[Note.--I have been unable, after diligent search and inquiry, to find any official reports of the battle of Missionary Ridge.
This will account for the absence of detail in the statement of my recollection of the service of Cleburne's division.
It is to be hoped that survivors of that division, especially the brigade commanders, will contribute such facts within their respective knowledge as will in the aggregate amount to a history of its share in that much misunderstood engagement.
It is principally in this view that I make my modest contribution.]
After the battle of Chichamauga the Army of Tennessee, under General Bragg
, occupied the line of Missionary Ridge
and Lookout Mountain
, confronting, at a distance of some two or three miles between the main lines, the army of General Grant
, entrenched and encamped in and around Chattanooga
proper, or that portion of it here referred to, rises.
abruptly to the height of from four to six hundred feet, and extends from McFarland's gap, on the south, to the mouth of Chickamauga river on the north, a distance of some six miles. Rifle-pits were constructed along its western base, with pickets thrown out in front, and some slight defences were constructed at the weaker point on the crest.
It is intersected at several points of greatest depression by wagon roads leading from Chattanooga
to the railroad in rear.
In front, or to the west, broken by occasional hills, or, more properly speaking, knobs, with here and there some thin belts of timber, was a level plain, where Grant
's army was encamped.
The rising ground immediately about the town of Chattanooga
was dotted with strong earth-works.
From the crest of the Ridge
, at night, could be seen the camp-fires of both armies spread out in full view.
Such were the relative positions on the 22d of November, 1863.
's division was encamped on the top and western slope of the Ridge
On the night of the 22d Cleburne
was ordered to move to Chickamauga Station
, to assume command of his own and General Bushrod Johnson
's division and proceed via Dalton
to East Tennessee
, there to report to General Longstreet
The division moved at dawn the following morning.
, having preceded, was first to take
the cars, and his last brigade got off about noon.
's brigade (commanded by Colonel D. C. Govan
), of Cleburne
's division, was in process of embarkation when a dispatch was received to the effect that the pickets in front of Missionary Ridge
had been driven in, and ordering Cleburne
and his division to return with all speed.
's brigade was debarked, and Cleburne
marched rapidly back and bivouacked in rear of the right centre of the army.
Upon arrival it was ascertained that the enemy had opened an artillery fire on Johnson
's wagon train, crossing the ridge in view, and promptly followed it up by an advance of infantry, in such force as to drive in our pickets.
This determined demonstration, coupled with the knowledge of his weakness after the detachment of Longstreet
's corps and Johnson
's division, and of Grant
's strength about being increased by the arrival of Sherman
's fresh corps, no doubt induced General Bragg
's recall of Cleburne
's division to take part in the battle now evidently impending.
, who since his return from Mississippi
, had been three several times shifted from one extreme of the army to the other, as exigencies required, was now again in command of the right, consisting on the 25th (the day of battle) of Cleburne
's, and Stevenson
During the forenoon of the 24th Cleburne
's division remained in reserve, in sight and hearing of the battle progressing on Lookout Mountain
, which the volume of musketry and report of artillery indicated to be of serious dimensions.
The summit of the mountain was visible but the middle was veiled by thick mist and smoke, whence the enemy's shells emerged, and describing graceful curves burst above the clouds, throwing white puffs of smoke against the dark background of the mountain — the whole constituting a battle-piece so grand that anxiety for the result was lost in admiration at the spectacle.
In the afternoon Cleburne
was ordered to proceed rapidly to the right and take possession of the rising ground near the mouth of Chickamauga river.
The troops moved at double quick, and arrived none too soon.
's advance was endeavoring to occupy the ground, and Cleburne
bad to fight for position — the men firing by file as they formed into line.
The objective point gained, the skirmishing ceased at nightfall, the alignment was rectified, and such defenses were begun as the limited means at hand permitted.
's line, with his left resting near the right of the tunnel, extended over a circular wooded hill occupied by Smith
), and Polk
The right flank was protected by Lowry
thrown some half a mile distant and somewhat in advance of the remainder of the division.
Immediately over the tunnel, and connecting with Cleburne
's left, was a strong battery of Napoleon guns commanding the open ground in front.
By direction of General Hardee
the railroad bridge over the Chickamauga
's artillery had been halted by him on the opposite side of Chickamauga river, and was not now brought up because of his impression, based upon the reduction of General Bragg
's force by the detachments referred to, the increase of General Grant
's by the arrival of Sherman
, and the loss of Lookout Mountain
, that General Bragg
would not attempt longer to hold the extended line of Missionary Ridge
About 9 o'clock P. M. Cleburne
, unable to restrain his anxiety, turned to the writer and said: “Go at once to General Hardee
's quarters, ask what has been determined upon, and say that if it is decided to fight it is necessary that I should get my artillery into position.”
Upon reaching corps Headquarters I ascertained that General Hardee
had been called to a council of war at General Bragg
's quarters, some miles further up the ridge, to the left.
I proceeded to and reached Army Headquarters some half an hour before the council adjourned.
The remark of General Breckinridge
, who commanded the left corps, as he came out, that “I never felt more like fighting than when I saw those people shelling my troops off Lookout to-day,” indicated the result of the conference even before General Hardee
's response to Cleburne
I gathered that General Breckinridge
had urged in favor of a stand, that it was now too late to withdraw his troops before daylight would discover the movement.
said: “Tell Cleburne
we are to fight, that his division will undoubtedly be heavily attacked, and that he must do his very best.”
I replied that the division had never yet failed to clear its front, and would do so again.
No vain boast, as the morrow proved.
As the party rode down the crest of the ridge in the stillness of the night the sparse camp fires burning low along the rifle-pits at its western base showed how thin the line was — less than shoulder to shoulder, in single rank.
This was remarked upon, and it was suggested that an energetic dash by the enemy upon the centre held by such a line might prove a serious matter.
I remember General Hardee
observed that the natural strength of the position would probably deter such an attempt; and that the enemy had been massing on the flanks, where the heaviest work was to be expected.
ordered up his artillery, and made such other preparations for the approaching conflict as practicable in the night; now rendered
abnormally dark and sombre by an eclipse of the moon.
, who, from its liability to be turned, felt most solicitude about Cleburne
's position, arrived at this part of the line between 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning, and afterwards, in company with Cleburne
, made a personal and careful inspection of it.
A heavy mist had prevailed throughout the day on the 24th, but the morning of the 25th of November broke bright and clear.
Before the sun was fairly up the troops were called to arms by picket firing, followed soon after by the line and artillery, and the conflict soon rose to the dignity of a general engagement.
Repeated attempts were made to carry Cleburne
's position, and the assaulting columns were repulsed and hurled bleeding down the slope, only to reform and charge again in gallant but vain effort.
's veterans found foeman worthy of their steel in the army commanded by Sherman
and led by such lieutenants as Corse
, Leightburn, and Loomis
Almost the entire day was thus consumed.
The enemy, met at every advance by a plunging and destructive artillery fire, followed, when in range, by a withering fire of infantry, were repulsed at all points, and slowly and stubbornly fell back.
In some instances squads of them finding shelter behind the obstructions afforded by the rugged sides of the hill, kept up a damaging sharp-shooting until dislodged by stones hurled down upon them by the Texans
Meanwhile the enemy had shown in force and made demonstrations at points further to the left.
Early in the forenoon they had occupied a farm-house and outbuildings near and to the left front of the tunnel, whence their sharp-shooters were beginning to do effective work.
From this position they were driven by a charge, directed by General Hardee
and handsomely executed by the Twentieth Alabama regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Davis
, of Pettus
's brigade, Stevenson
's division, and the buildings were destroyed.
About the middle of the afternoon a strong Federal brigade, commanded by General J. Mason Loomis
, and consisting of the 90th Illinois, 100th Indiana, 12th Indiana, and 26th Illinois regiments, approached Cleburne
's left through an open field, and under heavy artillery and infantry fire.
guns posted over the tunnel, which had been rapidly and continuously served, were turned upon this advancing brigade with deadly precision; every discharge plowed huge gaps through the lines, which were promptly closed up, as the troops moved forward with a steadiness and order that drew exclamations of admiration from all who witnessed it. The brigade advanced to an old fence row, where planting their colors and lying down they opened and kept up a
damaging fire, and held their position with a tenacity which seemed proof against all efforts to dislodge them.1
About this time Cleburne
dispatched a staff officer to ascertain the condition of affairs in Lowry
Finding all well there, the officer returned by a detour, made necessary by the conformation of the ground, and which brought him in view of the flanks of the contending forces.
Arrested by the sound of heavy firing and the sight of opposing lines in closer proximity than the relative positions justified, he moved towards the scene of action and discovered a considerable body of Federal soldiers coming through the woods.
Supposing the right flank had been turned and was about to be attacked in rear he galloped up to Cleburne
and made his report.
He was met with the reply that the soldiers he had seen were prisoners of war being sent to the rear.
Such, indeed, was the fact.
Seeing a column of assault advancing up the hill Cleburne
had placed himself at the head of the Texas
brigade, and jumping the works met and repulsed the charge, and returned with a number of prisoners and several stands of colors.
Simultaneously with the last assault on Cleburne
's left General Hardee
, from his post of observation near the tunnel, had opportunely directed an effective charge of a brigade, conducted by Brigadier-General Cummings
, against the attacking force.
No further attempts were made on Cleburne
's front, and the sun was getting low. General Hardee
, secure of the right, now proceeded up the ridge to his left as the ringing cheers raised by the whole of Cleburne
's division over their victory extended and were taken up and reechoed by the entire line.
He reached the end of his line only to find that the left centre of the army had been carried by assault, and a force of Federal infantry bearing down upon his flank.
The left regiment of Walthall
's brigade, Cheatham
's division, rapidly changed front, and formed, under fire, a weak, short line across and at right angles with the crest of the ridge.
This line with difficulty stemmed the tide until, strengthened and prolonged by reinforcements drawn from the right, it was able to hold the position intact until darkness put an end to the conflict.2
After nightfall Cleburne
was charged by General Hardee
duty of covering the movements and bringing up the rear of the right wing as it withdrew to Chickamauga Station
strengthened his skirmishers and made all the display of force practicable.
At the proper time the artillery was withdrawn and started, then the infantry line in turn, and the pickets were left under charge of a competent staff officer, with instructions to withdraw them at a stated hour, which was successfully accomplished without the loss of a man. Later the bridge across the Chickamauga
was filled with rails and fired, and Cleburne
's division took up its sorrowful march to the railroad, which was reached at a late hour.
The scene of disorder and demoralization at the station beggars description; it can only be realized by one who has seen a beaten army.
Regiments were separated from brigades, brigades from their divisions, and in a large part of the army organization was apparently destroyed.
The staff officers of the various commands spent the remainder of the night in endeavoring to bring order out of chaos.
In a biographic sketch of Cleburne General Hardee
thus speaks of this engagement (see “The Irish
,” page 645):
Cleburne's position on the right was most insecure, from its liability to be turned.
He maintained it with his accustomed ability, and upon the repulse of the last assault directed in person a counter charge, which effected the capture of a large number of prisoners and several stands of colors.
The assailants gave up the contest and withdrew from our front.
But while the cheers of victory raised on the right were extending down the line the left of the army had been carried by assault and the day was lost.
All that now remained to the victorious right was to cover the retreat of the army.
This it did successfully.
If the right, instead of the left, had been carried it would have given the enemy possession of the only line of retreat, and no organized body of the Confederate army could have escaped.
In the gloom of night-fall Cleburne's division, the last to retire, sadly withdrew from the ground it had held so gallantly, and brought up the rear of the retiring army.
Before dawn on the morning of the 26th General Bragg
put the infantry of the army in motion towards Dalton
, leaving the trains and artillery to follow, and Cleburne
to guard the rear.
His division, in tact from the disasters of the 24th and 25th, was perhaps the only one in the army to which that responsibility could have been safely entrusted.
The trains were toiling forward over a single narrow road, the artillery wheels cutting into the soft mud up to the axles, and requiring heavy details to prize them out, and the rear wagon was still in sight when the enemy, flushed with victory and pressing forward in energetic pursuit,
appeared and opened on Cleburne
Showing his men at all prominent points, to create an impression of greater force, Cleburne
gradually fell back towards Graysville
He had scarcely progressed two miles when a strange officer rode up and stated that General Hardee
(who had been called forward to confer with General Bragg
) directed that he at once push forward his infantry towards Dalton
Surprised at such an order, and hearing no sound of battle in front to indicate that the column of march had been intercepted, Cleburne
hesitated an instant, and turning to the bearer of the alleged order asked him if he appreciated that its import and effect were to abandon the artillery and transportation of the army.
The officer evidently had not, and explained that he had been without rest for two nights, was confused, and might have misunderstood his instructions.
, therefore, took the responsibility of disregarding this order until further advised; and soon learned through dispatches from General Hardee
that the abandonment of the trains had never been contemplated an instant, and that the order had been wholly misunderstood.
The bearer, a volunteer but recently on duty, disappeared from the corps staff.
Soon after passing Graysville
the enemy's cavalry made a dash at the column, but was easily repulsed.
The troops reached Ringgold
at 10 P. M., weary and hungry; and Cleburne
there received orders to cross Chickamauga creek
— which at this point is wide and deep,--to bivouac on the opposite bank, and march at 4 A. M. the following day, still as the rear guard.
The weather was cool and the wind cut keenly and Cleburne
, remarking that if his troops waded the creek, waist deep, and went to sleep chilled he would lose more men by sickness than in a battle, decided to take the risk of camping on the northern bank, and to start an hour earlier on the following morning, when the exercise of marching might be relied upon to obviate evil effects.
Thus twice in one day Cleburne
assumed what might have been a grave responsibility.
Putting the command in motion at 3 A. M. on the 27th Cleburne
marched through the town of Ringgold
to take position in the gap of Taylor's Ridge
, in conformity with an order direct from General Bragg
A staff officer was dispatched to him for more specific instructions.
He was found at Catoosa Station. General Bragg
's instructions were: “Tell General Cleburne
to hold his position at all hazards, and to keep back the enemy until the transportation of the army is secured, the salvation of which depends upon him.”
Such was the brief but comprehensive order, in pursuance of which Cleburne
, with 4,157
effectives, was to confront a flushed and victorious enemy and do battle for the safety of the army.
rises abruptly about a mile east of the town of Ringgold
, and is divided by a gap of just sufficient width for the passage of the railroad, a county road, and a large branch of Chickamagua creek.
This creek, in its windings, was bridged at three points within a few hundred yards of the rear or east mouth of the gap, thus rendering the position hazardous in case of the turning of either flank.
The ridge on the right of the gap facing the town rises gradually, while on the left it is abrupt and precipitous.
Here was placed the 16th Alabama, of Lowry
's brigade, Major T. A. Ashford
commanding, to protect the left flank, while in front of the hill facing Ringgold
were posted three companies of the 6th and 7th Arkansas, of Liddell
's brigade, under charge of Lieut. Dulin
, of Liddell
In and across the mouth of the gap was located the remainder of the Arkansas
brigade, commanded by Col. D. C. Govan
, consisting of the 5th and 13th Arkansas, consolidated, under Col. J. E. Murray
; the 8th and 19th Arkansas, consolidated, under Lieut. Col. A. S. Hutchinson
; the 6th and 7th Arkansas, consolidated, under Lieut. Col. Peter Snyder
, and the 2d, 15th, and 24th Arkansas, consolidated, under Col. E. Warfield
From the brigade skirmishers were thrown forward into a patch of woods in front of the gap. Connecting with Govan
's right were posted two regiments of Smith
's Texas brigade, Col. H. B. Granbury
commanding; the 6th, 10th, and 15th Texas, consolidated, under Captain John R. Rennard
on the left; and the 17th, 18th, 24th, and 25th Texas, consolidated, under Major W. A. Taylor
, on the right.
The other regiments of this brigade, the 7th Texas, Capt. C. E. Tally
commanding, was posted on the crest of the hill to guard the right flank of the brigade at its base.
The 32d and 45th Mississippi regiments, consolidated, under Col. A. B. Hardcastle
; the 33d Alabama, Col. Samuel Adams
, and the 45th Alabama, under Lieut. Col. H. D. Lampley
, which constituted the remainder of Lowry
's brigade, were held in reserve in the centre of the gap.
Only a portion of Polk
's brigade was with the division, and this, consisting of the 1st Arkansas, Col. J. W. Colquitt
; the 2d Tennessee, Col. W. A. Robinson
; and the 3d and 5th Confederate, consolidated, under Lieut. Col. J. C. Cole
, was placed at the rear or eastern outlet of the gap. At the mouth of the gap, on Govan
's line, was posted a section of Semple
's Alabama battery, two Napoleon
guns, under command of Lieut. Goldthwaite
These guns were charged, one with cannister, the other with shell, and masked with bushes.
All of the
troops were ordered to keep concealed from view.
The few cavalrymen at Cleburne
's disposal had been instructed to watch the crossing of the Chickamauga
, and as soon as the enemy appeared to fire upon them at long range and retreat in haste through the town and gap, to create upon the enemy the impression that only a small force of cavalry confronted them.
These dispositions hastily made were scarcely completed when the cavalry discharged their guns, and in seeming confusion rushed into the gap, followed soon after by the Federals
, marching in column down the railroad, with skirmishers thrown out in front and on the flanks, but evidently unsuspicious of the infantry concealed and awaiting them.
They were allowed to come within short range, when the screens were removed and both guns opened upon them.
This fire was kept up rapidly, and with that of the infantry joined in turn caused the column to reel and seek shelter under the railroad embankment from the flank fire which the conformation of Cleburne
's line enabled him to deliver upon their right.
Notwithstanding the suddenness and surprise of the attack the confusion in the enemy's ranks was but brief, and with admirable steadiness they deployed in front of the gap and opened a heavy fire, at the same time moving a force and making a vigorous attack upon the right of Cleburne
's line on the ridge.
's command here opened a deadly fire, but did not at once succeed in checking the advance.
being apprised of this sent two companies from his left to strengthen his right.
had previously placed skirmishers at right angles to his line up the hill, and now with three companies he charged the flanking force, routed it, and captured one hundred prisoners and the colors of the 29th Missouri regiment.
Another body of the enemy moved beyond Cleburne
's right to ascend the ridge.
Information of this movement was sent to General Polk
, in rear of the gap, with orders to meet and check it. General Polk
had learned of this movement, and with soldierly instinct and discretion had anticipated the order by sending to the proper point the 1st Arkansas regiment, which encountered the enemy's skirmishers near the crest of the ridge and, with the assistance of the 7th Texas, drove them back after a stubborn fight.
Large masses of the enemy were now passing to Cleburne
's right, and General Lowry
was moved up to strengthen Polk
and prolong the right of the line on the ridge.
In his official report, General Cleburne
Moving rapidly ahead of his command General Lowry found the
1st Arkansas again heavily engaged, but heroically holding its ground against great odds.
Assuring the regiment that support was at hand, he bought up the 32nd and 45th Mississippi in double time, and threw them into the fight at the critical moment.
The enemy gave way, and went down the ridge in great confusion.
Lowry now brought up the other regiments of his brigade, and Polk brought up the other two regiments of his command.
The enemy constantly reinforcing made another powerful effort to crown the ridge still further to the right.
A peculiarity of Taylor's ridge is the wavy conformation of its north side.
The enemy moving up in line of battle, suddenly concentrated opposite one of the depressions in this wavy surface, and rushed up it in heavy columns.
General Polk, with the assistance of General Lowry, as quickly concentrated a double line opposite this point — at the same time placing the 2d Tennessee in such a position as to command the flank of any force emerging from it. The attack was again defeated, and the enemy hurled down the hill, with the loss of many killed on the spot, several prisoners, and the colors of the 76th Ohio regiment.
The colors and most of the prisoners were captured by the 1st Arkansas.
In a fight where all fought nobly, I feel it my duty to particularly compliment this regiment for its courage and constancy.
In the battle the officers fought with pistols and rocks; and so close was the fight that some of the enemy were knocked down with the latter missiles and captured.
Apprehending another attack General Polk rapidly threw up some slight defences in his front.
Meanwhile a force of the enemy sent to menace the extreme left was checked by the skirmishers of Ashford
on the hill, and those of Govan
on the bank of the creek and to the left of the railroad.
During all this time Govan
's troops at the gap had been subjected to a heavy and continuous fire, to which they replied with spirit and effect; and under the voice and eye of their intrepid commander felt themselves equal to any emergency.
in company with Govan
remained in the front line, in the mouth of the gap and watched every movement.
The enemy effected a lodgment in some buildings near the line from which they kept up a well-directed fire of sharpshooters.
Finally concentrating a force under this cover they charged Govan
's skirmishers, but were repulsed by cannister from Goldthwaite
afterwards shelled the buildings with such effect as in a great measure to abate the annoyance from that quarter.
In this charge upon skirmishers a stand of the enemy's colors was left lying within sixty yards of the line, and Captain McGee
of the 2d Arkansas begged permission to charge with a squad and secure the colors; but Cleburne
refused, saying he would not have even one of his brave men killed or wounded for the honor of its capture.
So the colors remained temptingly under the covetous eyes of the gallant McGee
, who could with difficulty be restrained, notwithstanding Cleburne
It was now past noon, and for five hours Cleburne
had been battling against odds increasing every moment.
Large masses of the enemy at this hour in view justified the belief that most of Grant
's army was now at and near Ringgold
, preparing to throw itself in overwhelming force upon the flanks of the one opposing division.
would be forced back was certain; it was only a question of time.
About 12 o'clock a dispatch was received from General Hardee
to the effect that the trains were now safe and that Cleburne
might withdraw when, in his judgment, it was advisable.
Up to 12:30 the enemy's fire had been exclusively of small arms, but his guns having come up he opened a heavy and rapid artillery fire, but did not again advance his infantry upon the front.
At 1 P. M. Cleburne
's artillery was remasked and run back by hand, followed by the main line of infantry, leaving only skirmishers along the front.
These were retired later, and the bridges across the creek were fired.
This was barely accomplished when the enemy simultaneously marched over the crest of the ridge on the right and advanced through the gap.
took position one mile in rear upon a hill known as “Dick
's ridge,” where slight works were thrown up and preparations made for another contest.
The enemy, however, declined battle, and advancing only to the eastern outlet of the gap abandoned the pursuit.
carried into action 4,157 bayonets, and his loss in killed, wounded and missing was 221.
With the exception of the few cavalrymen before mentioned, and who took no part in the actual battle, it was fought by his division alone.
For over six hours he held at bay the larger part of Grant
's forces, and again saved the wheels of the army.
For this engagement General Cleburne
received a vote of thanks from Congress.
In his official report Cleburne
thus speaks of his command:
The conduct of officers and men in this fight needs no comment.
Every man, as far as I know, did his whole duty.
To Brigadier-Generals Polk and Lowry, and Colonels Govan and Granbury I must return my thanks.
Four better officers are not in the service of the Confederacy.
Lieutenant Goldthwaite, of the artillery, proved himself a brave and skillful officer.
Never was praise more worthily bestowed, nor by one more competent to bestow it.
Remaining in undisturbed possession of the position on “Dick
's ridge” until dark, Cleburne
, in obedience to orders, marched to Tunnel
, where he arrived about midnight, and where his weary troops had their first regular ration since the 25th.
On the next morning he occupied the line of Tunnel Hill
, where the division remained on outpost duty until the opening of the campaign in May, 1864.
A few days after reaching Tunnel Hill
received a flag of truce from General Hooker
in regard to exchange of prisoners.
's troops it need only be said that they were worthy of their commander — a man of lofty courage, and pure patriotism, unerring in his military instincts, and quick and resolute in the execution of his plans, which once matured, never miscarried.
So uniform was his success, that at length friend and foe alike learned to note the place in the battle of his original blue battle flag, the distinctive mark of Cleburne
's division — the only one in the Confederacy
allowed to be carried into action other than the national colors.
Just one year after his brilliant service at Ringgold
, on the fatal field of Franklin
died as he had lived--sans peur et sans reproche