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Chapter 40:

After the battle at Murfreesboro, in Tennessee, a period of inactivity ensued between the large armed forces, which was disturbed only by occasional expeditions by small bodies on each side. On March 5, 1863, an expedition of the enemy, under Colonel Colburn, was captured at Spring Hill, ten miles south of Franklin, by Generals Van Dorn and Forrest. Thirteen hundred prisoners were taken. In April another expedition, under Colonel Streight, into northern Georgia, was captured near Rome by our vigilant, daring cavalry leader, Forrest. This was one of the most remarkable, and, to the enemy, disastrous raids of the war. Seventeen hundred prisoners were taken. In June some movements were made by General Rosecrans, which were followed by the withdrawal of our forces from middle Tennessee, and a return to the occupation of Chattanooga. At this time General Buckner held Knoxville and commanded the district of east Tennessee; General Samuel Jones commanded the district of southwest Virginia, his headquarters at Abingdon, Virginia. Between the two was Cumberland Gap, the well-known pass by which the first pioneer, Daniel Boone, went into Kentucky, and the only one in that region through which it was supposed an army, with the usual artillery and wagon train, could march from the north into east Tennessee or southwest Virginia. It was therefore occupied and partially fortified, which, with the precipitous heights flanking it on the right and left, would, it was hoped, suffice against an attack in front, and prove an adequate barrier to an advance on our important line of communication in its rear, which Buckner and Jones were relied on to defend.

On August 20th Brigadier General I. W. Frazier, an educated soldier in whom I had much confidence, assumed by assignment the [357] command of this position, energetically commenced to perfect the defenses, ,and ingeniously though unsuccessfully endeavored to bring a supply of water into the fortifications. He reported his force to amount to seventeen hundred effective infantry and artillery, and about six hundred cavalry; the supply of ammunition was deficient, and some of it damaged by a badly constructed magazine.

About August 20th it was ascertained that the army under General Rosecrans had crossed the mountains to Stevenson and Bridgeport. His force of infantry and artillery amounted to seventy thousand men, divided into four corps. About the same time General Burnside advanced from Kentucky, crossed, by using pack-mules, the rugged mountains west of Cumberland Gap, and about September 1st approached Knoxville, east Tennessee, with a force estimated at over twenty-five thousand men. General Buckner, therefore, evacuated Knoxville, and took position at Loudon, with a force of about five thousand infantry, artillery, and cavalry; this rendered the occupation of Cumberland Gap hazardous to the garrison, and of comparatively little value to us, but when its surrender was demanded by a force which might be resisted, General Frazier promptly refused to comply with the demand. Subsequently, General Burnside advanced with a large body of troops, and, approaching from the south, renewed the demand, when General Frazier, recognizing the inutility as well as futility of resistance, surrendered on September 9, 1863.1 The main body of our army was encamped near Chattanooga, while the cavalry force was recruiting from fatigue and exhaustion near Rome, Georgia. The enemy first attempted to strike Buckner in the rear, but failing, commenced a movement [358] against our left and rear. On the last of August he had crossed his main force over the Tennessee River at Carpenter's Ferry, near Stevenson. Our effective force of infantry and artillery was about thirty-five thousand. By active reconnaissance of our cavalry, which had been brought forward, it was ascertained that Rosecran's general movement was toward our left and rear, in the direction of Dalton and Rome, keeping Lookout Mountain between us. The want of supplies in the country and the force under Burnside on our right rendered hazardous a movement on the rear of the former with our force. General Lee, with commendable zeal for the public welfare and characteristic selfdenial, had consented to remain for a time on the defensive for the purpose of reenforcing Bragg's army, and General Longstreet had been detached with his corps for that purpose. These troops were to come by rail from Atlanta, and might soon be expected to arrive. It was, therefore, determined to retire toward our expected reenforcements, as well as to meet the foe in front when he should emerge from the mountain gorges.

As we could not thus hold Chattanooga, our army, on September 7th and 8th, took position from Lee and Gordon's Mill to Lafayette, on the road leading south from Chattanooga and fronting the east slope of Lookout Mountain. The forces on the Hiawassee and at Chickamauga Station took the route by Ringgold. A small cavalry force was left in observation at Chattanooga, and a brigade of infantry at Ringgold to cover the railroad.

The enemy immediately moved the corps that threatened Buckner into Chattanooga; shortly after, it commenced to move on our rear by the roads to Lafayette and Ringgold. Another corps was nearly opposite the head of McLemore Cove, in Will's Valley, and one at Colonel Winston's opposite Alpine. During the 9th it was ascertained that a column, between four and five thousand, had crossed Lookout Mountain by Stevens's and Cooper's Gaps into McLemore's Cove. An effort was made by General Bragg to capture this column, with intent then to turn upon the others, and beat each in succession. But, some delay having occurred in the advance of our forces through the gaps, the enemy took advantage of it and retreated to the mountain passes. He then withdrew his corps from the route toward Alpine to unite with the one near McLemore's Cove, which was gradually extended toward Lee and Gordon's Mills. It was now determined to turn upon the Third Corps of the enemy, approaching us from the direction of Chattanooga. The forces sent toward the Cove were accordingly withdrawn to Lafayette, [359] and Polk's and Walker's corps were moved immediately in the direction of Lee and Gordon's Mills, Lieutenant General Polk commanding. He was ordered to attack early the next morning, as the enemy's corps was known to be divided, and it was hoped by successive attacks to crush his army in detail; the expectation was not realized, however, as his forces withdrew and formed a junction. Our trains and supplies were then put in a safe position, and all our forces were concentrated along the Chickamauga, threatening the opposing force in front. Major General Wheeler, with two divisions of cavalry, occupied the extreme left, vacated by Hill's corps, and was directed to press the enemy in McLemore's Cove; to divert his attention from the real movement, General Forrest covered the movement on our front and right; General B. R. Johnson was moved from Ringgold to the extreme right of the line; Walker's corps formed on his left opposite Alexander's Bridge, Buckner's next, near Tedford Ford, Polk opposite Lee and Gordon's Mills, and Hill on the extreme left. Orders were issued to cross the Chickamauga at 6 A. M., commencing by the extreme right.

The movements were unexpectedly delayed by the difficulty of the roads and the resistance of the enemy's cavalry. The right column did not effect its crossing until late in the afternoon of the 18th; at this time, Major General Hood, from the Army of Northern Virginia, arrived and assumed command of the column. General W. H. T. Walker had a severe skirmish at Alexander's Bridge, from which he finally drove the enemy, but not before he had destroyed it; General Walker, however, found a ford, crossed, and Hood united with him after night. The advance was resumed at daylight on the 19th, when Buckner's corps with Cheatham's division of Polk's corps crossed the Chickamauga, and our line of battle was thus formed: Buckner's left rested on the bank of the stream about one mile below Lee and Gordon's Mills; on his right came Hood with his own and Johnson's divisions, and Walker's formed the extreme right; Forrest with his cavalry was in advance to the right. He soon became engaged with such a large force that two brigades were sent from Walker's division to his support. Forrest, here fighting with his usual tenacity, desperately held in check the comparatively immense force which he was resisting. General Walker, being ordered to commence the attack on the right, boldly advanced and soon developed opposing forces greatly superior to his own; he drove them handsomely, however, capturing several batteries of artillery by dashing charges. As he pressed back the force in his front, it rested upon such heavy masses in the rear that he was in turn [360] repulsed. Cheatham's division was ordered to his support; it came too late. Before it could reach him, assailed on both flanks, he had been forced back to his first position, but the two commands united, though yet greatly outnumbered, and by a spirited attack recovered our advantage. These movements on our right were in such direction as to create an opening between the left of Cheatham's division and the right of Hood's. To fill this, Stewart's division (the reserve of Buckner's corps) was ordered up, and soon became engaged, as now did Hood's whole front. The enemy had transferred forces from his extreme right so as to concentrate his main body on his left, acutely perceiving the probability of an effort on our part to gain his rear, and cut off his communication with his base at Chattanooga. The main part of the battle, therefore, was fought on the opposite flank from that where both armies had probably expected it. Lieutenant General Polk was now directed to move the remainder of his corps across the stream, and to assume command in person; Hill's corps was also directed to move to our right. Stewart, by a gallant assault, broke the enemy's center and pushed forward until he became exposed to an enfilading fire. Hood steadily advanced, driving the force in his front until night. Cleburne, of Hill's corps, immediately on reaching the right closed so impetuously with the enemy as to create surprise, and drove him in great disorder. From prisoners and otherwise, the commanding general became satisfied that his antagonist had by marching night and day succeeded in concentrating his whole force, and that it had that day been fought on the field of Chickamauga. A part of the forces on our extreme left had not reached the field of actual conflict in time to participate in the engagement of that day; they, together with the remainder of Longstreet's corps, were brought up and put in position to renew the battle in the morning. Our troops slept upon the field they had so bravely contested. The Confederate troops engaged on the right were as follows:

General W. H. T. Walker's division   5,500
Cheatham's division   7,000
A. P. Stewart's division   4,040
Cleburne's division   5,115
Hood's, B. R. Johnson's, and Trigg's troops   8,428
Forrest's and Pegram's cavalry   3,500
Total 33,583

General Wheeler with his cavalry had been in observation on the left, and for a fortnight, daily skirmishing with the enemy. On the 17th [361] he was ordered to move into McLemore's Cove to make a demonstration in that direction, where, after a severe engagement, he developed a force too large to be dislodged. On the 18th he was directed to hold the gap in Pigeon Mountain, so as to prevent the enemy from moving on our left. As appeared subsequently, General Rosecrans, by forced marches, had made a detour, and formed a junction of his forces in front of ours, so that it was no longer needful to hold the passes of the Pigeon Mountain, and Wheeler with his cavalry was called to take position on the left of our line.

On the night of the 19th, the whole force having been assembled, including the five thousand effective infantry sent for temporary service from Virginia, the command was organized as two corps, the one on the right to be commanded by Lieutenant General Polk; the other, on the left, to be commanded by Lieutenant General Longstreet. These corps consisted respectively as follows: Polk's right wing, of Breckinridge's, Cleburne's, Cheatham's, and Walker's divisions, and Forrest's cavalry—aggregate, 22,471; Longstreet's left wing, of Preston's, Hindman's, Johnson's (Hood's), Law's, Kershaw's, Stewart's divisions, and Wheeler's cavalry—aggregate, 24,850; grand aggregate of both wings, 47,321. The forces under Rosecrans, as has been subsequently learned, consisted of McCook's corps, 14,345; Thomas's, 24,072; Crittenden's, 13,975; Granger's, about 5,000; cavalry, 7,000: whole number, 64,392. On the night of the 19th General Bragg gave his instructions orally to the general officers whom he had summoned to his campfire, as to the position of the different commands; the order of battle was that the attack should commence on the right at daybreak, and be taken up successively to the left. From a. combination of mishaps it resulted that the attack was not commenced until nine or ten o'clock in the day, and, what was much more important, the troops from the right to left did not in rapid succession engage, so as to have that effectiveness which would have resulted from concert of action. Prodigies of valor were performed, many partial successes were gained in the beginning of the battle, but in the first operations the troops so frequently moved to the assault without the necessary cohesion in a charging line that nearly all early assaults by our right wing were successively repulsed with loss. Though at first invariably successful, our troops were subsequently compelled to retire before the heavy reenforcements constantly brought.

Wheeler with his cavalry struck boldly at the enemy's extreme right and center, and with such effect that, in the Federal battle reports, it appears the attack was mistaken for a flank movement by General Longstreet. [362]

Rosecrans having transferred his main strength to our right, the attack of the left met with less resistance, and was successfully and vigorously followed up. About 4 P. M. a general assault was made by the right, and the attack was pressed from right to left until the enemy gave way at different points, and finally, about dark, yielded along the whole line. Our army bivouacked on the ground it had so gallantly won. The foe, though driven from his lines, continued to confront us when the action closed. But it was found the next morning that he had availed himself of the night to withdraw from our front, and that his main body was soon in position within his lines at Chattanooga. We captured over eight thousand prisoners, fifty-one pieces of artillery, fifteen thousand stand of small arms, and quantities of ammunition, with wagons, ambulances, teams, and medicines with hospital stores in large quantities. From the appearance of the field the enemy's losses must have largely exceeded ours, and the victory was complete; these results, however, could not console us for the lives they cost. Pride in the gallantry of our heroes, rejoicing at the repulse of the invader, was subdued by the memory of our fallen brave.

After General Rosecrans's retreat to Chattanooga, he withdrew his forces from the passes of Lookout Mountain, which covered his line of supplies from Bridgeport. These commanding positions were immediately occupied by our troops, and a cavalry force was sent across the Tennessee, which destroyed a large wagon train in the Sequatchie Valley, captured McMinnsville and other points on the railroad, and thus temporarily cut off the source of supplies for the army at Chattanooga.

The reasons why General Bragg did not promptly pursue are stated in his report thus:

Our supplies of all kinds were greatly reduced, the railroad having been constantly occupied in transporting troops, prisoners, and our wounded, and the bridges having been destroyed to a point two miles south of Ringgold. These supplies were ordered to be replenished, and, as soon as it was seen that we could be subsisted, the army was moved forward to seize and hold the only communication the enemy had with his supplies in the rear. His important road, and the shortest by half to his depot at Bridgeport, lay along the south bank of the Tennessee. The holding of this all-important route was confided to Lieutenant-General Longstreet's command, and its possession forced the enemy to a road double the length, over two ranges of mountains, by wagon transportation. At the same time, our cavalry, in large force, was thrown across the river to operate on this long and difficult route. These dispositions, faithfully sustained, insured the enemy's speedy evacuation of Chattanooga for want of food and forage.

These reverses caused the enemy to send forward reenforcements [363]

Map: battle of Chickamauga.

[364] from the army at Vicksburg, and also to assign General Grant to the command in Tennessee. As early as September 23d the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps of the Army of the Potomac were detached, and sent under General Hooker to Tennessee, and assigned to protect Rosecrans's line of communication from Bridgeport to Nashville. It was on October 23d that General Grant arrived at Chattanooga, and only in time to save their army from starvation or evacuation. The investment by General Bragg had been so close and their communications had been so destroyed that Bragg was on the point of realizing the evacuation of Chattanooga, which he had anticipated. The report of Grant thus describes the situation on his arrival:
Up to this period our forces in Chattanooga were practically invested, the enemy's lines extending from the Tennessee River, above Chattanooga, to the river at and below the point of Lookout Mountain, below Chattanooga, with the south bank of the river picketed nearly to Bridgeport, his main force being fortified in Chattanooga Valley, at the foot of and on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, and a brigade in Lookout Valley. True, we held possession of the country north of the river, but it was from sixty to seventy miles over the most impracticable roads to army supplies.

The artillery horses and mules had become so reduced by starvation that they could not have been relied upon for moving anything. An attempt at retreat must have been with men alone, and with only such supplies as they could carry. A retreat would have been almost certain annihilation, for the enemy, occupying positions within gunshot of and overlooking our very fortifications, would unquestionably have pursued retreating forces. Already more than ten thousand animals had perished in supplying half rations to the troops by the long and tedious route from Stevenson and Bridgeport to Chattanooga over Waldron's Ridge. They could not have been supplied another week.

The first movement under Grant was, therefore, to establish a new and shorter line of supplies. For this purpose a night expedition was sent down the river from Chattanooga, which seized the range of hills at the mouth of Lookout Valley, and covered the Brown's Ferry road. By 10 A. M. a bridge was laid across the river at the ferry, which secured the end of the road nearest to our forces and the shorter line over which the enemy could move troops. General Hooker also entered Lookout Valley at Wauhatchie, and took up positions for the defense of the road from Whiteside's, over which he had marched, and also the road leading from Brown's Ferry to Kelly's Ferry. General Palmer crossed from the north side of the river opposite Whiteside's, and held the road passed over by Hooker. An unsuccessful attack was made on a portion of Hooker's troops the first night after he entered the valley. Subsequently we lost the remaining heights held by us west of Lookout Creek. [365]

Further operations of the enemy were delayed until the arrival of Sherman's force from Memphis. After his arrival, on November 23d, an attempt was made to feel our lines. This was done with so much force as to obtain possession of Indian Hill and the low range of hills south of it. That night Sherman began to move to obtain a position just below the mouth of the South Chickamauga, and by daylight on the 24th he had eight thousand men on the south side of the Tennessee, and fortified in rifle trenches. By noon pontoon bridges were laid across the Tennessee and the Chickamauga, and the remainder of his forces crossed. During the afternoon he took possession of the whole northern extremity of Missionary Ridge nearly to the railroad tunnel, and fortified the position equally with that held by us. A raid was also made on our line of communication, cutting the railroad at Cleveland. On the same day Hooker scaled the western slope of Lookout Mountain. On the 25th he took possession of the mountain top with a part of his force, and with the remainder crossed Chattanooga Valley to Rossville. Our most northern point was assailed by Sherman, and the attack kept up all day. He was reenforced by a part of Howard's corps. In the afternoon the whole force of the enemy's center, consisting of four divisions, was moved to the attack. They got possession of the rifle pits at the foot of Missionary Ridge, and commenced the ascent of the mountain from right to left, and continued it until the summit was reached, notwithstanding the volleys of grape and canister discharged at them. Our forces retreated from the ridge as the multitudinous assailants neared the thin line on the crest, and during the night withdrew from the positions on the plain below. General Grant, after advancing a short distance from Chattanooga, dispatched a portion of his forces to the relief of Burnside in east Tennessee, where he was closely besieged by General Longstreet in Knoxville. Longstreet moved east into Virginia, and ultimately joined General Lee. He had left the army of General Lee, and moved to the west with his force, on the condition that he should return when summoned. This summons had been sent to him. The loss of the enemy in the conflicts at Chattanooga was 757 killed, 4,529 wounded, and 337 missing; total, 5,616. Our loss in killed and wounded was much less than theirs.

1 Some of the garrison of Cumberland Gap escaped, and stated to General Jones that the surrender had been made without resistance, on the demands of the smaller detachments which had preceded General Burnside, and I was not advised of the fact that Buckner had previously retreated toward Chattanooga, and that Burnside was in possession of Knoxville. In my message of December 12, 1863, I referred to the event, as reported to the War Department, as follows:

‘The country was painfully surprised by the intelligence that the officer in command of Cumberland Gap had surrendered that important and easily defensible pass, without firing a shot, upon the summons of a force still believed to have been inadequate to its reduction, and when reenforcements were in supporting distance and had been ordered to his aid. The entire garrison, including its commander, being still held prisoners by the enemy, I am unable to suggest any explanation of this disaster which laid open Eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia to hostile operations.’

So far as censure of General Frazier was implied in these remarks, I am now fully satisfied it was unjust, and I can only regret that the authentic information recently furnished to me had not been received at an earlier date, so that I might have relieved General Frazier from the reflection while I held executive authority. It gives me pleasure now to say that full and exact information justifies the high estimate I placed upon him when he was assigned to the separate command of that important post. Full justice can be done to General Frazier only when his report and those of his subordinate officers shall have been published.

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