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[366]

What is their position?

Davis had the brigade in line which joined Wood, behind breastworks, and the other he is just bringing into line as Wood's troops leave it, “two regiments being on it and the others closing to it.” [General Davis's testimony.] Laibolt, who had been held as a reserve for Sheridan, is now ordered to support General Davis's right. Wilder's mounted infantry is in line, but the cavalry has not yet reported.

So the reserve of the army is gone and my own weak reserve, my only reliance for a second line has to be put on the first.

An interval of two brigades separates Wilder from Laibolt. and a division interval separates Davis from the nearest troops on his left.

Through these intervals the enemy's columns came against one small line; theirs is displayed overreaching either flank. “Three to one, at best,” says General Davis, and Colonel Wilder says the attack was made five lines deep. Could the result be for a moment doubted?

And for what part of it is General McCook responsible? What dispositions could he have made which he omitted? What skill in the officers, what courage of the troops could have availed?

Troops marching by the flank in the presence of an enemy, covered by a line which is less than the interval it exposes, must owe their safety to the forbearance of the foe.

I do not state these matters in criticism of my military superiors, but they are plain, incontrovertible facts necessary for my vindication. Indeed, although the movement would have uncovered the Dry Valley road, I quite agree with the Commanding General's conclusions as indicated in the preparatory order, dated the tenth at ten A. M., “that the left must be held at all hazards, even if the right is driven back to the present left.” But it was too late. There was no opportunity to look for positions, for by the time the dispositions to send the troops were ready, the enemy was advancing to the attack.

I have not another word to say as to the battle. But the Court is required to investigate my conduct in leaving the field as well as in the battle.

I will not, before a court of soldiers, answer the imputation, if it be implied, that any considerations of personal safety influenced my conduct. May I not, without boasting, say that I have faced death on too many fields, and in the presence of too many thousands of men, to require at this day any vindication of my composure or hardihood in action?

It would be enough that the firing had terminated upon the right, and that all pursuit had ceased, to leave the question simply one of judgment and duty under the circumstances by which I was surrounded.

My troops had been driven back and scattered; the ground was singularly unfavorable for rallying them; a commanding officer could do little more in that forest and thicket than other general officers. I remained until I gave orders to my troops and for the safety of the artillery and transportation.

I knew that Generals Sheridan and Davis were in safety and with their men, and competent to take charge of them. The point to be saved or lost was the position of Chattanooga. To that point the General Commanding had gone. He had been not far to the left of my lines when they gave way, and as he passed by on the Dry Valley road, saw me “among the broken columns trying to rally the troops.”

I had an order which I believed to be in force, requiring me to report to him in person in the field.

As General Rosecrans, in the correction of his testimony, says he supposed I had complied with that part of the order, that we had met, and I informed him I would send in Laibolt's brigade to set matters to rights, I desire to call the attention of the Court to the terms of the order and the circumstances which preceded and followed it.

It was given after an order despatched a few moments before, which required me to look out for a new position further to the left; that the exigencies of the day might be so pressing as to require the removal of all the troops from the right, involving consultation and the development of a new plan. Surely it was not to report that I had obeyed him and repeated his order to Sheridan, for that was the duty of a staff-officer, for which a general officer would not be taken away from his troops. And at an interview, after such pressing and important orders, nothing took place between us but a reference by myself to one of my brigades. General Rosecrans's recollection has not served him correctly. He must have the impression from some previvious interview between us. At the time Laibolt went in, the testimony shows I was behind his brigade, went forward with it, and was driven back when his troops were repulsed. Besides, if the situation was so extremely critical on the left, when the right was intact, as to require a personal interview, surely it was not lessened when the right was broken and the troops marching to support the left were driven by the enemy. If there could be a time when an interview between a General and his Lieutenant was necessary, that time was then. If I had troops which I thought I could have reorganized in time and taken to the left, I concede that when I did not find him upon the field, it would have been my duty to have marched where the cannon yet sounded.

Upon the information communicated to me by staff-officers whom I met upon the field, and whose testimony is before the Court, I determined to go to Chattanooga, but through Rossville, or close to it, that I might get information from General Thomas, and ascertain the situation of the place in the direction of which I had ordered my troops to move, and where I supposed the troops of Thomas would move back. I had no acquaintance with the country or the


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