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Chapter 8:

The army of Tennessee was halted on Missionary Ridge, and remained inactive for two months, until the 25th of November, when it was driven from its position and forced back to Dalton, Ga.

On the 16th of October, General Rosecrans was superseded in the command of the army of the Cumberland by Maj.-Gen. George H. Thomas, and the military division of the Mississippi, consisting of the departments of the Cumberland, Ohio and Tennessee, was created, with Maj.-Gen. U. S. Grant in command.

General Bragg preferred charges against Lieutenant-General Polk for disobedience of orders at Chickamauga, and on the 29th of September, by a special order, suspended him from command. President Davis, ‘after an examination into the causes and circumstances,’ ignored the action of General Bragg, and assigned Polk to the command of the department of Mississippi and Louisiana. On taking leave of his army corps and turning it over to Major-General Cheatham the day following his suspension, he said: ‘I leave my command in the care of the bravest of the brave, who has often led them in the darkest hours of their trials. He and you will have my hopes and prayers to the Ruler of the Universe for your happiness and success.’

A large percentage of the four Tennessee brigades [114] under Cheatham had seen service under General Polk, from Belmont to Chickamauga. Whatever of glory and honor they had won was under his leadership, and they were devoted to him above all men next to their own division general. The men murmured, the officers resented in silence the action of the commanding general, and for this the Tennesseeans were scattered. Maney's brigade was assigned to Walker's division, Strahl's to Stewart's, Vaughn's to Hindman's; Wright's brigade was detached and sent to Charleston, east Tennessee; and the Mississippi brigade, commanded by the gallant Walthall, and the Alabama brigade of John C. Moore, were assigned to Cheatham's division. Cheatham was proud of his new command, but his devotion to the old one ‘was wonderful, passing the love of woman.’ His command of Polk's corps was temporary. Lieutenant-General Hardee was restored to the army of Tennessee, and commanded the corps at the disastrous battle soon to be fought.

Cheatham resumed command of his division after dark on the 24th of November and some hours after the capture of Walthall's pickets by Hooker's corps. Why General Walthall ‘was not sustained is yet unexplained,’ says General Bragg in his official report; ‘the commander on that part of the field, Major-General Stevenson, had six brigades at his disposal.’ When General Cheatham took command he was accompanied by Gen. John C. Breckinridge, and the two, in the presence of Cheatham's chief of staff, were urged by the commanding general to hasten to Lookout mountain, and if possible withdraw Stevenson's division from its summit and conduct our forces across Chattanooga creek. Holtzclaw's brigade relieved Walthall, the enemy retiring before his advance; the danger was not imminent or immediately threatening, and the order was easily executed.

General Bragg, referring to the affair in his official report, says: ‘Orders were immediately given for the [115] ground to be disputed until we could withdraw our forces across Chattanooga creek, and the movement was commenced. This having been successfully accomplished, our whole forces were concentrated on the ridge.’ General Walthall reports that at 11 o'clock p. m., ‘under orders from Major-General Cheatham, I moved my command to McFarland's spring, where I passed the night.’ Major-General Stevenson reporting his action to the commanding general, stated: ‘I was engaged in issuing the necessary orders for the retirement of the troops when Major-General Cheatham arrived (at 8 p. m.). He informed me that he had come to consult with me, but not to assume command. I sent the troops from the top of the mountain down, and then proceeded myself to a point near its base where General Cheatham and myself had an appointment to meet. Here, as senior officer, he assumed command, and I gave no further directions with regard to the retirement of the troops except such as I received from him for those of my own division. Here we also met Major-General Breckinridge, who, when Major-General Cheatham took command, returned to his corps.’

The First brigade (Brown's Tennessee) crossed Chattanooga creek at 11 p. m., followed at short intervals by the entire force. The movement was conducted successfully and in order by General Cheatham; no ammunition was lost, not a sick or wounded man was abandoned; but no credit was accorded him for his services, and no mention was made of his name in the official report of the commanding general.

Brown's Tennessee brigade was ordered at 4 a. m., on the 25th, to the extreme right of the line as reinforcements to General Cleburne, in whose front the enemy was supposed to be concentrating forces for his main attack. The brigade occupied the position between the left of Cleburne's line of defenses and the railroad. Brown's skirmishers, he reports, were all the while engaged, and so hotly for a time that he [116] reinforced the line until half of the brigade was deployed. The advance of the enemy was checked, many were killed and wounded, and 50 prisoners captured. An hour before sunset the brigade was ordered to report to Major-General Cheatham, the enemy having already penetrated the line on his left, and there the brigade was warmly engaged until ordered to retire across the Chickamauga. In the action in support of Cleburne, Maj. W. H. Joyner, of the Eighteenth, was wounded, Lieut. J. T. Pigg, of the Thirty-second, was killed, and 16 men wounded.

Bate's brigade, Col. R. C. Tyler commanding, was fiercely assailed; the troops on the right gave way, and in attempting to rally the broken line Colonel Tyler was dangerously wounded, when the command devolved on Lieut.-Col. James J. Turner, of the Tenth and Thirtieth. Colonel Turner, in his history of the battle, says he fell back about 1,500 yards and halted and formed across the road, when the division commander, Brigadier-General Bate, directed him to follow on to the pontoon bridge at the Chickamauga, the sun being an hour high. ‘Cobb's battery and a number of detached soldiers, numbering about 500, came up and fell into our line of battle. As all the generals had left and we were free to act independently, we concluded to stop the Federal forces at this point till darkness should arrest their advance. Cobb's battery opened upon the enemy vigorously, and I directed Major Caswell to deploy his Georgia battalion of sharpshooters to cover our front and feel the enemy, which order was executed to the letter. As soon as the Federals came in range, both sides opened with great spirit. We had the advantage in position, but were outnumbered by at least three to one. The firing was very severe, ammunition was nearly exhausted, and it was quite dark—an hour after sunset. At this juncture, after a battle of two hours, General Breckinridge, the corps commander, came up from the rear, having heard the firing, and inquired, “What command is this and why are you here?” He [117] added that his entire command had been broken and was in retreat, and ordered me to fall back.’ The darkness was Turner's protection, and the order from Breckinridge saved him from capture. The regiments on his right, he says, came out to the road within a few yards of the Federal line. (Col. Jas. J. Turner, sketch of Thirtieth Tennessee.)

Turner's command consisted of the Thirty-seventh Georgia, Lieut.-Col. Joseph T. Smith; Fourth Georgia sharpshooters, Major Caswell; Tenth Tennessee, Major O'Neill; Fifteenth and Thirty-seventh Tennessee, Lieut.--Col. R. Dudley Frayser; Twentieth Tennessee, Maj. W. M. Shy; First Tennessee battalion, Maj. Stephen H. Colms; his own gallant regiment, the Thirtieth Tennessee, and Cobb's battalion of artillery, composed of Cobb's, Slocumb's and Mebane's batteries. Turner fought Sheridan's division and held it in check for two hours. It was a gallant action, and the names of the participants will live forever. Turner won promotion, if he did not receive it. The rear alone was open to him, the Federal troops in vastly superior numbers were in front and on both flanks; but the line of retreat was taken up in good order, no pursuit was made, and he reached the pontoon bridge over the Chickamauga at midnight, just before it was removed. Vaughn's brigade (now of Hindman's division), says General Vaughn, ‘did some of the greatest and most heroic fighting of the war, and though forced to fall back, contested every inch of ground.’ When flanked on the left, the brigade retired in order.

Maney's brigade of Walker's division was on the extreme right in support of Cleburne, Maney being posted in rear of Smith's line. The First and Twenty-seventh, Col. H. R. Feild, were moved in front of the works to a very exposed position on the right of Warfield's Arkansas regiment. General Cleburne ordered Cumming to charge the enemy in his front, and he advanced with the Fifty-sixth and Thirty-sixth Georgia. ‘Twice,’ says General [118] Cleburne, ‘he was checked and had to reform, and Warfield's Arkansas regiment and the gallant First and Twenty-seventh Tennessee prepared to share his next effort. At the command, the whole rushed forward with a cheer, and the enemy, completely surprised, fled. Lieutenant-Colonel Sanders, leading the left of Mills' Texas regiment on the enemy's flank, pursued him to the foot of the ridge and nearly across the open ground in front. The column returned with 8 stand of colors and 500 prisoners. The enemy, reinforced, made an attempt to follow, but was met and routed by the Fiftieth Tennessee.’ In this gallant action of the Fiftieth, its noble colonel, Cyrus A. Sugg, fell mortally wounded. He was greatly distinguished at Chickamauga; no officer of the army had a more promising record, and no Tennessee name deserves greater honor. General Cleburne, referring to him and to Col. McConnell of Cumming's brigade, said: ‘I did not personally know them, but I saw and can bear witness to their gallant bearing and noble death.’ Gen. L. E. Polk's Arkansas and Tennessee brigade was not actively engaged, but rendered good service in holding an important position. The same can be said of Wright's Tennessee brigade, which was acting under the orders of the commanding general of the army.

Cheatham's division took position on Missionary Ridge to the left of the road which led down to the right of our fortifications. It was moved to the right and again, under orders, to the left, where it was subjected to a fire of the enemy's artillery and sharpshooters. General Walthall, in his report of the battle, says: ‘My position was not attacked in front; but about 4 o'clock, when the lines had been forced and broken on the left (of Cheatham), and after the enemy had reached the top of the ridge, the major-general commanding directed me to form my line across the ridge at right angles to the position I then occupied. This change was made under a brisk fire of the enemy, who advanced upon me along the crest of the [119] ridge. The fire was kept up until after dark, but the position was held, the enemy not approaching nearer than 200 yards.’ General Cheatham considered this action of Walthall's one of the most brilliant of the war, and his report of it excessively modest. The change of position under fire and the repulse of the enemy's repeated assaults were a distinction to the brigade commander and to his veteran troops. If he had yielded, an army corps would have poured down upon Cleburne's left and overwhelmed him. In this combat General Walthall and Maj. John Ingram, of General Cheatham's staff, were seriously wounded; Adjt. John W. Campbell, Twenty-ninth Mississippi, was mortally wounded, and the brigade sustained a loss of 28 wounded. Moore's brigade was on the left of Walthall and the right of Jackson's two brigades, where the enemy made a great effort to drive them from their position, but failed signally.

The general commanding the army seemed to appreciate Walthall's splendid performance. In his official report he says: ‘Lieutenant-General Hardee, leaving Major-General Cleburne in command on the extreme right, moved toward the left when he heard the heavy firing in that direction. He reached the right of Anderson's division just in time to find it had nearly all fallen back, commencing on its left, where the enemy had first crowned the ridge. By a prompt and judicious movement he threw a portion of Cheatham's division directly across the ridge facing the enemy, who was now moving a strong force immediately on his left flank. By a decided stand here the enemy was entirely checked, and that portion of our force to the right remained intact.’ In fact, when General Hardee came up from the right, Walthall had already formed across the ridge and driven the enemy back. With enthusiasm Hardee said to Cheatham, ‘You have saved the right of the army.’ The ‘heavy firing’ heard by General Hardee was Walthall's resistance to the advance of the enemy. [120]

Strahl's Tennessee brigade, Stewart's division, constituted a part of what General Stewart aptly called ‘the attenuated line’ by which Missionary Ridge was nominally held. It was swept from the crest after a stout resistance and crossed the Chickamauga in order.

Hooker had been sent from Virginia with two army corps to reinforce the Federal army; Sherman's army had been brought up; and two months of inaction enabled General Grant, in command at Chattanooga, to concentrate a great army. On the other hand, Longstreet with his corps and Bushrod Johnson with his division had been detached and sent to east Tennessee, and, says Lieutenant-General Stewart, ‘the preparation made by General Bragg indicated a purpose to retreat,’ but it was abandoned. The movement by the enemy on Bragg's right caused an undue concentration in that quarter, while the left and center were strung out into little more than a skirmish line. The movements of the Federal army were in full view of the Confederate troops; the numbers were overwhelming, and ‘like a spring tide from the mighty ocean, they rushed up the slopes of Missionary Ridge.’ It was not surprising that parts of Anderson's division, a mere skirmish line, were seized with a panic, and without resistance abandoned the field and lost the battle, and possibly prevented a greater disaster.

General Grant was slow to claim the great victory he had won. At 7:15 p. m. of the 25th of November he advised the general-in-chief of the Federal army, ‘I have no idea of finding Bragg here to-morrow.’ It was not until the morning of the 27th that the advance of Thomas' forces under Hooker and Palmer reached the front of the Confederate rear guard of Hardee's corps under Cleburne, less than 20 miles away, at Ringgold, Ga.

Cleburne's command consisted of 4,157 men; his retirement to this place had been leisurely made; he was in position carefully selected, and he received the attack [121] about 8 a. m. of the 27th, by a force many times his superior. The repulse was a bloody and decisive one, from which the enemy made no attempt to advance. Cleburne lost 20 killed, 190 wounded, and Hooker admitted a loss of 65 killed and 377 wounded. Among the wounded of Cleburne's command were Col. W. D. Robison, Second Tennessee, and Lieut.-Col. J. G. Cole, Fifth (Confederate) Tennessee, mortally wounded. Colonel Cole had been a conspicuous figure of Polk's brigade in all of the great battles of the Southwest, and had won commendation and honor on every field.

General Grant reported his losses at Missionary Ridge at 5,616 killed, wounded and missing. The corrected figures show a loss of 5,824. The Confederate loss he estimated ‘probably less than ours,’ but claimed 6,142 prisoners, 40 pieces of artillery and 7,000 stand of smallarms by the entire army; while Hooker, commanding the Eleventh and Twelfth army corps, reported the capture by his command of ‘6,547 prisoners, 7 pieces of artillery, 9 battleflags and not less than 10,000 stand of small-arms.’ General Grant, in forwarding Hooker's report under date of March 25, 1864, placed this endorsement upon it: ‘Attention is called to that part of the report giving the number of prisoners and small-arms captured, which is greater than the number really captured by the whole army.’

This General Hooker, who was so defiant of historical accuracy, is the same Gen. Joseph Hooker who was the author of a slanderous communication addressed to the Hon. S. P. Chase, dated December 28, 1863, and published in 1890, on page 339, Series 1, Vol. XXXI, Part 2, of ‘Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,’ in which the following statement was made: ‘Before the battle of Lookout, I had opened communication with Cheatham's division, holding the summit of the mountain, and had good reason to believe that I would have succeeded in bringing in all the enlisted men with [122] some of the officers but for their untimely removal. They were relieved by Stevenson's division. The only conditions I required were that they should give themselves to me with arms in their hands, and take the oath of allegiance; theirs, that they should be permitted to return to their homes, or go where the conscription could not reach them. You will remember that when Bragg retreated from Tennessee he was compelled to march the Tennessee troops under guard.’

No man, living or dead, could have believed that there was the slightest foundation for this story. It was evidently prepared with the expectation that the author of it would be exalted for his supposed zeal in the prosecution of his missionary labor in beguiling Cheatham's division from allegiance to their country and to their honor, and with no expectation that it would be published as a part of the history of those perilous days.

Cheatham's division never occupied the summit of the mountain. The First and Twenty-seventh Tennessee, of Maney's brigade, Walker's division, were there on picket duty for about ten days in October; and this consolidated regiment is the same referred to in handsome terms by General Cleburne for participation in the battle of November 25th, when, uniting with troops from Texas and Arkansas, Sherman's forces in their front were driven from the field.

‘You will remember’ (said this American Munchausen) ‘that when Bragg retreated from Tennessee he was compelled to march the Tennessee troops under guard.’ Judge Chase could remember nothing so idiotic or so impossible. It is a pity that the author of the slander had not remembered the lesson taught in Dickens' ‘Great Expectations:’ ‘Don't you tell no more lies, Pip; that ain't the way to get out of being common, old chap.’ When Bragg retired from Tennessee, Cheatham's division constituted the rear guard of the army, and its last service before ascending the mountain was to drive, in inglorious [123] confusion and retreat, the Federal cavalry by which it was assailed at Cowan. When it reached Chattanooga it was stronger than when it retired from Shelbyville; furloughed men and volunteers joined it en route, and in many instances ran the gauntlet of Federal pickets, scouts and cavalry. In addition to the Tennessee brigades of Cheatham, John C. Brown's and Bushrod Johnson's were composed exclusively of Tennesseeans, and Bate's, Polk's and Smith's were largely Tennessee troops; and these, with the artillery and cavalry from that State, constituted a force too strong and too spirited to ‘march under guard,’ unless they had been led by the vaunting ‘hero of the battle above the clouds.’

The Knoxville campaign, under Lieut.-Gen. James Longstreet, was participated in by Bushrod Johnson's brigade; the Fourth, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Tennessee cavalry under Brig.--Gen. W. Y. C. Humes; Dibrell's cavalry brigade; Freeman's, White's, Rhett's and McClung's batteries, and the First Tennessee cavalry, Col. Onslow Bean. General Johnson, with his own and Gracie's brigade, reached the front of Knoxville on the 27th and 28th of November, 1863. On the 29th he moved to the attack on Fort Loudon in support of the assaulting column under Brigadier-General Humphreys, Gracie on the right. The command approached to within 250 yards of the enemy's fortifications on which the assault was made, and was soon under fire. At this time Gracie was withdrawn by the lieutenant-general commanding, and an order made for Johnson to halt. The attack was abandoned, and Johnson occupied, with his skirmishers, the advance rifle-pits, distant 250 yards from the enemy's fort. During the assault on Fort Loudon, Johnson's brigade lost Lieut. S. W. Ross, Forty-fourth, and Private J. P. Hicks, Seventeenth, killed, and 19 officers and men wounded. On December 4th, at nightfall, Johnson's command withdrew from the line of investment in front of Knoxville and moved with Longstreet's corps to Bean's Station and [124] Rogersville. Major Lane, of the Twenty-third, withdrew the pickets from the enemy's front at 11 p. m.

Johnson's command was not in good condition for a campaign in midwinter; the men were poorly clad and many of them barefooted. On December 14th they participated in a combat at Bean's Station, in which the brigade sustained a loss of 6 killed and 52 wounded. In this affair General Johnson advanced directly against the enemy and drove him to the buildings at Bean's Station, where he met with a stout resistance. During the night the enemy succeeded in making his escape, after sustaining a loss of 100 killed, with many wounded, and the sacrifice of valuable stores.

In the advance on Knoxville the cavalry under General Wheeler attacked the enemy first at Maryville, where Dibrell's Tennessee brigade charged the Eleventh Kentucky cavalry, scattering it into small parties and capturing 151 prisoners. Wolford's Federal brigade, coming up to the rescue, was assailed by Wheeler and driven over Little river in wild confusion, and 85 prisoners taken. The following day Wheeler moved across Little river and attacked the brigades of Federal cavalry commanded by Gen. J. M. Shackleford, Col. Frank Wolford and Col. Charles D. Pennebaker, charging this force with the Eighth and Eleventh Texas, the Third Arkansas, and Dibrell's Tennessee brigade. The enemy's line was broken and the field abandoned in disorder. The pursuit was continued for three miles to the river opposite Knoxville, where the enemy dashed over the pontoon bridge, creating great consternation, while many plunged into the river and some were drowned. In this stampede 140 prisoners were captured and many killed and wounded.

The suffering of the Confederate soldiers in this campaign may be inferred from the fact that General Longstreet, on December 16th, informed the adjutant-general that ‘we shall be obliged to suspend active operations for want of shoes and clothing.’

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