« PreviousContinue »
steam. At Memphis, he got orders from Halleck to proceed to Athens, Alabama-repairing the railroad as he went, and depending on himself for supplies. The work was at once begun, and gangs were kept employed day and night; but Sherman soon saw-as Buell did, the year before, when marching to the same destination—that this would be too slow work, and he determined to take to the highways till he could clear his front. Having scattered the enemy, he again went to work repairing the railroad, in accordance with his first orders. But a dispatch from Grant, urging him forward, made him abandon again the unwelcome task, and push on in the manner which his judgment approved.
In the meantime, Grant was getting everything ready for his arrival, when he designed to make a general assault on the enemy's strong position.
All this time, the troops and animals were suffering for the want of provisions, which the obstruction of transportation rendered extremely scarce. As was stated previously, Missionary Ridge drops like a pendant, in a south-westerly direction, from the Tennessee River, above Chattanooga, and Lookout Mountain, in the same direction from the river, below the place. Chattanooga, lying in a bend of the river between the two mountains, was overlooked and commanded by both heights, and hence; both must be taken. Hooker was selected to operate against the latter mountain; but, in order to make a lodgment on the south side of the river, it was n~cessary i occupy Brown's Ferry, which was three miles below Lookout Mountain, by the river, and six from Chattanooga, yet, owing to the sharp bend of the stream that here runs back almost parallel to its course, was only a mile and a half from the latter place by land. The possession of this ferry would also lessen the distance of transportation to Bridgeport. The Chief-Engineer, General W. F. Smith, proposed a plan for seizing it, which, after a reconnoissance
by Grant and Thomas, was adopted. Four thousand men being at once placed under his command, fifty pontoons, capable of holding twenty-five men apiece besides the oarsmen, and also two flatboats for carrying about a hundred more, were built, in which fifteen hundred picked men, under the gallant Hazen, were placed.
placed. It was, we have seen, six miles, by the tortuous river, to the Ferry-three miles of which were picketed by the enemy. On the night of the 27th of October, these pontoons--mere boxes—were quietly pushed off, and floated noiselessly down the current. "It was very dark, and the drist of the current rendering the use of oars unnecessary, they passed unheeded by the pickets on shore. Down, around Moccasin Point, in front of Lookout Mountain, they rapidly floated, without being discovered. The landing was to be made at two different points, and here the alarm was given, and the flash of musketry lit up the darkness. This roused the neighboring camps of the enemy, but the Union troops jumped ashore, and quickly formed to repel an attack. The empty boats were then rowed swiftly across the river, to, a point where stood the balance of the four thousand, who had secretly marched thither by land. These having been taken in, they were rowed back to the spot where the others had disembarked. A strong position was immediately secured, and in irench. ments thrown up, The enemy, taken wholly by surprise, after a feeble resistance retreated up the Valley. The materials for a pontoon bridge, which had also been brought down by land, and concealed, were now brought out, and by noon a bridge, nine hundred feet long, spanned the river, by which supplies and reinforcemunts could be forwardec to our troops. The next day, the whole of the Eleventh Corps was across, and encamped in Lookout Valley. The enemy, alarmed at this demonstration, made an attempt to drive back our forces by a night attack.
A NIGHT BATTLE.
BATTLE OF WAUHATCHIE.
Howard's Corps, at the time, was only a mile or so from Brown's Ferry
Geary, with his division, went into camp near Wauhatchie, three miles distant. Hooker, who was with Howard's Corps, was aroused about one o'clock in the morning, by the “muttering of heavy musketry" in the direction of Geary. The latter had been suddenly attacked by overwhelming numbers, and Hooker, anxious for his
fety, ordered Howard to double-quick his nearest division, Shurz's, to his aid. “Forward to their relief, boys!” he shouted, as they streamed off on a run, through the gloom They had not gone far, however, when suddenly there came a blaze of musketry from the hills near by, where no enemy was supposed to be. Tyndale's brigade was immediately detached, to charge the heights, while the other brigade kept on towards Geary. Steinwehr's division now came up and the hill to the rear of Schurz, and along which the road ran, was also found to be occupied by the enemy. This, Orlan Smith's brigade was ordered to carry with the bayonet. It was bright moonlight; yet but little of the difficulties of the ascent could be seen. It was very steep, and covered with underbrush and seamed with gullies and ravines, and 'almost inaccessible by daylight.” Yet, right up this, two hundred feet high, in the face of a heavy fire, this skeleton brigade was ordered to charge bayonet. Flooded in the mellow light, silent as death, the Seventy-third Ohio and Thirty-third Massachusetts pressed up the slope, and at length reached the top, where they came upon rifle-pits, out of which suddenly burst a volley from nearly two thousand muskets. Overwhelmed by this awful fire, the brave fellows fell back in disorder to the foot of the hill. Though now fully aware of the difficulties before them, and that three
A GALLANT CHARGE.
times their number crowned the heights, these noble regiments re-formed their lines, and again sternly breasted the hill. Shouts, and yells, and taunts, were hurled down on them, and the crashing volleys tore through them; yet, without firing a shot—with set teeth and flashing eyes--they climbed steadily up to those blazing rifle-pits, and then with one bound cleared them. The bayonet did the whole work, and not a shot was fired till the enemy was in full retreat.
One volley was poured after them, and then the shout of victory arose, wild and clear, in the night air. It was an astonishing charge. No wonder Hooker said, “No troops ever rendered more brilliant service, and that the reserved Thomas declared, “The bayonet charge of Howard's troops, made up the side of a steep and difficult hill over two hundred feet high, completely routing the enemy from his barricades on the top, * * will rank among the most distinguished feats of arms of this war.”
All this time, heavy and incessant volleys of musketry arose from the spot where Geary was struggling against overwhelming numbers. The fighting here was desperate, and several times he was nearly overborne; but, with that tenacity which has always distinguished him, he still clung to his position, and at length hurled the enemy back, com. pelling him to take refuge on Lookout Mountain. The Valley was now ours. Geary gained new honors in this hard-fought battle; but they were dearly won, for his son, a captain, was killed.
This fight by moonlight, after midnight, amid those wild hills--that blazed the while with musketry and exploding shells--presented a strange spectacle. Hooker himself was in the thickest of it, shouting on the men.
Our forces being firmly established here, steamboats could run up to Brown's Ferry, from which it was but a mile and a half to the upper bridge, opposite Chattanooga. The
ARRIVAL OF SHERMAN,
army was now relieved from the fear of starvation, unless the bridges should be carried away by rafts sent down by the enemy from above.
This was a great improvement in the condition of affairs; still, Grant felt too weak to assume the offensive against the strong works which confronted him, until Sherman should arrive.
The latter crossed the Tennessee in person, on the 1st of November, but there was no way by which to get his army over, and it had to take the long march by Fayetteville to Bridgeport. Sherman, in the meantime, pressing on, rode into Chattanooga on the 15th. Never was a man more welcome. Grant had received a summons from Bragg, to remove the non-combatants from Chattanooga, as he was about to bombard it, to which the former had returned no reply, but he now felt that he soon would be ready to send one, in the shape of his strong columns. Sherman's troops, after their long and wearisome march, needed rest sadly, and expected it, before entering on one of the most hazardous undertakings of the war. “But,” said the gallant leader, “I saw enough of the condition of men and animals in Chattanooga, to inspire me with renewed energy.” With a part of his command, he was directed to make a demonstration on Lookout Mountain, while, with the main army,
he crossed the river and marched up above Chattanooga, opposito Missionary ridge. Returning to Bridgeport, he took a rowboat, and passed down the river, to hurry forward his weary, foot-sore divisions. Ewing's division was the force left to make the proposed demonstration on Lookout Mountain. The rest were hurried forward, but the roads were almost impassable—making the increased effort demanded at the end of such a long march, a terrible task to the soldiers. But they toiled cheerfully forward, in obedience to the orders of their beloved Commander, ani, by the 23rd, were