Sherman's forces were moved from Bridgeport by way of Whitesides--one division threatening the enemy's left front in the direction of Trenton — crossing at Brown's Ferry, up the north bank of the Tennessee to near the mouth of South-Chickamauga, where they were kept concealed from the enemy until they were ready to form a crossing. Pontoons for throwing a bridge across the river were built, and placed in North-Chickamauga, near its mouth, a few miles further up, without attracting the attention of the enemy. It was expected we would be able to effect the crossing on the twenty-first of November; but, owing to heavy rains, Sherman was unable to get up until the afternoon of the twenty-third, and then only with Generals Morgan L. Smith's, John E. Smith's, and Hugh Ewing's divisions of the Fifteenth corps, under command of Major-General Frank P. Blair, of his army. The pontoon-bridge at Brown's Ferry having been broken by the drift consequent upon the rise in the river, and rafts sent down by the enemy, the other division — Osterhaus's — was retained on the south side, and was, on the night of the twenty-third, ordered, unless it could get across by eight o'clock the next morning, to report to Hooker, who was instructed, in this event, to attack Lookout Mountain, as contemplated in the original plan. A deserter from the rebel army, who came into our lines on the night of the twenty-second November, reported Bragg falling back. The following letter, received from Bragg by flag of truce on the twentieth, tended to confirm this report: if it arrives in time, will be thrown across the Tennessee above Chickamauga, and may be able to make the trip to Cleveland or thereabouts.
Not being willing that he should get his army off in good order, Thomas was directed, early on the morning of the twenty-third, to ascertain the truth or falsity of this report, by driving in his pickets and making him develop his lines. This he did, with the troops stationed at Chattanooga and Howard's corps, (which had been brought into Chattanooga because of the apprehended danger to our potoon-bridges from the rise in the river and the enemy's rafts,) in the most gallant style, driving the enemy from his first line, and securing to us what is known as “Indian Hill,” or “Orchard Knoll,” and the low range of hills south of it. These points were fortified during the night, and artillery put in position on them. The report of this deserter was evidently not intended to deceive, but he had mistaken Bragg's Movements. It was afterward ascertained that one division of Buckner's corps had gone to join Longstreet, and a second division of the same corps had started, but was brought back in consequence of our attack. On the night of the twenty-third of November, Sherman, with three divisions of his army, strengthened by Davis's division of Thomas's corps, which had been stationed along the north bank of the river, convenient to where the crossing was to be effected, was ready for operations. At an hour sufficiently early to secure the south bank of the river, just below the mouth of South-Chickamauga, by dawn of day, the pontoons in the North-Chickamauga were loaded with thirty armed men each, who floated quietly past the enemy's pickets, landed, and captured all but one of the guard, twenty in number, before the enemy was aware of the presence of a foe. The steamboat Dunbar, with a barge in tow, after having finished ferrying across the river the horses procured from Sherman, with which to move Thomas's artillery, was sent up from Chattanooga to aid in crossing artillery and troops; and by daylight of the morning of the twenty-fourth of November, eight thousand men were on the south side of the Tennessee, and fortified in rifle-trenches. By twelve o'clock M., the pontoon-bridges across the Tennessee and the Chickamauga were laid, and the remainder of Sherman's forces crossed over, and at half past 3 P. M. the whole of the northern extremity of Missionary Ridge, to near the railroad tunnel, was in Sherman's possession. During the night he fortified the position thus secured, making it equal, if not superior, in strength to that held by the enemy. By three o'clock of the same day, Colonel Long, with his brigade of cavalry, of Thomas's army, crossed to the south side of the Tennessee and to the north of Chickamauga Creek, and made a raid on the enemy's lines of communication. He burned Typer's Station, with many stores, cut the railroad at Cleveland, captured near a hundred wagons and over two hundred prisoners. His own loss was small. Hooker carried out the part assigned him for this day equal to the most sanguine expectations. With Geary's division (Twelfth corps) and two brigades of Stanley's division (Fourth corps) of Thomas's army, and Osterhaus's division (Fifteenth corps) of Sherman's army, he scaled the western slope of Lookout Mountain, drove the enemy from his rifle-pits on the northern extremity and slope of the mountain, capturing many prisoners, without serious loss. Thomas having done on the twenty-third, with his troops in Chattanooga, what was intended for the twenty-fourth, bettered and strengthened his advanced positions during the day, and pushed the Eleventh corps forward along the south bank of the Tennessee River, across Citico Creek,headquarters army of the Tennessee, in the field, November 20, 1868.General: As there may still be some non-combatants in Chattanooga, I deem it proper to notify you that prudence would dictate their early withdrawal. I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General U. S. Grant, Commanding United States Forces at Chattanooga:Braxton Bragg, General Commanding.