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Chapter 12:

  • Reconnoissances
  • -- orders for battle of Chattanooga -- anxiety of government for Burnside -- difficulties and delays of Sherman -- battle-field of Chattanooga -- movement of Granger and Palmer -- capture of Orchard knoll -- advance of Thomas's line -- preparations for bridging the Tennessee -- arrival of Sherman at North Chickamauga -- seizure of mouth of South Chickamauga -- Laying of pontoon bridge -- crossing of Sherman's army -- arrival of Howard -- Sherman moves on Missionary hills -- Seizes first heights -- Intrenches -- position of rebels on Lookout mountain -- position of Hooker -- difficulty of ascent -- seizure of base -- ascent of mountain -- battle on mountain -- capture of mountain -- Thomas connects with Hooker -- Grant's dispatches on night of 24th -- rebels evacuate Lookout point -- position of troops on 25th -- Sherman's battle-ground -- Sherman's assaults -- Bragg reenforces against Sherman -- weakening of rebel centre -- assault on rebel centre -- Thomas's troops scale Missionary ridge -- rebel centre pierced -- Missionary ridge carried -- rout of rebels -- large capture of men and guns -- Hooker turns rebel left -- further captures -- rebel flight to Chickamauga -- Sheridan's pursuit to Mission mills -- rebels withdraw from front of Sherman -- Grant pushes out on 26th -- demoralization of rebels -- pursuit to Ringgold -- battle-field of Ringgold -- rebel resistance -- final retreat of rebels -- pursuit discontinued -- destruction of railroads and stores -- return of Thomas's command to Chattanooga -- Sherman ordered to the Hiawassee -- summary of losses and gains -- character of battle of Chattanooga -- results.

Grant had fully reconnoitred the country opposite Chattanooga, and north of the Tennessee, as far east as the mouth of the South Chickamauga; he had thus discovered that good roads existed from Brown's ferry up the river, and back of the first range of hills opposite Chattanooga, out of view of the rebel positions. Troops, crossing the bridge at Brown's ferry, could [479] be seen, and their numbers estimated, by the enemy; but, as soon as they passed in rear of the hills, Bragg must be at a loss to know whether they were moving to Knoxville, or were held on the north side of the river, for further operations at Chattanooga. It was also known that the north end of Missionary ridge was imperfectly guarded; and, that the left bank of the Tennessee, from the mouth of South Chickamauga creek westward, to the main rebel line in front of Chattanooga, was watched by a small cavalry picket only. These facts determined Grant's plan of operations. As his main object was to mass all the forces possible against Missionary ridge, converging towards its northern end, which covered Chickamauga station, Bragg's depot of supplies, Grant finally deemed it best to countermand Hooker's attack on Lookout mountain, and bring most of the troops intended for that operation, to the other end of the line.

The instructions to Thomas were in these words:

All preparations should be made for attacking the enemy's position on Missionary ridge, by Saturday morning, at daylight. . . . . The general plan is for Sherman, with the force brought with him, strengthened by a division from your command, to effect a crossing of the Tennessee river, just below the mouth of the Chickamauga; his crossing to be protected by artillery from the heights of the north bank of the river (to be located by your chief of artillery), and to secure the heights (Missionary ridge) from the northern extremity to about the railroad tunnel, before the enemy can concentrate against him. You will cooperate with Sherman. The troops in Chattanooga valley should all be concentrated on your left flank, leaving only the necessary force to defend fortifications [480] on the right and centre, and a movable column of one division, in readiness to move wherever ordered. This division should show itself as threateningly as possible, on the most practicable line for making an attack up the valley. Your effort, then, will be to form a junction with Sherman, making your advance well towards the northern end of Missionary ridge, and moving as near simultaneously with him as possible. The junction once formed, and the ridge carried, connection will be at once established between the two armies, by roads on the south bank of the river. Further movements will then depend on those of the enemy.

Lookout valley, I think, will be easily held by Geary's division, and what troops you may still have there, of the old Army of the Cumberland. Howard's corps can then be held in readiness to act, either with you at Chattanooga, or with Sherman. It should be marched, on Friday night, to a position on the north side of the river, not lower down than the first pontoon bridge (at Chattanooga); and then held in readiness for such orders as may become necessary. All these troops will be provided with two days cooked rations, in haversacks, and one hundred rounds of ammunition, on the person of each infantry soldier. . . .

A copy of these instructions was forwarded to Sherman, for his guidance, and he was also informed: ‘It is particularly desirable that a force should be got through to the railroad, between Cleveland and Dalton, and Longstreet thus cut off from communication with the south; but, being confronted by a large force here, strongly located, it is not easy to tell how this is to be effected, until the result of our first [481] effort is known.’ Grant always refused to hamper either himself or his subordinates with complicated plans of battle, in advance. He knew too well the constant and unexpected chances of war, and had too often availed himself of these, to do more than direct the positions and opening movements of his troops. He got his machinery in order, and touched the springs; but, after that, he expected to guide its action by the light and aid of events, as they occurred.

As soon as Sherman reached Bridgeport, he set about moving his army to the front. As Bragg seemed to be looking for an attack on his left flank, Grant attempted to confirm this notion, and ordered Sherman to march his leading division direct from Whiteside to Trenton. From there, its position was advanced each day, the old camp-fires being kept up at night, and new ones built when the command rested, so as to give the appearance of concentrating a large force in that direction. A portion of the division even ascended the western slope of Lookout mountain. The remainder of Sherman's force was ordered to pass over a new road just made, from Whiteside to Kelly's ferry; this was concealed from the rebels, and it was hoped they would suppose that Sherman's whole force was moving up Lookout valley.

On the 21st, Halleck telegraphed that dispatches from Tennessee, east of Knoxville, contained rumors that Burnside was surrounded. ‘At any rate, we have no communication with him. The President seems very anxious that some immediate move should be made for his relief. You, however, as fully understand the exigencies of the case as any one here [482] possibly can. Longstreet's force may be larger than was supposed.’ Communication with Burnside was, indeed, quite cut off; Grant knew, from other sources than Halleck, that fighting had begun in East Tennessee, and that Burnside had been driven into Knoxville, and attacked there; but this was all he could learn.

Troops had been moving night and day, ever since Sherman's arrival at Bridgeport, but the bridge of boats at Brown's ferry was frail, and, although it was used without the intermission of an hour, Sherman's passage was slow. The roads from the ferry to Chattanooga were greatly cut up, as well as encumbered with the wagons of other troops, stationed along the road; but on the afternoon of the 20th, Sherman reached Hooker's headquarters, and there met Grant's orders for a general attack on the following day. It was simply impossible for him to obey. Only one division, John E. Smith's, was in position. Ewing was still in Trenton, and the other two were toiling along the miserable roads from Shell-mound to Chattanooga. No troops were ever in better condition or labored harder to fulfil their part. But Sherman was obliged to notify Grant of the impossibility of performing it, and the attack was again postponed.

To Halleck, Grant said: ‘I ordered an attack here, two weeks ago, but it was impossible to move artillery;’ and, now, Thomas had to borrow teams from Sherman, in order to move a portion of his artillery to the places where it was to be used. Sherman had used almost superhuman efforts to get up, and still was delayed; and Thomas could take only about one gun with each battery. ‘I have never [483] felt,’ said Grant, ‘such restlessness before, as I have at the fixed and immovable condition of the Army of the Cumberland. The quartermaster-general states that the loss of animals here will exceed ten thousand. Those left are scarcely able to carry themselves.’

It looked, indeed, as if Burnside was to be lost. These unavoidable delays and difficulties still chained Grant to his position, while the Army of the Ohio had begun the battle for its existence. The supplies that had at last reached Nashville, for Burnside, were stopped, as they might never be needed: ‘General Burnside is now engaged with the enemy. You need not start the clothing for him, until the result is known.’ . . . . ‘The rations for General Burnside could not be sent, now, even if there was water enough in the Cumberland, until the result of present movements by Longstreet is known. I think it better, therefore, to let the boats now loaded, discharge and return.’

On the 20th, Grant wrote to Sherman: ‘Tomor-row morning, I had first set for your attack. I see now it cannot possibly be made then; but can you not get up for the following morning? Order Ewing down’ (from Trenton), ‘immediately, fixing the time for his starting so that the roads and bridges may be full all the time. Every effort must be made to get up in time to attack, on Sunday morning.’

A heavy rain-storm occurring on the 20th, and lasting all of the 21st, still further delayed Sherman. On the 21st, he got his second division over Brown's ferry bridge, and Ewing was up from Trenton; but, the bridge broke repeatedly, and delays occurred which no human sagacity could have prevented or foreseen. All labored, night and day; and, on Sunday, [484] while Sherman was bringing up his troops, behind the hills on the north side of the Tennessee, Thomas, in order to conceal the real nature of this movement, brought Howard's corps, which had come up from Lookout valley in advance of Sherman, across into Chattanooga. This was done that the rebels might suppose the troops at Brown's ferry were reenforcing Chattanooga. Howard, accordingly, crossed on Sunday, and took up a position in full view of the enemy, who, from his commanding position on Missionary ridge, looked down on all of the movements in the valley. Those, however, which affected him most closely, were made behind the hills. The operations of this day, at Chattanooga, were like those scenes in a play, which fill up the time and distract the attention of the audience, while preparations for the real climax are going on in the real.

At this crisis, Brigadier-General Wilcox, who was in the eastern part of the Tennessee valley, dispatched to Grant that he too was in trouble, threatened by movements from Virginia, and unable to get orders or aid from Burnside, his immediate commander. Grant replied, on the 20th: ‘If you can communicate with General Burnside, say to him that our attack on Bragg will commence in the morning. If successful, such a move will be made as, I think, will relieve East Tennessee, if he can hold out. . . . . .If you receive no further instructions from General Burnside, follow those he has given you. Retreat should not be allowed. . . . . .Can you not concentrate your forces and raise the siege at Knoxville?’

Once more, on the 21st, Grant was obliged to say to Thomas: ‘I have just received a report of the [485] position of Sherman's forces. The rain, last night, has thrown them back so much, that it will be impossible to get into position for action to-morrow morning. He will be up, however, against all calamities that can be foreseen, to commence on Monday morning.’ But the very elements conspired to protract Grant's anxiety. The heavy rains caused a rise in the Tennessee, and the bridges at Chattanooga and Brown's ferry were swept away; and, on the 22d, yet once more, Grant said to the commander of the Army of the Cumberland: ‘The bridges at Brown's ferry being down to-day, and the excessively bad roads since the last rain, will render it impossible for Sherman to get up either of his remaining two divisions, in time for the attack to-morrow morning. . . . . . You can make your arrangements for this delay.’

In his dispatch to Sherman, on this day, Grant said: ‘. . . . Let me know, to-morrow, at as early an hour as you can, if you will be entirely ready for Tuesday morning.’ At this juncture, he violated military etiquette, and sent a dispatch direct to Wood, who commanded a division in Sherman's army: ‘You must get up with your force to-morrow, without fail. Pass the wagon-train, and leave it to follow with rear-guard. If you cannot get up with your artillery, come without it, leaving it to follow. I will expect the head of your column at Brown's ferry, by ten A. M. to-morrow, without fail.’

But there proved to be compensations for all this anxiety and all these postponements. On the night of the 22d, a deserter came in from the rebel army, and reported that Bragg was falling back from Missionary ridge. Grant had received a letter from [486] Bragg, on the 20th, which seemed to corroborate this: ‘As there may still be some non-combatants in Chattahooga, I deem it proper to notify you that prudence would dictate their early withdrawal.’ The artifice was too palpable: no general would so ostentatiously notify an antagonist of his intention to attack. But the news brought by the deserter precipitated the battle that had been trembling on the verge so long. Grant was unwilling to allow Bragg to withdraw in good order; and, early on the morning of the 23d, he instructed Thomas to ‘ascertain at once the truth or falsity of this report. If Bragg is really falling back, Sherman can commence at once laying his pontoon trains’ (at the mouth of the South Chickamauga), ‘and we can save a day.’ Thomas, accordingly, directed a demonstration, in order to drive in the rebel pickets, and develop the enemy's real line.

Four streams empty into the Tennessee, near Chattanooga, bounding and dividing what was destined to be the battle-field. Lookout creek was near the extreme right of Grant's line, and west of Lookout mountain; about half a mile east of the mountain, runs Chattanooga creek; then, Citico creek, some two miles further east; and, away at the northern end of Missionary ridge, the South Chickamauga. Still north and east of this, but on the north side of the Tennessee, the North Chickamauga mingles its waters with those of the great stream which receives all the affluents of this region. Missionary ridge runs nearly north and south, and these various currents, breaking through its gorges or those of Lookout mountain, flow north and west. The course of the North Chickamauga, however, is directly opposite [487] to that of the rivers on the south side of the Ten nessee.

Thomas's line, in front of Chattanooga, reached from the Chattanooga creek to the Citico, and was about a mile out from the town. It had been rendered formidable, during the two months which had elapsed since the defeat of Rosecrans; advantage had been taken of various hills in Chattanooga valley; and, at the highest and most advanced point on the line, a strong redoubt had been erected, called Fort Wood. Twenty-two heavy guns were in position along this line. The rebel pickets in front of Fort Wood came into close contact with the national out-guards, and nearly a mile beyond them, was the first rebel line.1

In obedience to Grant's instructions, Thomas ordered Major-General Gordon Granger, commanding the Fourth corps, to form his troops, and advance directly in front of Fort Wood, and thus develop the strength of the enemy. Major-General Palmer, commanding the Fourteenth corps, was directed to support Granger's right with Baird's division, refused and in echelon; and Johnson's division, of the same corps, was held under arms, in the intrenchments, in readiness to reenforce at any point. Howard's corps was formed in mass, behind the centre of Granger. [488] The two divisions of Granger's command, Sheridan2 and Wood's, were accordingly formed in front of Fort Wood, Sheridan on the right, Wood on the left, with his left extending nearly to Citico creek. The formation was complete by two P. M.

At an early hour, the heavy guns in Fort Wood and the smaller works, began to wake the echoes of the valley; the national cannon on Moccasin point also opened on the enemy, who replied from the top of Lookout mountain, and from his formidable line along the crest of Missionary ridge. The idlest looker — on in Chattanooga could perceive that the long-expected drama was about to open, and the day be made historical.

At a given signal, Granger moved forward into the plain, in front and on the right of Fort Wood. The fog that had lain in the valley all day was lifted, and the rays of the sun glanced back from twenty thousand bayonets. The superb pageant went on, under the eyes of curious crowds on Missionary ridge; but the troops moved with such precision, that the enemy mistook their evolutions for a parade. The rebel pickets leaned on their muskets, and quietly watched the advance of Thomas's battalions. This unmeant deception was heightened by the troops remaining nearly half an hour in position, and in full view of the rebel army, before they received the final order to advance. At last, a dozen shots of the national skirmishers scattered the rebel pickets, who fled in haste through a strip of timber, lying between the open ground and some secondary eminences, or which the first line of rebel rifle-pits was built. [489] Wood followed rapidly, directly towards the front, driving, not only the rebel pickets, but their reserves. A heavy fire of musketry was poured upon the advancing troops as they entered the strip of woods; but they fell rapidly upon the grand guards stationed on the first line of Bragg's rifle-pits, captured about two hundred men, and secured themselves in their new positions, before the enemy had sufficiently recovered from his surprise to attempt to send reenforcements from his main camp on the ridge. Sheridan now moved up rapidly on Wood's right, and in fifteen minutes, the rebels had abandoned their whole advanced line: nothing remained to them west of the ridge, but the rifle-pits at its foot. This secured to Grant a mound of some importance, known as Orchard knoll, and a low range of hills running south, about half way between Chattanooga and Missionary ridge. These points were fortified during the night; breast-works were erected, and artillery was put in position; strong pickets were thrown out to the front, and Howard's corps was moved up, in line with Granger's left, and his position also fortified. Twenty thousand men of the national army were thus in line of battle, a full mile in advance of the outposts which, at noon of that day, had been occupied by the enemy. One hundred and eleven men had been killed or wounded; perhaps as many of the enemy fell,3 and over two hundred prisoners were left in Thomas's hands.

But the effect of this day's fighting cannot be measured by the casualties. The enemy had been driven from his front line of intrenchments; his [490] prestige was shaken; his demoralization was begun; while, on the other hand, a wonderful confidence was diffused throughout the Army of the Cumberland, which had met once more and driven back its earliest antagonist; the spot on its escutcheon was already cleared; and the men lay down upon their arms, anxious for the renewal of the combat, when their old and splendid reputation should be fully redeemed. Until nightfall, the cannon on Missionary ridge vied with the artillery of Fort Wood; but at last the uproar ceased, and the great hosts slept calmly among the hills.

The report of the deserter was evidently not intended to deceive; but he had mistaken Bragg's movements. Buckner's division had gone to join Longstreet on the 22d, and another had started, but was brought back in consequence of this attack.4

Meanwhile, Sherman was still laboring up amid almost impassable difficulties. His rear division, Osterhaus's, was entirely cut off by the broken bridge; but Grant ordered him to go into battle with the other three, supported by Jefferson C. Davis's division, of the Fourteenth corps, which was sent to Sherman, from Thomas's army. Osterhaus, being detained on the south side of the Tennessee, was ordered, unless he could get across by eight o'clock on the morning of the 24th, to report to Hooker, who was instructed, in this event, to attack Lookout mountain, as contemplated in the original plan. All these various orders emanated from Grant. Sometimes, merely verbal instructions were given by him to Thomas or Sherman; but no movement of a [491] division was made, during the campaign, which was not expressly directed by the commander of the triple army. He was on every part of the field, at the immediate front; and from Fort Wood, the highest point in the national fortifications, had watched the assault of Granger's corps. He was so frequently exposed to fire, that great anxiety was felt for his safety.

At last, on the night of the 23d, Sherman's third division arrived opposite the mouth of the South Chickamauga, about four miles above Chattanooga. Davis's division was waiting for him on the north bank of the Tennessee, where the crossing was to be effected. Pontoons were necessary for bridging the river here; and, as it was intended to occupy the north bank of the South Chickamauga, that stream also must be bridged, as well as the Tennessee. The South Chickamauga is a hundred and eighty feet wide, with a sluggish current; and the Tennessee, at the point designated for crossing, is fourteen hundred feet across. At this time, there was, in the whole Department of the Cumberland, only one bridge-train, and that was scattered from Bridgeport to Chattanooga. Saw-mills, however, were kept running night and day; and boats were collected or made, and brought up through the woods, not exposed to the view of the enemy at any point on the route.

By Friday night, November 20th, a hundred and sixteen pontoons were hidden in North Chickamauga creek, which empties into the Tennessee, five miles above the mouth of the South Chickamauga. This stream offered such facilities for launching the boats, that it was determined to put the pontoons in the [492] water there, and float them down, loaded with sol diers, to the point of crossing—a quicker and quieter operation than that of launching them at the place of passage. The creek was cleared of snags, and all the citizens of the vicinity were put under strict guard, to prevent the transmission of information to the enemy. The remainder of the bridge material was packed behind the river ridge of hills, and within four hundred yards from the place of crossing, entirely concealed from the rebels.5 Seven hundred and fifty oarsmen were selected from the two armies; and these, with Giles A. Smith's brigade, were placed at the head of Sherman's column, and marched, under cover of the hills, to the mouth of the North Chickamauga.

Before midnight of the 23d of November, the pontoons were loaded with thirty armed men each; and at two o'clock on the morning of the 24th, the whole fleet, carrying Giles Smith's brigade, pushed carefully out of the North Chickamauga, and then dropped silently down the Tennessee. So perfect were the arrangements, that even the national pickets along the bank of the river did not know when the boats had passed. Floating quietly by the rebel sentinels, before daylight they reached their destination, a point just above the mouth of the South Chickamauga. A small force then jumped ashore, and advancing rapidly, captured the enemy's out-guard, twenty in number, before the rebels were aware of the presence of a foe. Smith then pushed [493] rapidly below the mouth of the Chickamauga, disembarked the rest of his brigade, and dispatched the pontoons back for other loads. The remainder of Morgan L. Smith's division was quickly ferried across, that of John E. Smith following. The men at once set to work intrenching themselves, with the industry of beavers; and, by daylight, two divisions, of about eight thousand men, were landed on the south bank of the Tennessee, and had thrown up a good tete de pont.

As soon as day dawned, the building of the bridge began. The rise in the river had increased its width, and there were not boats enough for more than one bridge across the Tennessee. Pontoons had to be taken from the ferry, as fast as they were needed for the bridge; but a steamer was also sent up from Chattanooga, which assisted in carrying troops across. All these operations took place under cover of an artillery force from Thomas's army, posted on the northern shore, and the horses for which had been furnished by Sherman.6 Sherman's batteries were first brought up to the point of crossing, and the horses then detached and sent back to bring up Thomas's artillery; after which, the same horses were again harnessed to their own guns, and made ready to join the advance of Sherman.

Fourscore boats were plying back and forth across the swollen stream, each one carrying from the northern to the southern shore, from thirty-five to forty soldiers. The pontoon bridge already stretched half way across the river, and the engineers were beginning work on the southern end. Forty pieces [494] of artillery7 ranged along the northern bank, some on the hills, and others at the edge of the stream, guarded the crossing; and ten thousand soldiers were massed on either shore, waiting to march, or to cross. A column was still coming up over the western hills, and the troops from the North Chickamauga, having protected the pontoon fleet while it lay hidden in that distant stream, were also advancing to the rendezvous. Sherman stood at the centre of the bridge, directing its completion. Just at this moment, Howard appeared in person; having come up with three regiments from Chattanooga, along the southern bank of the Tennessee. The last boat of the bridge was being placed in the centre of the stream, as Howard arrived and introduced himself, across the slight gulf which yet intervened. Sherman was on the northern end, gesticulating and talking eagerly, as was his wont; and, as soon as the boat was put in its place, he sprang across and shook the hand of Howard. The junction between the Armies of the Tennessee and the Cumberland was formed.

At twenty minutes past twelve, the bridge was complete; that across the Chickamauga had been finished a little while before, giving communication with the regiments left on the northern shore. Soon after mid-day, Sherman's third division was on the south side of the Tennessee, with men, horses, and artillery; and the whole command was ready to attack the Missionary hills. By three o'clock, a brigade of cavalry (Long's) had crossed both bridges, and was on its march to cut the rebel communication with Chickamauga station. [495]

At one P. M., Sherman marched from the river in three columns, in echelon; the left under Morgan L. Smith, was the column of direction, and followed substantially the course of Chickamauga creek; the centre, John E. Smith, in columns, doubled on the centre, at full brigade intervals, moved to the right and rear; and the right, under Ewing, was in column at the same distance to the right and rear, prepared to deploy to the right, on the supposition that an enemy would be met in that direction. Each head of column was covered by a good line of skirmishers, with supports. A light drizzling rain prevailed, and the clouds hung low, covering Sherman's movements from the enemy's tower of observation on Lookout Mountain; for, from Hooker's position at Wauhatchie to the mouth of the North Chickamauga, a distance of thirteen miles, was now one battle-field.

Sherman soon gained the foot hills; his skirmishers pushed on up the face of the hill, followed by their supports; and by half-past 3 P. M., the desired point was reached, without loss. A brigade of each division was pushed up rapidly, to the top of the hill; and the enemy, for the first time, seemed aware of the movement. He opened with artillery, but too late, for Sherman was already in possession. Several guns were soon dragged up the steep acclivity, and answered the rebel defiance. The enemy's skirmishers made one or two ineffectual dashes, and, about four, a sharp engagement ensued with musketry and artillery; but, at last, the rebels drew off, leaving Sherman to fortify what he had gained. He had possession of two high points, with a deep depression immediately in his front, between him and the hill over the tunnel, which was his chief objective point. [496] Until now, he had supposed that Missionary ridge was a continuous hill, but this aperture intervening was sure to cost him dear to cross. A brigade of each division was left on the hill already gained, one closed the gap to Chickamauga creek, two were drawn back to the base of the hill, in reserve; and a division on the right was extended down into the plain. Sherman's line thus crossed the ridge in a general direction, facing southeast.

The Army of the Cumberland, having done, on the 23d, what Grant had intended should be done on the 24th, was now in advance of the movements of Sherman. Thomas, therefore, simply bettered and strengthened his position during Tuesday, and pushed the Eleventh corps forward, across Citico creek, and along the south bank of the Tennessee. Howard had some fighting, but none of a serious character; and, before night, he connected Sherman's new position with the main army at Chattanooga; a brigade was left for this purpose with Sherman, and Howard himself returned to his own corps, further to the right. The next day he reported to Sherman, and remained under his orders during the rest of the campaign.

As night closed in, Sherman ordered Davis to keep one of his brigades at the bridge; another close up to Sherman's main position; and still another intermediate. Thus they passed the night, heavy details being kept at work in the intrenchments on the hill. The thick mist that had overspread Look out, and rolled in immense masses up the river, had gradually filled the entire basin of Chattanooga; so that Sherman, while slowly extending his lines to the right, till at last they came into communication [497] with the left wing of Howard's corps, had been veiled entirely from the watchful eyes of friend and foe. But, during the night, the clouds cleared away, and a cold frost filled the air; the sky was bright, and his camp-fires now revealed both to the enemy and to the army in Chattanooga, that Sherman was in position on Missionary ridge.

But, while these important operations had been going on all day on the left, others full as interesting were transpiring on Lookout mountain. Since the battle of Wauhatchie, Hooker had remained in Lookout valley, with the Eleventh and a part of the Twelfth corps, opposite the left of the rebel line. The Eleventh corps, however, as has been seen, had been ordered to the national left, on the 22d; and Osterhaus's division was to have followed. But, when it was finally found impossible to rebuild the bridge at Brown's ferry, in time for Osterhaus to cross, Hooker was instructed to attack the point of Lookout mountain, as had been originally intended. His command, now, consisted of Osterhaus's division of the Fourteenth corps, Cruft's of the Fourth, and Geary's of the Twelfth; making an aggregate of about ten thousand men. No one of these divisions had ever fought near the others. Geary was from the Army of the Potomac, Cruft from the Army of the Cumberland, and Osterhaus from the Army of the Tennessee.

At this time, the enemy's pickets formed a continuous line along the right bank of Lookout creek, with his reserves in the valleys, while the main rebel force was encamped in the hollow, half way up the slope of the mountain. The summit itself was held by three brigades of Stevenson's division; and these [498] were comparatively safe, as the only means of access from the west, was by trails allowing the passage of but a single man at a time, and these trails were held, at the top, by rebel pickets. On the Chattanooga side of the mountain, which is less precipitous, a good mountain-road exists, communicating with the summit by zigzag lines. Hooker believed, if he could gain this road, the rebels must evacuate their position, as it was their only line of communication with Bragg.

The ascent of the mountain is steep and thickly wooded; beetling crags peer out all over its sides from the masses of heavy foliage, and, at the summit, a lofty palisaded crest rises perpendicularly, as many as sixty or eighty feet. On the northern slope, about midway between the summit and the Tennessee, a plateau of open and arable land belts the mountain. There, a continuous line of earthworks had been thrown up; while redoubts, redans, and rifle-pits were scattered lower down the acclivity, to repel assaults from the direction of the river. On each flank were epaulements, walls of stone, and abatis; and, in the valley itself, at the foot of the mountain, long lines of earthworks, of still greater extent. The entire force, for the defence of the mountain, consisted of six brigades, or about seven thousand men.

Hooker's camps were all on the western side of Lookout creek, at the base of Raccoon mountain. Geary's division, supported by Whitaker's brigade of Cruft's division, was ordered to proceed up the valley, cross the creek near Wauhatchie, and then march down, sweeping the rebels from the right bank of the stream. The other brigade (Grose's) [499] from the Fourth corps, was to seize and repair the bridge across Lookout creek, just below the railroad; while Osterhaus was to march up, from Brown's ferry to the place of crossing, and then support the movement of Geary, or furnish support for the batteries.

Grose advanced promptly to the bridge, drove the enemy away, after some slight skirmishing, and set about repairs. The rebels were attracted by these operations, and did not observe the movements of Geary, which were also concealed by a heavy mist that overhung the mountain. Geary, therefore, crossed the creek at eight o'clock, captured the entire picket of forty-two men stationed to defend it, and commenced to climb directly up the mountain-side. At this very moment, the rebels could be seen from the valley, filing down from their camps on the northern side of the mountain, and moving into their rifle-pits, to resist the movements of Grose. Osterhaus now came up, and skirmished briskly for a while. By eleven o'clock, the bridge was completed; Osterhaus's artillery was in excellent position, and the rebel force at the foot of the hill either fled, or was killed or captured.

Simultaneously with these operations, the troops of Geary were pushing up the mountain; his right passed directly under the muzzles of the enemy's guns on the summit, climbing over ledges and boulders, up hill and down, dislodging the enemy wherever he attempted to make a stand. Finding themselves vigorously pushed by a strong column on their left and rear, the rebels began to fall back; but their resistance was obstinate. Wood and Grose, by this time, had crossed Lookout river, and joined the [500] left of Geary, as he faced down the valley; and the whole line pressed on, over obstacles of the most extraordinary character. It was twelve o'clock, when Geary's advance rounded the peak of the mountain, and emerged on the plateau of open land where the rebel fortifications were strongest.

The whole column now coming up, Hooker's line was extended from the base of the palisade rock on his right, to the foot of Lookout, near the mouth of Chattanooga creek. The country, here, was so rugged that the fighting was in reality only skirmishing, but continuous fire was kept up for hours. After two or three sharp conflicts, the plateau was cleared, and the enemy driven from his walls and pits, near the only house on the mountain-side. At two o'clock, operations were arrested by the darkness. The clouds, which had hovered over and enveloped the summit, and favored the movements of Hooker, had been gradually settling, lower and lower, and from the moment that the peak of the mountain was rounded, it was only from the rattle of musketry, and the flashes of fire through the clouds, or the occasional glimpses of lines and standards, as the fog rose or fell, that those in the valley could trace the progress of the battle. At four, Hooker informed his immediate superior, that his line was impregnable, and commanded the enemy's defences with an enfilading fire. Lookout mountain was carried.

At a quarter-past five, direct communication was opened with Chattanooga, and Carlin's brigade, from the northern valley, was sent to Hooker's support. Carlin had to cross Chattanooga creek, and did not effect the junction without serious fighting, but finally reported to Hooker, and was assigned to duty on the [501] left of his line. Thus, on the night of the 24th, the national forces maintained one unbroken line, with open communications from the north end of Lookout mountain, through Chattanooga valley, to the further end of Missionary ridge. Still, the firing continued in the night, on the mountain. The rebels, at dark, had not left the topmost crest, and their signal-light on the extreme summit, waving to and fro, revealed to the luckless chief on Missionary ridge the extent of his calamity. Every now and then, spluttering discharges of musketry, muffled by distance, could be heard in the valley, and fierce jets of flame, like those once seen on Sinai, seemed to issue from the mountain-side. The long lines of camp-fires marked the advance or retreat of the combatants, and cries of defiance or suffering came down from the clouds, as if supernatural armies were contending in the air. But, finally, all the noise of battle ceased; the wounded, writhing in pain, and the sentinels walking their rounds, were almost the only ones not reposing from the fatigues and excitements of the day, and an unusual quiet settled over the whole long line.

The generals, however, had little time for repose. At midnight, Sherman got his orders from Grant to attack the enemy at dawn, and notice that Thomas also would attack right early. Hooker was instructed to advance in the morning, and endeavor to intercept the rebel retreat from the mountain; if, indeed, the enemy should not have already withdrawn. In that event, Hooker was to move on the Rossville road, carry the pass at Rossville, and operate on the enemy's left and rear. To Wilcox, on the night of the 24th, Grant said: ‘. . . . Fighting has been going [502] on here for two days; and, as soon as possible, I shall send a force up the valley, sufficient to relieve Burnside, if he holds out. If you can communicate this fact to him, do so.’

At half-past 5, on the 24th, Grant telegraphed to Washington: ‘The fight to-day progressed favorably. Sherman carried the end of Missionary ridge, and his right is now at the tunnel, and left at Chickamauga creek. Troops from Lookout valley carried the point of the mountain, and now hold the eastern slope and point, high up. Hooker reports two thousand prisoners taken, besides which, a small number have fallen into our hands, from Missionary ridge.’ The President replied, in person, to this, on the morning of the 25th: ‘Your dispatches as to fighting on Monday and Tuesday, are here. Well done. Many thanks to all. Remember Burnside.’ Halleck also telegraphed: ‘I congratulate you on the success thus far of your plans. I fear that Burnside is hard pushed, and that any further delay may prove fatal. I know that you will do all in your power to relieve him.’

During the night of the 24th, the rebels evacuated Lookout mountain, crossing Chattanooga creek, burning the bridges, and retreating, by Rossville gap, to Missionary ridge. When the fog rose, nothing was to be seen in the valley, but the deserted and burning camps of the enemy. On the summit, the national flag was waving; the Eighth Kentucky volunteers had been foremost to reach the crest, and displayed their colors there at sunrise. Hooker ordered two regiments to hold the mountain, and, at ten o'clock, his main column, with Osterhaus leading, was on the march for Rossville, and sweeping across [503] Chattanooga valley, now abandoned by the enemy. The destruction of the bridges delayed him, however, for four hours, and Thomas was not to attack until Hooker got into position.

The morning of the 25th of November broke raw and cold, but the sun shone brilliantly from a cloudless sky, and the great battle-field was all disclosed. To the north and east, was the railroad junction of Chattanooga, which gave the position so much of its value; the roads by which Grant sought communication with Burnside, and those along which the rebel general was drawing his supplies. Behind the national forces, the impetuous river made its tortuous way, never for a mile pursuing the same course; while the Cumberland mountains and Walden's ridge formed the massive background. Grant's main line faced south and east, towards Missionary ridge, now not a mile away. Lookout mountain, on the national right, bounded the view, Hooker marching down its sides, and through the valley of Chattanooga creek, to Rossville gap. Sherman had gained the extreme left of the ridge, but immense difficulties in his front were yet to overcome; and, all along the crest, were the batteries and trenches filled with rebel soldiers, in front of the Army of the Cumberland. Bragg's headquarters were plainly visible, on the ridge, at the centre of his now contracted line, while Grant's own position was on the knoll that had been wrested from the rebels, the day before. From this point, the whole battle-field was displayed; trees, houses, fences, all landmarks in the valley had been swept away for camps; and the two antagonists, each from his high position, looked down upon the board where the great game was playing. Thomas, [504] and various of the corps and division generals of the Army of the Cumberland, were with Grant, on Orchard knoll.

Before dawn, Sherman was in the saddle, and, attended by his staff, rode to the extreme left of his position, near Chickamauga river, and thence up the hill which he had seized the day before. In the dim light of morning, the line of attack lay before him, towards Missionary ridge, his wings supporting him on either flank; but quite a valley yawned between his troops and the next hill of the series. This next hill presented steep sides, the one to the west partially cleared, but the other covered with the native forest. The crest was narrow and wooded. The further point of the hill was held by the rebels, with a breastwork of logs and fresh earth, the breastwork filled with men; and, on a still higher hill, beyond the tunnel, the enemy was seen in yet greater force. From the last-named point, the rebels had a plunging fire on the hill in dispute. The gorge between, through which several roads as well as the railroad tunnel pass, could not be seen from Sherman's position; but it formed a natural place of arms, where the enemy covered his masses, to resist the contemplated movement of turning his right and endangering communication with his depot at Chickamauga.

The sun had already risen before the preparations were complete, and the bugle sounded forward. The three brigades of Cockrell, Alexander, and Lightburn were to hold the hill already gained, as a key-point; Corse, with as much of his brigade as could operate along the narrow ridge, was to attack from the right centre; Morgan L. Smith was to move [505] along the east base of Missionary ridge; and Loomis, in like manner, along the west base, supported by two reserve brigades, under John E. Smith.

The assaulting force advanced in a deployed line, preceded by strong skirmishers, and moved up the face of the hill to the very rifle-pits of the enemy. About eighty yards from the rebel intrenchments, was a secondary ridge, which was gained at once, and firmly held. The extreme end of the rebel work was also carried, and a strong point made, on the crest of the nearest ridge. Sherman then pressed his attack to within pistol-shot of the main rebel line, and advanced his left division, under Morgan L. Smith, so as to cut off the enemy from the railroad bridge to Chickamauga; but no further advantage was secured. The contest was close, lasting several hours; ground was given and lost, but the first position was all that was attained. Neither, however, could the most determined efforts of the enemy dislodge the national troops from the important point they had gained. Persistently, stubbornly, and well, they fought. Corse was wounded at ten o'clock.

Sherman, at this time, threatened not only the right flank of the enemy, but his rear and stores at Chickamauga station; and Grant's real object was completely gained, for Bragg was forced to weaken his centre to support the rebel right.8 Column [506] after column of the rebels was soon streaming towards Sherman; gun after gun poured a concentric fire from every hill and spur that gave a view of his ground. But Loomis and Corse's commands pressed forward; and, as the right of the assaulting column became exposed, the two brigades of John E. Smith were sent to its support. They moved over an open field, on the mountain-side, and under a heavy fire of musketry and cannon, close up to the works of the enemy. The crest was so narrow that they necessarily occupied the west face of the hill, and, there, for some time, they lay, partially covered from fire. Their right, however, rested near the head of the ravine; and the enemy took advantage of this. Having massed in great strength, at the tunnel gorge, he moved a large force, under cover of the ground and the thick bushes, and suddenly appeared on the right and rear of Smith's command. Unexpectedly attacked from this quarter, Smith fell back across the open field, about two hundred yards, but formed in good order, on the edge of the timber; while the column which had attacked him was speedily driven back to its own intrenchments, by the assaulting column proper. This occurred at about three o'clock in the afternoon.

Grant was watching the progress of the fight from Orchard knoll, and, seeing the danger to which Sherman was exposed, he now ordered Baird's division, of the Fourteenth corps, to support the extreme left; but Sherman sent word that he had all the [507] force necessary, and Baird was put in position on Thomas's left. Baird, accordingly, marched by the flank, in front of Fort Wood, to take position on Howard's right. This movement was plainly perceived by the enemy, and impressed him with the idea that Grant's main assault was to be made on the rebel right; a massive column of Bragg's forces soon was seen to move northward along the crest of the ridge, regiment after regiment filing towards Sherman.

Meanwhile, the day was waning, and Thomas's attack, which was to relieve Sherman, had not been made. Grant looked eagerly for the advance of Hooker, moving north along the ridge, with his left in Chattanooga valley and his right thrown east of the ridge. This approach was to be the signal for storming the ridge, at the centre, with Thomas's columns. But Hooker was necessarily detained in the construction of the bridges over Chattanooga creek.

Grant had marked the movement of the rebel columns towards his left, and instantly perceived his opportunity. Bragg was attempting the most difficult manoeuvre that can be executed in war. He was weakening his centre and making a flank movement in the presence of an enemy. Grant meanwhile had got information from Hooker, and was satisfied that he must be on his way from Rossville, although not yet in sight. He determined to order the assault.

At first, he simply directed Thomas to order the advance; but, seeing the corps commanders near him, Grant repeated to them in person the command. Thomas's force now consisted of four divisions, under Johnson, Sheridan, Wood, and Baird. A double [508] line of skirmishers was thrown out, followed in easy supporting distance by the whole force. The orders were to carry the rifle-pits at the foot of Missionary ridge; and, when this was done, to re-form the lines, in the rifle-pits, with a view to carrying the top of the ridge.

The ground immediately in front was open timber; then, a smooth and open plain; the distance, to the first line of the enemy's rifle-pits, varying from four hundred to nine hundred yards. Next, was a steep ascent of about five hundred yards, to the top of the ridge, the face of which was rugged and covered with fallen timber. About half way up the hill, or two hundred and fifty yards from the first rifle-pits, was a second but imperfect line of works; and, last of all, the rifle-pits on the crest.

The two corps had been restless and eager all day, and the instant that Grant gave the second order, Granger and Palmer moved their forces down the slope of the hill where they had been posted, and across the lower ground to the left. They marched steadily on, under a tremendous fire of artillery from the ridge; and emerging from the timber, took up the double quick, dashing over the open plain, and at the enemy's first line, with a mass of glistening bayonets that was irresistible. The four divisions reached the foot of the ridge almost simultaneously; not a gun was fired, but the bayonets fairly blazed in the bright afternoon sun;9 and [509] as the line came closer and closer, the rebels flung themselves prostrate in the trenches, and the national troops rushed over. A thousand prisoners at once were ordered to the rear, and hurried back across the open plain, crouching from the fire of their own comrades on the crest. Others retreated rapidly up the hill.

At this time, according to orders, there should have been a halt, but the men were uncontrollable; shouts of triumph rang along the line, and everywhere the troops began to climb the mountain, waiting for no further orders. The rebel fire now changed from shot and shell to canister and musketry, and the men lay on their faces to avoid the storm, working their way thus up the front of the mountain. Commanders could not order back the troops who were step by step ascending, in this way, and fast approaching the second line of rifle-pits.10 First, one flag would be advanced a few feet, then another was thrust forward on a line with this, each striving for the advance. As many as five or six color-bearers were successively shot down, carrying a single flag; but, at last, all along the ridge, the colors were planted on the second line.

Thirty pieces of artillery now opened on the assailants with direct, plunging, cross, and enfilading fires; and a storm of musketry, from the still well [510] filled rifle-pits on the summit, was flung into their very faces. But not a break was seen in all the line; neither the toil of the ascent that exhausted their strength, nor the fire of the enemy that thinned their ranks, retarded them. Steadily, rapidly, on they pushed, the enemy in desperate flight before them; until at last the tide reached the highest crest, poured over the works, and carried the hills simultaneously at six different points, so close upon the rebels that crowds were captured in the very trenches. Whole regiments threw down their arms; others fled headlong down the eastern slope, the national soldiers not waiting to reload their pieces, but driving the enemy with stones. Artillerists were bayoneted at their guns, and the cannon were captured before they could be removed or destroyed. The very pieces which a moment before had been thundering against the national army, were turned at once upon the rebel line, enfilading it right and left, and rendering it perfectly untenable. It was fifty-five minutes since the troops had left their places on the plain.11

Such had been the strength of Bragg's position, that he entertained no doubt of his ability to hold it against far superior numbers, and had made every disposition for this purpose. ‘It was a position,’ he said himself, ‘which a line of skirmishers ought to have maintained against any assaulting column.’ Those who reached the crest were in a condition of exhaustion from the great physical exertion in climbing, which alone ought to have rendered [511] the enemy irresistible. Bragg, indeed, at first thought that the attack had been repulsed; and was riding along the ridge, congratulating his troops, when intelligence was brought him that the line was broken on the right, and the national troops had actually crowned the ridge. He proceeded at once to the rear of the broken line, to rally his retiring soldiers, and return them to the crest; but the disaster was too great to be repaired. At the same moment, the rebel general learned that his extreme left had also given way, and that his position was almost surrounded.

A second line was immediately ordered to be formed in rear, where, by the efforts of Bragg's staff, a nucleus of stragglers had been created, upon which he hoped to rally the fugitives; but firing was again heard in the direction of the left, and another division came tumbling in: the entire rebel left was routed and in rapid flight. Every effort that could be made by Bragg and his staff availed but little; the guns were abandoned by the infantry supports; a panic had seized both officers and men, and each seemed merely struggling for his own personal safety. Orders were given for Hardee on the right, and Breckinridge on the left of the rebel line, to retire their forces upon the depot at Chickamauga. It was now near night, and, fortunately for Bragg, the country and roads in his rear were familiar to him, and equally unknown to his pursuers. His routed left made its way back in great confusion, but the other portions of his command still offered opposition.12 [512]

After halting a few moments, to reorganize the troops, who had become somewhat scattered in the assault, Sheridan pushed forward in pursuit. Bragg himself had barely escaped capture, and his disorganized troops, with a large wagon-train and several pieces of artillery, could be distinctly seen, flying through the valley below, within a distance of half a mile. Sheridan pressed on, to capture the prize. About a mile in rear of Missionary ridge, the road runs along another high and formidable hill, on which the enemy had posted artillery, supported by a heavy force of infantry. The men, however, charged again, clinging to the face of the mountain, as they had done a few hours before, on Missionary ridge. Meanwhile, Sheridan sent regiments on either side to flank the enemy. It was now dark, and, just as the head of one of these columns reached the summit of the hill, the moon rose from behind, and a medallion view of the column was disclosed, as it crossed the disk of the moon, and attacked the enemy. Outflanked on right and left the rebels fled, leaving the coveted artillery and trains. Those who escaped capture were driven across Chickamauga creek, where they burned the bridges, almost while they passed.

Wood and Baird were more obstinately resisted, by reenforcements from the rebel right, and continued fighting till darkness set in, slowly but steadily driving the enemy before them.

In the mean time, Hooker had completed his bridges, crossed the Chattanooga, and moved north, parallel with the ridge; Osterhaus on his right, Geary on the left, and Cruft having the centre. The rebels had selected for their line of defence, in front of Hooker, the breastworks thrown up by the national [513] troops in their retreat from Chickamauga; but, such was the impetuosity of Hooker's advance, that their front line was routed before an opportunity was allowed even to prepare a determined resistance. The bulk of the rebel left now sought refuge behind a second line, and thence was again driven out, till the flight became almost a running one. As he moved upon Rossville, Hooker encountered a division under Stuart, which was attempting to escape towards Greysville; but, some of this force, finding their retreat threatened in that quarter, retired in disorder towards their own right, along the crest of the ridge; there they were met by another portion of Hooker's command, and driven by these troops into the very face of Johnson's division, of Palmer's corps, by whom they were nearly all made prisoners. Thus, with the centre pierced, and the left wing rolled in, the whole rebel army was in inextricable confusion.

Grant rode up at once on the ridge, to direct the pursuit, and himself followed, for a mile or two, beyond the hills which so long had obstructed his armies. But, the near approach of night, and ignorance of the roads, prevented any further effective movements, except by Sheridan, who pushed as far as Mission mills, seven miles. The business of the day, however, was ended, and the troops went into bivouac, with cheers which were caught up by other troops, and carried along the ridge for miles, until lost in the distance. Chickamauga was avenged.

As soon as the resistance on Thomas's left was overcome, the enemy, of course, abandoned his position near the railroad tunnel, in front of Sherman, who, however, did not know, until night closed in, [514] that the troops in Chattanooga had swept across Missionary ridge and broken the enemy's centre. Pursuit was then ordered by him, at once. Morgan L. Smith was directed to feel the tunnel, which was found vacant, save by the rebel and national dead, who lay stark and still, commingled. Davis's reserve was ordered to march at once to the pontoon bridge, across the Chickamauga, at its mouth, and push forward for the depot. Howard had been posted to connect Sherman's left with Chickamauga creek. He was now ordered to repair an old broken bridge, about two miles up the Chickamauga, and to follow Davis at four A. M. on the morrow, while the Fifteenth corps was to march at daylight.

All of the strong positions of Lookout mountain, Chattanooga valley, and Missionary ridge were thus in Grant's possession, together with forty rebel cannon, and six thousand prisoners. Success had been complete on every part of the field. In Sherman's front the results had not been so brilliant, but it was simply because of the stubborn fight made there, that the rebels massed upon him, weakening their left and centre, and giving Grant the coveted opportunity. That night, Grant wrote to Sherman: ‘No doubt you witnessed the handsome manner in which Thomas's troops carried Missionary ridge, this afternoon, and can feel a just pride, too, in the part taken by the forces under your command, in taking, first, so much of the same range of hills, and, then, in attracting the attention of so many of the enemy as to make Thomas's part certain of success. The next thing now will be to relieve Burnside.’

To Wilcox, the same night, he said: ‘The great defeat Bragg has sustained in the three days battle [515] terminating at dusk this evening, and a movement which I will immediately make, I think, will relieve Burnside, if he holds out a few days longer. I shall pursue Bragg, to-morrow, and start a heavy column up the Tennessee valley the day after.’

At seven o'clock, Grant was able to report to the general-in-chief: ‘Although the battle lasted from early dawn until dark this evening, I believe I am not premature in announcing a complete victory over Bragg. Lookout mountain-top, all the rifle-pits in Chattanooga valley, and Missionary ridge entire, have been carried, and are now held by us. I have no idea of finding Bragg here to-morrow.’ A half-hour later, he dispatched again: ‘I have heard from Burnside, to the 23d, when he had rations for ten or twelve days, and expected to hold out that time. I shall move a force from here, on to the railroad between Cleveland and Dalton, and send a column of twenty thousand men up the south side of the Tennessee, without wagons, carrying four days rations, and taking a steamer loaded with rations, from which to draw, on the route. If Burnside holds out until this force gets beyond Kingston, I think the enemy will fly, and with the present state of the roads, must abandon almost every thing. I believe Bragg will lose much of his army by desertion, in consequence of his defeat in the last three days fight.’ On the 26th, Halleck replied to Grant's announcement of success: ‘I congratulate you and your army on the victories of Chattanooga. This is truly a day of thanksgiving.’

To Sherman, on the night of the 25th, Grant said: ‘My plan is to move your forces out gradually, until they reach the railroad between [516] Cleveland and Dalton. Granger will move up the south side of the Tennessee. . . . . . We will push Bragg with all our strength, to-morrow, and try if we cannot cut off a good portion of his new troops and trains. His men have manifested a strong desire to desert for some time past, and we will now give them a chance. . . . . Move the advance force on the most easterly road taken by the enemy.’ The same night, Thomas was ordered: ‘You will start a strong reconnoissance in the morning at seven A. M., to ascertain the position of the enemy. If it is ascertained that the enemy are in full retreat, follow them with all your force, except that which you intend Granger to take to Knoxville. . . . . Four days rations should be got up to the men, between this and morning, and also a supply of ammunition. I shall want Granger's expedition to get off by the day after to-morrow.’

On the morning of the 26th, accordingly, Sherman advanced by way of Chickamauga station; and Thomas's force (Hooker and Palmer) moved on the Atlanta road towards Greysville and Ringgold, while Granger's command returned to Chattanooga, with instructions to hold itself in readiness for orders to reenforce Burnside. Grant was with the pursuing column; but, on the night of the battle, Thomas returned to Chattanooga, and did not rejoin his troops. By eleven A. M., Jefferson C. Davis, of Sherman's command, arrived at Chickamauga depot, just in time to see it in flames. He entered with one brigade, and found the enemy partially intrenched, on the hills beyond the depot. This force, however, was soon driven away. The depot presented a scene of desolation such as war alone exhibits. [517] Corn and meal in huge burning piles, broken wagons, abandoned caissons, rifled guns with their carriages burned, pieces of pontoons, balks, chesses, all one mass of flame and destruction. Halting a short time only, the column passed on, over a road lined with the wrecks of the retreating army. Just as the head of the division emerged from a dark and miry swamp, it encountered the rear-guard of the enemy. The fight was sharp, but night closed in so dark that Sherman could not advance. Grant came up with Sherman's column here.

Hooker, meanwhile, had arrived at Chickamauga creek, and found the bridge destroyed; his pontoons were not up, and it was three o'clock before the regiments could begin to cross; the officers swam their horses, and the artillery and ambulances were left behind, to follow as soon as practicable. Palmer, who now reported to Hooker, was sent to Greysville, by the Lafayette road, and the rest of the command proceeded to Ringgold, Cruft's division leading. Palmer came up with the rear of the enemy, on the road from Greysville to Ringgold, and captured three pieces of artillery, with a small number of prisoners. Cruft also advanced, and took possession of the Chickamauga hills, on whose sides the abandoned camp-fires of the enemy were brightly burning. It was now ten o'clock, and Hooker went into bivouac, his artillery not having yet arrived.

Ringgold was five miles off, and the pursuit was renewed at daylight, Osterhaus in the advance. Evidences of the precipitate flight of the rebels were everywhere apparent; the road was strewn with caissons, wagons, ambulances, arms and ammunition, abandoned in the hurry and confusion of flight, and [518] before the east fork of Chickamauga creek was reached, a large number of prisoners had been taken. Soon the advance came up with the camps that had been occupied the night before, by the rebels; here, also, the fires of the bivouac were still ablaze. The ford, and a bridge south of Ringgold,--were both held by rebel cavalry. These discharged their pieces, and quickly gave way before a handful of Hooker's men, who pursued them closely into the town.

Cleburne's division was covering the retreat of Hardee's corps, of the rebel army, and had arrived at the west bank of the East Chickamauga, at ten o'clock on the night of the 26th. At this point he had to ford the river; it was nearly waist-deep, and the night was freezing cold, so the crossing was postponed until morning. But, in the night, Cleburne received orders to take a strong position in the gorge of the mountain, and attempt to check the advance of Hooker. The main rebel force had just passed through Ringgold, sorely pressed, the animals exhausted and the men demoralized. Regimental and company formations were destroyed, and many of the men had thrown away their arms.

Ringgold is a place of two or three thousand inhabitants, and stands on a plain between the East Chickamauga river and the range of hills known as Taylor's ridge; it is on the Western and Atlantic railroad, and about twenty miles southeast of Chattanooga. Taylor's ridge runs north and south, and, immediately back of the town, is a break in the ridge, wide enough to admit the railroad, a wagon-road, and a tributary creek of the Chickamauga. The creek hugs the southern side of the gorge, and the wagon-road and railroad run close to the bank of the [519] stream. The ridge rises abruptly on either hand, four or five hundred feet, and at its western mouth the gap widens to the breadth of a hundred yards, leaving room for a patch of level wooded land, on either side of the roads. The gap is about half a mile long, and the plain in the rear is so cut up by the windings of the stream, that three bridges or fords have to be crossed, in the first half-mile beyond, on the Dalton road.

Cleburne had been ordered to use the great natural advantages presented by this gap, to check the pursuit of the national army, till the trains and rear of the main column could get well advanced beyond the entanglements, on the other side of the ridge. He accordingly posted some of his troops on the mountain-top; and, behind the fringe of trees at its base, four short lines were formed across the gap. Skirmishers were thrown out as far as the creek, and a battery was placed in the mouth of the gap, screened by withered branches built up in front of the guns; a ravine near by sheltered the artillerists. Cleburne had over four thousand bayonets.

The rebel line of skirmishers was feeble, and Hooker deployed a brigade, under cover of the embankment of the railroad. Soon, a brisk musketry-fire began between the skirmishers. The rebel cavalry at once retreated through the gap on a trot, and the valley in front was clear of Cleburne's troops; but, close in rear of the ridge, an immense wagon-train was still struggling through the fords of the creek, and the deeply cut up roads leading to Dalton. Cleburne's division was the only barrier between the train and the eager advance of the pursuing army. [520]

Shortly after eight o'clock A. M., although his artillery had not yet arrived, Hooker moved his line of battle up, under cover of the skirmish fire. The troops advanced with decision and celerity, but soon became exposed to the rebel artillery, and, after five or six rapid discharges, the right was compelled to retire. The left, however, continued to advance, and made a heavy attack on the ridge. Four regiments were detached half a mile to the left, to ascend the hill, and turn the enemy's right. As they were thrown forward, the rebels appeared in force on the crest, having detected the movement. Four other regiments were then thrown still further to the left, but they also found a large force ready to receive them. Vigorous attacks were made by both these columns, but the advantage of position was too great to overcome. One column took shelter in a depression on the side of the ridge, about fifty paces in rear of its most advanced position; and several renewed attempts were made to carry the ridge, both sides fighting heroically. The rebels threw rocks from their higher position, and in this way sometimes knocked the assailants down the ridge.

Finding himself entirely unable to accomplish his purpose, Hooker at last desisted from the attack, and determined to await the arrival of his artillery. He could not, however, withdraw, without becoming still more exposed, and the men remained in their advanced positions on the mountain-side; but it was deemed unwise to bring up any more troops until the artillery should arrive, as the slaughter would have been great, without the possibility of inflicting on the enemy a loss at all comparable with that received. [521] The rebels threw up slight defences, and some desultory fighting occurred, near the mouth of the gap, but without important results.

Between twelve and one o'clock, the artillery came up, not having been able to cross the west fork of the Chickamauga, until eight o'clock that day. A section of howitzers was at once brought to bear on the enemy, in front of Hooker's right, and enfiladed the gap; another section was assigned to silence the rebel battery; and troops and artillery were sent to gain the heights on the southern side of the river, which would give a plunging fire on the enemy in the gorge.

Just as the artillery was opening, Grant arrived on the field. He at once sent orders to Sherman to move down a force on the east side of the ridge, and turn the enemy's position. ‘It looks as if it will be hard to dislodge them.’ But the rebels did not wait for this new disposition to be concluded; the artillery had opened with marked effect, the enemy's guns were hauled to the rear, his troops seen moving, and, before one o'clock, Cleburne was in full retreat. One brigade of Hooker pursued across the mountain, and others followed through the gap. The rebels attempted to burn the bridges, but were speedily driven away, and the fires were extinguished. Three pieces of artillery and two hundred and thirty prisoners were captured. Hooker's loss was sixty-five killed, and three hundred and seventy-seven wounded; only about half of the latter so severely as to go into hospital. In the early part of the battle, a few of his wounded had fallen into the enemy's hands, but they were soon recaptured. One hundred and thirty rebels were left dead on the field; Cleburne, [522] however, reported only twenty killed, a hundred and ninety wounded, and eleven missing. But the rebels secured the escape of their train, which was all they were fighting for.

Sherman had resumed his march at daylight, and, at Greysville, came up with Palmer's corps. The roads, in advance, were filled with as many troops as they could accommodate, and, in obedience to Grant's order, Sherman now turned east, to break up all communication between Bragg and Longstreet. Howard was directed to move to Parker's gap, and thence to Red Clay, and destroy a large section of the railroad connecting Dalton and Cleveland. This work was completely performed, that day, and Davis's division was moved up close to Ringgold, to be ready to assist Hooker, if need should arise. About noon, Sherman got a message from Hooker, saying that he had had a pretty hard fight, and wanted Sherman to come up and turn the position of the enemy. Howard, however, by moving through Parker's gap to Red Clay, had already turned Ringgold; but, of this, neither Grant nor Hooker was as yet aware. So, Sherman rode on to Ringgold, and found the rebels had already fallen back to Tunnel hill. The enemy was out of the valley of the Chickamauga, and on ground where the waters flow to the Coosa. He was driven from Tennessee.

Grant now directed the pursuit to be discontinued, and, at one P. M., he dispatched to Thomas: ‘Direct Granger. . . . to start at once, marching as rapidly as possible to the relief of Burnside.’ Had it not been for this imperative necessity of relieving Burnside, Grant would have pursued the demoralized and retreating enemy, as long as supplies could have [523] been found in the country. But, his advices were that Burnside's supplies could only last till the 3d of December. It was already getting late to afford the necessary relief; so, Grant directed Hooker to hold the position he then occupied, until the night of the 30th, but to go no further south at the expense of a fight. Sherman was instructed to march to the railroad crossing of the Hiawassee, to protect Granger's flank until he should get across that stream; and to prevent further reenforcements being sent, by that route, into East Tennessee.

A reconnoissance was made by Hooker, in the direction of Tunnel hill, the rebel line of retreat; and caissons, wagons, dead and dying men were found strewn along the way, to a horrible extent. The reconnoitring force returned on the night of the 27th, and then went into bivouac. The railroad at Ringgold was thoroughly destroyed, for a distance of two miles; also, the depot, tannery, mills, and all the military material. On the 29th, Palmer returned to Chattanooga, with his command, and the prisoners taken at Ringgold. On the 30th, the enemy sent a flag of truce to Hooker's advanced position at Catoosa, requesting permission to bury the rebel dead and care for the wounded, abandoned in the flight from Ringgold; during that day and the next, the remaining infantry and cavalry of Hooker's command left Ringgold; Geary and Cruft to return to their old camps, in Lookout valley, and Osterhaus, to encamp near Chattanooga.

On the 28th, the Fifteenth corps destroyed the railroad absolutely and effectually, from a point halfway between Greysville and Ringgold back to the Georgia state line; and, on the 29th, Howard's command, [524] with two divisions of the Fifteenth corps and Davis's division, moved by different mountain-gorges, and all met at Cleveland, where they again set to work destroying the railroad. On the 30th, Sherman's army marched to Charleston, Howard approaching so rapidly that the rebel force there evacuated in haste, leaving the bridge only partially damaged, and large loads of flour and provision fell into the hands of the national soldiers.

Grant's losses, in these battles, were seven hundred and fifty-seven killed, four thousand five hundred and twenty-nine wounded, and three hundred and thirty missing; total, five thousand six hundred and sixteen. The enemy's losses were fewer in killed and wounded, owing to the fact that he was protected by intrenchments,13 while the national soldiers were without cover. Grant captured six thousand one hundred and forty-two prisoners, forty pieces of artillery, sixty-nine artillery carriages and caissons, and seven thousand stands of small-arms; by far the greatest capture, in the open field, which had then been made during the war.

The battle of Chattanooga was the grandest ever fought west of the Alleghanies. It covered an extent of thirteen miles, and Grant had over sixty thousand men engaged. Hooker's force amounted to about ten thousand; Sherman's, including Howard's, to over twenty thousand; and Thomas's command included almost thirty thousand soldiers. The rebels [525] numbered only forty-five thousand men,14 but they enjoyed immense advantages of position on every part of the field, and, according to all the rules of the military art, a strong defensive position is equivalent to five times an equal number of assailants.

At Vicksburg, it had been the strategy, at Shiloh, the hard fighting, but, at Chattanooga, it was the manoeuvring in the presence of the enemy that brought about the result; aided, of course, in the highest possible degree, by the gallantry of the soldiers, without which the greatest of generals is in fact unarmed. Few battles have ever been won so strictly according to the plan laid down; certainly, no battle, during the war of the rebellion, was carried out so completely according to the programme. Grant's instructions in advance would almost serve as a history of the contest. Changes were indeed made in the orders; but, before the battle began, the original plan was resumed. Hooker was to draw attention to the right, to seize and hold Lookout mountain; while Sherman, attacking Missionary ridge on the extreme left, was still further to distract the enemy; and, then, when reenforcements and attention should be drawn to both the rebel flanks, the centre was to be assaulted by the main body of Grant's force under Thomas. Every thing happened exactly as had been foreseen. [526]

Disturbed, at the start, by the continuous marshalling of vast forces beneath his very eye, Bragg seemed to have lost all ordinary sagacity; and, on the night of the 22d of November, absolutely sent Buckner's division to Longstreet, who was lustily calling for aid, in East Tennessee. A second division had even started on the morning of the battle, but was recalled, by the movement of the 23d. Still, Bragg appeared confused by the manifold manoeuvres of Grant. He knew of the arrival of Sherman, one of whose divisions had been advanced far up Lookout valley; he saw the crossing at Brown's ferry, but doubtless hoped that the rains and the rise in the river, and the consequent destruction of the bridges, would delay any rapid operations of his antagonist. Losing sight, too, of Sherman, as soon as that commander crossed at Brown's ferry, it was impossible to know whether he had been sent to the aid of Burnside, or was detained for an assault at Chattanooga. Bragg must have finally concluded that the Army of the Tennessee had gone on to Knoxville; on no other supposition can the subtraction from his own force of two divisions, at this critical juncture, be accounted for.

But, the very next day, occurred the operations which resulted in the capture of Orchard knoll. Grant heard of the dispatch of Buckner's force, and immediately attacked Bragg's centre, lest the whole rebel army should escape. He thus brought back one of the departing divisions, while the other got off just far enough to be out of reach of recall, during the crisis of the next two days. The rebel chief became still more bewildered, and the sight of the immense masses moving in the valley below them, affected the [527] imaginations and depressed the spirits of his soldiers.15 The very openness of the display was a proof of audacity, that confounded them.

Bragg had now to decide whether or not he would maintain both flanks with equal determination. Lookout mountain, it is true, commanded the river, and was the key to all operations on the rebel left; but, Missionary ridge, at its northern extremity, covered his base and line of supplies. The demonstration of the 23d boded an attack, and he must make his election, in case the attack occurred. If he decided to hold Chickamauga, he must yield the mountain, and throw his whole force between the encroaching wing of Grant's army and the southern railroad. If he gave the preference to Lookout, then the railroad in his rear, and the depot of his supplies, must be abandoned. In this emergency, he acted with indecision, and weakened his left, without sufficiently strengthening the right; withdrawing one division (Walker's) from Lookout, on the night of the 23d, but leaving still six brigades on the mountain; enough to make a struggle on the left that could only end in failure, while he did not add enough to his right to make that flank secure. He probably could not bring himself to admit that Lookout mountain must really be abandoned; he could not acknowledge to himself and his army, that he was now really on the defensive, before the antagonist whom he had threatened so long.

But the great drama went on. Sherman arrived [528] from behind Walden's ridge, at the appointed crossing of the Tennessee; bridges were built like magic, and the army passed on to its position. Meanwhile, Hooker's veterans scaled the lofty peak that dominated over all the landscape, and, all day, they held in their front the six brigades so much needed elsewhere. Sherman's assault began, and was so determined and at so critical a point, that Bragg threw battalion after battalion to resist the Army of the Tennessee. That army was indeed resisted, was unable to make its way; but this was accomplished only by the sacrifice of all that Bragg was fighting for. The rebel centre, as Grant had foreseen, was weakened to save the right; and then, the whole mass of the Army of the Cumberland was precipitated on the weakened point; the centre was pierced, the heights carried, and the battle of Chattanooga won. Hooker threw his soldiers, flushed with success, on the left of Bragg, and rolled in that flank, and nothing but rout remained.

In all these operations, the enemy had been compelled to do his part almost as if under Grant's control. Bragg had no choice of movements left him: he was forced to weaken his left; he was forced afterwards to defend himself on the right; he was forced to make the very opportunity at his centre which Grant desired. And, although this battle had not been planned according to any immutable design, nor the commanders directed by any orders that were irreversible, yet each event proceeded regularly according to the calculation; each subordinate carried out his part exactly as he had been ordered; each army, brought from a distance, came upon the spot intended, crossed a river, or climbed a [529] mountain, at the precise moment; and even the unexpected emergencies of the fight contributed to the result, as if anticipated and arranged. In this respect, Chattanooga was one of the most notable battles ever fought.

There were, however, other considerations which rendered it extraordinary. Not only was it one of the grandest spectacles in modern war; not only was it so peculiar in plan and development, and so important in results, but it had a remarkably fortunate effect upon the armies engaged. Three hosts combined: one, coming from the valley of the Mississippi, loaded with laurels; another, fresh from the famous fields of the Potomac; and the third was the great Army of the Cumberland, whose foot was on its native hills, but which, through two long years that it had been struggling for this very advantage, had met with only incomplete success. Once or twice, after bloody battle, it had indeed remained master of the field, but the full advantages of victory it had never reaped; for, although it had really won Chattanooga, the possession of the prize had remained insecure; the fruits of its labor had been turned into ashes before they could be enjoyed. But, now, Fortune's bandage seemed to have fallen from her eyes, and she distributed rewards with an impartial hand. The Eastern troops had carried the most conspicuous position on the field, and won a strange and picturesque renown, forever associating their names with the mighty mountain that stands at the gate of the South; the Western army had fought harder and longer, and with less brilliant results than either of the others, but, by its persistent gallantry, had rendered possible the great success of the day; while [530] it was fitly reserved for the Army of the Cumberland to win the crowning victory over its old enemy, to carry the heights that had confronted it so long, and, in sight of Chickamauga, to accomplish that which Chickamauga had disastrously delayed.

For, the way was now thrown open to Atlanta, and all the rich country in its rear; the very heart of the rebellion was laid bare; the great bulwark of the would-be Confederacy was broken down, was become, instead, a sally-port for the national armies; the rebel hosts, that had stood in the way, were thrust aside, and Chattanooga, thenceforth, was as terrible a menace to rebellion, as in times past it had been defiant to loyalty.

1 Grant often rode out on the picket line, and once was on the eastern bank of Chattanooga creek, when a party of rebel soldiers were drawing water on the other side. They wore blue coats; and, thinking they were his own men, Grant asked them to whose command they belonged. They answered, ‘Longstreet's corps;’ whereupon Grant called out: ‘What are you doing in those coats, then?’ The rebels replied: ‘Oh! all our corps wear blue.’ This was a fact, which Grant had forgotten. The rebels then scrambled up on their own side of the stream, little thinking that they had been talking with the commander of the national army.

2 Major-General P. H. Sheridan, who in this battle, for the first time, fought a division immediately under the eye of Grant.

3 I have been unable to find any rebel report of the losses on this day.

4 See General B. R. Johnson's (rebel) report of operations of Buckner's division.

5 All the engineer operations during this entire campaign were under the direction and personal supervision of Brigadier-General W. F. Smith, whom Grant had promoted to be chief engineer of the Military Division of the Mississippi.

6 Brigadier-General J. M. Brannan, Thomas's chief of artillery, had charge of all the artillery operations of importance in this battle.

7 Ten batteries.—See Brannan's report.

8 General Sherman told me that he did not consider the hill for which he fought on November 23d, as very important in itself, and therefore used only three regiments, in the original attack; but he made as much noise and show as he could, to alarm Bragg for the safety of that flank, and of the railroad bridge, just in rear. His effort was, to induce Bragg to detach as much as possible from the centre, and so to weaken that, which Sherman knew, from Grant, would be the critical point of the battle. It was, at first, supposed that Bragg, finding Sherman on the end of Missionary ridge, would at once draw from his centre, to attack vehemently on the right; but this Bragg did not do; and then Grant ordered Sherman to attack Bragg, which evidently produced the same effect-weakening the enemy's line, and facilitating Grant's real object — to break the rebel centre.

9 I asked General Sheridan how he accounted for the ease with which the first line of rifle-pits was carried. He said that he happened to be in advance of his own line as it charged, and, looking back, was impressed with the terrible sight presented by the mass of approaching bayonets. The men were on a run, and the line had become almost a crowd; and the rebels appeared unable to resist the effect upon their imagination or their nerves of this waving, glittering mass of steel.

10 When they had got a third of the way up, an aide of Granger's ordered one of Sheridan's brigades down the hill, in conformity with the original plan; but Sheridan soon came up, and saw that the flags were advancing steadily, and that two of his brigades were still mounting the hill. He at once ordered back the troops which had begun to descend. ‘When I saw those flags going up,’ he said, ‘I knew we should carry the ridge, and I took the responsibility.’

11 Sheridan lost, in this charge, eleven hundred and seventy-nine men, and one hundred and twenty-three officers, out of a force of six thousand. This was nearly half the loss in Thomas's command.

12 See Appendix, for Bragg's report in full, from which all my statements in regard to the rebel movements and condition are taken almost verbatim.

13 The rebel losses were reported at three hundred and sixty-one killed, two thousand one hundred and eighty wounded, and four thousand one hundred and forty-six missing. This statement is certainly inaccurate in one particular, as Grant captured two thousand more men than the rebels reported missing.

14 On the 10th of December, Bragg reported fifty-eight thousand seven hundred and fifty-five men present, of whom forty-three thousand and ninety-four were ‘effective.’ Of these, however, ten thousand six hundred and twenty-two (effective) belonged to Wheeler's cavalry; and ‘portions of five brigades’ of Wheeler were with Longstreet. Still, the six thousand prisoners, to say nothing of the killed and wounded and stragglers, would bring up Bragg's numbers, on the days of the battle, to at least those stated in the text.


They had for two days confronted the enemy marshalling his immense forces in plain view, and exhibiting to their sight such a superiority in numbers, as may have intimidated weak minds and untried soldiers. Bragg's Report.

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