The position of affairs before the battle of Lookout Mountain.
Anything from Gen. Bragg
's army is interesting just now. The army correspondent of the Charleston Courier
gives a view of the position of affairs before the battle of Lookout Mountain
which will enlighten our readers relative to the situation as it then stood.
The writer is combatting the "despondent views" which looked upon the loss of Lookout Valley
as a disaster:
Lookout Valley has never been occupied by a larger force of our troops than one small brigade — that of General Law — the object of which was simply to picket the Tennessee, watch the movements of the enemy, and cover the retreat of our sharpshooters and skirmishers (whenever attacked) engaged in harassing the wagon trains running to and from Chattanooga in the rear.
- Secondly. We could not extend our lines beyond Lookout Mountain to the left, because of the disintegration of our forces which would be necessarily involved in such a movement, and the consequent weakening of our lines elsewhere.
The difficulty of transporting troops or supplies across the mountain, within point blank range of the guns of Moccasin Battery, was in itself a bar to the permanent occupation of the Valley.
From this cause alone it was found almost impossible to furnish regular rations to even the single brigade of General Law, every pound having to be carried at night, in panniers, on the backs of mules.
- Thirdly. The advance of the Federals from Bridgeport was known to General Bragg from the start, and progress was reported from hour to hour as the troops marched up the valley.
(This fact I learn from one of the signal officers.) Consequently there was no surprise and no lack of time for adequate preparation to give them battle.
Both Generals Bragg and Longstreet were on the summit of Lookout Mountain, observing the movements of the enemy above and below — the six thousand at Brown's Ferry, who had already crossed the Tennessee from Chattanooga, and the eleven thousand more, who had simultaneously started, and were advancing from the opposite direction.
The object of the Federals was penetrated at once; and if these officers fully possessed of all information bearing on the present and future, with plans of operation elsewhere already matured in their minds, adjudged it prudent to allow the enemy to pass unmolested, it was a concession with which no one here or elsewhere, who desires to maintain public confidence, and unite and inspire the popular heart, ought to find fault.
- Fourthly. Had an attack been made on the columns of the enemy while in motion up the valley, beyond doubt it would have precipitated a general battle.
Reinforcements would have poured out of Chattanooga across Brown's Ferry three times more expeditiously than we could have thrown troops across Lookout Mountain, (through a demoralizing fire,) and sweeping down on our rear, or even encountering our front in the valley, would have rendered the result of an engagement, to say the least, doubtful.
Granting success, however, what would have been accomplished?
The defeat of two corps of the enemy — the retention of a valley whose occupation would have weakened our line and been of no permanent or practical benefit — the loss of five or eight thousand men without commensurate advantages, at a time when every strong right arm was indispensable to the service, and the grand issue involved in the investment of Chattanooga would not have been directly effected in the slightest degree.
It is true that without the valley the Federals would have been compelled to rely for the rations on wagon transportation over mountain roads, and that eventually they may have been forced to retire to some point near their base of supplies; but this, if not a problematical, is a negative result.
If the Federals had determined to hold Chattanooga, they would have done so in spite of mountain roads and a blockaded railway to Bridge port.
We have not, therefore, been "outgeneraled by the enemy," and their movement was not "masterly in conception and fruitless in execution." It was by a simple concession on our part that they were allowed to pursue their purpose.--reopen communication with Bridgeport and establish themselves for the winter; and future developments will prove the correctness of the judgment by which that concession was made.
It is an error, too, to suppose that the mere possession of Chattanooga
is the stake for which this army is contending, and the fact that the Federals
may remain undisturbed there during the winter adds and subtracts nothing from our prospects of success.
In truth, there are many officers who believe that we are better off where we are, with a railroad at our back, than if we were forty miles on the other side of the Tennessee river
and dependent for supplies on the rugged roads and faulty wagons, which would be our bane during the winter.
Finally. We have not "lost the advantages of our position." Lookout Mountain
is still in our possession, and, to all intents and purposes, the lines of the army have not been changed.
With this great and almost impassable wall on our left, effectually barring the advance of the enemy from that direction, and Missionary Ridge
, with its steep sides, on our front, no General can ask a more desirable place of defence than that which is now held by this army.
If the enemy have succeeded in provisioning themselves for the winter, it is only what they would have done, under any other circumstances, somewhere else — perhaps not so favorably to us — and this fact will, in no wise, interfere with the general battle which is eventually to decide the strength of the two armies, and, probably, the issue of the war. It is a question of fighting, and not of eating, with which we have to contend, and a winter's idleness in one place or another has little to do with the solution of the problem while the two armies confront each other intact.
A correspondent of the Atlanta Confederacy,
writing on the 20th, says:
I notice in the few papers that now and then reach this elevated region that some despondency is felt by those at a distance concerning the situation of the campaign which extends itself along this great river.
Will you believe me sincere when I say that I never felt more hopeful?
I believe we shall winter around Nashville
If Gen. Longstreet
, as I think he will, Grant
must retreat from Chattanooga
And as sure as we get him moved we will keep him moving.
The prospect is very cheerful.
A large army, an animated spirit, a programme well arranged, nothing but extraordinary bad luck will foil our plans.
It is true that we need Forrest
It is true that we shall miss Polk
It is true that Gen. Lee
would inspire a deeper confidence.
But it is equally true that things are not so bad as they seem, and that General Hardee
's presence, his energy, his great talent for discipline, and his fine mind, have corrected a multitude of errors.
down in Chattanooga
are a sorry looking set of fellows, certain.
They burrow away in the ground and are as muddy as minks.
The pickets are now on mighty friendly terms.
They converse freely, joke each other, and sometimes treat.
You can ride from one end of our line of sharpshooters to the other without receiving a shot.
Papers are not permitted to be exchanged.
Flags of truce ply daily.
By these, letters are frequently sent, and sometimes travel is also permitted.
Mrs. Gen. Helm
passed through the other day.
A letter to the Atlanta Register
dated Missionary Ridge
, Nov. 15, says:
The signal corps, under the supervision of Captain G. C. Bain
, has proven itself to be a valuable organization.
converses with Missionary Ridge
Messages are borne on the air for five and six miles with a celerity barely to be believed.
The signal flag transmits messages and orders throughout the whole army.
Some of the corps having been consolidated, and all placed under the command of the untiring and indefatigable Bain
, its efficiency and discipline will be more perfect, and its services far more useful.
The signal corps always on the qui vive,
their flag reports every movement of the enemy by day, while their land torch is ever watchful by night.
The roads are in a fine condition, and the weather beautiful.
The army is losing no time in preparing shelters, every description of a hut imaginable is built, and chimneys in all shapes that will vie with any.