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[215] and ran into the gorge, which he could have captured with a small force of cavalry. The gorge is to the east of Ringgold, and we were approaching it from the west. A little firing occurred between our skirmishers as they entered the town and small parties of the enemy's cavalry and infantry, the latter retiring in the direction of the gap. There is a break in Taylor's Ridge of sufficient width for the river to flow, and on its north bank room for an ordinary road and a railroad, when the ridge rises abruptly on both sides four or five hundred feet, and from thence, running nearly north and south, continues unbroken for many miles. Covering the entrance to it, is a small patch of trees and undergrowth. It was represented by citizens friendly to our cause, and confirmed by contrabands, that the enemy had passed through Ringgold sorely pressed, his animals exhausted, and his army hopelessly demoralized. In a small portion of it only had the officers been able to preserve regimental and company formations, many of the men having thrown away their arms. A still greater number were open and violent in their denunciations of the Confederacy. In order to gain time, it was the intention of the rear-guard to make use of the natural advantages the gorge presented to check the pursuit. The troops relied on for this were posted behind the mountain and the trees, and the latter were also used to mask a couple of pieces of artillery. Only a feeble line of skirmishers appeared in sight. The only way to ascertain the enemy's strength was to feel of him; and as our success, if prompt, would be crowned with a rich harvest of materiel, without waiting for my artillery, (not yet up, though after nine o'clock,) the skirmishers advanced. Wood deployed his brigade in rear of them, under cover of the embankment of the railroad, and a brisk musketry fire commenced between the skirmishers.

At the same time the enemy kept his artillery busily at work. Their skirmishers were driven in, and, as we had learned the position of their battery, the Thirteenth Illinois regiment, from the right of Wood's line, was thrown forward to seize some houses from which their gunners could be picked off by our men. These were heroically taken and held by that brave regiment. Apprehensive that he might lose his artillery, the enemy advanced with a superior force on our skirmishers, and they fell back behind Wood's line, when that excellent officer opened on the rebels and drove them into the gorge, they leaving, as they fled, their dead and wounded on the ground. Our skirmishers at once reoccupied their line, the Thirteenth Illinois all the time maintaining its position with resolution and obstinacy. While this was going on in front of the gorge, Osterhaus detached four regiments, under Colonel Williamson, half a mile to the left, to ascend the ridge and turn the enemy's right. Two of these, the Seventy-sixth Ohio, supported by the Fourth Iowa, were thrown forward, and, as the enemy appeared in great force, when they had nearly gained the crest, Geary ordered four of his regiments still further to the left, under Colonel Creighton, for the same object, where they also found an overwhelming force confronting them. Vigorous attacks were made by both of these columns, in which the troops exhibited extraordinary daring and devotion, but were compelled to yield to numerical superiority. The first took shelter in a depression in the side of the ridge, about fifty paces in rear of their most advanced position, and there remained. The other column was ordered to resume its position on the railroad. All the parties sent forward to ascertain the enemy's position and strength were small; but the attack had been made with so much vigor, and had succeeded so well in its object, that I deemed it unwise to call up the commands of Palmer and Cruft, and the remaining brigades of Geary, to deliver a general attack, without my artillery. I therefore gave instructions for no advance to be made, and for the firing to be discontinued, except in self-defence. These orders were conveyed and delivered to every officer in command on our advance line. Word was received from General Wood that appearances in his front were indic ative of a forward movement on the part of the enemy, when Ireland's brigade, of Geary's division, was sent to strengthen them. Calhoun's brigade, of the same division, took a well-sheltered position behind the knoll, midway between the depot and the opening to the gap. These officers were also ordered not to attack or fire unless it should become necessary. I may here state that the greatest difficulty I experienced with my new commands, and the one which caused me the most solicitude, was to check and curb their disposition to engage, regardless of circumstances, and, it appeared, almost of consequences. This had also been the case on Lookout Mountain and on Missionary Ridge. Despite my emphatic and repeated instructions to the contrary, a desultory fire was kept up on the right of the line until the artillery arrived; and you will see by the report of commanders, that, under cover of elevated ground between my position and our right, several small parties advanced to capture the enemy's battery and hlarass his flank at the gap. It is not with, displeasure I refer to these circumstances in evidence of the animation of the troops, neither is it with a feeling of resentment; for of that I was disarmed by an abiding sense of their glorious achievements. It has never been my fortune to serve with more zealous and devoted troops.

Between twelve and one o'clock, the artillery came up, not having been able to cross the west fork of the Chickamauga until eight o'clock on the morning of the twenty-seventh. Under my acting Chief of Artillery, Major Reynolds, in conjunction with Generals Geary and Osterhaus, one section of twelve-pounder howitzers was placed in position to bear on the enemy in front of our right and to enfilade the gap; another section of ten-pounder Parrotts was assigned to silence the enemy's battery; and one section, further to the left, to bear on some troops held

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J. J. Wood (4)
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