Chickamauga — the great battle of the west.1
by Daniel H. Hill, Lieutenant-General, C. S. A.
Confederate line of battle in the Chickamauga woods.|
On the 13th of July, 1863, while in charge of the defenses of Richmond
and the Department of North Carolina, I received an unexpected order to go West.
I was seated in a yard of a house in the suburbs of Richmond
(the house belonging to Mr. Poe
, a relative of the poet), when President Davis
, dressed in a plain suit of gray and attended by a small escort in brilliant uniform, galloped up and said: “Rosecrans
is about to advance upon Bragg
; I have found it necessary to detail Hardee
to defend Mississippi
His corps is without a commander.
I wish you to command it.”
“I cannot do that,” I replied, “as General Stewart
“I can cure that,” answered Mr. Davis
, “by making you a lieutenant-general.
Your papers will be ready to-morrow.
When can you start?”
“In twenty-four hours,” was the reply.
gave his views on the subject, some directions in regard to matters at Chattanooga
, and then left in seemingly good spirits.2
The condition of our railroads even in 1863 was wretched, so bad that my staff and myself concluded to leave our horses in Virginia
and resupply ourselves in Atlanta
On the 19th of July I reported to General Bragg
I had not seen him since I had been the junior lieutenant
in his battery of artillery at Corpus Christi, Texas
, in 1845.
The other two lieutenants were George H. Thomas
and John F. Reynolds
We four had been in the same mess there.
had been killed at Gettysburg
twelve days before my new assignment.
, the strongest and most pronounced Southerner of the four, was now Rosecrans
It was a strange casting of lots that three messmates of Corpus Christi
should meet under such changed circumstances at Chickamauga
My interview with General Bragg
was not satisfactory.
He was silent and reserved and seemed gloomy and despondent.
He had grown prematurely old since I saw him last, and showed much nervousness.
His relations with his next in command (General Polk
) and with some others of his subordinates were known not to be pleasant.
His many retreats, too, had alienated the rank and file from him, or at least had taken away that enthusiasm which soldiers feel for the successful general, and which makes them obey his orders without question, and thus wins for him other successes.
The one thing that a soldier never fails to understand is victory, and the commander who leads him to victory will be adored by him whether that victory has been won by skill or by blundering, by the masterly handling of a few troops against great odds, or by the awkward use of overwhelming numbers.
Long before Stonewall Jackson
had risen to the height of his great fame, he had won the implicit confidence of his troops in all his movements.
“Where are you going?”
one inquired of the “foot cavalry” as they were making the usual stealthy march to the enemy's rear.
“We don't know, but old Jack
does,” was the laughing answer.
This trust was the fruit of past victories, and it led to other and greater achievements.
I was assigned to Hardee
's old corps, consisting of Cleburne
's and Stewart
's divisions, and made my headquarters at Tyner's Station
, a few miles east of Chattanooga
on the Knoxville railroad.
The Federals soon made their appearance at Bridgeport, Alabama
, and I made arrangements to guard the crossings of the Tennessee
north of Chattanooga
On Fast Day,
Map of the Chickamauga campaign. |
August 21st, while religious services were being held in town, the enemy appeared on the opposite side of the river and began throwing shells into the houses.4 Rev. B. M. Palmer, D. D.
, of New Orleans, was in the act of prayer when a shell came hissing near the church.
He went on calmly with his petition to the Great Being “who rules in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth,” but at its close, the preacher, opening his eyes, noticed a perceptible diminution of his congregation.
Some women and children were killed and wounded by the shelling.
Our pickets and scouts had given no notice of the approach of the enemy.
On Sunday, August 30th, we learned through a citizen that McCook
's corps had crossed at Caperton's Ferry, some thirty-five miles below Chattanooga
, the movement having begun on the 29th.
's corps was also crossing at or near the same point.
The want of information at General Bragg
's headquarters was in striking contrast with the minute knowledge General Lee
always had of every operation in his front, and I was most painfully impressed with the feeling that it was to be a hap-hazard campaign on our part.5 Rosecrans
had effected the crossing of the river (Thomas
's corps) and had occupied Will's Valley
, between Sand and Lookout mountains
, without opposition, and had established his
headquarters at Trenton
now interposed to screen all the enemy's movements from our observation.6
On the 7th of September Rosecrans
to cross Lookout Mountain
at Winston's Gap, forty-six miles south of Chattanooga
, and to occupy Alpine
, east of the mountains.
was ordered to cross the mountain at Stevens's and Cooper's gaps
, some twenty-five miles from Chattanooga
, and to occupy McLemore's Cove on the east, a narrow valley between Lookout and Pigeon mountains
. Pigeon Mountain
is parallel to the former, not so high and rugged, and does not extend so far north, ending eight miles south of Chattanooga
was left in Will's Valley
to watch Chattanooga
had had some inclosed works constructed at Chattanooga
, and the place could have been held by a division against greatly superior forces.
By holding Chattanooga
in that way, Crittenden
's corps would have been neutralized, and a union between Rosecrans
would have been impossible.
Moreover, the town was the objective point of the campaign, and to lose it was virtually to lose all east Tennessee
south of Knoxville
knew at the time of the prospective help coming to him from the Army of Northern Virginia, it was of still more importance to hold the town, that he might be the more readily in communication with Longstreet
on his arrival.
Under similar circumstances