Memoirs of Henry Villard/Volume 2/Book 7
MEMOIRS OF HENRY VILLARD
IN CIVIL-WAR TIME: CHATTANOOGA
Federal Concentration and Reorganization.—1863
WHEN the Government at Washington became convinced that part of Lee's army had been detached to reinforce Bragg, the General-in-chief, Halleck, ordered General Grant, on September 15, four days before the battle of Chickamauga, to send all the troops he could spare, with all possible promptness, to the assistance of General Rosecrans. The order reached Grant at Vicksburg only on the 22d, but he at once complied with it, and soon fleets of steamboats were carrying tens of thousands of men up the Mississippi, bound for Memphis, whence they were to move by land. The deep effect of the news of the reverse at Chickamauga upon the Government is shown by the fact that, for the first time since the outbreak of the Rebellion, it was led to subordinate the theretofore always predominant considerations for the safety of the national capital to the requirements of a crisis elsewhere upon the theatre of war, and to overcome its reluctance to weaken the Army of the Potomac by reinforcing other armies from it. The decision was reached to send the 11th and 12th Army Corps, under Generals Howard and Slocum, as quickly as possible, by rail, to the Tennessee, under the command of General Hooker. The transfer of the nearly 20,000 men of the two corps, of guns, horses and teams and their belongings, was effected in a week — a very creditable achievement for those days. It took place as secretly as possible, and, in response to an appeal from the War Department to the Northern press, not a single reference was made to it in the newspapers.
I was just getting ready to start from Cincinnati for Chattanooga when I was surprised on September 29 by the sudden arrival of General Hooker, accompanied by General Butterfield, whom he had appointed his chief of staff, at the Burnet House, where I was stopping. They welcomed me very heartily, and invited me to accompany them on their way to Chattanooga. As they travelled by special trains, their offer was eagerly accepted, and I set out with them in the course of the same day for Louisville, where we stopped half a day, and then continued our journey to Nashville and Bridgeport. Railroad travel at that time was, compared with its present perfection, of a primitive character. Sleeping or parlor cars were not yet known; hence long day and night journeys were very fatiguing. Although we had the right of way, we were delayed at every point by the crowding of the lines with trains carrying troops and supplies. It took us nearly two days and a half to reach Bridgeport on October 2, the regular running time being only fourteen hours. Directly in the wake of us, a dozen or more trains landed the two divisions of the 11th Corps under Generals Carl Schurz and Steinwehr on the banks of the Tennessee.
General Hooker's elation at being restored to active service was very great. Since I had last seen him, at Fredericksburg, he had passed through the ordeal of the battle of Chancellorsville, and had considered himself definitively shelved in consequence of his great failure there. He was in the highest spirits, and full of confident expectation of new distinction in the field. He talked in a lively and gay manner on the way, but was very indiscreet in discussing his past disappointments. He had hoped to have an immediate chance to do some fighting, and was very much taken aback when he received orders to remain himself at Bridgeport, and to employ his two corps in guarding the lines of communication between Nashville and Chattanooga. This meant scattering his troops in small bodies over about 200 miles of distance and did not suit him at all. But this duty was only temporary, and he was kept busy enough while it lasted by rebel raids upon our communications, of which I shall speak hereafter.
I lost no time in pushing on from Bridgeport to Chattanooga, which I found to be an arduous undertaking of much hardship. The falling back of our army had been unfortunately accompanied by the abandonment of Lookout Mountain and Lookout Valley to the enemy. The Mountain rises, within a little over a mile from and to the west of the town limits, sheer up from the south bank of the Tennessee to the height of 2500 feet. Around its base ran the roads which formed the only direct western approaches from the Tennessee to Chattanooga, one down Lookout Valley, and the other over Raccoon Mountain. The occupation of Lookout by the rebels cut us completely off from the use of these roads, and limited us to the one longer and very difficult line of supply from Stevenson and Bridgeport up the Sequatchie Valley to Jasper, and thence over Walden's Ridge to the north bank of the Tennessee River opposite Chattanooga, a distance of forty-eight miles. I had no choice but to take this. I left Bridgeport on the afternoon of October 3, in an ambulance with three officers, and our horses gave out when we reached Jasper, ten miles distant, after dark. Starting again at daylight, the roads proved so execrable that we decided to continue on foot, and had the hardest struggle in ascending and descending in the darkness. It took until after midnight to make the eight miles to the river. I bivouacked the rest of the night with some teamsters around a camp fire, and crossed over to the town on one of the two bridges at daybreak on the 5th. I went directly to the general headquarters, where I was very well received by Generals Rosecrans and Garfield. The chief of staff provided me with quarters in a small brick house of which some of the staff had taken possession. Having been obliged to leave my hand valise and roll of wraps behind in the ambulance, my whole equipment consisted of what I carried on my body. I continued in this uncomfortable predicament for nearly three days, when, to my great relief, I recovered my retarded belongings, and could discharge my duties in an easier state of mind.
Feeling very tired from my rough night's experience, I lay down for a good sleep at about 9 A.M., but was roused, after resting hardly an hour, by the sound of heavy guns. It was the beginning of the long bombardment of Chattanooga from the rebel positions on Lookout Mountain and the heights to the south of the town. The enemy had tried some desultory firing upon us on previous days, apparently in order to get the proper range, but on this, the 5th day of October, 1863, our troops had their first experience of continuous discharges. As the sounds did not cease, I got up and set out to learn what the firing meant. I spent the rest of the day in working my way on foot along our lines and becoming acquainted with the situation.
Chattanooga occupies one of the peninsulas formed by the crooked course of the Tennessee in that mountainous region. The town had, before the Northern invasion, a population of about 10,000, and, as the junction of important railroads from all points of the compass, was a flourishing commercial and industrial centre. It extended from the left bank of the river southwardly for about a mile, with an average width of half that distance. The ground rose gradually, the lower part near the river forming the business, and the upper the residence, portion. Most of the buildings were of red brick, giving the place a solid and well-to-do appearance. There were some flour- and saw-mills, a foundry, rolling-mill, and other industries. The common station of the railroads was at the southern end. Of the population only a few hundred were left, white and black. General Rosecrans was anxious to get rid of the rest of the whites by sending them into the rebel lines. Business was completely at a standstill. The contents of the stores had been removed. Many of the buildings were being used for military purposes, and a number of private houses as headquarters; but the bulk of the troops camped under tents in the outskirts.
Our lines extended across the widest part of the peninsula. Our right, to the west of the town, under General Alexander McD. McCook, first rested near the mouth of Chattanooga Creek, but was subsequently drawn in further. Next came the centre, under Thomas, and the left, under Crittenden, thus repeating the formation that had been followed through the campaign. On reaching the assigned positions, our troops were at once put to work digging rifle-pits for immediate protection. Then day and night were employed in the construction of breastworks of solid earth in the rear of the pits. They arose like magic. The rebels had erected several forts within the town limits, which were put to use. The chief engineer, General Morton, had designed an interior chain of redoubts connected by breastworks, which were rapidly approaching completion. On Cameron Hill, an abrupt elevation on the west side of the peninsula, a regular casemated citadel was being constructed. Altogether the army could be said to be well sheltered within a strongly entrenched camp. Three days after the battle, Rosecrans reported to the War Department that he had 30,000 effectives left. This number had been increased in the meantime by returned stragglers and furloughed officers and men, and by various bodies on detached service, to about 35,000 — an ample number to hold the place behind the entrenchments against any attack by the rebel army. Our security was, nevertheless, by no means absolutely assured; we were, on the contrary, exposed to the double danger of being either bombarded or starved out of the place.
Missionary Ridge divides the valleys of the Chattanooga and Chickamauga. It rises abruptly, like a mighty rampart, to a height of 1600 feet above the Tennessee River, and at an average distance of about two miles from Chattanooga. From the nearest part of its summit every quarter of the town is commanded. The rebel lines stretched from near the abutment of the Ridge on the Chickamauga along its brow to and beyond Chattanooga Creek, up the slopes of Lookout Mountain facing the town. The enemy's camps were concealed by heavy timber, but their presence along this extended front had been well ascertained by reconnoissances, spies and deserters. The length of the line was nearly eight miles — too great — and became a source of weakness to which the final rebel defeat was due. The Confederate, like the Union army, retained its formation of Chickamauga during the first stages of the investment at Chattanooga — that is, the wing under Lieutenant-General Polk formed the right, and that under Lieutenant-General Longstreet the left. The strength of Bragg's forces was, according to the returns telegraphed to the Richmond War Office on October 7: Present for duty, infantry, 4664 officers, 46,447 enlisted men; artillery, 157 officers, 3480 enlisted men, making a total of 54,748 officers and men. The enemy's superiority in infantry and artillery thus appears to have been about thirty per cent. It was shown that the losses at Chickamauga had reduced Bragg's strength of 42,000, exclusive of cavalry, to about 24,000, so that 30,000 men must have been added to his command during the intervening two weeks and a half. These heavy reinforcements appear to have been made up of the two brigades of McLaws's division and two of Hood's divisions of Longstreet's corps, which joined the army just after the battle, a division from Mississippi under Major-General Stevenson, and many thousands of absentees on furlough and sick leave, whom the rebel authorities, by strenuous efforts, succeeded in gathering up and returning to the front.
The Confederate Commander-in-chief had made up his mind to confine his operations against Chattanooga to as close an investment as the local conditions allowed, and to compel the Unionists, both by interrupting their supplies and by shot and shell, either to surrender or retreat north of the Tennessee. This decision was contrary to the judgment of his leading generals, and, as will duly appear, led to what was nothing less than outright insubordination on their part. The interruption of our supplies had already been accomplished in a great measure by forcing us off the river route, through the occupancy of Lookout Mountain and by cavalry raids upon our lines of communication between the Tennessee and Nashville. Haste had also been made in bringing up heavy guns for the bombardment of the town. It was their début that roused me from my slumber.
I made my way to the summit of Cameron Hill, where I had a fine panoramic view of the town, Missionary Ridge, and Lookout Mountain. The firing was carried on by ten guns stationed singly at considerable intervals along the winding road up the Mountain, and from one heavy piece and several light rifled pieces on Missionary Ridge. The highest gun on Lookout seemed to fire from an elevation of from 1200 to 1500 feet above the river. The heavy guns fired from a distance, measured by the sound, of about three miles. The firing continued all day till sunset, but varied greatly. Sometimes there were lively outbursts so that I could not count the number of shots, and again the discharges were single and in slow succession, as if for purposes of range-finding. Hundreds of shells were thrown in the course of the day, ranging from missiles six inches in diameter to those of three-inch fieldpieces. But the enemy inflicted hardly any damage. So far as I could learn, only one private was wounded in our camps, although crowds of our men freely exposed themselves by watching the fire from our parapets. Even the children pursued their games in the streets without concern. From our side only one field battery tried a little rifle practice from one of the redoubts. A couple of thirty-pounder rifle Parrotts had arrived from Nashville, but were not yet in position.
Before my return to the army, the Northern papers had been full of all sorts of accounts of the course of the two days' battles, the causes of our defeat, and the behavior of Generals Rosecrans, McCook, Crittenden, Negley, Davis, Sheridan, Wood, and Van Cleve. Charges that the first three had sought safety in flight from the battle-field had been freely published all over the loyal States, and official investigations called for in the press, by various State authorities, and in Washington. There was so much contradiction and partisanship in the printed versions that I resolved to ascertain the truth on reaching Chattanooga and to write a review of the battle. I began at once to gather material for it. Generals Rosecrans and Garfield expressed their readiness to place at my disposal all the information they had, including the official reports of the corps, division, and brigade commanders, as fast as they came, together with the orders issued before, during, and after the conflict. Both were also not only willing but eager to give me the benefit of their opinions of men and matters without the least reserve. Indeed, they had a good deal on their minds, which they were very glad of an opportunity to relieve by speaking out unrestrainedly.
General Rosecrans represented himself the victim of the Washington authorities generally, and of the General-in-chief and Secretary Stanton in particular. He was even more bitter and vehement than at Murfreesboro' in his denunciations of them for interfering with his plans and for not complying with his recommendations and requisitions. He announced his firm intention to “show up” these two principal offenders in his official report — a threat which he was, however, wise enough not to carry out. He affirmed emphatically that the direct and sole cause of the disaster on the second day was the want of judgment and discretion on the part of General Wood in executing the momentous order “to close up on Reynolds as fast as possible and support him,” and opening a gap in the line although aware that the enemy was about to attack that part of it. He applied the strongest language to that division commander, and even charged that he withdrew from the line, notwithstanding that Wood; in doubt as to the prudence of moving away, had sought advice of General Thomas, who told him to stay where he was. General Rosecrans was also unqualified in his censure of Generals McCook and Crittenden for coming to Chattanooga “without orders,” and at the same time thought it necessary to defend himself by a long argument on the duties and powers of a commander-in-chief for having preceded them. On my referring to the stories about Negley, he said promptly that this general had marched his troops away without orders, and ought to be tried by court-martial and dismissed from the service.
When I broached the subject of his own plans, he did not speak in as resolute a way about holding Chattanooga as I expected to hear. He was evidently in serious doubt whether sufficient supplies to maintain his men and animals could be secured. The destruction of several hundred wagons in the Sequatchie Valley by Wheeler's cavalry, to be followed probably by a new interruption of our only railroad connection with Nashville, made the outlook very grave. He confessed that there were rations for only a few days on hand, and so little forage that he was obliged to send away officers' and artillery horses. The lack of forage diminished greatly the quantities of supplies hauled by the wagon trains, since they had to carry food for their own animals for the round trip. The badness of the roads, destructive alike of wagons and of teams, so impeded their movements that it took them over a week to go and return. The reinforcements from the East, under Hooker, practically did Rosecrans no good, as they could not be brought up within supporting distance, owing to the difficulty of feeding them. He was clearly comforting himself in advance with excuses for a step which he did not like to take, but to which he feared he might be forced. Altogether, I found him very nervous, vindictive, irresolute, with little courage and self-reliance left, and showing generally the demoralizing effect of the lost battle.
General Garfield, knowing that he was safe with me, took me freely into his confidence. He told me how fully convinced he was that his chief was making a mortal mistake in going to Chattanooga, how he tried to dissuade him from it, and how relieved he himself was to be permitted to rejoin Thomas. He asserted that a very strong feeling prevailed in the army over the conduct of the Commanding General and the two corps commanders, and intimated that he considered their removal from command probable. He had grave doubts also as to the possibility of keeping possession of Chattanooga. Having been nominated for Congress in an Ohio district sure to give him a strong majority at the impending election, his days of active service were numbered anyway. While he did not say so directly, it could be inferred from his remarks that his faith in Rosecrans's military qualifications was shaken, if not lost, and that he was not sorry to part official company with him. His changed opinion naturally made his position very embarrassing to him. In corroboration of this, I will anticipate events by quoting from a despatch of Secretary Stanton to Assistant Secretary Watson, dated Louisville, October 21, as follows: “Generals Garfield and Steedman are here on their way home. Their representations of the incidents of the battle of Chickamauga more than confirm the worst that has reached us from other sources as to the conduct of the Commanding General and the great credit that is due to General Thomas.” (War Records, Series 1, Volume XXXI, Part I, page 684.)
I sought the headquarters of General McCook before dark on the day of my arrival and found General Crittenden with him. Both generals were in a state of great irritation and apprehension over the severe censures and demands for their removal and punishment with which the Northern papers were filled, and welcomed the chance of uttering their grievances to an old acquaintance through whom they hoped to get a hearing in the press for their side. The principal defence of both was that they had been virtually deprived of their commands by the successive orders of General Rosecrans to send one after another of their divisions to the support of General Thomas. In proof, they cited the original orders. McCook also showed me the order dated September 20, 10:30 A.M., requiring him, after sending Sheridan's division to General Thomas, “to report in person at these headquarters as soon as your orders are given in regard to Sheridan's movement.” He considered it a complete justification of his following the General Commanding to Chattanooga. But it may well be asked, Would he have been court-martialled if he had not obeyed the order, in view of the change in the situation? And would it not have been to his great credit, and would he not have kept his command, if he had stayed at the front? Crittenden claimed, that, having no longer any troops to command and being without orders, he was in duty bound to report to the head of the army, which could be done only by following him to the town.
I spent the whole evening with the generals and McCook's staff, all of whose members were in a bitter and depressed frame of mind. The corps commanders had not indicated any fears of personal consequences, but the staff officers were all apprehensive. Not being fully convinced by their arguments, I should have been embarrassed but that, in their excitement and wrath, they did most of the talking. As to the charge made and reiterated by the whole press that they had gone to sleep after reaching Chattanooga, they explained it as I have already done. They emphasized the fact that the Commander-in-chief had found no fault with their conduct — an assertion which astonished me not a little, as I had heard him express himself anything but approvingly regarding it only two hours before.
The blow they anticipated had already fallen even while I was discussing the subject with them. Nashville papers three days old were received late that night, with the news that the War Department had issued an order, dated September 28, consolidating the 20th and 21st Army Corps into a new one numbered 4th, appointing Major-General Gordon Granger to the command of it, relieving Generals McCook and Crittenden from duty in the Army of the Cumberland, and ordering them to hold themselves ready to respond to a summons before a court of inquiry. I did not hear this until late the next morning, when I went at once to the general headquarters to ascertain whether the startling announcement was true. General Rosecrans admitted that he had received intimations from Washington that such orders would be issued, but he had not yet received them. Such was the fact, and the formal order was not promulgated by him until October 9. The intelligence created a great sensation throughout the camps, and consternation at the headquarters of the two affected corps. Generals McCook and Crittenden took it very hard, although they tried to seem indifferent. They felt that the indirect method of relieving them by the consolidation would deceive nobody, but would still leave upon them the stigma of punishment for their part in the battle by removal from command, and they made known their determination to demand courts of inquiry without delay. They manifested deep regret that ignominy should also be fastened upon their troops by the wiping out of the two corps organizations. I expected that the consolidation would not, on that account, be well received by their officers and men; but all, from commanders of division down, appeared to submit quietly to the change.
I tried to discover who was directly responsible for the act. Both Rosecrans and Garfield denied that they had recommended it or any other punitive measure at Washington, and subsequent developments confirmed this. Then I had a talk with Charles A. Dana, the Assistant Secretary of War, still at the army headquarters, but he was entirely non-committal. It is a matter of record, however — first through the publication of his reports to Secretary Stanton, and again lately through his own admission in the personal memoirs printed in McClure's Magazine — that his representations regarding the part played by the two generals at Chickamauga and its effect upon their subordinates had as much to do with the decision of the Washington authorities to remove them as any other influence. He is responsible for the assertion that Garfield, Wood, Palmer, Sheridan, Johnson, and Hazen demanded the removal. Justice calls for the statement that he was entirely wrong in some of his animadversions upon those corps commanders, and showed strong, bordering on malignant, bias against them. He received and conveyed impressions, like the professional journalist that he was, hastily, flippantly, and recklessly. He thus involved himself in glaring inconsistencies and contradictions and humiliating self-corrections. This criticism certainly holds good of his official correspondence relative to the Chickamauga and Chattanooga campaigns as reprinted in the War Records. It must be admitted, nevertheless, that his reports indicate great power of observation and expression, and that his characterizations of military leaders were sometimes very able and true. Nor can it be doubted that he was animated by sincere patriotic ardor, recognition of which led Secretary Stanton to overlook the shortcomings of the work of his special reporter. Wherever the latter was, his superior was kept better advised on all matters in that part of the theatre of war than from any other source. He was indefatigable, and shrank from no hardship and personal danger in discharging what he considered his duty. Yet his zeal often degenerated into officiousness, and he fell at times into the rôle of the informer, without perhaps being conscious of it. I saw a great deal of him during our joint stay — at least once and often several times a day — and never failed to find him very communicative. Being a man of great natural parts and wide and thorough acquirements, and affable withal, his society was a real boon.
Generals McCook and Crittenden left for the North, accompanied by their entire staff, on October 10. It was a bitter trial for them to take final farewell of their companions in arms, whom they had led for two years and in five different campaigns — Shiloh and Corinth, Middle Tennessee, Perryville, Stone River, Tullahoma and Chickamauga. It must be said that they did not receive any too much sympathy from the officers and men of their commands. I felt sincerely for them, knowing them always to have tried to perform their duties to the best of their ability. I had been one of McCook's military family so often, and received so much kindness from all its members, that their departure moved me like a great personal loss. Their separation from the Army of the Cumberland was permanent, although they both underwent courts of inquiry into their conduct at Chickamauga, which found that General McCook committed a mistake in leaving the field to go to Chattanooga, but that this was only an error of judgment, and that in all respects his behavior was faultless, and which pronounced that “General Crittenden's conduct not only showed no cause for censure, but that it was most creditable, and that he was not even censurable for going to Chattanooga.” I did not see General McCook again before the close of the war, but I found General Crittenden once more in active service six months later, at the head of a division in the Army of the Potomac. Both issued pathetic farewell orders to their corps.
On the same day, the reorganization of the army, necessitated by the formation of a new corps out of the 20th and 21st, was formally promulgated by general order. The 4th Corps was to consist of three divisions commanded respectively by Generals Palmer, Sheridan, and Wood. Each division comprised three brigades, commanded in the first by Colonel Cruft, General Whitaker, and Colonel Grose; in the second by Generals Steedman and Wagner and Colonel Harker; and in the third by Generals Willich, Hazen, and Beatty. The divisions averaged be tween 6000 and 7000 men, and the total strength of the corps was nearly 20,000. The 14th Corps also constituted three divisions, instead of the former four, under Generals Rousseau (who resumed command on return from leave, relieving General Brannan), Baird, and Davis, and each division consisted of three brigades — in the first under Generals Carlin, King, and Starkweather; in the second under Colonel Morgan, General John Beatty, and Colonel Daniel McCook; and in the third under General Turchin, Colonel Van Derveer, and Colonel Croxton. Five division commanders and fourteen acting brigadiers were thereby rendered inactive. The changes in the sub-commands of the army were thus very sweeping.
General Negley was separately dealt with, and far more leniently than the two corps commanders. General Rosecrans, though considering him deserving of the severest punishment, allowed him to prepare a special defence against the statements severely reflecting upon his case in the reports of Generals Brannan and Wood. After receiving and examining the papers from him, the Commanding General came to the conclusion, as he wrote on October 14 to the War Department, that General Negley “acted according to his best judgment under the circumstances of the case.” He further gave him a leave of absence for thirty days, but advised him to ask for a court of inquiry. General Negley proceeded to Washington, and, on October 30, formally requested the Secretary of War by letter to order a court of inquiry in his case. The Secretary not acceding to this and advising him to return to the front, the General telegraphed to Chattanooga for orders, and received a reply directing him to return to the army on expiration of his leave. The case now took a very curious turn, worth relating in detail as it shows our military management in a peculiar light.
Having reached Nashville, he wired on November 10 to Chattanooga for orders. He was told, in answer, to remain in Nashville until further orders, and: “It is proper that you ask for a court of inquiry. It would not be proper to assign you to a command until an investigation has been had.” To this the General naturally replied that he had applied for a court, and renewed his request for one to the War Department, but heard nothing further from any quarter until he received an order, dated Chattanooga, December 22, as follows: “Major-General J. S. Negley having failed to demand a court of inquiry for the purpose of freeing himself from charges affecting his usefulness in this command, is hereby directed to proceed to Cincinnati or to any point outside this military division and report by letter to the Adjutant-General of the army for orders.” This he did promptly, only to be informed by the Adjutant-General that the General-in-chief had no orders for him, as he belonged to General Thomas's command. Finally, the President on June 9 ordered a court of inquiry for him (the same order directed courts for the corps commanders also). The court found not only that “General Negley exhibited throughout the second day of the battle and throughout the following night great activity and zeal in the discharge of his duties,” and that there was no evidence affording any ground for censure, but that General Brannan's allegations were not sustained, and that General Wood deserved stern condemnation for indulging in severe reflections upon General Negley, and applying coarse and offensive epithets to him, in the presence of the army commander and some of his staff, while failing to substantiate his charges on the witness stand. Thus ended thiscurious “much ado about nothing.”
Crisis in the Confederate Army.—1863
WHILE the removal of the generals and the reorganization absorbed the attention of headquarters and camps on our side, a similar crisis was occurring in the Confederate army. Indications of it had reached us through Southern newspapers. These came into our lines almost as quickly as into the enemy's, thanks to the truce arrived at between the respective pickets, without authority, but winked at by their superiors, and which led to friendly talk and exchange of courtesies. One contained a general order of Lieutenant-General Polk, in which he took leave of his corps, and the announcement of the removal of General Hindman from command. But no one was aware of the extent and violence of the conflict then raging among the rebel generals, nor was it suspected that these internal quarrels had led to a most important event, of which we learned from rebel papers and through the great commotion on Missionary Ridge. It was nothing less than a visit of Jefferson Davis himself to Bragg's troops. The President of the Confederacy arrived on the evening of October the 10th and remained till the 13th. His presence was signalized by artillery salutes and parades and reviews, which could be clearly seen from Cameron Hill. From our picket line the band music and cheers with which the rebel soldiery responded to the speeches he made to them were also distinctly heard. It is only by the publication of the Official War Records that the connection between his visit and the squabbles of the generals has been made apparent. I think it best to give at length this interesting chapter in the history of the Rebellion.
The opposition of Bragg's lieutenants to his decision simply to invest Chattanooga speedily found vent in active demonstrations against him. The first of these on record is a letter addressed by General Longstreet to the Secretary of War at Richmond, full of complaint and criticism, in which this passage occurs:
To express my convictions in a few words, our chief has done but one thing that he ought to have done since I joined his army. That was to order the attack upon the 20th. All other things that he has done he ought not to have done. I am convinced that nothing but the hand of God can save us or help us as long as we have our present commander. Now, to our wants. Can't you send us General Lee? . . . We need some such great mind. . . . You will be surprised to learn that this army has neither organization nor mobility, and I have doubts if its commander can give it them. . . . When I came here, I hoped to find our commander willing and anxious to do all things that would aid us in our great cause, and ready to receive what aid he could get from his subordinates. It seems that I was greatly mistaken. It seems that he cannot adopt and adhere to any plan or course, whether of his own or of some one else. . . . There is no exaggeration in these statements.
Nor was Longstreet content with this. He begged Colonel James Chestnut, Jr., aide-de-camp of President Davis, then on a visit to the army, to go to Richmond with all speed and urge action upon him. In an official letter dated October 4, to Lieutenant-General D. H. Hill, he entreated him and Buckner to see the colonel also for the same purpose.
Most of the other generals in command above the rank of brigadier followed Longstreet's example. They conspired to make a direct appeal to President Davis for Bragg's removal. Their action was hastened by the issue of an order on September 29 by the Commander-in-chief, who had learned of the cabal against him, relieving from their commands Major-General Hindman, for disobedience of orders in the affair in McLemore's Cove on September 11, and Lieutenant-General Polk, for the same offence, on the morning of the second day at Chickamauga. A long letter to the Executive, dated October 4 and understood to have been prepared by Buckner and Breckinridge, was signed by them and Lieutenant-General Hill and Generals Hindman, Cheatham, Preston, Brown, and others. Its character may be judged from the following quotations:
Two weeks ago this army, elated by a great victory, which promised to be the most fruitful of the war, was in readiness to pursue its defeated enemy. That enemy, driven in confusion from the field, was fleeing in disorder and panic-stricken across the Tennessee River. To-day, after having been twelve days in line of battle in that enemy's front, within cannon range of his position, the Army of the Tennessee has seen a new Sebastopol rise steadily before its view. The beaten enemy, recovering behind its formidable works from the effect of its defeat, is understood to be already receiving reinforcements, while heavy additions to his strength are rapidly approaching him. Whatever may have been accomplished heretofore, it is certain that the fruits of the victory of Chickamauga have now escaped our grasp. The Army of the Tennessee, stricken with a complete paralysis, will in a few days' time be thrown strictly on the defensive, and may deem itself fortunate if it escapes from its present position without disaster.
After urging the necessity of strengthening the army, in view of the reinforcements of the enemy, the petitioners continue: “But . . . your petitioners would deem it a dereliction of the sacred duty they owe the country, if they did not further ask that Your Excellency assign to the command of this army an officer who will inspire the army and the country with undivided confidence.” Moreover, independently of other reasons, “the condition of the health of the present commander totally unfits him for the command of an army in the field.” In conclusion: “In making these representations to Your Excellency, your petitioners are aware that the proceeding is unusual among military men, but the extraordinary condition of affairs in this army, the magnitude of the interests at stake, and a sense of the responsibilities under which they rest to Your Excellency and to the Republic, render this proceeding, in their judgment, a matter of solemn duty, from which, as patriots, they cannot shrink.” The petition closed with a strong affirmation of their disbelief in the possibility of success under the existing command. The annals of modern warfare will probably be searched in vain for a counterpart to this extraordinary performance in the face of the enemy. Lieutenant-General Polk had anticipated it by a letter of his own to the same effect, to President Davis, dated two days before he was relieved from command, by one of the same date and of a like tenor to General R. E. Lee, and by another to the President, bearing the date of October 6, in which he goes so far as to say:
General Bragg . . . allowed the whole of the fruits of this great victory to pass from him by the most criminal negligence, or, rather, incapacity, for there are positions in which weakness is wickedness. If there be a man in the public service who should be held to a more rigid accountability for failures, and upon the largest scale, than another, that man is General Bragg, and I shall be happy to go before a court of inquiry on charges preferred against me by General Bragg, that I may have the opportunity not only of vindicating my own conduct, but of establishing the truth and justice of what I have written of his lack of capacity as a commanding general.
Longstreet's letter to the Secretary of War had effect. The latter wired to General Bragg that his apparent inaction since Chickamauga was causing anxiety, and called for an explanation. The General sent a full reply, setting forth that to attack the entrenched enemy would be suicidal, and that he was making every effort to accumulate sufficient supplies for a turning movement across the Tennessee River. But the demonstrations of the other generals decided the rebel President to make a personal attempt to heal the dissensions on the ground. It may easily be imagined that his task was a delicate and unpleasant one. It does not appear whether he gave hearings to both sides during his stay, but it is certain that he determined to sustain Bragg at all points. The latter offered to give up his command, but Davis would not listen to the suggestion. He not only approved of the removal of Generals Polk and Hindman, but, the day after his arrival, authorized also that of Lieutenant-General D. H. Hill. He consented the more readily to the latter as Hill had been detached from Lee's army for the same reason, disobedience of orders.
Formal charges were made by General Bragg against Generals Polk and Hindman and sent to the War Department. The two generals, of their own accord, also applied for courts of inquiry. General Polk addressed interrogatories regarding his conduct to all the commanders under him, to which they all replied, mostly in his favor, and he further secured the statements of all his staff. But it never came to courts-martial or courts of inquiry in either case. President Davis settled that of Polk by declining to authorize the appointment of a court, on the ground that his personal examination into the causes and circumstances of his removal had satisfied him that there was nothing in them to justify further investigation, and by appointing the Lieutenant-General to the command of another department, “as the best evidence,” to quote from his official notification, “of my appreciation of your past service and expectations of your future career.” General Hindman received even more striking exoneration. In his formal declination to order a court of inquiry, the President gave as his reasons for it that his personal investigation of the case had convinced him that, if the explanations since given had been made at the proper time, General Bragg's order relieving him would never have been issued. This snub direct was administered to Bragg, notwithstanding the recantation which he addressed to the President, no doubt on his requirement, in this humiliating form, under date of November 15:
After your action in the case of Lieutenant-General Polk, which to me has been entirely satisfactory, I feel it a duty as it is a pleasure to request similar action on your part toward Major-General Hindman. This officer, as will appear from the official reports, was conspicuously distinguished at Chickamauga for gallantry and good conduct, and nothing but the necessity for uniform discipline prevented my overlooking the previous affair for which he was suspended. From what I have heard unofficially, the General may prefer not to serve under my command; but it is only just for me to add that he possesses my fullest confidence as a most gallant soldier and excellent disciplinarian.
The outcome was, that General Hindman returned to duty under Bragg.
The narrative of the machinations against the latter would not be complete without mention of the singular controversy provoked by General Buckner with General Bragg, within a week after the army had taken position before Chattanooga, over the question whether the Commander-in-chief had the right to transfer to another general's command part of the troops which Buckner had brought with him from East Tennessee. The correspondence between them, which fills many pages in the Records, culminated in violent personal abuse and a reference of the mooted point to the War Department, which overruled Buckner, who seems to have been a conceited, carping, andquerulous egotist.
NEARLY all through September, dryness had prevailed and produced a veritable plague of deep dust, most trying to troops and supply trains. At last, on October 1, relief came in a good rainfall. At first it expedited transportation, but as rains gradually became frequent and heavier, the blessing was turned into another affliction. By the time of my trip from Bridgeport the roads were miry, and from day to day the reports regarding their condition grew worse. They soon spoke graphically of the animals sinking in the mud up to their bellies in the bottoms of the Sequatchie and along the Tennessee. The rains proved very trying in another respect. They filled the enclosed works and the ditches around them and the connecting trenches more or less deep with standing water, which it was found very difficult to drain off. The work on the fortifications was naturally very much obstructed. The steady rain made it almost impossible for the troops to keep dry, although they were provided with tents or had secured shelter in huts and dug-outs. There was a consecutive downpour for thirty-six hours during the first week of my stay. The pontoon bridge was broken on the night of October 15 by the force of the current, but fortunately the boats and timbers were saved and the bridge restored after a few days. The rebels, taking advantage of the elements, sent a number of rafts down stream to destroy it, but these happily passed while it was broken, and proper precautions subsequently taken neutralized all efforts in this direction.
I need not say that I too was made very uncomfortable and hampered in my work by the inclemency of the weather. Owing to the increasing trouble in feeding horses, I had concluded to try to get on without one, but, under the circumstances, locomotion became steadily more and more restricted, as every sally meant getting wet through. Weather prognostications formed the main subject of talk at the various headquarters. The flood from above quickly swelled the rivers also, and their rise assumed such proportions as to involve dangerous consequences and render the condition of the army still more precarious. By the middle of the month, the Sequatchie was so high that it could no longer be forded at Jasper, and our supply trains were compelled to come and go by a circuitous route, lengthening the time of the round trip and entailing still greater destruction of wagons and animals. The high water in the Tennessee also did great mischief right under our eyes. Of the two bridges by which Chattanooga was connected with the north bank, the trestle had to be given up.
The protracted wet spell acted as a damper on the rebels as well as on our side. The hostile guns had not apparently increased in number, and they were fired so desultorily at long intervals that the enemy seemed to be under the restraint of a scarcity of ammunition. The damage they did to life and property was so insignificant, too, that we grew entirely indifferent to them. Those were indeed dull and gloomy days, not even enlivened by the regular arrival of the mails. While the bridge was broken, not a letter or newspaper reached the camps. Even the telegraphic connection was very irregular, and several times our only communication with the North was by couriers. Some slight ripples of excitement were produced, however, by the Ohio elections.
It must seem passing strange to foreign military men, and even our present generation will find it difficult to understand, that the discord and disintegration of party politics were deliberately introduced in the armies in the field. But party exigencies, in consequence of the really threatening character of the internal political situation in 1863 in the loyal States generally, and especially in Ohio, where the bitter contest between Brough and Vallandigham for Governor was waged, made the Republican leaders feel justified in bringing about the passage of the State laws permitting their respective contingents in the national armies to cast their ballots for State tickets wherever they might be. No agitation by meetings and speeches among the troops in behalf of the candidates of either party was allowed before the election, yet so many politicians were serving in the rank and file that considerable quiet canvassing went on nevertheless. The voting took place on October 13, with very satisfactory results to the loyal cause. Out of nearly 10,000 votes, less than three per cent, were cast for Vallandigham. General Garfield, having actually won his seat in Congress, left for good on the 15th, under orders to proceed to Washington and to deliver in person to the War Department General Rosecrans's report of the Chickamauga battles, and to make such verbal explanations regarding the campaign as might be called for. I could but lament his departure, for our relations had become so friendly and even intimate that he was always ready not only to give me all the army news, but to talk our situation over with me in the frankest manner. I was but too conscious that I should probably not again be able to form such a genial and professionally profitable connection in that army.
While the danger of being shelled out of Chattanooga was no longer looked upon as great, the problem of preventing our being driven from the place by starvation became more and more difficult of solution. The troops had been put on reduced rations before my arrival, but, notwithstanding this, the increasing difficulties of transportation had so limited the additions to the supplies on hand that, by the middle of October, there were not more than half-rations for a week left for officers and men. All, from the General-in-chief down to the privates, had nothing better than the reduced regular ration without fresh meat. No sutlers' stores could be drawn on to eke out the allowances by extra eatables and drinkables. Money had lost its purchasing power. I wrote that it seemed to be impossible for us to remain in Chattanooga. Dana had the same opinion and wired it to Washington. On the 15th he telegraphed that the scarcity of food would soon make it necessary for all persons other than soldiers to leave, and that he desired instructions whether he should return to Washington or make his way to Burnside in Eastern Tennessee. The distress was still greater for beast than for man, as forage grew more scant than provisions. Yet more work had to be exacted from the poorly fed animals in hauling trains, in consequence of the steady increase of mortality among them. Hundreds fell daily en route, and the roads were literally lined with dead horses and mules. The weakness of the stock was such that teams had to double up to get empty wagons over Walden's Ridge, and it took as many as ten days for a trip only one way. Between the foot of this ridge and the banks of the Sequatchie, hundreds of teams were reported to be stopped owing to the exhaustion of animals. Artillery horses fell daily by scores. Around us in Chattanooga, the sight of famished and famishing beasts became a common one. Numbers of them could be seen tied to trees and left by their owners to starve. Many officers incurred losses in this way and had to attend to their duties on foot. Nor did there seem to be any prospect of an early alleviation of this discomfort and suffering.
The chief cause of our sorry plight was the abandonment, upon the retreat of our army into the town, of the northern slope of Lookout Mountain, which commanded the direct approaches to the town from the west, including the wagon road around the face of the mountain. This important position had been held by a brigade, but General Rosecrans ordered its withdrawal, against the protest of his chief of staff and General Granger, as I was repeatedly told by the former. They argued with him that from 1500 to 2000 men would suffice to hold the ground against any force of the enemy, and distinctly warned him of the certain consequences of the other course; but he would not be convinced, and the hazardous step was taken. Military critics have justly said that this was as great a mistake on his part as the fatal order to General Wood in the second day's battle of Chickamauga. It not only absolutely prevented our utilization of the shorter and better land route from Shellmound on the south bank by way of Whiteside and Wauhatchie, but also the use on the river of the steamboats which had fallen into our hands below and at Chattanooga, and which, in the then favorable stage of water, would have alone sufficed to supply all the wants of the army. Moreover, it enabled the enemy to station sharpshooters on the south bank within easy range of the road on the opposite side over which our transportation had to pass for a distance. From the second week in October on, their fire proved a dangerous hindrance in the daytime to the movement of men and animals.
But the Confederates did not confine themselves to obstructing our transportation from the secondary base at Bridgeport; directly after Chickamauga they resumed their old game of breaking up our railroad connection with Nashville, so as to prevent the movement of supplies from the North to the Tennessee. Their efforts were at first alarmingly successful. The chief raider, General Wheeler, started from the rebel right on September 29, and on the following day succeeded in crossing the Tennessee near Washington, some forty miles northeast of Chattanooga, with his own two divisions and three brigades from Forrest's command, amounting in all only to between 4000 and 5000 officers and men. A cavalry division of our own, under General Crook, not over 2000 strong, had been charged with the duty of watching the fords above Chattanooga, but his force was scattered over a distance of fifty miles, and hence was unable to prevent the passage of the enemy. Wheeler reached the Sequatchie Valley over Walden's Ridge on October 2. He divided his force, sending the greater portion under General Wharton over the Cumberland plateau, and proceeding himself down the Sequatchie towards Jasper. Unfortunately for us, the whole train of the 14th Corps, loaded with commissary, quartermaster, and ordinary stores, sutlers' and medical supplies, numbering some 400 vehicles, including a number of ambulances, was then strung out between the stream and Walden's Ridge, and fell an easy and most rich prey to the raiders. They loaded themselves up with all they could carry; stripped the teamsters and other persons accompanying the train (including a party of men and women from the United States Sanitary Commission) of their clothing and all their valuables; selected the best of the animals to remount themselves and to be driven along; shot the rest of the horses and mules, or cut their throats with their sabres, and finally set fire to the wagons and ambulances.
Wheeler then started with his booty to rejoin Wharton, but he was not to get away without some punishment. When General Rosecrans learned from General Crook, on October 1, of Wheeler's movement, he wired orders at once to my friend Colonel Edward McCook, who was watching with his cavalry division the crossings of the Tennessee above and below Bridgeport, to move up the Sequatchie at once in pursuit of the rebel cavalry. Although his three brigades were scattered and he had only three regiments and a section of artillery with him, he set out without delay from Bridgeport. At noon on the 2d, he struck the rebel rear guard near the scene of the destruction at Anderson's cross-roads and at once charged and drove it before him. He pressed closely after the enemy on the 2d and 3d, up to the summit of the Cumberland plateau. The rebels repeatedly tried to make a stand, but gave way each time under the attacks of our men. The result was a considerable rebel loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, the release of a number of our men belonging to the train escort, and the recapture of about 1000 mules.
General Crook, after collecting his command, followed rapidly in the rebel track. He was too late to prevent the capture of McMinnville (garrisoned by only one small regiment) and the appropriation and destruction of large stores of every kind; but he caught up with Wharton's rear and had a severe brush with it between McMinnville and Murfreesboro', and compelled the rebels to abandon their intended attack on the latter town. But they succeeded in destroying the railroad bridges and track southward to the Duck River. Near Murfreesboro' General R. B. Mitchell came to Crook's aid with McCook's division, which had made forced marches from the Sequatchie, and, as chief of cavalry, assumed command of all the mounted pursuers.
General Hooker had sent his chief of staff with an infantry force northward by rail from Bridgeport, to assist in the capture of the raiders. General Mitchell brought Wheeler to a stand near the village of Farmington, between Shelbyville and Columbia, a short distance south of the Duck River, and put him completely to flight after severe fighting. After this, it became a steady stern chase of the rebels to the Tennessee River, which they managed to ford between Huntsville and Florence, with about half of the force they had started with, but “loaded down to the guards,” as General Stanley expressed it, “with their plunder of dry goods, watches, jewelry, and greenbacks, and hundreds of them dressed in our uniforms.”
Another rebel cavalry force, under the notorious General Roddey, was to have started simultaneously with Wheeler from Northern Alabama to join him on the Duck River, but for some reason it crossed the Tennessee at Guntersville, Alabama, a whole week later than appointed — that is, on October 7 and 8 — and so failed to prevent, as expected, the concentration of the Union troops against Wheeler. Roddey reached Salem, Tennessee, on the 10th, but, learning there of Wheeler's defeat at Farmington, turned right around and retraced his steps as fast as possible to the Tennessee, and managed to reach Athens, Alabama, without having had more than a slight skirmish with the Federals.
Wheeler's raid was remarkable for the distance traversed, the hardships endured, and the work accomplished by his command. He was only eleven days under way, moved at the rate of from 40 to 50 miles a day, and certainly wrought as much damage as could be inflicted, on such a flying expedition. On our side, General Crook and his division showed equal tirelessness in the pursuit, for which they received well-deserved praise in a general order from General Rosecrans. There was naturally the greatest solicitude at the general headquarters regarding the extent of Wheeler's depredations and the duration of the interruption of our communications he would compass. The destruction of the wagon train had a most embarrassing immediate effect. Railroad connection was happily restored in four days — another of the many demonstrations during the Civil War that raids never succeeded in crippling railroads forany length of time.
Rosecrans Relieved from Command.—1863
AMONG the negative traits of General Rosecrans's character, not the least was the obstinacy with which he clung to his own conclusions, in defiance of reason and facts. His justification of the abandonment of the river route to the enemy was, of course, the assumption that it would be practicable to supply the army fully by way of the Sequatchie and Walden's Ridge. He stuck to it stubbornly against all the arguments to the contrary of General Garfield and others, until Wheeler's newest exploits and the steady decrease instead of increase of the available stores of food compelled him to consider the problem how to undo his mistake by re-opening the river line. The conclusion was indeed forced upon him that without this it would be equally impracticable to hold Chattanooga or to reach a condition of readiness for the resumption of the offensive, inasmuch as the food difficulty would not permit him to draw the reinforcements under Hooker and Sherman near enough for the latter purpose. Symptoms of his change of mind were noticeable before General Garfield's departure. He commenced talking to him on the subject, to General Smith, the new Chief of Engineers, to other generals, to Mr. Dana and myself. He began, too, to study the topography of the surroundings of Chattanooga and to send out engineer officers for the examination of particular points. This led to the evolution of an ingenious plan for neutralizing the obstructive effect of the hostile control of Lookout Mountain, viz., to seize and hold the south bank from a point beyond the range of the rebel artillery opposite the western front of the narrow peninsula formed by the first great bend of the river below Chattanooga and known as Moccasin Point. While it was ten miles by water around the bend, it was not quite a mile across it in an air line from the north end of the main bridge of the town. The south bank being seized, supplies could be brought up the river from Bridgeport, landed at Moccasin Point, and thence hauled in wagons to the town. There were two steamboats and some barges available for the water transportation. The success of the plan would reduce the time from Bridgeport to one day each way, and thus solve the problem of sustaining the army. To carry it out, it was judged best that the initial attempt to effect a lodgment on the south bank should be made from Chattanooga, but that it should be supported by a simultaneous movement up the river by General Hooker's command.
It was ordained that General Rosecrans should not him self execute this clever plan. He had fully made up his mind to carry it out, and had already issued preliminary orders, including one to Hooker to concentrate his command, when his powers as commander-in-chief were suddenly cut off. A thunderbolt had been forging against him in Washington and descended upon him on October 18, in the form of a telegraphic Presidential order dated the 16th, relieving him from the command of the Department of the Cumberland, and directing him to proceed to Cincinnati and report by letter to the Adjutant-General of the army. By the same order, Major-General George H. Thomas was appointed his successor. This summary dismissal came as a stunning surprise to the doomed general. I can affirm from personal knowledge that while he had been apprehensive of removal after the battle, the tone of President Lincoln's subsequent despatches to him, and the fact that weeks had gone by without any indication of other intentions towards him, had led him to believe in his retention in command. He was wise enough not to give utterance to his feelings, and to leave at once for the North even before the change of command became known to the army. When I bade him good-bye, he only remarked: “This was to be expected.”
The truth was, that his fate had been decided at the national capital early in the month. On the 3d, a telegraphic order was sent to General Grant at Vicksburg, requiring him to proceed at once with his staff and headquarters to Cairo, and to report to the General-in-chief by wire for orders on his arrival there. It was several days in reaching him by boat, but, although he was lamed by an accident at New Orleans, he obeyed at once, and telegraphed from Cairo on October 16 for further instructions. The answer came in the evening of the same day, to the effect to proceed forthwith to the Galt House, Louisville, where he would be met by an officer of the War Department, with orders and instructions. He was also told to take his staff and headquarters with him, so as to be prepared to take the field immediately. This and the direction of his movements made pretty clear to the General and his military household what were the Government's intentions towards him. On reaching Louisville the next day, the officer of the War Department turned out to be Secretary Stanton himself, who delivered to Grant an order of the President constituting the military division of the Mississippi, with the three departments of the Ohio, of the Cumberland, and of the Tennessee, and placing him in command of the division, with headquarters in the field. The order also authorized him to relieve General Rosecrans by General Thomas, if he thought it best to make the change.
Before leaving Washington, the Secretary had wired to Dana on the 16th to meet him in Louisville, in pursuance of which the latter at once started for the North. As he relates in his memoirs, he reached Nashville on the night of October 20, and was intercepted at the station by a staff officer of General Grant, who told him his chief was on a train standing next to his and wished to see him. Dana had heard nothing of the great changes in the military commands, and his surprise when he learned what had happened may be imagined. General Grant informed him also that Secretary Stanton no longer desired him (Dana) to come to Louisville, but to return to the front with himself. Dana accepted the situation, and was directly on his way again to Chattanooga. They reached Bridgeport the next day, and set out for their destination the following morning. Grant's foot troubled him so that he took two days for the trip; but Dana rode through in one. An officer who passed Grant on the way told me that he presented a singular appearance with his white cotton gloves, low shoes, and white socks which were exposed for several inches. Dana reported to Stanton on the 23d that the General arrived “wet, dirty, and well.” Grant himself, in a letter to Halleck, described the roads he had passed over as bad almost beyond conception.
Rosecrans's retirement from active command was the penalty for his loss of the battle of Chickamauga. Nor can it be doubted that his removal was demanded by the interests of the service and of the country. His desertion of the field alone afforded ample justification, and his conduct after the retreat to Chattanooga furnished other good reasons for it. There was the withdrawal from Lookout Mountain, already discussed. Next he was guilty of the presumption of despatching to the President on October 3 the senseless suggestion that he offer a general amnesty to all Confederate officers and soldiers, which gave great offence and raised suspicions of political aspirations on his part, although Mr. Lincoln replied kindly. But the greatest fault he showed was his indecision upon the question of staying in Chattanooga, notwithstanding the strong and repeated admonitions of the Government, and especially of the President, to hold the place. This state of the General's mind is revealed in Dana's despatches to the Secretary of War, but I must in duty point out that the extravagance of their language, in genuine reporter's style, unduly exaggerated the case. As Dana's denunciations were the only information which reached the Government from an authoritative source — even Rosecrans's own report did not reach the capital until after he was relieved — they proved the determining factor (just as they did in the cases of McCook and Crittenden) with Stanton and Halleck. Full credit for this riddance was claimed by Dana himself in a conversation with me some months later in Washington. The President was inclined to exercise that weak clemency towards the General which he manifested towards McClellan and other disappointing commanders, but finally yielded to the “categorical imperative” which Stanton on this as on other occasions was obliged to address to the Executive. I cannot help remarking, that, as my own eyes observed at the time, Dana had intimate intercourse, day and night, with General Rosecrans, and that he enjoyed his personal hospitality, sitting at the same table and sleeping in the same building. His reports also prove that he deliberately drew the General into confidential communications, the substance of which he used against him, and that he held talks with general officers regarding Rosecrans which were nothing less than insubordination on their part. It can hardly be admitted that patriotic motives were a sufficient excuse for such a course.
Just before starting for the North, in obedience to the summons of Secretary Stanton, the Assistant Secretary wired him that he feared Rosecrans would evacuate Chattanooga at once unless he was ordered to remain. It is due to General Rosecrans to state that there was no foundation for this last accusation, and I am at a loss to under stand how Dana could utter it, for I can personally bear witness to the contrary. I saw the General daily, and knew that the reopening of the Tennessee and the proposed movement of General Hooker absorbed his attention. Moreover, I recollect clearly that Dana expressed regret to me, an hour before his departure, that he was not to be present when the attempt to seize Williams's Island and the south bank should be made; so that he had no real ground for entertaining the fears he despatched to his chief. But his message was effective, in that in consideration of it Stanton and Grant agreed to act at once by removing Rosecrans and appointing Thomas in his place.
I had never considered Rosecrans qualified to lead a large army. I can indeed claim that I took a correct measure of his mental and moral calibre directly after I made his acquaintance at Murfreesboro'. As early as June 14, I had written privately to the managing editor of the Tribune from that place, in reply to a suggestion from him that I should try to get into confidential relations with the General Commanding:
My intercourse with him could hardly be more intimate than it is. I always make it my object to secure the confidence and respect of others in my private character as well as in that of a representative of a leading journal, and am generally successful. As to the mode of securing the confidence of the General proposed by you, I must say that it could not be employed, in my opinion, with out degrading me to a mere mouthpiece of him, as which my self-respect and conception of professional dignity will never allow me to serve. I refer to the recommended reading of my correspondence to him, with a view to its modification at his pleasure. Permit me to advise you, in connection with this, not to commit the Tribune too strongly to the advancement of his military fortunes. There are flaws in his moral as well as intellectual composition and professional capacity, which the future will surely develop into prominent shortcomings, and may make too much previous commendation a source of contradiction, inconsistency and humiliation.
Personally and professionally the exit of General Rosecrans from the scene was, in one respect, a disadvantage, in another a relief to me. On the one hand, while I knew his successor well enough, his natural reserve, if not stiffness of manner, his reticence and indifference to the press, precluded such facilities at headquarters as I had enjoyed under the previous regime. Thomas's staff followed his example, and was offish towards correspondents, whereas the military family of Rosecrans, in accordance with his own seeking of favor with the press, observed the opposite course. On the other hand, Rosecrans constantly embarrassed me by trying his best to induce me by special favors to defend him in the Tribune. He went so far even as to let me not only read but copy for publication the principal official reports on the battle which came in before his departure, with the result that the Tribune printed them in advance of all other papers. In this connection I give a letter from Mr. Dana to General Thomas, which appears in the War Records and explains itself.
Washington City, March 9, 1864.
Major-General George H. Thomas,
It is stated by a newspaper correspondent that, on the 19th of January, you were serenaded by the Ninth Ohio Regiment, and on that occasion declared to some of the officers of the regiment that you had praised them in your official report of the battle of Chickamauga, and then added: “I wanted to do justice to the regiment, and I cannot understand why — I feel sorry — that the War Department saw fit to curtail my report so as to leave this out.” I presume that you are aware that the only copy of your report which has yet been published was the rough draft furnished by you to Major-General Rosecrans, that officer being in great haste to make out his own report. General Rosecrans gave this rough draft which you had sent him to Mr. Villard, the correspondent of the Tribune, and it was published in that paper. The final report which you sent to Washington was, so far as I am aware, never seen by Mr. Villard. I am confident that you have not imputed to the War Department the mutilation of any official documents; but it seems proper that you should be aware of a statement which pretends to be made on the authority of your own language.
I am, General, with great regard,
C. A. Dana.
This chapter may fitly be closed with a brief sketch of the new commanding general. Thomas was a graduate of West Point, and had had more than twenty years of active service, including the Seminole and Mexican wars, in the artillery and cavalry, before the outbreak of the Civil War. He had thus had longer military experience than any other general officer in the Army of the Cumberland. He held the rank of colonel of cavalry in the regular army. Though a native of Virginia, he had never faltered for a moment in his fealty to the flag. He had a commanding presence, being nearly six feet high, and a soldier-like, erect bearing, with an open countenance, but rather a stern expression, full light-brown hair and beard tinged with gray. On first acquaintance, he seemed of a stolid nature and stiff and distant in manner, but on closer intercourse would reveal himself as a sturdy, resolute character, with the strongest sense of duty, and, altogether, a thorough soldier. He was not a genius, but was very intelligent, and although he seemed at times not quick in perception and too deliberate in execution, he could always be relied on to do what was required of him to the best of his ability. His even temperament gave him that coolness in action and equipoise in success as in failure which he possessed in a higher degree than any of his fellow-generals. He differed creditably from most of them in another regard: he was entirely unselfish and unambitious. He never made the least effort for personal preferment, and rather shunned than sought higher commands, from modest doubts of his competency and consequent shrinking from great responsibilities. It will be remembered that he declined the command of the army when Buell was superseded. In the same spirit, he felt it his duty, when a report reached him that Secretary Stanton had inquired how his appointment, instead of Rosecrans's, would be taken in the army, to intimate to Dana his reluctance to be the successor. While he was not communicative or fluent and polished in speech, he was by no means discourteous, and, as his reports show, thought and expressed himself very clearly.
Feeling that I was no longer wanted at the general headquarters as a messmate, I looked about for another connection. I received several offers to join other messes, but finally decided to accept the invitation of Brigadier-General Willich to share his tent and table. Of his antecedents as a Prussian artillery officer I have spoken in describing the campaign under Buell. He was forty-eight years old, and was probably the most thoroughly trained officer in the army. He possessed great general intelligence and knowledge, and conversed well on almost any subject. He had, however, pronounced socialistic views, which had led to his participation in the revolutionary rising of 1849 in Germany and to his exile, and with these I did not at all sympathize. We had many disputes over them, but they left no irritation. He provided me with a camp bedstead, and I partook regularly of such fare as he had. His one servant, a private soldier, was a very smart man and of general utility in cooking, washing, waiting at the table, cleaning our clothes, blacking our boots, and taking care of the general's horse. In apologizing for the meagre meals he served, General Willich asserted that Fritz was a most successful purveyor and had nearly always managed to keep him in plenty, but that as there was now no chance to forage and his cooking was confined to the treatment of the reduced rations, he could not well do himself justice. Although the commissary department then distributed only hard bread, bacon, and coffee, Fritz showed real genius in evolving sufficient repasts out of this scant material and some canned vegetables and fruit he had managed to save from better days. I enjoyed Willich's hospitality as long as I remained in those parts, and I had nothing to complain of but the dampness. We could keep up a log fire only in front, not inside of, the tent, and when it rained, it was impossible to feel either dry or warm. To counteract this, our faithful attendant treated us at proper intervals to hot punch, for which he had kept some bottles of cognac in close reserve.
I became the guest of General Willich before I knew that General Grant was coming to Chattanooga to assume supreme command; but as my chances of being allowed to join his headquarters were no better than with General Thomas, I concluded not to run the risk of a refusal, but to content myself where I was. It was fortunate for me that Mr. Dana returned, as he became my main reliance for correct information relative to the plans of the Commanding General, which he imparted and discussed with me freely, knowing that I would not make improper use of it. Next to him, General W. F. Smith, the engineer-in-chief, whose acquaintance I had made at Fredericksburg, General Meigs, the Quartermaster-General of the United States Army, whom the Secretary of War had sent to Chattanooga immediately after the battle, and the old division commanders of the Army of the Cumberland, were helpful to me. The scene of current events was also so confined that any occurrence of importance could hardly escape mynotice.
The Reopening of the Tennessee River.—1863
THE very last order General Rosecrans gave to the engineer-in-chief was to make a thorough reconnoissance of the south bank opposite the west side of Moccasin Point. General Smith carried out his instructions on October 19. He found an opening low in the ridge bordering the river, through which a small creek discharged into it, with Brown's Ferry at its mouth. This opening, or gorge, offered a way for landing parties to gain by a rush the first heights rising from 250 to 300 feet to the right and left of it and commanding the narrow valley between them and Lookout Mountain, and the roads running through it towards the town from a lower ferry. From that position the communications of the enemy up the Lookout Valley and over Raccoon Mountain could also be threatened. It was discovered further that the ridge was occupied by only a thin chain of pickets, which it seemed quite practicable to surprise. General Smith was so well satisfied with the feasibility of the proposed lodgement that he immediately matured plans for effecting it without delay. He submitted it to General Thomas, as the new army commander, who laid it, with his approval, before General Grant upon his arrival. The very next morning, the two generals were conducted to the ground by General Smith, who explained the topography and his proposed coup de main. He convinced them of the soundness of his plan, and they authorized him on the spot to proceed with the necessary preparations.
General Smith was assigned to the command of the expedition to be formed for his purposes. The brigades of Generals Hazen and Turchin, numbering over 4000 men, and three batteries under Major Mendenhall, were ordered to report to him. The programme was to make the movement partly by water and partly by land. Fifty pontoons built for another bridge were prepared, each to carry twenty-five armed men and the rowers, together with two flat-boats holding forty and seventy-five men respectively. This flotilla would thus be manned by about 1600 men drawn from both brigades, with General Hazen in command, and was to pass down the river at night to the selected points for landing, a distance of nearly nine miles from Chattanooga. The remainder of the infantry and the artillery were to march under cover of night to the proper point on the east bank (the western front of Moccasin Point), whence the infantry was to be hurried in over the pontoons, directly after the landing of Hazen's men, while the guns remained to cover by their fire, if necessary, the operations of the joint forces. Complete surprise was, of course, the main condition of success.
General Smith invited me to accompany him on the expedition, and I gladly accepted. The preparations were pushed day and night, and with as much secrecy as possible. Even the brigade commanders learned the real purpose only the day before the expedition took place. As a number of boats had yet to be built and nearly all the oars to be made and the men instructed in rowing, it was not until the evening of the 26th that everything was ready. I was notified to join General Smith at midnight, and was promptly on hand. He kindly furnished me with a mount for the occasion. I had enjoyed a long sleep before starting and felt fresh enough for the night's adventures. We crossed over the bridge to the north side at about one o'clock, and had a good deal of difficulty in finding our way. Fortunately it did not rain, but it was very dark, and the very bad road was blocked by Turchin's command and the artillery. But we reached the landing-place of the ferry (which in ordinary times ran to the mouth of the gorge opposite) by two o'clock, dismounted and stretched on the ground, awaiting developments. Absolute silence was enjoined in order not to excite the attention of the enemy. No lights or fires were permitted. It was really remarkable how quiet the 3000 men and hundreds of animals, that bivouacked huddled together near the bank, were kept for the next few hours. Not a sound was heard by the rebel pickets, as was subsequently learned, though they were only about a quarter of a mile from us,
The flotilla was manned by one o'clock, but did not get under way until 3 A.M. The fifty-two boats moved noiselessly out in long procession. It was found directly that the current would carry them along without the use of oars. After floating down for three miles, the boats came in sight of the first rebel picket fires, but, by keeping well up the east bank, were not discovered by the enemy until the first boat touched the other bank, when a few shots, which were returned from the flotilla, were fired at them. This was the first sign to our party that the boats had reached their destination. It was then nearly five o'clock. I had fallen asleep leaning against a tree, but was aroused by the stir about me. We saw nothing but the signal fires just lighted by our side to indicate the landing-points, but we heard the noises caused by the disembarkation, as well as the commands of officers. In about twenty minutes, sharp musketry was again heard and continued for some time. We inferred that the rebel grand guard was attempting to drive our men into the river. Our anxiety was relieved by the appearance of several boats which, having discharged their loads, came to carry over Turchin's men. More and more boats followed them, and the passage over was affected with such regularity and rapidity that by daylight all the infantry and even a section of artillery were on the west bank. Towards dawn some rebel guns had been brought up and threw a number of shells at the boats, but without doing any damage or interrupting the transfer.
I crossed over with General Turchin on one of the last boats, and soon ascertained that General Smith's plan had been successfully carried out in every detail. We stepped on the bank, a short distance to the right of the mouth of the gorge at which the first landing was effected, and near which stood the small house of the ferryman, the only human habitation in sight. The gorge formed the bed of a small creek then running so full that it could be crossed only by a foot-bridge of a single log over which our men had to pass in single file. The gorge was just wide enough for the stream and an ordinary road hugging it closely and running up and over the ridge, and the slopes on each side were very abrupt and difficult of ascent. The summit was sharp and but a few feet wide. These hills fringed a valley over a mile wide, partially cultivated, and enclosed to the west by the high parallel range of the Raccoon Mountain.
Hazen and Turchin were to take the hills respectively to the left and right of the gorge. Fifty men of the Twenty-third Kentucky, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Foy of that regiment, having landed first, quickly moved up the road about a quarter of a mile to the crest, and commenced building breastworks, after throwing out some skirmishers. Shortly afterwards the latter reported the approach of a force of the enemy. They turned our detachment and compelled it to fall back until they came upon more of our troops under Colonel Langdon of the First Ohio. A stand was then made, the enemy were checked and finally driven off. It was ascertained that the rebel body charged with guarding the river consisted of three small regiments of Law's brigade of Longstreet's corps, with three pieces of artillery; but they were so scattered along the river that only 150 men attacked Foy's men. They left six dead and a number of wounded. We lost less than forty in all and captured the rebel camp, some cattle and a lot of forage. Our forces then occupied the ridge to the right and left, according to programme, and fortified themselves as strongly as possible with breastworks and abattis. As soon as the last troops had crossed over, the construction of a pontoon bridge was commenced, and pushed so energetically that it was completed before dark. I was one of the first to recross on it and make my way back to Chattanooga, and reached my quarters very tired and hungry at seven.
The good news I brought was sent by General Willich to the regiments of his brigade and to the other brigade commanders, and was welcomed with much joy in the camps. The achievement at Brown's Ferry was a great step towards the unlocking of the river route to Bridgeport, but it could not bear the full desired fruit without such further movements on our part as would prevent the enemy from rendering the position gained useless by again obstructing navigation from other points on the left bank, between the Ferry and Bridgeport. The only way to accomplish this effectually was to shut him out from the approaches to the river by the valley of Lookout Creek, or, in other words, by occupying it ourselves. This was to be Hooker's task. It was intended that he should execute it simultaneously with the other move. He was ordered to concentrate his command for this purpose some days before General Smith's expedition was authorized; but if Dana's report of October 23 to Secretary Stanton can be believed, he was laggard about this on the ground that his wagon trains had not yet arrived. He did not commence the movement until the morning of the 27th, the very time the expedition was landing at the Ferry. Dana, who went to Bridgeport to accompany Hooker, wired thence on that day to his superior that the General was in an unfortunate state of mind towards the plan he was to execute, finding fault, criticising, dissatisfied, and truculent. Hooker's force was to consist of Schurz's and Steinwehr's divisions of the Eleventh Corps, under General Howard, and Geary's second division of the Twelfth Corps. He was strengthened, moreover, by two brigades of General Palmer's division, which started on the night of October 24 from Chattanooga to join him by way of Rankin's Ferry.
Hooker's troops were ordered to move without wagons, with three days rations and forage, and sixty rounds on their persons. They passed directly over and crossed the Tennessee from Bridgeport by a pontoon bridge, with Steinwehr's division in the lead, and followed the road along the base of Sand Mountain to Shellmound, where they entered the valley of Running Water Creek, up which they marched to Whiteside, where they went into camp late in the evening. The next morning, the column continued up Running Water Creek to the watershed, and descended through the gorge into the Lookout Valley. It pushed on as far as Wauhatchie without meeting any opposition; but, a short distance from that place, near the junction of the Brown's Ferry and Chattanooga road, the cavalry advance suddenly received fire from rebels concealed in the underbrush on a hill close to the road. The column halted and a brigade was deployed to the left and another to the right of the location of the rebels, in order to cut them off; but the enemy fled across Lookout Creek and set fire to the railroad bridge over it. Resuming the march, our troops became exposed to the fire of the batteries on Lookout Mountain, which commanded that part of the valley; but the shells they threw did no injury. Between four and five, the mouth of Lookout Valley was reached and a junction effected below it by Howard with the command of General Hazen. The Eleventh Corps went into camp less than a mile from Brown's Ferry, with its left resting on the ridge occupied by Hazen, and its right at the base of Raccoon Mountain. Geary's division was directed to encamp near Wauhatchie, three miles from the Twelfth Corps, in a position covering the two roads leading from Lookout Valley to Kelley's Ferry, the first below Brown's.
We had lost but a few men so far, but the enemy did not intend to yield the position of Lookout Valley so easily. They had observed the division of Hooker's force and determined to take advantage of it by a night attack. General Hazen was said at the time to have been so strongly impressed with this danger that he sought General Hooker and urged him to concentrate, but without effect. Hooker considered an attack improbable, and the control of the roads to Kelley's Ferry too important for any risk. General Geary's division consisted of three very weak brigades numbering together not over 1500 men. This division commander had noticed that his movements and numbers were clearly observable from the rebel signal-station on Lookout Mountain; moreover, very active signalling from it made him apprehend that something was contemplated against him during the night, and he therefore exercised extra precaution in posting his pickets and grand guards. But as Howard's corps had apparently cleared the valley of the enemy to the north, he assumed that any move upon him would come from the south, and he guarded against surprise mainly from that direction. His men slept on their arms, with their cartridge-boxes on. Their rest was not disturbed until nearly eleven o'clock, when some picket firing led General Geary to have the whole camp aroused. All was quiet again until after midnight, when the discharge of the guns of our pickets to the north and east gave warning of the approach of the enemy from the side he was least expected. General Geary had barely time to form a line when a heavy body fell upon his left, firing and cheering.
Lieutenant-General Longstreet, commanding the left of the investing army, was ordered on October 27 to dislodge our troops from their new position at Brown's Ferry. While observing it with General Bragg from Lookout Mountain, he was apprised of the approach of Hooker's column. Repairing to a nearer point of observation, they watched the march of Howard's corps down the valley and saw Geary's division, which they took to be the rear guard, come to a halt. They made a correct estimate of the strength of both bodies, and saw in the long distance separating them their opportunity for swooping down upon and destroying the smaller one. General Law's brigade, a detachment of which had been encountered by Howard's cavalry advance, already lay in concealment behind one of the low short ridges traversing the Lookout Valley, half way between Howard and Geary. General Longstreet directed the other three brigades of Jenkins's (formerly Hood's) division, which were lying on the east side of the mountain, to concentrate at its base, and to move around it and join Law, who was ordered to advance close to the road between our two bodies. Part of the division was then to move upon Geary, the remainder to prevent the Eleventh Corps from reinforcing him, by blocking the road, and, if circumstances were favorable, to attack and stampede our troops over the river. Otherwise, Jenkins was to withdraw after Geary's destruction. Jenkins moved with three brigades, as ordered, but found it so difficult to work around the mountain that he did not reach his destination before midnight. Law's and Robertson's brigades were to hold the position occupied by Law, Bratton's was to surprise Geary, and Benning's to be stationed within reinforcing distance of Bratton. The main reliance was on the panic which they expected to produce on our side by the night surprise.
Bratton attacked with the Hampton Legion and Fifth South Carolina on the right, and the First, Second, and Sixth South Carolina and Palmetto Sharpshooters on the left. His line advanced within short range before firing, when a hot exchange of musketry ensued. The enemy tried to force first our left, then our right and centre. Bratton asserts that he drove part of our line through its camp and beyond the trains behind it; but Geary insists that not a foot was yielded at any point, and that every rebel forward move was repelled. He admits, however, that the Hampton Legion almost succeeded in gaining the road to Kelley's Ferry in his rear, but they were caught in flank and driven back with considerable loss in killed and wounded. The enemy had no artillery, but our division battery kept up an incessant shower of grape and canister upon the assailants at short range. The fighting continued till after three o'clock, when our men's cartridge-boxes were nearly empty. Fortunately, the hostile fire then slackened, and the rebels gave up the struggle and withdrew from the field, leaving their severely wounded behind. Geary naturally claimed a decided victory, but it appears conclusively from the rebel official reports that Bratton was ordered to retire by General Jenkins in consequence of what had happened in the meantime to the brigades of Law and Robertson.
The sudden and heavy firing towards Wauhatchie was heard and its meaning at once understood by General Hooker, who immediately sent a direct order to Schurz's division, which was encamped close to his headquarters, to hasten to the aid of Geary, and, at the same time, notify General Howard of this order, with the further one to double-quick Steinwehr's in the same direction. The two divisions were promptly under arms. General Schurz, after making sure that his three brigades were ready to move, put himself at the head of the leading brigade under Brigadier-General Tyndale. The corps commander joined him and rode with him for a time. The column moved, with flankers on each side, in bright moonlight. After marching for half a mile, the left flankers were attacked, and the head of the column received a heavy volley from a hidden force, wounding one of Schurz's staff at his side and several men. The leading regiment stopped and a few shots were fired in return, when the march was resumed. Schurz then learned that his other two brigades, which he had supposed to be following Tyndale's closely, had been halted some distance behind by order of General Hooker. About the same time, he received an order from the latter, by an aide-de-camp, to take from the enemy and hold a height to his left, commanding the gap in the spur of hills through which the main road to Chattanooga turns to the east. Tyndale's men were formed and climbed up the steep slope and speedily drove the rebels from the intrenched crest after a short engagement, and remained in that position. This encounter was with Robertson's brigade, which formed the left of the rebel line on the hills.
Meantime, Steinwehr's division had a similar experience. After being under way for a short time, its head also received a volley from another hill flanking the Chattanooga road on the north. Howard ordered the height to be taken, and Steinwehr assigned the task to Smith's brigade. A line of three small regiments, not exceeding 700 men in all, made for the hill and ascended it under severe fire, without returning it, trusting to their bayonets, as ordered. As they reached the crest, the enemy fled, leaving their intrenching tools and fifty prisoners in our hands. They proved to be Law's brigade, outnumbering our force by one-half. It was the capture of the two hills which led the rebel division commander to the conclusion that his venture was hopeless, and to his order to all his brigades to fall back beyond Lookout Creek.
After Tyndale's brigade was in position, General Schurz, in order to ascertain why his other brigades were kept behind, rode back and found General Hooker, and, reporting to him that the hill had been occupied, asked for further instructions. The Commanding General asked him curtly why he had not pushed his column to the support of Geary. He answered very properly because only Tyndale's brigade had been at his disposal and employed in taking the hill. He was then ordered to reinforce Geary without delay, and did so; but none of his troops reached the latter before half-past five, over two hours after the rebels had given up the fight with him.
The affair has become known as the “Battle of Wauhatchie,” but hardly deserves to be designated as such, considering the smallness of the number engaged and the losses on each side. Our casualties were 420, of which Geary lost 216 and Smith's brigade 164. We had eleven officers killed, including the two of Geary's battery, which also lost one-third of its men and half of its horses. The rebel loss was much exaggerated in our reports. Even General Thomas gave it as 1500 in his despatches to Washington. In reality, it was not much over 500; that of Bratton's brigade alone was 356. But while this encounter was of small importance in this respect, the effect of it was very consequential for us, as it deterred the enemy from any other attempt to recover control of the left bank, and put our ability to hold the place beyond all doubt, and thus gave us the undisputed use of the river route for supplying Chattanooga. The rebel surprise was well planned, but turned out only another of the many instances of night attacks (owing to the great difficulty of managing them properly, especially in a broken and wooded country), becoming more hurtful to the assailants than to the assailed. If Law's and Robertson's brigades, which were very well placed for preventing Howard from succoring Geary, had attacked determinedly, instead of remaining more on the defensive, the result would probably have been different. Even as it was, they kept Howard's two divisions from giving aid to Geary until he had saved himself by the gallant struggle of his command. The passiveness of Benning's brigade, which does not seem to have fired a shot, has never been explained.
General Bragg was bitterly disappointed by the failure of his best division, numbering fully 5000 men, as he said in his report to the War Department, and pitted, as they were, against “parts of the 11th and 12th Corps, troops which have more notoriety for their want of steadiness under fire than anything else. The officers do not seem to have appreciated a night attack. It should have been made with great vigor and promptness, and completed before the enemy could have time to know our purposes. . . . The reports of Generals Jenkins and Law conflict, each apparently claiming that the other was at fault.” Bragg ascribed the miscarriage directly to the jealousy of these two generals.
On our side, the affair had a painful sequel. As has been seen, although General Hooker promptly issued orders, as soon as the firing was heard, to reinforce Geary with the whole of Howard's corps, not a man reached Geary until long after his fighting was over. My narrative shows how this happened. But, strange to say, General Hooker, who was solely responsible for it, committed the outrageous injustice in his official report of charging General Schurz and one of his brigade commanders, by implication, with disobedience of orders in not going promptly to the relief of Geary, as ordered. The censured generals did not see Hooker's report until January, but then at once made application for courts of inquiry. General Schurz obtained one, before which the facts were proved by the most conclusive evidence to be just as I have related them. The result of the investigation was a complete exoneration of the division commander and his subordinate and a thorough humiliation of Hooker, whose conduct was explained at the time by his being under the influence of liquor during the engagement. Another explanation is that he had hated Schurz ever since the battle of Chancellorsville, and that the utterly unfounded charge was probably due tovindictive malice.
Preparations for the Offensive .—1863
THE general headquarters learned of the fighting at Wauhatchie within two hours after its commencement. The news caused great uneasiness, which was allayed, however, before daylight by the tidings of the repulse of the enemy. Generals Grant and Thomas set out in the early morning for Lookout Valley, via Brown's Ferry, after ordering two brigades to reinforce Hooker. They returned after noon, satisfied that Bragg could not recover the positions gained by us. They found the approaches to Brown's Ferry already well protected by the erection of connecting redoubts, under the direction of General Smith, on the ridge held by Hazen and Turchin. Hooker was also rapidly intrenching on a well-chosen line. General Palmer's two brigades, which had been detained by difficulties in crossing the river, were about to join with them. The force available in Lookout Valley for meeting a new attack numbered nearly 25,000, and was ample for the purpose. Moreover, the rest of the army at Chattanooga was within supporting distance.
Reports of the night fight, more or less exaggerated, spread rapidly through the camps around the town and produced general rejoicing. It instantly revived the spirit of the troops, as it was generally understood to mean nothing less than the definite laying of the spectre of famine and the quick restoration of full rations. This general elation prevailed, in spite of the steady fire which the enemy kept up all day, from four guns on Lookout Mountain, as though to vent his anger at Jenkins's discomfiture in the Lookout Valley. An ocular demonstration that a return to plenty might confidently be expected was made that very day. One of the two disabled boats which had fallen into our hands had been repaired, and was now got ready to pass down the river in order to carry supplies between Bridgeport and Brown's Ferry. As the rebel batteries upon Lookout Mountain completely swept the horseshoe bend of the river by which Moccasin Point is formed, the boat had to run the gauntlet of their shell and shot. Midnight was therefore fixed for the daring attempt. I went to the landing near that hour, to witness the start, and found a crowd of officers already there. The boat was manned by volunteers with experience in steamboating. It got off soon after the appointed time, with our silent good wishes. After it had been under way for about twenty minutes, the stillness of the night was suddenly broken by reports of single shots and volleys from small arms, followed in less than a minute by the reverberation of the fire of heavy guns. We thus knew the craft had been discovered, and trembled for the crew. But in less than an hour later, three whistles — the agreed signal — told us that it was safe after all, when we broke out into three grateful cheers. The boat was not hit by heavy missiles, but received a shower of bullets, one of which perforated a steam-pipe. This did not, however, impede its progress down the river, and the damage was easily repaired. It took on a load at Bridgeport and started on the up-trip the same day. We learned the next morning that the boat which had been captured and repaired at Bridgeport had come up and landed a heavy cargo at Brown's Ferry the evening before. The two boats and the barges they could tow could bring up between 700 and 800 tons a day, or more than the daily consumption of the army. Notwithstanding the high stage of water, the natural obstructions between Brown's and Kelley's Ferries caused so much trouble and loss of time that the boats at first ascended no higher than Kelley's, eight miles by wagon road from Brown's. But the road became so bad by severe use and rain that the boats, after a few days, again ran to Brown's. Complete relief of the army, however, remained thenceforth assured.
The credit due for General Smith's achievement was given him by General Thomas in a very complimentary general order issued on November 1. General Hooker's command also received special recognition in another, dated November 7, in which this passage (rather overdone, considering that we suffered scarcely any losses in taking the hills) occurs: “The bayonet charge of Howard's troops, made up the sides of a steep and difficult hill over 200 feet high, completely routing and driving the enemy from his barricades on its top, and the repulse by Geary's division of greatly superior numbers who attempted to surprise him, will rank among the most distinguished feats of arms of this war.” In another respect, Generals Grant and Thomas had so much ground for dissatisfaction with the behavior of General Hooker that he would not have been distinguished by that order if they could have helped it under the army rules entitling the superior to a share of the glory actually achieved by a subordinate.
As shown by his report of October 26 to the General-in-chief, General Grant at first had some doubts of the possibility of sustaining the army at Chattanooga, and discussed the contingency of leaving the defence of the place to part of it and moving the bulk nearer to regular supplies. With a view to this, General Smith was ordered to resume work on the fortifications, which had been allowed to lag owing to the all but continuous rain, and push it to completion, which he agreed to do within three weeks, so that 10,000 men could hold the place against any hostile force. In the same report, Grant gives expression to his strong apprehension that the enemy would have a large force up the river and cross it between Blythe's Ferry and Cotton Port, thirty to forty miles northeast of Chattanooga, and then repeat Bragg's former movement upon our communications via McMinnville. In that case, the weak condition of our artillery horses and our deficient supplies would prevent the army from following the enemy. This fear led him to send orders to General Sherman to drop the repair work he was doing on the railroad along the Tennessee and push eastward with his troops as quickly as possible. In explanation, he stated that the enemy was evidently moving a large force towards Cleveland L (a railroad centre twenty-five miles east of Chattanooga), and might break through our lines and move on Nashville, in which event his (Sherman's) troops would be the only available forces that could beat them there. He added that, with Sherman's command at Chattanooga before the enemy crossed the Tennessee, we could turn their position so as to force them back and avoid the possibility of a northward move that winter. General Grant was misinformed as to the alleged rebel movement. Bragg had not stirred at that time, but it turned out that soon afterwards he decided upon a diversion to the east.
The alarming news was brought to the army headquarters by some of our spies from the rebel camps that Longstreet had started with a large force for East Tennessee. As it was confirmed from other sources on the next day, and as the movement doubtless threatened great danger to General Burnside, General Grant at once considered with General Thomas the possibility of either attacking Bragg's position or moving against his communications to the northeast, in order to bring about the recall of Longstreet. Grant thought that Bragg had only 30,000 men left on our front, while Thomas's estimate was 40,000. After carefully weighing all the circumstances, the two generals came reluctantly to the conclusion that nothing aggressive could be safely undertaken before Sherman's advent. Renewed orders to hasten his movements were sent.
The regular flow of sufficient supplies for men and animals, the fruit of our successes at Brown's Ferry and in the Lookout Valley, freed the minds of Generals Grant and Thomas from all doubts as to our ability to remain in Chattanooga. The approach of Sherman further promising enough strength for the resumption of the offensive, the two commanders now entered upon plans for raising the siege. It was clear that to make Bragg withdraw by long-distance strategic movements was out of the question, owing to the nearness of the inclement season, the impossibility of accumulating sufficient supplies, and the condition of our draft animals. There was no other way than to drive off the enemy by direct aggressive operations. Perceiving this, the generals were receptive of suggestions which General Smith was ready to make to this end. After repeated and close observations of the ground, the engineer-in-chief was convinced that the northern end of Missionary Ridge, from the tunnel by which the Chattanooga & Cleveland Railroad passes under it to Chickamauga Creek, was not occupied by the enemy; that a passage of the Tennessee could therefore be forced at the mouth of the creek, the terminal heights of the ridge seized, and the rebel left thereby turned. Having satisfied himself by a personal reconnoissance that the topographical conditions were correctly represented, General Grant resolved to attempt the seizure of the position described, and directed all necessary preparations to be made as quickly as possible. The operation was not to be undertaken, however, before the advent of the reinforcements under General Sherman, for whose fine troops a leading part was reserved. With them there would certainly be sufficient numerical power for a decisive blow. According to the official returns, the effective strength of the Army of the Cumberland, at the end of October, was, without cavalry: 4th Army Corps, 19,781 officers and men on duty; 11th Corps, 6152; 12th Corps, 9211; 14th Corps, 19,220; reserve artillery, 1219 — or nearly 56,000; and fully half as many again were being led towards Chattanooga by Sherman, making a total of between 85,000 and 90,000.
It is now time to speak in detail of Sherman's doings. When General Grant received orders to send all the troops he could spare to the aid of Rosecrans, General John E. Smith's division of General McPherson's Seventeenth Corps was going up the Mississippi to join General Steele's command, for an expedition up the Arkansas River. The division was ordered to disembark at Memphis. Next, General Sherman, whose Fifteenth Corps was lying along the Big Black River about twenty miles east of Vicksburg, was directed to send one of his divisions at once to that town, for immediate embarkation. He detached the first division, under General Osterhaus, and it marched immediately. The following day, the corps commander was ordered to report in person to General Grant at Vicksburg. He was there told that he and his corps would be sent to Eastern Tennessee, except one division which was to remain on the Black River; but, as a substitute for it, Smith's division of the other corps, already up the river, would be placed under his orders. His first division embarked on the 23d, but the second and fourth were delayed some days by the want of boats. General Sherman started on September 27 and reached Memphis on October 2. He found his instructions from General Halleck, according to which he was to conduct the troops that had come up the river and all others that could be spared from Western Tennessee to Athens, on the Tennessee River, following the railroad and repairing it as he moved. From Athens, he was to report by letter for orders to General Rosecrans as Commander of the Army of the Cumberland. Osterhaus's division had already been moved by rail to Corinth, and Smith's was being moved to that point. Finding that, owing to the limited supply of rolling-stock, it would take weeks to get all the rest of his troops off by rail, General Sherman shipped only his guns and wagons and made the men and animals march. On the 16th, his whole force was assembled at Corinth and reached Iuka on the 19th. Here the railroad repairing commenced, making further progress slow. The first and second divisions led, under the command of F. P. Blair, Jr., and constantly skirmished with mounted enemies. Being ordered to drive the rebels beyond Tuscumbia, they had a considerable fight with them at Cane Creek, and occupied the town on October 27.
On October 24, an aide-de-camp of General Grant personally delivered to General Sherman despatches conveying the first information that General Grant had been put in command of the three departments and armies of the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Ohio, and that Sherman himself had been appointed to the command of the Department and Army of the Tennessee. He at once issued general orders placing West Tennessee under General Hurlbut, and Mississippi under General McPherson, and ordered the former to select 8000 men from the best troops of the Sixteenth Corps and send them under General G. M. Dodge after him. While his fourth division was crossing the Tennessee at Eastport by the use of two gunboats and a scow, a messenger arrived who had floated down the river in a boat, and brought General Grant's order of October 24, already mentioned. It had been sent to General Crook, who had forwarded it by the water route — a rather risky venture, it would seem, but successful in this case. The order was executed instantly, the two divisions called back to Eastport, the only practicable crossing, the railroad work abandoned, and every nerve and muscle strained to expedite the further march to Bridgeport.
The leading division, with General Sherman at the head, reached Florence on November 1. Marching on to Rogersville and the Elk River, the column found the latter impassable and was obliged to follow it up to Fayetteville. Here, orders reached Sherman from Grant to march to Bridgeport with the Fifteenth Corps and to leave General Dodge's command at Pulaski, to guard the railroad from Columbia to Decatur. Accordingly, General Blair was ordered to march with the second and third divisions by way of Newmarket and Bellefonte, while, of the other divisions, the first moved by Decherd and Stevenson, and Smith's by University Place and Sweesden's Cove. General Sherman himself accompanied the latter, and, pushing on in advance of it, reached Bridgeport on November 13. Having reported his arrival by wire to General Grant, he was desired to come to Chattanooga at once. He took the up-river boat the next evening and reported at the general headquarters on the morning of the 15th. He received a most hearty welcome. The proposed plan of operations was fully explained to him. His four divisions were to come to Chattanooga, three direct and the other after a diversion to Trenton in the Lookout Valley, in order to create the impression upon the enemy that the flanking movement of Rosecrans in September was to be repeated. His troops were not to enter Chattanooga, but to move past the town, concealed as much as possible, up the right bank, to a position opposite the mouth of Chickamauga Creek, and there, at the concerted time, cross the Tennessee on a pontoon-bridge, seize the northern outrunners of Missionary Ridge, and thence turn the rebel right. His command was to perform the principal part in the proposed operations, which were to be preceded and accompanied by supporting movements by the Army of the Cumberland, as well as by Hooker's column.
November 15 was mainly spent by the three commanding generals in a discussion of the plan, with the aid of maps and topographical sketches. The next day, they rode, under the guidance of the engineer-in-chief, to several commanding points, from which the visitor easily obtained a very clear comprehension of the positions of friends and enemies, spread out like a panorama before him. He was made fully acquainted not only with the character of the task assigned to him, but also with the anxious desire of all he conferred with for its speedy accomplishment. He could hardly help discovering a feeling that the approach of his divisions had not been as rapid as it might and should have been, and he took occasion to demonstrate that, ever since he had received the order to push through with the least delay, he had done his best to accelerate their movements. The prevailing impatience, as he himself described this feeling, was chiefly due to the great and growing solicitude for the fate of General Burnside and his command in Eastern Tennessee. All he saw and heard at Chattanooga “inspired me,” to use his own dutiful words, “with renewed energy.” He telegraphed immediately to his fourth division, which had arrived at Bridgeport, to prepare for the march via Shellmound to Trenton. A perfect understanding having been reached with his fellow-commanders, he started on the return trip on the morning of the 16th. He rode to Kelley's Ferry, and was greatly disappointed to find that he was too late for the day's down-boat. Loath to lose precious twenty-four hours, he, nothing daunted, embarked with his staff officers on a small boat, with a steersman and four rowers, and started down the river. It was a very hazardous venture, not only be cause rebel scouts were still making their appearance on the banks, but because neither the man at the helm nor the oarsmen had had experience on the river. But the valuable load was safely landed late in the evening at Bridgeport, and thenceforth the General strove, day and night, for the redemption of his promise to General Grant to have his legions on the ground, ready for the struggle set for the 20th.
I was apprised of General Sherman's coming before his arrival, but I made no effort to see him during his brief stay. I knew that he had no time to spare for anything else than his duties. I was certain, too, that he would refuse to see me or any other correspondent. His hostility to the press had become more and more pronounced, and, in striking evidence of it, there were circulating at the time some vehement outbursts from him against it. In one letter to a publisher he had said that he thought praise from a newspaper was contamination, and he would willingly agree to give half his pay to have his name kept out of the public prints. In another, to the editors of the Memphis Bulletin, he expressed himself thus:
I don't think you can conceive the mortification a soldier feels at the nauseating accounts given to the public as history. That affair at Collierville [an attempt to capture the town of that name by the rebel guerrilla Chalmers] should have been described in these words: “Chalmers tried to take Collierville, and did not.” But ridiculous, nonsensical descriptions have followed each other so fast that you ought to be ashamed to print Collierville. Now I am again in authority over you, and you must heed my advice. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press, precious relics of former history, must not be construed too largely.
In the face of these fulminations, it naturally seemed the part of discretion to keep away from the General.
The diversion of Longstreet naturally inspired our commanders with confidence in the success of the impending attempt to force the enemy from Missionary Ridge. By it the Confederates themselves paved the way for our eventual triumph. It seems the more incomprehensible that they should have taken the false step of dividing their army as they were fully aware, notwithstanding our efforts to conceal the arrival of our reinforcements, that Hooker's command had already joined us and that Sherman's columns were rapidly approaching. They determined, indeed, in spite of this knowledge, to hurry Longstreet to East Tennessee to crush Burnside, and get him back before Sherman could reach Chattanooga. Their hardihood became our opportunity. Here is the story of their folly.
About November 1, a camp rumor reached Longstreet that he was to be sent against Burnside. Two days later, General Bragg summoned him to a council, at which Lieutenant-General Hardee and Major-General Breckinridge were also present, for a general discussion of possible move ments by their army. Various operations were proposed, and finally one into East Tennessee came up for consideration. Longstreet pronounced in favor of it, provided it could be executed secretly and with great rapidity and with no less than 20,000 men, and provided further that the remainder of the army would be withdrawn to a strong position behind the Chickamauga until the return of the expeditionary force. (This is Longstreet's version of what occurred at the council, but General Hardee, when requested in writing, some months later, to confirm it, replied that he did not recollect the suggestion of the temporary withdrawal behind the Chickamauga.) It was decided to try a coup against Burnside. Longstreet was to undertake it with two divisions, against which he claims to have protested as too small a force for quick success, but he was overruled and yielded. Marching orders were issued, and the two divisions, with an extra complement of artillery, numbering not much over 16,000 men, were under way by the 5th. But, owing to all sorts of unforeseen impediments and unexpected delays, the march was not rapid, but very slow, so that the rebels did not appear near Knoxville, behind whose fortifications Burnside had concentrated most of his command, until the 18th, and actually delivered the famous unsuccessful attack upon the place only on the 29th.
A decided improvement had taken place in our life since the raising of the blockade of the river. Mails and newspapers arrived again daily and banished the oppressive feeling of isolation from the rest of the world. While the mass of the army was, of course, ignorant of the plans of the commanding generals, the presence of Grant and the visit of Sherman were generally looked upon as sure indications that something was up, and that action would soon supersede our passiveness. Aware as I was of the reconnoitring of General Smith and his excursions with the commanding generals to the north of the town, I could guess their intentions without asking any questions. The dread of being shut up maybe for the winter months in Chattanooga, and the long continuance of the prevailing monotony, had greatly discouraged me, but the prospect of stirring developments restored my buoyancy. The weather in November, too, was more favorable. We had heavy fogs instead of all but steady rain; and the sun shone now and then in the middle of the day. I was lucky enough, in the second week of the month, to secure the use of the horse of a field officer during his furlough, so that I could get necessary exercise and spend my time more agreeably in making visits. The long evenings and the want of lights were trying at first, but, with the reappearance of candles, card parties helped to pass the time pleasantly. Within a week after the coup at Brown's Ferry, not only were full rations restored, but sutlers' stores were available to supplement them with solid and liquid luxuries. Even fresh meat could occasionally be had. Fritz rejoiced in the enlarged opportunity for demonstrating his mastership in the culinary art. Instead of three or four, he had now many strings to his bow, and the sameness of fare with which General Willich and myself had had to content ourselves, was followed by a savory variety in our meals that wouldhave done credit to a first-class restaurant.
The Battle above the Clouds.—1863
THE preparations of the engineer-in-chief for the coming reckoning with Bragg were of two kinds. One was the completion of the defensive works at Chattanooga. Heavy details of men were made and the work pushed day and night, and, on the day fixed for the attack on the enemy, the fortifications were pronounced in a sufficiently advanced condition to defy any assault. The other was the collection of enough material for two bridges. One was to be thrown over the Tennessee, which was 1300 feet wide at the selected point, and another across the Chickamauga, at its mouth, of a width of 180 feet. The spare pontoons scattered between Chattanooga and Bridgeport were gathered together by strenuous efforts, and the two sawmills of the town put in operation to furnish the rest of the material wanted. It was decided, in order to screen the movement from the observation of the enemy, to haul the pontoons by land to a point opposite the mouth of the North Chickamauga, some six miles north of Chattanooga, and to float and load them there with the first landing force and row them to the landing-point. On November 20, the boats were in the river, provided with oars and crews. Then a formidable obstacle to the laying of the pontoon-bridges arose. The Tennessee in its actual swollen stage brought down great quantities of heavy drift-wood, which broke both the pontoon-bridges at Chattanooga and Brown's Ferry. This naturally gave rise to the fear that it would not be possible to throw the two bridges for Sherman, or to maintain them, if thrown, long enough for the passage of the troops.
General Sherman strove hard to have the whole of the Fifteenth Corps opposite the mouth of the Chickamauga in time to strike on November 20, but found it beyond his power. General Ewing's division was the first to cross at Bridgeport, but made the detour to Trenton. General John E. Smith's followed next and reached its destination by the above date. But Generals Morgan L. Smith's and Osterhaus's were then still struggling with the badly cut-up and encumbered road between Shellmound and Brown's Ferry. A serious oversight had been committed in allowing the heavy division trains to follow each division, instead of moving the infantry and artillery ahead of them all. General Grant was greatly surprised when he learned of the blunder, but generously assumed the responsibility for it, though Sherman deserved the direct blame. Rain, too, again set in and impeded the marching. General Sherman reached General Hooker's headquarters on the afternoon of the 20th, and there found General Grant's order to him to make the attack the next day; but he was unwillingly obliged to ask for a postponement, which was reluctantly granted. The second division (Gen. M. L. Smith's) succeeded in crossing at Brown's Ferry only on the 21st. Ewing's had marched down Lookout Valley from Trenton and was to cross next, but, owing to the repeated breaking of the bridge by the drift-wood, did not get over till the 23d. So much damage was caused to the bridge after this that it would apparently take several more days to get Osterhaus's division on the other side. Hence, General Sherman felt it his duty to offer to undertake the movement against Missionary Ridge with the three divisions already over, and to let the other operate under the orders of General Hooker, provided a substitute was placed at his disposal. General Grant sanctioned this proposition, and Osterhaus acted under Hooker during the whole of the subsequent operations. On the afternoon of the 23d, Sherman's troops, reinforced by Jefferson C. Davis's division, were concentrated behind the hills opposite the mouth of the Chickamauga, ready for action. It should be mentioned here that the three divisions of the Fifteenth Corps were under the direct orders of Major-General Blair through the ensuing crisis. He had been appointed by General Sherman to this command on October 25, and had exercised it since, although Major-General Logan had been transferred by order of the President on October 28 from the command of the Seventeenth to that of the Fifteenth Corps. The reason was that General Blair intended to take his seat in Congress at the coming session, but continued at his post in order to allow General Logan to take a furlough.
How much Sherman took the delay to heart, and how clearly he appreciated the demands of the situation, is well shown by the following passages from a despatch of his to General Grant on November 23, from opposite the mouth of the Chickamauga: “I need not express how I felt, that my troops should cause delay. . . . As you ask for positive information, I answer: No cause on earth will induce me to ask for longer delay, and to-night at midnight we move. . . . Every military reason now sanctions a general attack. Longstreet is absent, and we expect no more reinforcements; therefore we should not delay another hour, and should put all our strength in the attack.”
According to the plan of operation, all the available force of the Army of the Cumberland, with the exception of the number needed to man the fortifications on the right and centre, were to be concentrated in line on the left, so as to be within reach of connection with Sherman after he had crossed the river. One division should constitute a mobile reserve, ready to move to the support of any part of the line. In order to make up for the detachment of J. C. Davis's division, 7000 strong, placed under Sherman's orders, General Howard was ordered to report to Thomas, and marched on November 22, by the two pontoon-bridges at Brown's Ferry and Chattanooga, into the latter place, and took position behind the Army of the Cumberland. This move was made as ostentatiously as possible, in order to lead Bragg to believe that Sherman's men were crossing at the town, and render him doubtful as to the real point of attack. This ruse proved effective. Our signal officers, who had by long observation managed to understand the rebel signals, read one from the station on the summit of Lookout Mountain to Bragg that a large force, apparently a whole corps, had passed over the bridge into the town. Hooker's command consisted, up to November 20, of the Eleventh Corps, Geary's division of the Twelfth Corps, and the brigades of General Whitaker and Colonel Grose of the first division of the Fourth Corps, which had been sent to reinforce Hooker on his march to Lookout Valley and had been stationed at Shellmound and Whiteside. The two brigades had set out from Chattanooga under General Palmer, but were now commanded by Brigadier-General Charles Cruft.
The detachment of the Eleventh Corps chagrined and irritated Hooker greatly. As I heard at the time from general officers, he openly charged that it was a deliberate scheme to deprive him of all active share in the coming battle and to throw its management entirely into the hands of General Sherman. He asked leave of General Thomas to accompany the Eleventh Corps, on the ground that it was his duty to follow the part of his command going into battle, and received permission to do so. But, before following Howard, he received orders on November 23 to remain in the valley and to make a demonstration as early as possible the next morning against Lookout Mountain. His anger at this was appeased before the close of the same day by the assignment of Osterhaus's division to his command. The three divisions thus placed under his orders had never been united under one command before, and their officers and men were total strangers to each other. General Hooker himself knew only those of Geary's. His total force was a little under 10,000 effectives. To cover the advance of Hooker, the guns in the works on the Brown's Ferry bluffs and a battery of eight Parrott 20-pounders established on Moccasin Point, directly opposite Lookout Point, were ready to open a sweeping cross-fire.
Let us now glance at the situation on the Confederate side. The removal of Lieutenant-Generals Polk and Hill and Major-General Hindman (the latter's restoration to command did not take place until after the culmination of events before Chattanooga) and the detachment of General Buckner led to so many changes in the commanders and so many reformations of commands as to constitute almost an entire reorganization of Bragg's army. There had been numerous changes among the brigadiers, and some consolidations of brigades and transfers of regiments from one to another. The cavalry corps under Major-General Joseph Wheeler, with the four divisions of Wharton, Martin, Armstrong, and Kelly, was mostly off on detached duty, and no part of it became engaged in the coming conflict. After Longstreet's departure with his two Virginia divisions, General Walker's division was attached to the corps of Lieutenant-General Hardee, who assumed command of the whole left, while that of the right was exercised by Major-General Breckinridge. The division of Stevenson was also withdrawn from the latter and transferred to the former. Up to our resumption of the offensive, the rebel lines included the crest of Lookout Mountain, and extended from its western slope around the northern to the eastern, and thence over the valley of Chattanooga Creek to and along Missionary Ridge, to within three-quarters of a mile of Tunnel Hill. The entire front was connected and protected along Missionary Ridge by rifle-pits and breastworks, with emplacements for batteries at suitable points, while on the plain of the Chattanooga Valley, towards Lookout Mountain, redoubts and redans formed part of the defensive works. Stevenson's division lay on the top along the crest of the mountain; next came, down its western slope, Walker's, Stewart's, Bushrod Johnson's, Cleburne's, Bate's; and last Anderson's at the extreme right. The strength of the three rebel infantry corps, including artillery, was, on October 31, according to the official report of the number present in effectives: Longstreet's, 14,674; Cheatham's, 15,181; Breckinridge's, 16,309; Artillery Reserve, 332 — making an aggregate of 46,496. Deducting the 16,000 Longstreet took away with him, the force in our front was reduced to 30,000 men.
Longstreet's expedition, however justifiable it seemed in its inception, proved a great mistake in the light of after events. It is almost beyond belief, but yet a fact, that a further blunder in the same direction was deliberately committed by Bragg on the very eve of our aggressive movements. On November 22, he issued orders to Major-General Cleburne to start at once with his own and Bushrod Johnson's divisions in the wake of Longstreet for East Tennessee. The order was promptly obeyed, and two of Johnson's three brigades embarked the same day by train for Loudon. General Cleburne was superintending the shipment of the other brigade of Johnson and of his own division, the next morning, at Chickamauga Station, some two miles west of Missionary Ridge, when he received an other order from General Bragg, countermanding the previous one, and directing him to stop on the way such of the troops as had already left. He had succeeded in halting Johnson's two brigades at Charleston Station, when a third order reached him to return as quickly as possible and to march the other brigade and his division back to the front at once. As Johnson was preparing to turn back, he received direct instructions from the army headquarters to proceed, which he did, and joined Longstreet. This further diminished the enemy before us by between 2000 and 3000 men. Cleburne was made to camp on the night of the 23d on the eastern base of Missionary Ridge, as a reserve to the army. Cheatham and Walker were absent on leave, and their divisions were respectively commanded by Brigadier-Generals Jackson and Gist; but General Cheatham returned to duty at night on the 24th.
Even before the withdrawal of Longstreet, the Confederate line was altogether too extended for the available force. Its length was fully six miles, and the difficulty of maintaining it was augmented by its windings and ups and downs on the left. Its further attenuation by the detachment of Cleburne's and Johnson's divisions had much increased its weakness. Cleburne's troops were eventually employed in protecting an extension of it to the north. Stewart and Bate were ordered to fill the gap caused by Cleburne's and Johnson's withdrawal, by extending their lines towards each other and drawing up their reserves. But this left them still weak.
The orders to the Army of the Cumberland to get ready for the offensive were already issued on November 18, but, owing to the detention of Sherman, it remained inactive till he was within striking distance. As its main object was to be to second his efforts against the rebel right, the first requirement was to insure communication with him after he had reached the left bank. To this end, Citico Creek, a deep, narrow stream following a crooked course from Missionary Ridge to its confluence with the Tennessee, about half a mile east of the town limits, was bridged during the night of the 22d. Until then the first and third divisions of Granger's Fourth Corps had formed the left, extending from the Tennessee River, within the lines of our advanced rifle-pits, to the Rossville road. The second and third divisions of the Fourteenth Corps adjoined them on the right, their line extending around the fortifications to Chattanooga Creek. The latter corps was now under Major-General John M. Palmer, who was promoted to that command when General Thomas vacated it, not for his military merit, but through the pulling of political strings, against the wish of General Grant and by the partiality of the President, who was an old political crony of the favored general. The two corps received orders at 11 A.M. the next day to move into position for the work expected of them. The infantry had been in good enough condition for weeks for another trial of strength with their old adversaries, but the artillery could hardly have stirred had not teams for the guns been borrowed from Sherman and ferried over the river the day before — a telling exemplification of the effect of the siege on the Army of the Cumberland. The two corps advanced a short distance and then formed with the Fourth Corps in the front line, with Wood's division on the left, extending to near Citico Creek, and Sheridan's on the right. Baird's division of the Fourteenth, refused en échelon, supported Granger's right. Johnson's division was held in readiness under arms in the intrenchments as a mobile column to reinforce any weak point. The Eleventh Corps was massed behind Granger's centre. General Hooker stood still until the next day. Although the accession of Osterhaus to his command had been announced to him, it did not actually take place till then.
General Willich, my host, and I had been in constant expectation ever since the 18th of the order to break camp, and had become very weary of waiting, but this mood gave way to excited rejoicing when the command to move was at last received shortly after 11 A.M. on November 24. In less than half an hour the brigade was in motion. It now consisted of nine regiments; the Eighth Kansas, Sixty-eighth Indiana, Twenty-fifth and Thirty-fifth Illinois, and Fifteenth Wisconsin having been added to it only a short time before, to the General's great satisfaction. Yet the nine regiments numbered not much more than 2000 effectives. Understanding that the two corps would only make a demonstration that day, and that the serious work would not come off till the morrow, I concluded to accompany General Willich, and it so happened that the main task of the day fell to him.
The corps line was completed by half-past one. Wood's division extended without our rifle-pits through the open field in front of the casemated work named Fort Wood. On its right, Sheridan's was posted along a railroad track, with his right resting on another enclosed work. The troops moved into position as deliberately and regularly as though they were forming for a parade. The day being bright, they were in full view of the enemy, whose pickets at a distance of less than a quarter of a mile could be seen to watch them leisurely, with hands in their pockets, apparently wholly unapprehensive of our hostile intent. They were soon undeceived. On our side, too, the grand spectacle was watched from the ramparts of our forts. On those of Fort Wood, Generals Grant, Thomas, Smith, Quartermaster-General Meigs, C. A. Dana, and scores of staff officers were eager observers. At twenty minutes to two, the order to advance was given by bugle signal. Our brigade on the left and Hazen's on the right formed the division front, Beatty s'was in reserve in the rear of Willich. The front brigades were preceded by double lines of skirmishers, and advanced in two lines; the first deployed, the last in double column in the centre, closed en masse. The Eighth Kansas served as our skirmishers.
Shortly before the division started, I learned that something more than a demonstration would devolve upon it. Major-General Granger had been ordered to advance in force to Orchard Knob, a hill rising boldly about 100 feet above the plain northeast of the town and a little over a mile from it and a mile from Missionary Ridge. It had served as an outpost to the enemy since the beginning of the investment. The object was to discover whether the enemy was still in strength before us. On the 20th, General Grant had received a notification under flag of truce from General Bragg, as follows: “As there may still be some non-combatants in Chattanooga, I deem it proper to notify you that prudence would dictate their early withdrawal.” This was considered a mere piece of bluff, and no attention was paid to it. But, on the night of the 22d, a rebel private deserted to our lines and reported that Bragg was falling back. This led to the theory at the general headquarters that the quoted letter might be a ruse to mask his real intention of retreating. The attack upon Orchard Knob was accordingly to test the presence or absence of the enemy.
First some open fields, swampy and difficult to cross in places, and next a wide stretch of heavy timber, intervened between our starting-point and the Knob. Timber covered the latter and a low rocky ridge separated from it by a hollow, and running for nearly a thousand yards to the southeast. Along the crest of this ridge the rebels had protected themselves with rifle-pits and breastworks of logs and stone. Rifle-pits extended also around the east and north base of the Knob, and from it for a mile to Citico Creek and beyond. These defences were concealed and protected by the timber. As we got into motion, our guns in Fort Wood and the next adjacent work, Fort Thomas, opened on the Knob, and their roar inspired us all the way. The rebels made no reply, as they had no artillery in that position. The first shots from small arms were heard within a few minutes. Our skirmishers had come upon the rebel pickets about half-way to the Knob. With their rapid advance, a rattling fire developed, growing noisier as we neared our objective-point; but the brigade line never fired a shot. We had orders to take the Knob proper; Hazen the pits and breastworks on the ridge. Within twenty minutes, we were at and over the pits at the base, and, in a minute more, our men swarmed up the hill and cleared it of the enemy. Our loss was only four killed and ten wounded. Hazen had much harder work. His men re ceived a destructive fire from the sheltered enemy, but, without faltering or firing, rushed up to the breastworks, and, leaping over them, captured nearly all the defenders, consisting of nearly 150 officers and men of the Twenty-eighth Alabama, of Manigault's brigade, with the regimental flag. Our loss was severe — two officers killed and fourteen wounded, twenty-six men killed and 127 wounded — and fell almost entirely upon the Forty-first and Ninety-third Ohio as leading regiments. In the course of the afternoon, the rifle-pits to the left of the Knob were cleared by two regiments of Beatty's brigade, with small loss. Simultaneously, the two divisions of the Eleventh Corps also advanced on Beatty's left, and their skirmishers became briskly engaged as they moved forward. The rebels were forced back beyond the Creek, and the new line designated was occupied and intrenched. Schurz and Steinwehr lost four killed and thirty-two wounded.
Thus, what was intended to be only a reconnoissance in force, had accomplished a decided success in giving us possession of a very important position. The division and corps commanders came up to it as soon as it was carried, and, on recognizing its importance, asked General Thomas for authority to hold it, which, being given, our men were at once set to work intrenching it. The enemy's batteries on Missionary Ridge opened a hot fire of shot and shell upon us and kept it up till nearly dark, but we suffered only one slight casualty. The two brigades labored all night, in relief parties, and by morning a line of rifle-pits and barricades was completed along the whole front of the division. Our brigade also constructed an épaulement on the top of the hill for a six-gun battery. As a rebel attack might be made at any moment, and as it was generally assumed that we would resume the offensive in the morning, I remained at the front for the night. I slept with Willich in a hut quickly made for us by Fritz and the orderlies, with a rubber blanket between me and the ground. Contrary to expectation, we remained quietly in our new position during the whole of the next day and night. A drizzling rain had set in during the night and made our bivouac rather uncomfortable.
General Sherman had kept his promise to begin the crossing of the river during the night of the 23d. General Smith's brigade of his second division marched up the bank under cover of the hills to where the one hundred and sixteen boats lay. They were filled with thirty men each, and at midnight the movement down the river began. On nearing the mouth of the Chickamauga, a small force was landed first, to capture the rebel pickets, which was smartly done, an officer and twenty men being taken and only one escaping. The rest of the brigade was next put ashore above and below the mouth. Then the pontoons, a ferryboat, and another steamboat commenced the transfer of the troops from the opposite bank, and by daylight fully 8000 men and one battery had been brought over and were well intrenched. The work of laying the two pontoon-bridges over the Tennessee and Chickamauga was commenced, and pushed so energetically that both were completed within less than seven hours, notwithstanding the powerful current from the high stage of water. Long's brigade of cavalry, which was to make a dash on the enemy's communications, had passed over the bridge by three o'clock. It succeeded in reaching and burning Tyner's Station, on the Chattanooga and Cleveland railroad, destroying the track and capturing one hundred wagons and two hundred prisoners. Another noteworthy exploit was the seizure, immediately after effecting a landing, of a number of torpedo rafts in the Chickamauga, which the rebels were about to send down the Tennessee for the destruction of our bridges.
General Sherman and staff passed over the bridge directly after the last pontoon was put in, and were gratified to be met on the left bank by General Howard, who had come up along it unopposed, with Buschbeck's brigade of Steinwehr's division, in order to open communication be tween his corps (the extreme left of Thomas) and the Fifteenth Corps. General Howard rode back to his command, but, at the request of General Sherman, left the brigade with him, and it shared the experiences of the Fifteenth Corps.
By noon, Blair's three divisions, with all their artillery and everything else, were on the left bank, and Davis's division was waiting at the east end of the bridge to follow the cavalry. At one o'clock, the march from the river towards Missionary Ridge commenced en échelon, with M. L. Smith's division in the lead on the left, J. E. Smith's as the centre, and Ewing's on the right, with the front of each preceded by swarms of skirmishers. The northern end of the Ridge extends from the railroad tunnel under it for about a mile to the Chickamauga nearly north and south, and forms with that stream and the Tennessee three sides of a square, as it were. The ground enclosed within them is mostly level and consisted at the time of a succession of cleared fields through which the troops made the intervening distance of one and a half miles without much difficulty, although a drizzling rain was coming down. No resistance was met, and, at half-past three, the heights were attained by our skirmishers and soon after occupied in force. Here the Commanding General found that he had been in error in assuming that Missionary Ridge was a continuous, unbroken range. He discovered that his troops had gained only a fore-ridge, so to speak, about a third of a mile to the northwest of and separated from the main ridge by a little valley, and we were still half a mile north of the “Tunnel Hill,” our real aim.
Three brigades, one from each division, were pushed up the fore-ridge. Brigadier-General Lightburn, commanding the one to the left, perceiving that the main ridge had not been reached, of his own accord ordered one of his regiments to occupy the point on it directly in front of him, which it did successfully. Half an hour later, the enemy moved over the valley against our left flank. There was then sharp firing of small arms and artillery for a time, and General Lightburn's advanced troops had to be reinforced by three other regiments. Towards dark, the rebels withdrew, leaving us in our positions, which General Sherman then considered so important that he ordered them fortified during the night. Our casualties were small, but included Brigadier-General Giles A. Smith, a very efficient brigade commander, who received a severe wound. The corps bivouacked in several lines for the night. M. L. Smith's division formed the left; G. A. Smith's brigade resting on the Chickamauga, and Lightburn's on the fore-hill. Next came Alexander's brigade of J. E. Smith's division and Cockerill's brigade of Ewing's division as the centre, and the other brigades of the latter's division and Buschbeck's and Steinwehr's on the right. The two other brigades of J. E. Smith's lay in reserve behind the centre. One of J. C. Davis's brigades was moved up to the reserve, another remained half-way between the front and the bridge, and a third at the latter. The enemy did not molest any part of Sherman's lines during the night. Luckily, it stopped raining and grew clear and bracing before morning. At midnight, orders arrived from General Grant to make an attack at “dawn of day,” with notice that General Thomas would also take the offensive early in the day.
Bragg learned of our passage of the river during the morning, and directed Cleburne, then en route for East Tennessee, to send one of his brigades to protect the railroad bridge over the Chickamauga. When he was informed of our advance upon Missionary Ridge, he at once ordered Cleburne to occupy it, with his remaining three brigades, from Tunnel Hill to its northern extremity. It was in executing this movement that Cleburne's leading brigade of Texas regiments came in collision with Sherman's men. Had our crossing been delayed twenty-four hours, or had Cleburne been started a day earlier, Sherman would doubt less have rushed Tunnel Hill unopposed and Bragg found himself obliged to fight with 6000 less of his best troops. I have searched the Official Records in vain for Bragg's reasons for detaching a second column for East Tennessee, but have not been able to obtain any explanation of it. The movement is likely to remain one of the insoluble mysteries of the Civil War, none the less puzzling because, two days before he issued the marching orders to Cleburne, Bragg telegraphed to Jefferson Davis that Sherman had arrived, and on the strength of this asked for reinforcements. There is good evidence, however, that the rebel Commander-in-chief was under the delusion that a movement was contemplated against his left until he was undeceived by Sherman's appearance on his right. Previous to extending it with Cleburne's command, he had already taken other measures to strengthen his threatened flank by transferring Walker's division (temporarily under General Gist), during the night of the 23d to the 24th, from its position in the Chattanooga Valley to the right, and by putting Lieutenant-General Hardee in command of all the forces on the right.
General Hooker's part in the programme of action for the 24th was to be by far the most dramatic and important. For the better comprehension of the unique performance of his force, which has found its place in history under the original but appropriate name of “Battle above the Clouds,” a description of Lookout Mountain and of the rebel positions upon it is needful. The name “Lookout Mountain” applies not only to the huge headland rising abruptly between the mouths of Chattanooga and Lookout Creeks, but to the entire range running south and southwestwardly from it for a distance of nearly fifty miles, dividing the valleys of the streams mentioned, and affording communication between them through numerous depressions or gaps, by means of mere trails or roads. The mountain in its narrower sense presents three phases, to the north, west, and east. The northern and western are very abrupt and rocky, but furrowed; the eastern is less steep and broken. At the height of 1000 feet above its base, it becomes partially truncated, the recession of the upper portion forming a plateau of cleared and arable land. A mile southward, the “Palisades” tower straight up from 75 to 150 feet, a huge, cliff-like mass of rocks, above which rises the flat peak forming the highest point. There was then a farm on the plateau; the long frame house known from its owner as the White or Cravens house stood near where the western and eastern slopes meet in a sharp angle and form the abrupt northern edge of the mountain, making a conspicuous landmark. Roads came down the valley on both sides of Lookout Creek and passed around the base of the mountain, but only paths led up to the plateau from the northwest; a zigzagging wagon road from Chattanooga Valley ran up the east side to the summit.
On the morning of the 24th, there were six brigades — Walthall's, Jackson's, and Moore's of Cheatham's division, and Pettus's, Brown's, and Cumming's of Stevenson's division distributed over Lookout Mountain for its defence. Major-General Stevenson had assumed command of both divisions when Lieutenant-General Hardee was ordered to the right. Pettus's brigade was on the summit, Brown's guarded the passes from the top to Nickajack Pass ten miles off. Jackson's and Cumming's brigades were stationed along the eastern base. Walthall's and Moore's brigades lay on the western and northern slope, below the Cravens house, on the left and right respectively, and they provided the picket line about two miles long up the east bank of Lookout Creek, in front of Hooker's line.
Hooker's first instructions, “to demonstrate only against the mountain,” were changed so as to require him to take the mountain if his demonstrations proved it practicable. He decided to deliver his main assault directly up the western slope against the rebel left. To climb not far from a thousand feet up the steep, broken, rocky mountainside against the well-sheltered enemy looked like a most formidable task of doubtful issue, but the plan to strike in one direction with all the available force brought success, owing to the scattering of the defenders over the summit and the three sides of the mountain at different heights, which made succor from any one of the rebel positions to any threatened point slow and difficult. On October 31, the present effective strength of Stevenson's division was 3102, and of Cheatham's 5467, or a total of 8569, while Hooker's infantry, after deducting train guards and other detachments, did not much exceed 7500. Hence, if it had been possible to concentrate the Confederates on the west side, the outcome would probably have been different. As it was, the assailants had opposed to them only Walthall's and Moore's brigades of the last-named division — that is, about half their number; according to official returns, only 2694 effectives. General Stevenson having been assigned to higher command, they were led by Brigadier-General J. K. Jackson as division commander.
The line into which our troops moved for the operations of the day extended opposite the western slope behind the hills along the left bank of Lookout Creek. Geary's division was on the ground, but Osterhaus's division marched up from Brown's Ferry that very morning and reported for duty at 7:30 A.M. Whitaker's brigade of Cruft's division had marched on the day before twenty-one miles from Shellmound, and Grose's brigade thirteen miles from Whiteside over bad roads and in heavy rain. They reached the valley in a very fatigued condition, and bivouacked for the night near Hooker's headquarters. During the night, Cruft was ordered to send Whitaker's brigade to Geary, to whom it reported at 6 A.M. and remained under his orders all day. Geary was to work from the right, Cruft with Grose's brigade from the left, and Osterhaus from the centre. The rain ceased during the night, and, as it grew light, the summit of the mountain was found to be entirely concealed in drifting dark clouds, while heavy mists lay like thick veils over its sides. These conditions continued all day. They were a favor of nature, and of the greatest service to us, as they prevented the enemy from discovering any of our movements until we were nearly upon them.
Geary's command was marched up the valley to a point about two and a half miles from the mouth of Lookout Creek, where it was massed behind a mill soon after seven o'clock. The creek was found too deep to be forded. The pioneers were ordered to bridge it under cover of two companies. By a skilful manœuvre the rebel pickets on the other bank, with their reserve to the number of forty-two, including an officer, were surprised, and surrendered without firing a shot. A small detachment was sent up a trail bearing to the southwest, in order to mislead the enemy as to the real direction of our attack. It soon skirmished with the enemy. The bridge was finished by half-past eight, and the four brigades crossed rapidly. They were formed in three lines, somewhat en échelon, with eight regiments in front, four regiments about 350 yards to the rear as the second line, and two regiments as the third at a further distance of about 100 yards. Whitaker's brigade formed and followed as the reserve. The distance to be traversed from the starting-point to the plateau on the mountain was not less than three miles. At nine o'clock, the whole line moved forward, preceded by a heavy chain of skirmishers. For a mile and a quarter, no enemy but the most serious difficulties of ground were encountered. The mountainside sloped at an angle of nearly forty-five degrees, and was deeply furrowed by a succession of ravines of almost perpendicular ascents and descents. The troops not only had to do hard climbing, but, time and again, were creeping on all fours. Before ten o'clock, the hostile pickets were encountered and driven back for a mile upon their supports and Walthall's brigade, which awaited our attack in a position on the plateau protected naturally by thickly scattered rocks, and artificially by abattis and breastworks of sand, stone, and logs. As our line neared the enemy, it received a heavy musketry fire, to which reply was made with a few volleys, followed, as the fog lifted, by a rush with defiant cheers over the obstructions right upon the rebels, most of whom, after a brief resistance, threw down their arms and surrendered. Many of their dead and wounded were lying about the ground. Four flags and considerable equipment were taken. Sending his prisoners — the bulk of Walthall's brigade — to the rear, Geary continued his toilsome advance over great obstacles along the plateau towards Cravens house and the Palisades. Near the house, part of his line was checked and thrown into some disorder, but the reserve under Whitaker, which, owing to the course of its ascent, had brought up on the right flank of the front line next to the Palisades, gave support and the advance was soon resumed. The house was reached about noon and two pieces of artillery captured near it. Pushing on around the Palisades, our right, in approaching them, became exposed to the fire of rebel shooters and to hand-grenades thrown from the crest of the Palisades, but got up to their lower bench, when orders to stop and fortify the position gained were received from General Hooker.
At this time, Osterhaus's command also appeared, and relieved some of Geary's regiments at the front. Of the former, Colonel Williamson's brigade had a bridge over Lookout Creek ready by ten o'clock, and General Wood's brigade another half a mile further up the creek by eleven. But both brigades did not move, according to orders, until Geary's fire was heard at the last-named hour. Our artillery opened vigorously to cover their passage of the creek. The crossing and the movements beyond were made so rapidly that Williamson got undiscovered to the rear of the picket line and grand guard of Moore's rebel brigade, and captured the whole of them. Osterhaus accomplished the ascent without meeting resistance. General Cruft, on arriving, with his one remaining brigade under Colonel Grose, at the bridge which he was to repair and cross, found it held by the enemy, and that it would take too much time to refit for the passage of troops. General Hooker also observed this, and ordered him to leave two regiments at the bridge and move on with the remaining four to the one where General Wood was preparing to cross. After getting over the stream, Grose's regiments worked up the mountain between Osterhaus's brigades and reached the plateau about the same time.
The rebel force beaten back by Geary was Walthall's brigade. About the time Whitaker and Osterhaus appeared on the front, an offensive attempt was made against them, but was easily repulsed. It came from Moore's brigade, which lay on the right of Walthall's brigade before the action. When the firing commenced in front of the latter, General Jackson ordered Moore to move his command into the trenches next to Walthall's, but the latter was not found in position, as he had decided to accept fight in front of his trenches. Before Moore reached them, he discovered that Walthall had been driven away to the rear of them on the left, but he claims to have occupied and held his side of them, in spite of exposure to an enfilading fire and repeated attacks, till between three and four o'clock, when he fell back about a quarter of a mile. Here he found support in General Pettus's brigade of three Alabama regiments, numbering about 1000 men, of Stevenson's division, which had been sent down from the summit ridge in response to a call from General Jackson for assistance. Later, Walthall placed on the latter's left such remnants of his brigade as he had been able to gather together. Moore took position on the right of Pettus. The Confederates claimed to have held this line against repeated attempts from our side to drive them away. These alleged attacks were in reality nothing more than feelers from our front for the enemy, whose presence even at a distance of only 100 feet could not be detected on account of the fog. General Carlin's brigade of the Fourteenth Corps, which had been ordered to reinforce Hooker from Chattanooga, reached the mountain at five o'clock, and was ordered to relieve Geary and Whitaker near the White House. It underwent a most trying experience in scaling the mountain in the darkness. The day closed with irregular firing along our front, which also continued till long after midnight. Carlin's front was threatened twice by offensive demonstrations, which were easily warded off.
The main work of the day was naturally done by our infantry. But while neither cavalry nor artillery could accompany it in the ascent, the latter arm played a very useful part by maintaining from two full field batteries and a section of howitzers and another of Parrott twenty-pounders an enfilading fire upon the lower parts of the mountain, which thoroughly demoralized the enemy occupying them. The Parrott in position at Moccasin Point on the farther bank of the Tennessee also joined in this roaring concert. Our missiles reached the rebel camps in Chattanooga Valley as well as the roads on the east side of the mountain. The artillery played most of the forenoon, but ceased firing after our troops were known to be on the plateau.
During the forenoon, there was a lifting and falling of mist and fog on the mountain, like the rise and drop of a stage curtain. There were spells when our climbing columns could be plainly seen, only to be suddenly and wholly shut from sight. The struggle culminated literally in a “battle above the clouds” at about two o'clock. Then the cloud cap of the summit spread and sank down its slopes into the valley, wrapping the entire mountain in a mantle of dense vapors. An eclipse-like darkness settled upon the scene. For a time only the sounds of musketry told of the progress of the strife. After a while, rifts in the cloud would bring ever and anon confirmation of growing success by passing views of our flags and men. During the intervals of obscurity, there was racking suspense among the anxious observers in the group of the Commanding General and his staff below, which at once yielded to intense joy as light was successively thrown upon the situation above. It was felt that while the atmospheric conditions had been an advantage in the ascent, they might be such to the enemy after they had come to close quarters. But the glorious achievement of the Union forces was fully accomplished without untoward incident from either the confinement of vision or the difficulty of maintaining order and regularity of movement over such encumbered, broken, and slanting ground. This heroic exploit cost us comparatively very small losses. They did not exceed 300 killed and wounded, and this mercy we owed to the fog.
General Hooker could well indulge in the pæan of his congratulatory order of the following day, and say to his command that “the triumphs of yesterday . . . will be remembered as long as the giant peak of Lookout shall be their mute but eloquent monument.” A contrary mood was naturally induced in the mind of the rebel Commander-in-chief by the events of the day. Although he knew from the firing that a struggle was going on for the control of Lookout Mountain, he learned of the reverse to his left only about 4 P.M., when he immediately started for General Stevenson's headquarters. Arriving there at sunset, he soon understood that the position on the mountain was lost, and determined to withdraw his troops across Chattanooga Creek to Missionary Ridge, and gave orders accordingly, which were carried out between midnight and day break, and so quietly as to be undiscovered. In his official report, Bragg tries to throw the blame for the disaster upon General Stevenson, and the reports of the three brigades engaged ascribe it to neglect of duty by the division-commander Jackson. But the truth probably is that the difficulty of communication and observation caused by the fog was chiefly responsible for the defeat.
The losses of the three rebel brigades reported in their official reports are utterly at variance with the statements of the Union generals. Walthall admits only 8 killed, 111 wounded, and 853 missing; Moore 9 killed, 39 wounded, and 206 missing; Pettus 9 killed, 38 wounded, and 9 missing; or a total of 26 killed, 188 wounded, and 1068 missing. Geary alone, on the other hand, claimed to have found 125 killed and 300 wounded rebels on the field and to have captured 1940 prisoners, to which latter several hundred taken by Osterhaus and Cruft must be added. The Records afford no means of explaining the discrepancies.
The object of our assault upon the Mountain was not only to complete the security of our lines of communication, but also to threaten the left flank and line of retreat of the enemy in support of the finishing blows to be struck by our left and centre on the morrow. If the Confederates succeeded in holding Hooker at bay, he would be foiled in this aim on the one hand, but, on the other, the hostile line would remain weak by reason of its excessive length and less capable of resisting the proposed general attack. General Grant felt certain anyway that our partial success on the Mountain would keep Bragg from strengthening his right, against which, according to programme, our next attack was first to be delivered by Sherman; hence he ordered the latter to “attack at dawn,” with simultaneous notice that Thomas would also strike from the centre early in the day.
[Here the narrative of military operations ends abruptly. From this point the Autobiography is, as explained in the Preface, continued to the close in the third person.]