Page images



at that point during the night, that a Confederate brigade was on that side of the Chickamauga, apparently alone, and that as he (McCook) had destroyed Reed's bridge behind them, he thought they might easily be captured. Thomas at once ordered General Brannan to advance with two brigades on the road to Reed's bridge, while Baird should throw forward the right of his division on the road to Alexander's bridge, and in that manner attempt to capture the isolated brigade. This brought on a battle.

While Thomas's troops were making the prescribed movements, a portion of Palmer's division of Crittenden's corps came up and took post on Baird's right; and at about ten o'clock in the morning Croxton's brigade of Brannan's division became sharply engaged with Forrest's cavalry, which was strongly supported by the infantry brigades of Ector and Wilson, from Walker's column. Back upon these Croxton had driven Forrest, when the latter was stoutly resisted. Then Thomas sent Baird's division to aid Croxton, and after a desperate struggle the Confederates were hurled back with much slaughter. Walker now threw Liddle's division into the fight, making the odds much against the Nationals, when the latter were in turn driven; and the pursuers, dashing through the lines of three regiments of regulars (Fourteenth, Sixteenth, and Eighteenth United States troops), captured two batteries and over five hundred prisoners. One of the batteries lost was Loomis's, of Michigan, which had done so much service from the beginning of the war, that the very metal and wood were objects of affection. In the charge of the Confederates all its horses and most of its men were killed or wounded. Its commander, Lieutenant Van Pelt, refused to leave it, and he died by the side of his guns, fighting a regiment of men with his single saber.

At the critical moment when this charge was made, Johnson's division of McCook's corps, and Reynolds's, of Thomas's, came rapidly up, and were immediately thrown into the fight. So also was Palmer's division of Crittenden's corps, which took position on Baird's right. The Nationals now outnumbered and outflanked the Confederates, attacked them furiously, and drove them back in great disorder for a mile and a half on their reserves near the creek, and killing General Preston Smith. By this charge, the lost battery was recovered, and Brannan and Baird were enabled to re-form their shattered columns. The position of the Confederates on the creek, between the two bridges already mentioned, was so strong, that it was not deemed prudent to assail it. Then there was a lull in the battle for an hour, during which Brannan and Baird took position on commanding ground between McDaniel's house and Reid's bridge, with orders to hold it to the last extremity. It was now about four o'clock in the afternoon.

At five o'clock the Confederates renewed the battle, by throwing the divisions of Liddle and Gist in heavy charges upon Reynolds's right, and while Thomas was trying to concentrate his forces, they fell with equal fury on Johnson, Baird, and Van Cleve, producing some confusion, and threatening the destruction of that part of the line. Fortunately, General Hazen had been sent back to the Rossville road, to take charge of a park of artillery, composed of four batteries, containing twenty guns, which had been left there without guards. These Hazen quickly put into position, on a ridge, with such infantry supports as he could hastily collect, and brought



them to bear upon the Confederates, at short range, as they dashed into the road in pursuit of the flying Nationals. This caused them to recoil in disorder, and thereby the day was saved on the left. Just at sunset General Cleburne made a charge upon Johnson's front with a division of Hill's corps, and pressed up to the National lines, but secured no positive advantage.

There had been some lively artillery work on the National right during the day, and in an attack by three of Bragg's brigades in succession, one of the National batteries (three guns) was for a time in possession of the foe. But the assailants were soon driven back, and the guns were recovered. At three o'clock in the afternoon Hood threw two of his divisions, (his own and that of Bushrod Johnson) upon Davis's division of McCook's corps, pushing it back and capturing the Eighth Indiana Battery. Davis fought with great pertinacity until near sunset, when Bradley's brigade, of Sheridan's division, came to his aid. Then a successful counter-charge was made, the foe was driven back, the battery was retaken, and a number of prisoners were captured from the Confederates. When night fell the battle ceased, with apparent advantage to the Nationals. They had lost no ground; had repulsed the assailants at all points, and made a net gain of three guns. But they were clearly outnumbered. Nearly the whole army had been engaged in the struggles of the day, and no re-enforcements were near. The Confederates had not many fresh reserves; and that night Hindman came up with his division, and Longstreet arrived with two brigades of McLaws's veterans from Virginia. Longstreet took command of Bragg's left; and on the morning of the 20th," the Confederates had full seventy thousand men opposed to fifty-five thousand Nationals.'

"Sept., 1863.

Preparations were now made for a renewal of the struggle in the morning, which Rosecrans knew must be severe. After hearing the reports of his corps commanders, he ordered General Negley, who had come down from the extreme right during the afternoon and fought his way to Van Cleve's side, to report to General Thomas early in the morning. McCook was ordered to replace Negley's troops by one of his own divisions, and to close up well on Thomas, so as to cover the position at the Widow Glenn's house, at which the latter now had his head-quarters. Crittenden was ordered to hold two of his divisions in reserve, ready to support McCook or Thomas, as circumstances might require. These orders were issued at an early hour, and the remainder of the night was spent in needed repose.

1 The troops engaged in this struggle were commanded by the following officers:-NATIONAL TROOPS.Fourteenth Corps-General Thomas, four divisions, commanded by Generals Baird, Negley, Brannan, and Reynolds. Twentieth Corps-General McCook, three divisions, commanded by Generals Davis, Johnson, and Sheridan. Twenty-first Corps-Three divisions, commanded by Generals Wood, Palmer, and Van Cleve. Reserved Corps-General Granger, two divisions, commanded by Generals Steedman and Morgan. The division of General R. S. Granger, of this corps, and two brigades of Morgan's division, were not present. Cavalry Corps-General Stanley, two divisions, commanded by Colonel E. M. McCook and General George Crooke. General Stanley being too sick to take the field, General R. B. Mitchell commanded the cavalry in the battle of Chickamauga.

Confederate Troops-General J. Longstreet's corps, three divisions, commanded by Generals J. B. Hood, E. M. McLaws, and B. R. Johnson. General L. Polk's corps, three divisions, commanded by Generals B. F. Cheatham, T. C. Hindman, and P. Anderson. General D. H. Hill's corps, two divisions, commanded by Generals Patrick Cleburne (called the "Stonewall Jackson of the Southwest ") and J. C. Breckinridge, General S. B. Buckner's corps, two divisions, commanded by Generals A. P. Stewart and W. Preston. General W. H. T. Walker's corps, two divisions, commanded by Generals J. R. Liddell and S. R. Gist. General J. Wheeler's cavalry corps, two divisions, commanded by Generals S. A. Wharton and W. Martin. General N. B. Forrest's corps, two divisions, commanded by Generals F. Armstrong and J. Pegram.



Bragg had likewise made preparations for a vigorous attack at dawn. Longstreet arrived at eleven o'clock in the evening, and immediately received his instructions as commander of the left, where his own troops were stationed; and Polk was ordered to assail the Nationals at daylight, and "to take up the attack in succession rapidly to the left. The left wing was to await the attack by the right, and take it up promptly when made, and the whole line was then to be pushed vigorously and persistently against the enemy throughout its extent."1

The battle was to have been opened at dawn by Hill, whose corps was to fall upon the National left. Before that hour Bragg was in the saddle, and he waited with great impatience for the sound of battle when day dawned, for he had heard the noise of axes and the falling of trees during the night, indicating that his adversary was intrenching. But Polk was silent, and when Bragg rode to the right, he found that the reverend leader had not even prepared for the movement. He renewed his orders, but another golden opportunity for Bragg was passed. At the hour appointed for the attack, Thomas was comparatively weak, for Negley had not yet joined him, and Rosecrans, riding along his lines at dawn, had found his troops on his left not so concentrated as he wished. The defect was speedily remedied. Under cover of a dense fog that shrouded the whole country, re-enforcements joined Thomas, until nearly one-half of the Army of the Cumberland present was under his command, behind breastworks of logs, rails, and earth, which his industrious troops had piled in the space of a few hours.


Sept. 20, 1863.

When the fog lifted, between eight and nine o'clock," Breckinridge, of Hill's corps, with fresh divisions, was found facing and partly overlapping Thomas's extreme left, held by Baird, and flanking it. Breckinridge instantly advanced, and, fighting desperately, pushed across the Rossville road toward a prescribed position. Other divisions in succession toward Bragg's center followed this example, the intention being to carry out the original plan of interposing an overwhelming force between Rosecrans and Chattanooga, which Thomas had prevented the previous day. At this moment Beatty's brigade of Negley's division, moving from the National right center, went into action by the side of Baird, on the extreme left, and checked Breckinridge's advance; but both he and Baird were outnumbered, and the latter began to lose ground. Several regiments of Johnson's division were pushed forward to his support, and these, with Vandever's brigade of Brannan's division, and a part of Stanley's, of Wood's division, so strengthened the wavering line, that Breckinridge was thrown back in much disorder, with the loss of Generals Helm' and Deshler, killed, his chief of artillery (Major Graves) mortally wounded, and General D. Adams severely so. He rallied his troops on a commanding ridge, with his guns well posted, and then fought desperately, re-enforced from time to time by the divisions of Walker, Cheatham, Cleburne, and Stewart. Fearfully the battle raged at that point, with varying fortunes for the combatants. The carnage on both sides was frightful, and for awhile

1 Bragg's Report of the Battle of Chickamauga, “published by order of Congress," in 1864, page 13. 2 Bragg said in his report: "The reasons assigned for this unfortunate delay by the wing commander appear in part in the reports of his subordinates. It is sufficient to say they are entirely unsatisfactory." * The wife of General Helm was a half-sister of the wife of President Lincoln.



it was doubtful with whom the palm of victory would be left. Thomas had given an order for the massing of cannon on the Missionaries' Ridge, just west of the State Road, as strongly supported by infantry as possible, to command Breckinridge's artillery, and sweep the ground to the left and rear of Baird, but it seems to have been misunderstood, and the work was not done. Yet the attempt to turn the National flank was not accomplished, for Thomas and his veterans stood like a wall in the way, and the assailants had much to do to maintain the battle nearer the center, where the conflict was, for awhile, equally desperate, bloody, and decisive.



While the struggle was going on at the left and the left center, the right became involved in disaster. The divisions of Negley and Van Cleve moved successively, after the battle had commenced, to the support of Thomas, and Wood was directed to close up to Reynolds on the right center, and Davis to close on Wood. McCook, commanding on that wing, was ordered to close down on the left with all possible speed. These dangerous movements were now made disastrous by the blunder of an incompetent staff officer, who was sent with orders to Wood. The latter understanding that he was directed to support Reynolds, then hard pressed, pulled out of the line and passed to the rear of Brannan, who was, en echelon, slightly in the rear of Reynolds's right. This left a gap, which Longstreet quickly saw, and before Davis, by McCook's order, could fill it with three light brigades, he thrust Hood into it. The latter, with Stewart, charged furiously, with Buckner supporting him by a simultaneous advance on the National right. Hood's column struck Davis on the right and Brannan on the left, and Sheridan in the rear, severing the army by isolating five brigades which lost full forty per cent. of their numbers. The whole right wing of the Nationals was so shattered by this charge, that it began crumbling, and was soon seen flying in disorder toward Rossville and Chattanooga, leaving thousands behind, killed, wounded, or prisoners. This turbulent and resistless tide carried along with it Rosecrans, Crittenden, McCook, and other commanders, while Sheridan and Davis, who were driven over to the Dry Valley road, rallying their shattered divisions, re-formed them by the way, and, with McCook, halted and changed front at Rossville, with a determination to defend the pass at all hazards against the pursuers. Rosecrans, unable to join Thomas, and believing the whole army would be speedily hurrying pell-mell toward Chattanooga, with exultant victors in their rear, pushed into that place, to make provision for holding it, if possible.

Thomas, meanwhile, ignorant of the disaster that had befallen the right, was maintaining his position most gallantly, little suspecting, however, that he must soon confront a greater portion of Bragg's army. He had sent



Captain Kellogg, at a little past noon, to hasten the march of Sheridan, whose support had been promised, and he had returned with tidings that a large Confederate force was approaching cautiously, with skirmishers thrown out to the rear of Reynolds's position. Thomas sent General Harker, whose brigade was on a ridge in the direction of this reported advance, to resist them, which he did. In the mean time General Wood came up, and was directed to post his troops on the left of Brannan, then in the rear of Thomas's line of battle on a slope of the Missionaries' Ridge, a little west of the Rossville road, where Captain Gaw, by Thomas's order, had massed all the artillery he could find in reserve, and brought as many infantry to its support as possible. To that position Thomas now withdrew from his

breast works and concentrated his command.


Wood had barely time to dispose his troops on the left of Brannan, before they were furiously attacked, the Confederates keeping up the assault by throwing in fresh troops as fast as those in their front were repulsed. Meanwhile General Gordon Granger, who, at Rossville, had heard the roar of guns where Thomas was posted, had moved to his support, without orders, and appeared on his left flank at the head of Steedman's division of his corps. He was directed to push on and take position on Brannan's right, when Steedman gallantly fought his way to the crest of the hill at the appointed place, and then turning his artillery upon the assailants, drove them down the southern slope of the ridge with great slaughter. They soon returned to the attack, with a determination to drive the Nationals from the ridge. They were in overwhelming force, and pressed Thomas in front and on both flanks. Finally, when they were moving along a ridge and in a gorge, to assail his right in flank and rear, Granger formed the brigades of Whittaker and Mitchell into a charging party, and hurled them against the Confederates, of whom General Hindman was the commander, in the gorge. They were led by Steedman, who, seizing a regimental flag, headed the charge. Victory followed. In the space of twenty minutes Hindman and his Confederates disappeared, and the Nationals held both ridge and gorge. The latter had lost heavily. Steedman's horse was killed, and he was badly bruised by a fall, and Whittaker was stunned by a bullet and fell from his horse.

There was now a lull of half an hour. It was the deep calm before the bursting of the tempest. A greater portion of the Confederate army was swarming around the foot of the ridge, on which stood Thomas with the remnant of seven divisions of the Army of the Cumberland. Longstreet was then in immediate command of his own veterans, for Hood had lost a leg during the morning; and to human vision there seemed no ray of hope for the Nationals. But Thomas stood like a rock, and assault after assault was repulsed, until the sun went down, when, by order of General Rosecrans, sent by General Garfield, his chief of staff (who reached the ridge at four o'clock), he commenced the withdrawal of his troops to Rossville. His ammunition was nearly exhausted. His men had not more than three rounds

1 Granger, as we have observed, was posted with his troops at Rossville, as a reserve. From that point General Steedman, with six regiments, made a reconnoissance to within two miles of Ringgold on the 17th, and on the 18th he burned Reid's bridge over the Chickamauga. Granger also sent the brigades of General Whittaker and Colonel D. McCook to the Chickamauga, and held the roads in that direction on the extreme left, until the roar of Thomas's guns satisfied him that he could do better service by helping him.

« PreviousContinue »