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[370] would not have halted short of Chattanooga, can scarcely be estimated; and its importance in a tactical point of view, must be apparent to every experienced military mind. Had the two roads converging at Rossville been relinquished to or seized by the enemy, it would in probability have sealed the fate of General Thomas's command, which was compelled to fall back that night for supplies. The influence my action exerted over subsequent events, may be designated in history as an accident, but it was one of those military accidents which restored order with equilibrium, changed the front of a defeated army, and according to the testimony of General Rosecrans and others, unquestionably saved Chattanooga. Public opinion estimates the ability of a general by results. The value and importance of my official action, from the moment I was assigned to the command of the artillery (without referring to the “handsome” operation of my command on the nineteenth September) until the close of the twenty-first, is not, in view of the testimony taken before the Court, open to controversy. The saving of fifty pieces of artillery is in itself significant. I beg of you to observe, in this connection, that I possessed no knowledge of the topography of the country or of the disposition of the troops, beyond an imperfect view from the position I occupied. The only intelligence I had of the disaster, was derived from statements of officers passing to the rear. A strong impression was naturally made upon my mind by General Rosecrans's significant reply to my application for aid, and by the information that he, with two of his corps commanders, had gone toward Chattanooga. If the Department Commander, with a large retinue of staff-officers, corps of engineers and a cavalry escort, failed, as he admits, to correctly comprehend under the circumstances the situation at noon, how was it possible, with my very limited facilities, and almost enveloped by the enemy, for me to know the facts at one P. M.?

Military history proves beyond contradiction that no single battle, no matter what may be its magnitude or results, is a positive or even fair test of the ability of a commander. The fear of public opinion, after a disastrous battle, betrays many officers, sometimes high in command, to deny even their unavoidable mistakes, to direct attention to the errors of brother officers, to claim honors undeserved, laurels never won, and by a skilful use of the pen exaggerate the simple performance of duty into a great achievement. If I know my own purposes in life, I seek no honor by such unsoldierly pretexts, and scorn such means of vindication. As this investigation refers to but a single battle, it would be unbecoming in me to refer to my previous services and the many assurances of confidence and appreciation won from my superior officers on other fields. The testimony before you pays a higher tribute to my fidelity to country, my skill, energy, and fortitude as a commander, than I could claim for myself. Therefore I respectfully submit the case to the Court, desiring only to add my thanks for the patient courtesy and impartiality which enabled me to place the facts connected with my official conduct at the battle of Chickamauga, so fully before you.

James S. Negley, Major-General U. S. V.

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