or Crittenden, or Rosecrans, the general tenor of which was, that they were fighting the enemy briskly, and, although meeting with some losses, were firmly holding their ground.

In fact, there were to-day three separate affairs, each one of which is of sufficient importance to engage for a moment the attention of the historian.

By marching on the east side of the Tennessee, from Bridgeport immediately to the rear and left of General Crittenden, General Gordon Granger, with the reserve corps, had reached a position a few miles south of Chattanooga. On Friday morning he sent General Steadman with two of his brigades, Colonel Dan McCook's and Colonel John G. Mitchell's, to beat up the enemy's quarters in the vicinity of Reid's Bridge over the Chickamauga, and discover his intentions in that direction. The movement was successful. Colonel McCook claims to have first encountered Longstreet's men; and the fact that he brought in some twenty-five prisoners from McNary's brigade of Hood's division, is pretty solid evidence that his claim is well founded. Advancing toward Ringgold, the two brigades, after some skirmishing, were about to engage a much larger force of rebels, when a peremptory order arrived for them to fall back immediately to their old position.

On Thursday, Minty and Wilder were at Reid's Bridge, but on Friday morning Wilder moved to Anderson's Bridge, higher up the creek. During the day the latter closely watched the enemy's movements, and observed a troop of rebel cavalry come through Napier's Gap, in Pigeon Mountain, and move toward General Wood's position at Gordon's Mill.

At the same time a strong column came over, directly in front of Wilder, and another column, boldly advancing on the Ringgold road, threatened. Minty. Both attacked simultaneously. Wilder succeeded in repulsing his opponents, but Minty's flank being turned by the rebels, he was considerably distressed, until the more fortunate Wilder sent two regiments and a section of artillery to his assistance. With the help of these he maintained his ground; but the same movement by which the rebels had succeeded in turning Minty's right flank enabled them to get upon Wilder's left and in his rear. Under these disadvantageous circumstances, the latter was compelled to renew the fight; but, although severely pressed, he succeeded in holding the bridge until near dark. Then fresh forces of the enemy coming up and his own men being entirely exhausted, Wilder began to fall back. The rebels perceiving this, made a determined effort to cut him off. He slowly retired, resisting at every step, until he arrived to within a mile and a half of Gordon's Mill, where the Forty-fourth Indiana and Fifty-ninth Ohio coming to his assistance, he was enabled to check the rebels and encamp for the night. During the night, his own pickets and those of the enemy actually grasped each other's guns in the darkness, and several times engaged in fierce struggles for their possession!

Before daylight Wilder was ordered to move to the La Fayette road, and take position there, which he did, throwing up for his protection a breastwork of rails.

All night long on Friday night the movement of Thomas's corps continued. Crittenden's was already in the position it was intended to hold the next day, so that Thomas passed it by and placed his divisions upon the left of the line. General Negley being in position at Owens's Ford, higher up the valley, for the purpose of preventing the enemy from coming into the breach which Thomas's movements would leave in our line, General Johnson's division, of McCook's corps, reported to General Thomas, and marched with him to take position upon the left of Crittenden. Generals Davis and Sheridan were in the mean time moving as rapidly as possible toward the left, so as to connect with the right of Crittenden, and thus complete the line, which would be much shorter than it was the day before.

For the first half of the night during which the march I am referring to took place, every thing was comfortable enough, but near midnight it turned freezingly cold, and as it was necessary, after passing General Crittenden, for us to feel our way with caution, long wearisome halts took place, during which skirmishers scoured the woods immediately upon our front and right flank. The boys who were not skirmishing becoming very cold during these halts, began to kindle fires at every stopping-place to warm themselves. At first they made these fires of logs of wood and rails taken from the neighboring fences, but afterward they ceeased to trouble themselves about removing the rails, and set fire to the fences themselves wherever they chanced to stop. In the course of an hour a line of fires stretching all along the La Fayette road illuminated the clouds above, and showed the silent columns of General Thomas gliding by like an army of spectres!

At last the weary march came to an end; the [411] artillery was wheeled into position, and the marching columns facing to the right stood in order of battle looking toward the east.

An hour or two longer and the sun rose in glory, thawed the crisp white frost which had collected upon the grass, dispersed the mists that had gathered around the tops of the mountains, and sending a golden light into the valley of the Chickamauga, showed at least two thirds of the Union army drawn up in battle array. Not that any individual, save old Sol, could see them all; for the peculiar nature of the ground, covered almost everywhere with thick woods, rendered it impossible in many places to see even the whole of a single regiment.

As soon as the sun was fairly risen, I mounted my horse, intending to ride to the extreme left of our line, and thence to proceed from left to right, so as to get as accurate an idea of it as possible before the real work of the day should commence. Riding about a mile I saw troops coming into the road from the woods to the east of it, and had I not perceived through my glass that they were habited in blue, I should have judged, from the direction whence they came, that they were a portion of the rebel army. Suddenly I saw a courier shoot out from the crowd and coming toward me hatless and with frantic speed.

As he came, a dozen rifle-cracks from the woods skirting a corn-field along which he was passing, informed me that hostile demonstrations of some kind were being made in our immediate vicinity. I halted until the courier came up. He delivered his despatches to another horseman, who immediately started with them toward the headquarters of General Thomas. I then asked the hatless courier what troops those were ahead. He informed me that they were the two brigades (Colonel Mitchell's and Colonel McCook's) of General Gordon's corps, who had been skirmishing the day before in the neighborhood of Reid's Bridge and of Ringgold, as I have already described. They had come to form a junction with the main army, had halted and were waiting for orders.

Soon after this, an order from General Rosecrans, which had reached General Granger by another route, directed the two brigades to fall back at once to Rossville, get a supply of rations for three days, and hold themselves in readiness to march at a moment's notice. As the close proximity of the rebels rendered it somewhat difficult just then to reach General Baird's men, who were nearest to me on the right, I “fell back” with General Granger's troops, and remained in the vicinity of Rossville until the sounds of battle in the direction whence I had come attracted my attention. A wild gallop back to the left immediately ensued.

A few miles' riding brought us so far on the way that we began to get glimpses of that stream of wreck, debris, mingled life and mangled humanity which always flows from a battle-field. For a time we asked the news of each one we came to, and the replies filled us alternately with sorrow, with indignation, with keen apprehension, and with hopes.

One said the battle had been going on several hours, and our arms had met with disaster along the whole line.

Another declared that although unsuccessful at first, our troops at length recovered their ground, and were now driving the enemy.

Here comes a single soldier, covered with dust and sweat. Let us question him.

“Where do you belong?” “To the regular brigade.” “Has it been engaged this morning?” “I should think it had.” “With what result?” “It is nearly all cut to pieces.” “Which regiment is yours?” “The Sixteenth United infantry.” “Did it suffer much?” “Only thirty or forty of its members are left.”

Here is a man with an arm roughly bandaged and very bloody. The blood has dried upon it and hangs to it in great black clots. “Who are you?” “Private----, of the Thirty-eighth Indiana.” “What news have you?” “Bad enough.” “Has your regiment been in the fight?” “If it has not no one has.” “With what result?” “One third of its members are killed and wounded.” “Were you whipped?” “Our brigade was left unsupported, overpowered by numbers, and compelled for a time to give way.” “Is Colonel Scribner safe?” “So far as I know, he is.”

Another with a ghastly wound in the head has upon his jacket the red stripes which show him to be an artilleryman. “Whose battery do you belong to?” “Guenther's.” “Why, that is the regular battery belonging to General King's brigade; what has it been doing?” “It has all been taken by the enemy.” “Can that be possible?” “It is, but I have heard since that it was retaken.” “How came it to be lost?” “The infantry supports gave way, and the horses being nearly all killed, of course the guns were captured.”

The stream grew stronger and stronger. Stragglers were run over by wagons dashing back toward the rear. Ambulances, filled with wounded, came in long procession from toward where the battle was raging. Men with wounds of every imaginable description not affecting their locomotion, came staggering by on foot, and scores even of those who had been shot in their lower limbs, hobbled slowly on through blinding masses of dust, which at times concealed every thing from view.

At length we reached the hospital for General Brannan's division. The house had already been filled. The outhouses had been brought into requisition, and large numbers of sufferers. were lying on the ground in the yard. In one corner was an operating table, beneath which lay the usual quantity of legs, arms, hands, feet, fingers, and toes. Here and there among the wounded were some cold and stiff, the seal of death upon their countenances. These had died after being carried to the yard.

During all this time the roar of battle in front of us never ceased for a moment, and now we [412] began to get authentic intelligence of the progress and incidents of the fight.

The flame of battle had first broken out upon the extreme left, where General Brannan's division was posted. The troops composing it behaved most gallantly; some of the regiments had covered themselves with glory, but they were compelled to retire at length, leaving uncovered the left flank of General Baird, upon which the enemy at once threw himself with great force.

The brigade commanded by Colonel B. F. Scribner, Thirty-eighth Indiana, one of the very first in the army, was left particularly exposed, as its right flank had been somewhat too far advanced where it had taken position in the morning.

Almost before its pickets were driven in, it found itself literally surrounded by thrice its numbers, who came on with their infernal yells, pouring volley after volley of deadly bullets into the very bosom of this gallant brigade. For a moment it was thrown into confusion, and that moment sufficed to place the rebels upon its front, flanks, and rear. The Second, Thirty-third, and Ninety-fourth Ohio, the Thirty-eighth Indiana, the Tenth Wisconsin, and Loomis's battery are composed of the best material in their respective States, and their commander, Scribner, succeeded in infusing into them his own magnanimous and gallant spirit. Gathering together their broken ranks under the infernal fire which every instant mowed them down, and following their heroic leader, they charged the dense legions surrounding them, and like a whirlwind in a forest, tore their way through.

But, alas! the guns of the immortal First Michigan battery were left behind — those black, sternlooking, rifled cannon, each one of whom I had come to regard with a feeling of almost reverential awe, because upon a dozen battle-fields I had seen them flinging destruction into the ranks of traitors, and never knew them once turned against a legion of my country's enemies which they did not scatter like leaves before the blast. Even in the opinion of the rebels themselves, Loomis had made these guns invincible. They were commanded now by a young man who, possessing naturally the noblest qualities, had thoroughly learned the lessons of his teacher, and promised to prove a most worthy successor, even to Loomis himself--Lieutenant Van Pelt. Van Pelt loved his pieces with the same unselfish devotion which he manifested for his wife. In the desperate conflict which broke around Scribner's brigade he managed the battery with much dexterity and coolness, and for some moments rocked the very trees over the heads of the rebels by the fiery blasts from his guns. But his horses were shot down. Many of his artillerists were killed or wounded. The infantry supporting him had been compelled to turn and cut their way through the enemy, and a horde of traitors rushed up to the muzzles of the now harmless pieces. Van Pelt, almost alone, stationed himself in front of them and drew his sword. “Scoundrels,” said he, “dare not to touch these guns!” The miserable barbarians, unable to appreciate true heroism, brutally murdered him where he stood. The history of the war furnishes not an incident more touching or more sublime than the death of Lieutenant Van Pelt.

All the guns of the battery save one fell into the enemy's hands.

Along the entire line of the left and centre there were similar instances of heroism, only two or three of which I have time to mention.

At one time the guns of the Forty-fourth Indiana battery (Captain Bush) were all in the hands of the enemy, but were retaken subsequently by a simultaneous charge of the infantry and artillerymen. This battery is attached to General Starkweather's brigade.

During the fierce assault upon the First division, the Second Ohio, being in confusion, was rallied by General Baird in person, and led back to a most effective charge.

Major-General J. J. Reynolds, who combines the chivalrous courage of an olden knight with the cool, calm ability of a Turenne, had time, not only to keep his own division in effective order, but to give his generous assistance to the forces around him. A tremendous onslaught of the enemy broke General Palmer's lines, and scattered several of his regiments in wild dismay toward the rear. Amongst these was the Sixth Ohio, which, in charge of the fine-spirited Anderson, had, up to this moment, nobly maintained its ground. General Reynolds perceiving the danger, quick as lightning threw himself amongst the brave but broken Guthries.

“Boys!” he shouted, “are you the soldiers of the Sixth Ohio, who fought with me at Cheat Mountain? You never turned your backs upon traitors in Virginia. Will you do it here?”

“ No! no!” they screamed almost frantically. “Lead us back! Lead us back!!”

From every quarter came rushing up the scattered fragments of the regiment; with magic swiftness they re-formed the ranks; with General Reynolds at their head, they charged the insolent enemy, and, after a moment's struggle, every rebel in front of them not killed or wounded was in confused retreat.

The example of the Sixth Ohio was communicated to the flying fragments of other regiments, and it is a fact which will long be memorable in the history of this battle, that these rallied stragglers, principally from Palmer's division, reformed ranks almost of their own accord, and drove back the enemy who had been victoriously pressing on.

But I cannot linger to gather up these scattering facts. Let me endeavor to give a brief and succinct view of the course of events on Saturday, and then pass on to the great drama of the succeeding day.

The shifting of Thomas's corps during the night of Friday placed it on the left of the line, in the following order: Brannan on the extreme left, Baird next, and Reynolds next. Negley was assisting Wood to hold the passage of Owen's Ford and the position of Gordon's Mill, which had now become our extreme right. One [413] division of McCook's corps, (Johnson's,) having come up to the new line sooner than the rest, reported to Thomas for orders, and was assigned to a position upon the left, between Baird and Reynolds. Two divisions of Crittenden's corps held the centre of the line, Palmer on the right of Reynolds, and Van Cleve next to Palmer. When the battle began, Davis and Sheridan, of McCook's corps, were rapidly marching toward the left, to complete the line and take possession on the right of Van Cleve. Generally, the line took the direction of the Chickamauga, withdrawn upon the left so as to follow for a considerable distance the course of the La Fayette road, which runs directly north and south.

It was between ten and eleven when Cronton's brigade, of Brannan's division, going down to a ford over the creek, just opposite their position, encountered the enemy, who was advancing in force, and, after a gallant combat, was driven back. Reinforcements immediately coming from the remainder of Brannan's division, the rebels in turn were driven pell-mell toward the ford. Another terrible charge by a largely increased force of the enemy pushed back the whole of Brannan's division, involving General Baird, who at once became fiercely engaged. The regulars, outflanked after the withdrawal of Brannan's men, fought like tigers, but were rolled back and over Scribner's brigade — the right of which being rather too far advanced, was crumpled up, and the brigade literally surrounded, until, by unparalleled gallantry, it cut its way through. The storm, rolling from left to right, fell next upon Johnson, and almost simultaneously upon Reynolds, who both fought with desperate valor, wavering at times, but again regaining their firmness, giving back a little, but again advancing, until the troops of Brannan and Baird, rallied by their able leaders, and by the personal exertions of Thomas himself, whose courage was as conspicuous as his coolness, came up once more to the work.

Then the order was issued for the entire line to advance, and nothing in history exceeds in grandeur the charge of that powerful corps. Longstreet's men from Virginia were directly opposed to the troops of Thomas, and although they fought with stubborn determination, they could not for an instant check the slow and stately march of our battalions. In vain they rallied and re-rallied; in vain they formed double lines, which fired simultaneously; in vain they wheeled their cannon into a score of new positions. Thomas moved resistlessly on. Much of our artillery lost in the morning was re-captured. Seven pieces were taken from the enemy. They had been pushed already three quarters of a mile, and Longstreet was threatened with actual annihilation, when a new danger caused Thomas to halt.

While our left was so remorselessly driving the rebels, Polk and Hill, collecting their chosen legions, threw them with great impetuosity upon Palmer and Van Cleve, in order to effect a diversion in favor of Longstreet. An obstinate contest ensued, but the overpowering numbers of the enemy speedily broke to pieces large portions of our two divisions, especially Van Cleve's. In fact, the rout of this part of our line was becoming as complete as that of the enemy's right, when Davis, who had been marching up as rapidly as possible to intersect with Van Cleve's left, arrived upon the ground, went in most gallantly, and for a time restored in that locality the fortunes of the day. But the enemy knowing that all depended upon his effecting a diversion in favor of the defeated Longstreet, massed nearly the whole of his available force, hurled it upon Van Cleve and Davis, drove the former to the left and the latter to the right, and entered boldly the opening thus made. It was just at this juncture that Thomas's troops, whose attention had been called to the extreme danger of our centre, began to return. Reynolds immediately sent the heroic Wilder to the assistance of Davis, and the celebrated brigade of mounted infantry at first scattered the enemy in terror before them. But the persevering rebels rallying again, and charging in fresh numbers, even Wilder began to fall slowly back. General Sheridan, who had been following after Davis, now came up, and led Colonel Bradley's brigade into the fight. It held its own nobly, until the rebels, in large force, getting possession of a piece of timber near its flank, opened upon it an enfilading fire, which compelled it to give way.

But now new actors appear upon the scene. Wood and Negley, who had gallantly repelled the assaults of the enemy at Owen's Ford, (assaults intended as a feint to conceal the design of the enemy upon our left,) came up to the rescue. Their troops went to work with a will. The progress of the enemy against Davis, Van Cleve, and Sheridan was speedily checked. Reynolds, returning from the pursuit of Longstreet, assisted in rallying the broken battalions of Palmer. Thousands of our scattered troops reorganized almost of their own accord. Baird, Brannan, and Johnson resumed their places. A consuming fire swept all along our front. The rebels retired everywhere before it, and before sunset our line was in battle array upon almost precisely the ground held that morning.

Just before dusk, the enemy, as if in spite of his unsuccessful efforts, opened a heavy fire of artillery and musketry upon the same troops, and continued it until after nightfall. But it was so promptly returned that he sustained certainly as much injury as he inflicted, and about six o'clock he drew off entirely, leaving the day clearly our own.

During the night of Saturday some change was made in the disposition of our forces, and the line was so far withdrawn that it rested along a cross-road running north-east and southwest, and connecting the Rossville with the La Fayette road. By this arrangement our extreme right was made to rest on Mission Ridge, as it should probably have done in the first place. The new line that was formed was a mile shorter than that of the day before. [414]

The changes in the order of the different divisions made the new line stand thus: One brigade of Negley's division was on the extreme right; then came Johnson, then Baird, then Palmer, then Reynolds, then Brannan, then Negley's other brigades, then Van Cleve, then Wood, and then Sheridan. Wilder and Minty, with their mounted force, held the extreme right. I have given only the general order of our line Brannan and Van Cleve were really held somewhat in reserve. That was indeed a night of awful suspense which settled around us after the last gun had been fired on Saturday.

The morrow came. No sound of cracking musketry, or roaring of cannon, or bursting shell disturbed the peacefulness of that Sabbath morning. The first hour after sunrise passed. “Surely,” said our officers and soldiers, “there will be no fight; for if the enemy had intended to attack us he would, following his usual tactics, have fallen upon us at daybreak.”

Two hours more had gone by, and some dropping musketry began to be heard along the various parts of our line. Finally, at about ten o'clock, there were several fierce volleys, and the loud booming of half a dozen pieces of artillery announced that the enemy had again, as on the day before, assaulted our left.

And now that the battle has begun, let us glance one moment at the contending forces. On one side is our old army which fought at Stone River, reenforced by two divisions (Brannan's and Reynolds's) of Thomas's corps, and Starkweather's brigade, of Baird's division. But counterbalancing these to some extent, Post's brigade of Davis's division and Wagner's of Wood's were both absent. We might or might not also rely for assistance upon Steadman's division of General Granger's corps.

Opposed to these was the old army of the Tennessee, which Bragg has so long commanded; Longstreet's formidable corps from Virginia, one half of Johnston's army from Mississippi; Buckner's division from East-Tennessee; Dabney Maury's division from Mobile; Brigadier-General Lee's command from Atlanta, and from twelve to fifteen thousand fresh troops in the service of the State of Georgia--in all, amounting to at least seventy-five thousand men. The Union army confronting them was certainly not more than fifty-five thousand strong.

The firing which had begun on our left swelled almost immediately into a dreadful roar, which filled even the souls of the bravest with awe. Nothing that I have yet listened to since the breaking out of the war exceeded it in continuity and volume of sound. It was not a tumult which now rages and now subsides, but one which for two long hours rolled incessantly all along the lines of Thomas's seemingly devoted corps. So loud was the crash of musketry that the repeated discharges of cannon, following each other in quick succession, could with difficulty be distinguished, and seemed only like more emphatic passages in the grand diapason of thunderous harmony which burst from the vast clouds of smoke and dust enveloping the contending hosts.

The fight upon the extreme loft commenced by a desperate assault of the enemy upon General John Beatty's brigade of Negley's division. The brigade, as well as its famous leader, stood their ground nobly; but being somewhat isolated from the remainder of the line, finally retired. It will be remembered that the other brigades of Negley's division were posted much further to the right. A desire to reunite the two portions of his command induced General Rosecrans to send General Wood to take General Negley's place in the line until the latter should effect the reunion of his brigades. Wood proceeded immediately to execute the order, filling up the gap as Negley retired. The rebels, understanding this movement of Negley's to be a retreat, immediately advanced their skirmishers, not only here, but all along the left, and the fighting at once became terrific, as I have described. The rebels, however, soon ceased to attack General Wood's front, and for a time appeared to devote their en tire attention to General Thomas. I went down to the extreme left of General Wood's position about this time, and looking thence into some corn-fields, could see the desperate efforts of the enemy to break the lines of Brannan and Reynolds. The soldiers of these two noble divisions were lying behind rude breastworks of logs and rails constructed the night before; their artillery in the rear fired over their heads, and it really seemed as if that long line of defences was some immense serpent, instinct with hideous life, and breathing continually from its huge tough sides volumes of smoke and flame.

Again and again the rebel lines advancing from the cover of the woods into the open corn-fields, charged with impetuous fury and terrific yells toward the breastworks of logs and rails, but each time the fiery blasts from our batteries and battalions swept over and around them, and their ranks were crumbled and swept away as a bank of loose clay washed by a rushing flood. But as fast — as one line fell off another appeared, rushing sternly on over the dead and bleeding bodies of their fallen comrades. Longstreet's corps was seeking to regain its lost laurels of yesterday. D. H. Hill, at the head of Hardee's old corps, was lending them the assistance of a division, and Buckner's troops were throwing their weight into the scale. Thomas fought only with his forces of Saturday weakened by Saturday's heavy losses. It was an unequal contest, and a pang of agony shot through my, heart as I saw our exhausted veterans begin to waver. To waver in the face of the charging, shouting, thundering host which confronted them, was to lose all, and the next moment wave after wave of the rebel sea came surging down toward the breastworks, dashing madly against and over the barrier, and greedily swallowing up its defenders, with all their am. munition and materiel, Never was resistance more stubborn and determined, but never was attack prosecuted with more devilish pertinacity.

Meantime, as General Reynolds was so sorely [415] pressed, General Wood was ordered to march instantly by the left flank, pass Brannan, and go to his relief. Davis and Sheridan were to shift over to the left, and thus close up the line. As the occasion was urgent, General Wood drew in his skirmishers with considerable haste, and the rebels for the second time mistaking a withdrawal for a flight, pressed forward like a torrent and poured into the flanks of General Wood a storm of musket-balls, canister, and grape. Moving upon the double-quick, the men endeavored for a time to keep their files in order, but as that pitiless storm of lead and iron continued to be hurled against them, the regiments began to spread out like a fan, wider and wider, until they were finally torn to flinders. This was especially the case with the brigade commanded by Colonel Buell. The undaunted Wood, with Harker's brigade comparatively intact, passed on to his destination.

Here was the great turning-point in the battle. Here, indeed, the battle was lost.

Davis coming up to fill the vacancy occasioned by Wood's withdrawal, was caught upon the left flank by the flery rebel torrent now pouring through the opening, and pushed off toward the right in utter disorder, like a door swung back upon the hinges and shattered by the same blow. Van Cleve, and what remained of Palmer, were struck upon the other side, and shivered as a sapling by a thunderbolt. Even the personal exertions of Rosecrans himself, who, with drawn sword and at the head of his devoted staff, endeavored to check the rout, was ineffectual.

After that fatal break our line of battle was not again re-formed during the day. The army was in fact cut in two; McCook, with Davis, Sheridan, and Wilder, being thrown off to the right, (Crittenden — except one brigade of Wood's — being broken in pieces,) and Thomas, with his indomitable corps, and Johnson's division of McCook's, remaining alone upon the left. In the flerce tornado which had swept over his log breastworks, Thomas had been much shaken, all his divisions fighting desperately, all rallying at the earliest practicable moment, but only General Reynolds retiring from the works toward the hills in any thing like tolerable order.

As soon, however, as the corps had reached the foot of Mission Ridge, it formed anew its broken ranks with an alacrity and rapidity less remarkable than the obstinacy with which it so long endured the assault of the enemy upon the level ground below. The great leader himself, General Thomas, assisted by Baird, Reynolds, Brannan, Scribner, Harker, Negley, John Beatty, Wood, and Turchin, reorganized the brigades with wonderful celerity, and immediately began making head against the enemy.

From this, McCook disappeared from the general history of the battle, as indeed, extricating himself from his demoralized and routed corps, he headed toward Chattanooga, and at about one o'clock disappeared entirely from the field. His two divisions, Davis's and Sheridan's, forced off toward the right, far behind their original position, were assailed by immense squadrons of the enemy, and fearfully battered. Each had but a handful left as it retired, toward nightfall, upon the Rossville road, but the men must have done gallant fighting or they would not have come off as well as they did. In fact, wherever Sheridan is, whether isolated or in company, and whether the odds against him be one or many, there is certain to be a fight.

It was about half-past 12 when, hearing a heavy cannonade upon the right, I galloped over in that direction to see what it might mean. A longitudinal gap in Mission Ridge admits the Rossville road into Chattanooga Valley, and skirts along a large corn-field at the mouth of the gap. Looking across the corn-field from the gap you see thick woods upon the other side. The cornfield itself is a sort of “cove” in the ridge, and here were numbers of all sorts of army vehicles mingled with the debris of dismantled and discomfited batteries. Fragments of Davis's flying squadrons had also lodged in this field.

While I stood gazing upon this scene from the summit of the ridge, some rebel skirmishers appeared in the skirts of the woods opposite the gap I have mentioned, and flung perhaps a dozen musket-balls into the field. Instantly men, animals, vehicles became a mass of struggling, oursing, shouting, frightened life. Every thing and every body appeared to dash headlong from the narrow gap, and men, horses, mules ambulances, baggage-wagons, ammunition-wagons, artillery-carriages and caissons were rolled and tumbled together in a confused, inextricable, and finally motionless mass, completely blocking up the mouth of the gaps. Nearly all this booty subsequently fell into the hands of the enemy. Sickened and disgusted by the spectacle, I turned away to watch the operations of General Thomas's corps, upon which alone depended the safety of the army.

General Thomas had withdrawn his men almost entirely from the valley, and taken up a position on the side of Mission Ridge. His left still rested on the La Fayette road, and his right upon the ridge near the gap I have already spoken of. Here were collected the shattered remnants of the powerful corps which had so long breasted the fierce assaults of the enemy in the forenoon. Here was Johnson, who seems to have done better work to-day and yesterday than ever before. Here was the unconquerable Wood, with Harker's brigade, and here were also such fragments of Crittenden's corps as could be induced to venture upon another stand. The whole were drawn up in a line forming a circular curve, facing the south-east. A hill near the middle of the curve was the key of the position, and Harker's brigade was appointed to defend the same. Soon after the hill was occupied, a house upon its summit was set on fire by the enemy's shells, and continued to burn for a long time with great fury.

Not long was the new line of battle permitted to remain idle. Cannon bellowed against it [416] missiles of every kind were hurled into it; shells burst above it; rifle-balls went tearing through it; but still it remained firm.

It was certain, however, as truth itself, that unless assistance should reach it from some quarter, and that right speedily, it must at length succumb, for the rebel leaders, emboldened by the rout of McCook and Crittenden, were gathering their hosts to hurl them in a last mighty effort against the feeble band that confronted them. Whence should that succor come?

Suddenly a vast cloud of dust was seen to rise above the trees, away to the left, and a few minutes afterward long lines of men emerged from the woods, crossed the La Fayette road, and began advancing toward us over the fields. Their discipline seemed very perfect, and it was an imposing pageant when, as they came on, their banners fluttered above their heads, and their glittering arms flashed back the sunlight through the thick black clouds of dust.

Captain Johnson, of General Negley's staff, who, on being severed from his own division, had immediately reported to General Thomas for duty, had already, at great personal risk, ascertained that the advancing battalions were infantry, and now the question arose, was it our own or the enemy's. Hope and fear alternately agitated our bosoms, until at last, looking through our glasses, we could clearly distinguish the red and blue, with the white crescent! It was the battle-flag of General Granger, and the troops we saw were two brigades, Mitchell's and Whitaker's, of Steadman's strong division. These were comparatively fresh troops. True they had marched some weary miles over roads ankle-deep with dust. True, they had hurried along rapidly to succor their comrades, and participate in the fight. But they had not as yet been engaged that day, and hence they could indeed be considered help to the battle-scarred veterans who held the hill.

As soon as General Granger had reported to General Thomas for duty, he was sent by the latter to bring over an ammunition-train from the Rossville road. The train had fallen into the hands of the enemy, but the march in search of it brought Steadman at once into contact with the rebels, and a desperate conflict immediately ensued. It was now that the brilliant courage of Colonel John G. Mitchell, commanding one of General Steadman's brigades, became conspicuous. Now General Whitaker had an opportunity of baptizing in glory the star recently placed upon his shoulder; and now the troops of the reserve corps, comparatively unused to battle, had an opportunity of testing their mottle. Nobly did all pass through the ordeal, and although once thrown into confusion by the concentrated fire from a score of rebel regiments, and half as many batteries, they rallied under the fire, and drove the enemy from a hill almost as formidable as that which formed the key of General Thom as's position. The rebels made one desperate endeavor to retake this position, but were bloodily repulsed, and almost for the first time since the fight began there was a lull in the fearful storm.

An hour passed by, and it became evident that Bragg would not be foiled in his attempt to annihilate our gallant army without another effort. Polk's corps, assisted by the Georgia State troops, by Dabney Maury's division, and by various detached fragments of the rebel army, were to try their hands upon the heroic band who, as the forlorn hope of the army, still held the hill. Our feeble ranks were gathered up. The thinned battalions were brought closer together. The dozen pieces of artillery were planted to sweep all approaches to the hill; and each man, looking at his neighbor, vowed, some mentally, and others audibly, to die right there, if it were necessary, for their country, for freedom, and for mankind!

All along the woods skirting the cleared fields, at the south-eastern foot of the hill, in the hollows and ravines to the right, and away to the left, upon and beyond the La Fayette road, the rebel legions were seen gathering for the onset.

Just before the storm broke, the brave and high-souled Garfield was perceived making his way to the headquarters of General Thomas. He had come to be present at the final contest, and in order to do so had ridden all the way from Chattanooga, passing through a fiery ordeal upon the road. His horse was shot under him, and his orderly was killed by his side. Still he had come through, he scarce knew how, and here he was to inspire fresh courage in the hearts of the brave soldiers who were holding the enemy at bay, to bring them words of greeting from General Rosecrans, and to inform them that the latter was reorganizing the scattered troops, and, as fast as possible, would hurry them forward to their relief.

At last a shell came hurtling through the air, and burst with a loud explosion over the hill. This was the signal for rebel attack, and at once the bullets flew thick and fast amongst us.

The fight around the hill now raged with terror inexperienced before, even upon this terrible day. Our soldiers were formed in two lines, and, as each marched up to the crest, and fired a deadly volley at the advancing foe, it fell back a little ways; the men lay down upon the ground to load their guns, and the second line advanced to take their place! They, too, in their turn retired, and thus the lines kept marching back and forth, delivering their withering volleys till the very brain grew dizzy as it watched them. And all the time not a man wavered. Every motion was executed with as much precision as though the troops were on a holiday parade, notwithstanding the flower of the rebel army were swarming round the foot of the hill, and a score of cannon thundering from three sides upon it. Every attempt of the enemy to scale it was repulsed, and the gallant Harker looked with pride upon his lines, standing or lying just where they were when the fight began.

But our troops are no longer satisfied with the [417] defensive. General Turchin, at the head of his brigade, charged into the rebel lines, and cut his way out again, bringing with him three hundred prisoners. Other portions of this brave band followed Turchin's example, until the legions of the enemy were fairly driven back to the ground they occupied previous to commencing the last fight. Thus did twelve or fifteen thousand men, animated by heroic impulses and inspired by worthy leaders, save from destruction the army of the Cumberland.

At night General Thomas fell back to Rossville, four miles from Chattanooga, around and in which city the army lies to-night.

Our losses have been most severe, and can scarcely fall short of one thousand seven hundred killed and eight thousand wounded. Colonel Barnett tells me that our loss in artillery will not fall short of fifty pieces. Our deficiency in transportation and baggage cannot now be estimated.

But the enemy has suffered as severely as we in that which he can least afford — human life and limb. He intended by massing all his available forces together, to annihilate the army of the Cumberland. He has failed to do so, and although it would be childish to deny or conceal our own fearful losses, yet we may console ourselves by the assurance that in his circumstances his failure to destroy us is for us a signal victory, and for him an irreparable defeat.

--Cincinnati Gazette.

Rebel despatches.

ten miles South of Chattanooga, via Ringgold, Sept. 21, 1863.
To General S. Cooper:
The enemy retreated on Chattanooga last night, leaving his dead and wounded in our hands. His loss is very large in men, artillery, small arms, and colors. Ours is heavy, but not yet ascertained. The victory is complete, and our cavalry is pursuing.

With the blessing of God, our troops have accomplished great results against largely superior numbers. We have to mourn the loss of many gallant men and officers. Brigadier-Generals Preston Smith, Helm, and Deshler are killed. Major-General Hood and Brigadier-Generals Adams, Gregg, and Bunn, are wounded.

Braxton Bragg, General.

Order Prom General Bragg.

headquarters army of Tennessee, in the field, La Payette, Ga., Sept. 10.
General Orders No. 180:
The troops will be held ready for an immediate move against the enemy. His demonstrations on our flanks have been thwarted; and twice he has retired before us when offered battle. We must now force him to the issue. Soldiers, you are largely reenforced — you must now seek the contest. In doing so, I know you will be content to suffer privations and encounter hardships. Heretofore you have never failed to respond to your General, when he has asked a sacrifice at your hands. Relying upon your gallantry and patriotism, he asks you to add a crowning glory to the wreaths you wear. Our credit is in your keeping. Your enemy boasts that you are demoralized, and retreating before him. Having accomplished our object in driving back his flank movement, let us now turn on his main force and crush it in its fancied security. Your General will lead you. You have but to respond to assure us of a glorious triumph over an insolent foe. I know what your response will be. Trusting in God and the justice of our cause, and nerved by the love of the dear ones at home, failure is impossible, and victory must be ours.

Braxton Bragg, General Commanding.

1 see Docs. Pages 217 and 363, ante.

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