[from our own Correspondent.]
The Confederates have sustained to-day the most ignominious defeat of the whole war — a defeat for which there is but little excuse or palliation.
For the first time during our struggle for national independence our defeat is chargeable to be troops themselves, and not to the blunders or incompetency of their leaders.
It is difficult for me to realize how a defeat so complete could have occurred on ground so favorable, notwithstanding the great disparity in the forces of the two hostile armies.
The ground was more in our favor than it was at Fredericksburg
, where Gen. Longstreet
is said to have estimated that Lee
's army was equal to 300,000 men. And yet we gained the battle of Fredericksburg
and lost that of Missionary Ridge
But let us take up the painful narrative at the beginning, and see how this great misfortune, if not this grievous disgrace, has be fallen the Confederate
was evacuated last night, it being no longer important to us after the loss of Lookout or Wills's Valley, and no longer tenable against such an overwhelming force as General Grant
had concentrated around Chattanooga
abandoned also the whole of Chattanooga Valley
, and the frenches and breastworks passing along the foot of Missionary Ridge
and across the valley to the base of Lookout, and moved his troops up to the top of the ridge.
It was found necessary to extend his right well up towards the Chickamauga
, near its month, in consequence of the heavy forces which the enemy had thrown up the river in that direction.
The Tennessee and Missionary Ridge
approach nearer in each other as one goes up, or rather down the valley the width of which at some points does not exceed one fourth of a mile.
Across this valley, how almost an open plain, varying from a fourth of a mile to two miles in width, the Federals
advanced to the assault, their ranks exposed to an artillery fire from the ridge while in the plain, and to the infantry fire when they attempted the ascent at the hill or mountain.
The only objection that can be urged against our line was its length and weakness, the latter being the result of the former, and the former the result of circumstances beyond our control, it being necessary for as to guard the passes in the Ridge
and to uniform to the length of the line presented by the enemy.
The ridge varies in height from four to six hundred feet, and is crossed by several roads leading out from Chattanooga
The western side next to the enemy was steep and rugged, and in some places almost bare, the timber having been cut away for firewood.
Our pickets occupied the breast works below, while the infantry and artillery were distributed along the crest of the ridge from McFarlan's Gap almost to the mouth of the Chickamauga, a distance of six miles or more.--In addition to the natural strength of the position we had thrown up breastworks along the ridge wherever the ascent is easy.
The Federal army was marshalled under Grant
, and Sherman
, and did not number less than 85,000 veteran troops.
The Confederate army, under Bragg
, and Breckinridge
, did not number half so many.
's Virginia divisions and other troops had been sent to East Tennessee
Had these been present with their steady leader at the head of them, we should have won a victory gone as complete as our defeat has been.
As it was we ought to have won the day, and should had done so if our men had done as well as usual.
Possibly a mistake was committed when Longstreet
was sent away, and possibly it would have been better not to have accepted battle to-day, but have retired last night.
thought, however, that there was not time, after the loss of Lookout, to get his army safely over the Chickamauga
last night, and that it would be better, occupying so strong a position, to fight it out. But what could he expect from a battle where the odds were so much against him?
Not only did Grant
have three to one in numbers, but the geographical configuration of the ground, in manœuvering an army, was as favorable as he could desire.
Nature had provided an ample protection for his flanks and rear, and rendered his front almost impregnable.
He possessed the additional advantage of bring able to manœuvre his army upon the cord of a semi-circle, whilst Bragg
could move only upon the arc.
But let us proceed with the battle, the strangest, and singular and unsatisfactory conflict in which our arms have been engaged.
deployed his immense masses in two heavy lines of battle, and sometimes in three, supported by large reserve forces.
The spectacle was magnificent as viewed from the crest of Missionary Ridge
He advanced first against our right wing, about 10 o'clock, where he encountered that superb soldier, Lieut. General Hardee
, who commanded on the right, whilst Major General Breckenridge
commanded on the left.
's command embraced Cleburne
's, (commanded by Gen. Gist
, Gen. Walker
being absent,) Cheatham
's, and Stevenson
's embraced his old division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Lewis
's, part of Buckner
's, and Hindman
's, commanded by Patton Anderson
The enemy's first assault upon Hardee
was repulsed with great slaughter, as was his second, though made with double lines, supported with heavy reserves.
The wave of battle, like the wave of the sea when it dashes against a rock bound coast, beat and hissed, and struggled in vain; for the brave men who guarded our right were resolved never to yield one foot to the hated invaders.
The side against which they contended were fearful; for while the enemy advanced in two and even three massive lines, their own army consisted of only one long and weak line, without supports.-- Yet they not only repulsed every attack, but captured seven, flags, about 300 prisoners, and remained master of the ground until night, when they were ordered to retire, carrying off all their guns, losing to prisoners, and but a small percentage of killed and wounded.
The whole command behaved well, and especially that model soldier, Maj. Gen. Cleburne
, a true son of the Emerald
lsle, and his he role division.
saved the army from a disastrous rout, and added fresh laurels to his brow.
The attack on the left wing was not made until about noon.
Here, as on the right, the enemy was repulsed but he was obstinate, and fought with great ardor and confidence, returning to the charge again and again in the handsomest style, until one of our brigades near the centre, said to be Reynold
's gave way, and the Federal
flag was planted on Missionary Ridge
The enemy was not slow in availing himself of the great advantages of his new position.
In a few minutes he turned upon our flanks and poured into them a terrible enfilading fire, which soon threw the Confederates
on his right and left into confusion.
Under this confusion the gap in our lines grew wider and wider and wider, and the wider it grew the faster the multitudinous the rushed into the yawning chasm.
The confusion extended until it finally assumed the form of panic.
Seeing the enemy in possession of a portion of the heights, the men hastily concluded that the day was gone, and that they had best save themselves.
Just at this time the alarm was increased by an artillery battery which rushed down the hill to the river for a fresh supply of ammunition, the men, however supposed they were flying from the field, and that all was lost.
Nearly the whole left wing eventually became involved and gave way, a portion of it retiring under orders, but the greater part in unmitigated rout.
did all he could to rally the fugitives and reform the broken line.
He exposed himself in the most unguarded manner, and at one time it looked as if he would certainly be killed.
His staff officers were also conspicuous in their efforts to restore our line.
They and their Chief were the last to leave the ridge.
The day was lost.
still maintained his ground, but no success of the right wing could restore the left to its original position.
All men — even the bravest — are subject to error and confusion, but to-day some of the Confederates
did not fight with their accustomed courage.
Possibly the contrast between the heavy masses of the Federals
, as they rolled across the valley and up the mountain ridge, and their own long and attenuated line, was not of a character to encourage them.
Our casualties are small — very small — too small, indeed, to be recorded along with so complete and humiliating a defeat.
Included among our losses are some of our best guns — perhaps as many as thirty or forty.
The infantry supports in some instances fled so precipitately that there was no time left to remove the guns.
There were but few roads down the mountain by which they could retreat, and this occasioned further loss.
All the artillery behaved well.
The men in Cobb
's battery stood their ground after their supports had fled, and though they lost their guns, they fought them
to the last; and when they could use them no longer on account of the steepness of the descent, they buried hand grenades at the foe as he crawled up the mountain beneath the muzzles of the guns.
The enemy's loss must have exceeded ours ten to one.
Our dead and some of the wounded were left on the field.
But it is late and bitter cold, and I must close.--We cross the Chickamauga
to night, and then proceed to Dalton
I write under the greatest possible disadvantages.