Chapter 19: battle of Chickamauga
- Position of the Confederacy after Gettysburg and Vicksburg. -- Reenforcements of Bragg. -- the armies before the battle of Chickamauga. -- the order of battle. -- engagement of the 19th. -- battle of the 20th. -- Rosecrans's order to Wood. -- Longstreet's advance. -- the casualties. -- Thomas at Chattanooga. -- the battle of Wauhatchie. -- Bragg's Positition. -- battle of Chattanooga or Missionary Ridge. -- positions of the armies. -- the attack on the Ridge. -- Bragg's retreat. -- the Knoxville campaign. -- Longstreet's expedition. -- Fort Sanders and its garrison. -- storming the Fort. -- the retreat. -- casualties of the campaign.
Having rested at Culpeper from July 24 to 31, and then crossed the Rapidan to Orange C. H., where we could receive supplies by rail, Lee's army now recuperated rapidly from its exhaustion by the campaign of Gettysburg. There remained nearly five months of open weather before winter. The prospects of the Confederacy had been sadly altered by our failures at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Grant would now be able to bring against us in Ga. Rosecrans reenforced by the army which had taken Vicksburg. To remain idle was to give the enemy time to do this. Once more the necessity was upon us to devise some offensive which might bring on a battle with approximately equal chances. Lee, accordingly, urged forward the building up of his own army with the design of an early aggressive movement against Meade. It must be admitted that the opportunity for such was slight. The enemy's fortified lines about Alexandria were too near; as was proven later, when in Nov. an advance was actually attempted. But the Confederacy still held unimpaired the advantage of the ‘Interior Lines,’ already spoken of as open to them in May, and then urged by Longstreet both upon Secretary Seddon and Lee. These still offered the sole opportunity ever presented the South for a great strategic victory. Already, however,  movements of the enemy were on foot which, in a few weeks, would enable them to close the shorter route from Richmond to Chattanooga via Knoxville, and leave us only the much longer and less favorable line via Weldon, Wilmington, and Augusta. Unfortunately, no one but Longstreet seems to have appreciated this, and he was very slow in again taking up the matter and urging it. It resulted that the movement, when attempted, was too late to utilize the short Knoxville line and that only five small brigades of infantry were transferred to the west in time to take any part in the hard-fought battle of Chickamauga. This was consequently but another bloody and fruitless victory to be followed by a terrible defeat in a few weeks when the enemy's reenforcements had joined. It is first to tell of the dilatory consideration and slow acceptance of the proposed strategy, which should have been decided upon even before Lee's army was again south of the Potomac, and every subsequent movement planned to facilitate it. It was not until about Aug. 15, two weeks after the army was safe behind the Rapidan, that Longstreet again called the attention of Sec'y Seddon to the tremendous threatenings of the situation, and pointed out the one hope of escape which he could suggest. There seems to have been no reply. A few days later, in conversation with Lee, Longstreet again expressed his views. Lee was unwilling to consider going west in person, but approved the sending of Longstreet, and even spoke of his being given independent command there, if the War Department could be brought to approve. About Aug. 23, Lee was called to Richmond, and was detained there by President Davis for nearly two weeks. During this time, consent was given that Longstreet should go to reenforce Bragg against Rosecrans, but with only Hood's and Mc-Laws's divisions, nine brigades, and my battalion of 26 guns. It was proposed to send this force from Louisa C. H. by rail to Chattanooga, via Bristol and Knoxville, a distance of but 540 miles, and it was hoped that the movement could be made within four days. There was too little appreciation of the importance of time in  the enterprise proposed, and it was not until Sept. 9 that the first train came to Louisa C. H. to begin the transportation. On that day 2000 Confederates under Gen. Frazier, who had been unwisely held at Cumberland Gap and allowed to be surrounded by a superior force, surrendered without a fight. Already Burnside had occupied Knoxville, leaving us only the long line via Petersburg, Wilmington, Augusta, and Atlanta, about 925 miles, with imperfect connections through some cities and some changes of gauge. The infantry was given precedence, and my battalion was marched to Petersburg, where it took trains about 4 P. M., Thursday, Sept. 17. At 2 A. M., Sunday, the 20th, we reached Wilmington, 225 miles in 58 hours. Here we changed cars and ferried the river, leaving at 2 P. M. The battle of Chickamauga was being fought upon the 19th and 20th, only five of our nine brigades having arrived in time to participate. We reached Kingsville, S. C., 192 miles in 28 hours, changed trains in six hours, and got to Augusta, 140 miles, at 2 P. M. on Tuesday, the 22d. Leaving Augusta at 7 P. M., we reached Atlanta, 171 miles, at 2 P. M., Wednesday. Leaving at 4 A. M., Thursday, we were carried 115 miles and landed at Ringgold Station, 12 miles from the battle-field, at 2 A. M. on Friday, Sept. 25. Our journey by rail had been 843 miles and had consumed seven days and 10 hours, or 178 hours. It could scarcely be considered rapid transit, yet under the circumstances it was really a very creditable feat for our railroad service under the attendant circumstances. We found ourselves restricted to the use of one long roundabout line of single-track road of light construction, much of it of the ‘stringer track’ of those days, a 16-pound rail on stringers, with very moderate equipment and of different gauges, for the entire service at the time of a great battle of the principal armies of the Confederacy. The task would have taxed a double-tracked road with modern equipment. Its efficient performance was simply impossible, and the incomplete success we were able to obtain by getting five brigades of Longstreet's infantry upon the field, without any of his artillery, shows the soundness of our strategy, and is an earnest of what might have been accomplished, had a campaign upon our short interior lines been inaugurated in May, under Lee in  person, instead of the unfortunate invasion of Pa. Indeed, it must be said of the battle itself, that the force upon the field was ample to have reaped the full fruits of victory, had its management been judicious. The story of the details, presently to be told, is but another story of excellent fighting made vain by inefficient handling of an army hastily brought together, poorly organized, and badly commanded. It will be seen that the battle was opened by two divisions attacking the whole army of the enemy in a fortified position, the attack being made in a single line without supports at hand. They are defeated and put out of action for the day. Two more divisions try and fare little better. A fifth, in reserve, sends in one brigade without result; four are not engaged. The morning is gone and the battle of the Right Wing is over. That of the Left Wing has scarcely begun. It advances, finds by accident a gap in the enemy's line, and drives off three divisions of the enemy. The left wing fights the rest of the enemy's army (three-fourths of it) until near dark, when both wings unite and drive the enemy off the field; darkness covering his retreat. It is the old familiar story of piecemeal attacks. On the arrival of Longstreet, Bragg's army would comprise five corps and a reserve division, organized as shown below. No exact returns of the total ‘present for duty’ exist, but instead are given Livermore's estimates of the ‘Effective Strength.’1