Page images
PDF
EPUB

BATTLE AT WAUHATCHIE.

153

JOHN W. GEARY.

1863.

anxious to hold the road leading from the Lookout Valley to Kelly's Ferry, through a gorge of the Raccoon Mountain, General Geary, with his small force, was ordered to encamp at Wauhatchie, the junction of the Memphis and Charleston, and Trenton railways, three miles from Howard's position, with a very thin line of pickets connecting them.

From the hour when he entered the valley, Hooker's movements had been keenly watched by McLaws's division of Longstreet's corps, then holding Lookout Mountain, with a determination to fall upon and crush the Nationals at some favorable moment.

McLaws did not feel strong enough to fight Hooker's full force in open daylight, so he descended stealthily and swiftly at midnight upon Geary's weak force, lying at Wauhatchie, not doubting his. ability to capture and destroy it, and then to burn Hooker's train of supplies and seize the remainder of his army in that

Oct. 28, 29, rough, wooded country, from which escape would be difficult. With wild screams his troops swept down from the hills, drove in Geary's pickets, and charged furiously upon his camp on three sides, while the batteries upon

Lookout Mountain sent down their shells in fearful lines upon the aroused camp. But McLaws had not surprised Geary. That vigilant officer, like all the others of Hooker's little army, knew that a strong and wary foe was hovering over their heads and lurking among the hills on every side, with a determination to prevent, at all hazards, the establishment by the Nationals of a short and safe route for supplies between Bridgeport and Chattanooga, for that result once accomplished, that post and its advantages would be lost to the Confederates. Geary's vigilance was therefore sleepless, and he was prepared for the assault, which came at about one o'clock in the morning. He met the assailants with a steady, deadly fire, and made them recoil. The rattle of musketry and the booming of cannon, borne on the midnight air, aroused Hooker, who sent General Schurz's division of Howard's corps to Geary's aid. General Tyndale's brigade first reached the battle-field, where Geary was fighting gallantly and keeping his assailants at bay. He drove the Confederates from a hill to the left of Geary's camp, while a thin brigade of General Steinwehr’s division, led by Colonel Orlan Smith, of the Seventy-third Ohio, charged up a steep and rugged acclivity behind Schurz's division, drove a force three times the number of the Nationals from its crest, took some of them prisoners, and scattered the remainder in every direction. “No

[graphic]

1 In his report of the battle on the 6th of November, General Hooker said: “At one time they had enveloped him (Geary) on three sides, under circumstances that would have dismayed any officer except one endowed with an iron will and the most exalted courage. Such is the character of General Geary."

? The troops engaged in this charge were the Seventy-third Ohio, Colonel Smith, and Thirty-third Massa-shusetts, Colonel Underwood, supported by the One Hundred and Thirty-sixth New York, Colonel Greenwood.

6 October 29.

154

THE SOLDIERS' STEAMER.

troops,” said Hooker, in his report of the battle, “ever rendered more brilliant service.”! For three hours the struggle continued, when the assailants fled, leaving one hundred and fifty of their number dead on Geary's front, also over one hundred prisoners and several hundred small-arms. Thus, at a little past four o'clock in the morning, ended The BATTLE OF WauHATCHIE.” Its most practical result was the security of a safe communication for the Nationals between Bridgeport and Chattanooga, already obtained by Smith forty-eight hours before, and the defeat of Bragg's plans for starving the Army of the Cumberland into surrender, A little steamboat, named

the Chattanooga, which had been built at Bridgeport by the soldiers, was immediately loaded with two hundred thousand rations, and started up the river. It ran the blockade of Lookout Mountain, to Brown's Ferry, and thus the army at Chattanooga was saved from actual famine. Bragg was then in no condition for aggressive movements against the Nationals, for he had weakened his army by sending Longstreet, with a greater portion of his command, against Burnside, in East Tennessee, and was

compelled to content himself with simply holding his very strong position on the northern acclivities of Lookout Mountain and across the narrow Chattanooga Valley, near the mouth of Chattanooga Creek, and so along the crests of the Missionaries'

[graphic]

THE CHATTANOOGA.

Colonel Smith's regiment was commanded on the occasion by Captain Thomas Higgins, acting Major. These were very thin regiments. Those of Ohio and Massachusetts numbered only about two hundred effective men each.

1 Among the gallant officers wounded in this engagement was Colonel Underwood, of the Thirty-third Massachusetts, who, on the recommendation of General Hooker, was promoted to Brigadier-General.

2 The National loss in this engagement was 416. The entire loss since crossing the Tennessee, 437; of whom 76 were killed, 339 wounded, and 22 were missing. Among the killed was Captain Geary, son of the General. General Green and Colonel Underwood were severely wounded.

An amusing incident of this night's battle is related. When it began, about two hundred mules, frightened by the noise, dashed into the ranks of Wade Hampton's Legion, and produced a great panic. The Confederates supposed it to be a charge of Hooker's cavalry, and fell back at first in soine confusion. The incident inspired a mock-beroic poem, of six stanzas, in imitation of Tennyson's "Charge of the Six Hundred" at Balaklava (see note on page 633, volume II.), two verses of which were as follows:“Forward, the mule brigade!

“Mules to the right of them,
Was there a mule dismayed ?

Mules to the left of them
Not when the long ears felt

Mules all behind them
All their ropes sundered.

Pawed, neighed, and thundered;
Theirs not to make reply-

Breaking their own confines-
Theirs not to reason why-

Breaking through Longstreet's lines
Theirs but to make them fly-

Testing chivalric spines,
On! to the Georgia troops

Into the Georgia troops
Broke the two hundred.

Stormed the two hundred." 3 When Rosecrans's troops reached Bridgeport, and it was known that there was no steamboat to be found on the river, mechanics of the army set about building one for the public service. In a very short time the

Chattanooga was made ready; and when the operations of the National troops in the Lookout Valley secured the safe navigation of the river from Bridgeport to Brown's Ferry, she commenced regular trips between the two places, under the command of Captain Arthur Edwards. She was called the “Cracker line" by the Confederates, the word “ Cracker" being a name applied to the “ mean whites" of Georgia." The Chattanooga was the first vessel of the kind built by the soldiers for their use. Others were begun soon afterward. She was constructed chietly by the Michigan engineer regiment already mentioned.

BATTLE OF BLUE SPRINGS.

155

1863.

6 Oct. 10.

• Oct. 10.

- Oct. 10, 11.

Ridge to the tunnel of the Knoxville and Chattanooga railway, not far from the Chickamanga River. While the two armies are thus confronting each other, with a space of only three or four miles between them at furthest, let us see what was going on between Burnside and Longstreet in the great Valley of East Tennessee.

We have observed how little difficulty Burnside encountered in throwing his army into the Valley of East Tennessee, and taking position at Knoxville. It was, because the Confederates were then moving to re-enforce Bragg at Chattanooga. Halleck ordered Burnside to concentrate his forces in that direction, but circumstances prevented his strict obedience, so he set about the task of keeping the valley clear of armed and organized Confederates, who were threatening it at different points. In this business his forces were, for awhile, considerably diffused, and had many lively experiences. Colonel Foster encountered“ a considerable force near Bristol, on the eastern border of the State; and a little later there was a

Sept. 21, smart but desultory engagement during two days at Blue Springs, not far from Bull's Gap. To that point the Confederates had pressed down. Burnside then had a cavalry brigade at Bull's Gap, supported by a small force of infantry at Morristown. He dispatched a body of horsemen, by way of Rogersville, to intercept the retreat of the Confederates, and advanced with infantry and artillery to Bull's Gap. Cavalry were then thrown forward to Blue Springs,' where the Confederates, under General Sam. Jones, were in considerable force. After a desultory fight for about twenty-four hours," the Confederates broke and fled, leaving their dead on the field. They were pursued and struck from time to time by General Shackleford and his cavalry, and driven out of the State. The latter captured a fort at Zollicoffer, burned the long bridge at that place and five other bridges, destroyed a large amount of rolling stock on the railway, and did not halt until he had penetrated Virginia ten miles beyond Bristol. In THE BATTLE OF BLUE SPRINGS, and the pursuit, the Nationals lost about one hundred men in killed and wounded. The loss of the Confederates was a little greater.

When Shackleford returned from the chase, he took post at Jonesboro' with a part of his command, while another portion, under Wilcox, encamped at Greenville, and two regiments and a battery under Colonel Garrard of the Seventh Ohio Cavalry, were posted at Rogersville. There, at daybreak on the 6th of November, Garrard was attacked by a portion of Sam. Jones's troops, under General W. E. Jones, almost two thousand strong. It was a surprise. The Nationals were routed, with a loss of seven hundred and fifty men, four guns, and thirty-six wagons. This disaster created great alarm at, Jonesboro' and Greenville, and Shackleford's troops at those places fled back in great haste to Bull's Gap. At the same time, Jones's troops, not doubting Shackleford's horsemen would be after them in heavy force, were flying as swiftly toward the Virginia line, in the opposite direction. In a short space of time there was a wide space of country between the belligerents.

While Burnside was thus engaged in spreading his army so as to cover many points southward of the Holston and Tennessee rivers, Longstreet was ordered to make his way up the line of the East Tennessee and Georgia railway, to seize Knoxville, and drive the Nationals out of East Tennessee.

156

LONGSTREET CROSSES THE TENNESSEE RIVER.

He advanced swiftly and secretly, and on the 20th of October he struck a startling blow at the outpost of Philadelphia, on the railway southwest from Loudon, then in command of Colonel Wolford with about two thousand horsemen, consisting of the First, Eleventh, and Twelfth Kentucky Cavalry, and Forty-fifth Ohio Mounted Infantry. Wolford had just weakened his force at that point, by sending two regiments to protect his trains moving to his right, which, it was reported, were in danger; and, while in that condition, he was assailed on front and flank by about seven thousand Confederates. He fought this overwhelming force gallantly for several hours, hoping the sound of cannon would bring him aid from Loudon. But none came, and he cut his way out with a desperate struggle, losing his battery and over thirty wagons. He lost very few men, and took with him over fifty of the Confederates as prisoners. The detachment he had sent out.

and Eleventh Kentucky), under Major Graham, to protect his trains. four miles distant, found them in possession of Longstreet's vanguard. Graham instantly recaptured them, drove the Confederates some distance, and made a number of them prisoners. He was, in turn, attacked by a greatly superior force, and, in a running fight toward Loudon, to which Wolford fled, lost heavily.'

When Burnside heard of the disaster southward of Loudon, he hastened to Lenoir Station, on the railway, where the Ninth Army Corps was encamped, and took command of the troops in person, having received from General Grant a notice of Longstreet's approach, and an order for him to fall back, lure the Confederates toward Knoxville, intrench there, and hold the place to the last extremity. Grant saw with satisfaction the blunder of Bragg, in detaching Longstreet to fight Burnside, and he resolved to assail the Confederates on the Missionaries' Ridge immediately, and in the event of success, to send a sufficient force to assist the troops at Knoxville, and possibly to capture Longstreet and his command. With this view he had bidden Burnside to hold on to Knoxville with a firm grasp, as long as pos-. sible, until he should receive succor in some form.

Longstreet, meanwhile, was pressing rapidly forward. By a forced march he struck the Tennessee River at Hough's Ferry, a few miles below Loudon, crossed it on a pontoon bridge there, and pressed on toward the right flank of Burnside, at Lenoir Station. At the same time Wheeler and Forrest, were dispatched, with cavalry, by way of Marysville, across Little River, to seize the heights on the south side of the Holston, which commanded Knoxville, the grand objective of Longstreet—the key to East Tennessee. Perceiving the danger threatened by this flank movement, and in obedience to his instructions, Burnside sent out a force on the Loudon road, under General Ferrero, to watch and check the foe, and secure the National trains, and, at the same time, ordered the whole force to fall back as rapidly as possible to Knoxville. A portion of the Ninth Corps, under General Hartranft, was advanced to Campbellville Station, at the junction of the Lenoir and Kingston roads, about sixteen miles from Knoxville, and there the whole force was rapidly concentrated. And there it was so closely pressed, that Burn

1 Wolford lost of his command that day 324 men, with six guns; and he took 111 prisoners. About 100 men were killed on each side. Longstreet captured in all, before he reached the Tennessee at Loudon, 650 Union troops.

LONGSTREET INVESTS KNOXVILLE.

157

turned upon

a and

. Nov. 6,

1863.

side found it necessary to abandon his trains or fight. He chose the latter alternative, and taking a good position, with his batteries well posted, he his pursuer, gave

him a stunning blow. A conflict ensued, which lasted several hours, during which Burnside's trains moved rapidly forward. The battle ceased at twilight, ending in a repulse of Longstreet, and a loss to the Nationals of about three hundred men.' The Confederate loss was about three hundred and seventy.

Taking advantage of this check, Burnside moved on to the shelter of his intrenchments at Knoxville, the chief of which was an unfinished work on a hill commanding the south western approaches to the town, and afterward called Fort Sanders. Longstreet followed as rapidly as possible. Wheeler and Forrest had failed to seize the height on which works had been thrown up on the south side of the Holston, owing to the gallant bearing of some of the troops of General W. P. Sanders, of Kentucky, who was in immediate command at Knoxville. Equally gallant was the reception of the same force, which dashed up in advance of Longstreet, and attacked the outposts there, on the 16th of November. The main body of the Confederates were then near, and, on the morning of the 18th, Longstreet opened some guns on the National works, sharply attacked Sanders's advanced right, composed of four regiments, who offered determined resistance, drove them from the ridge they occupied, and making his head-quarters at the fine mansion of R. H. Armstrong, near the bank of the Holston, less than a mile from Fort Sanders, planted batteries a little in advance of it. In the attack on Sanders's right, that leader was killed, and the National loss,

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

LONGSTREET'S HEAD-QUARTERS.

1 Among the slain was Lieutenant P. M. Holmes, son of Professor Oliver Wendell Holmes, of Charlestown, Massachusetts. On his breast he wore the badge of the Bunker's Hill Club, on which was engraved the line from Horace, quoted by General Warren, just before his death on Bunker's Hill—“ Dulce et decorum est, pro patriâ mori."_“It is sweet and glorious to die for one's country.”

? Knoxville is on the northern bank of the Holston River, one of the main streams that form the Tennessee River, and a large portion of it stands on a table-land, 150 feet above the river, about a mile square in area. On the northeast is a small creek, running through a deep ravine, beyond which is Temperance Hill. Still farther to the east is Mayberry Hill. On the northwest the table-land slopes down to a broad valley, along which lies the railway. On the southw boundary of the town is another creek, flowing through a ravine, beyond which is College Hill. Farther to the southwest is a high ridge, running nearly parallel with the road that enters Knoxville from below, on which, at the time we are considering, was an unfinished work, afterward known as Fort Sanders, so named in honor of General Sanders, who lost his life near. College Hill was fortified with a strong work carrying a piece of siege artillery. On the height near the Summit Honse was another work. There were two forts on Temperance Hill, and on each of two other eminences near was a battery. On the principal height, south of the Holston, was a fort, and in the town, near the street leading to the railway station, was a considerable work. Extending around the town, from river to river, was a line of rifle-pits and breastworks. The fortifications for the defense of Knoxville were constructed under the skillful direction of Captain Poe, of Burnside's engineers.“ Under Poe's hands," said a participant, “ rifle-pits appear as if by magic, and every hill-top of the vast semicircle around Knoxville, from Temperance Hill to College Hill, is frowning with cannon and bristling with bayonets."

• The One Hundred and Twelfth Illinois, Forty-fifth Ohio, Third Michigan, and Twelfth Kentucky.

• General Sanders was killed in a field, a short distance from the residence of Mr. Armstrong, on the left of the road leading to the town. The bullet that killed him was from a sharp-shooter (supposed to have been young

« PreviousContinue »