THE ARMY OF THE CUMBERLAND AT CHATTANOOGA.
BY JOSEPH S. FULLERTON, BREVET BRIG.-GEN., LT. S. V., ASSISTANT ADJ.-GEN., 4TH ARMY CORPS.
AFTER it became apparent that Bragg would not assault Rosecrans at Chattanooga, it was thought that he might cross the river above, threaten our lines of communication with the rear, and thus repeat, on the north side, the manoeuvre of Rosecrans. Longstreet advised such a movement, but Bragg preferred to adopt the plan of starving us out.
On September 24th a brigade that had held the point of Lookout Mountain was withdrawn. Bragg at once took possession, and sent Longstreet's corps over into Lookout Valley. He also extended his pickets down the south bank of the river, nearly to Bridgeport, our base of supplies. This cut us off from the river and the roads on its north and south banks, and left us but one open road to the rear.
Over this, for a time, we might haul supplies; but we were in a state of semi-siege.
The trees within our lines were soon cut down for use in the fortifications, or for fuel. There had been but little rain since early in July. The earth was parched and blistered. Leaves had dried up on the trees, and all the grass had withered and turned gray. The moving of men and animals stirred up blinding clouds of dust which every breeze sent whirling through the camps. With the first week in October came the rains, and it was a question whether the deep and sticky mud was not more objectionable than the dust.
Our whole army was obliged to depend for every ration and every pound of forage on the mules that hauled the army wagons over the sixty miles of horrible road from Bridgeport. Some of the hills along this route were so steep that a heavy wagon was almost a load going up, and, now that the rains were falling, that part of it in the little valleys had become so soft and was so cut up that a lightly loaded wagon would sink up to the axles.
In the third week of the occupation of Chattanooga, no one, from commanding general down, any longer expected or even thought of an attack.
Missionary Ridge, summit, side, and base, was furrowed with rifle-pits and studded with batteries.
The little valley of Chattanooga was dammed up with earth-works ; and Lookout Mountain, now a mighty fortress, lifted to tho low hanging clouds its threatening head crowned with siege-guns.
The two lines of pickets were not more than three hundred yards apart; but, by common consent, there was no picket firing. On a still night, standing on the picket line, one could hear the old negro song " Dixie," adopted by the Confederates as their national music ; while from our line came, in swelling response, "Hail Columbia" and " The Star-spangled Banner." With a glass Bragg's headquarters on Missionary Ridge, even the movement of his officers and orderlies, could be seen; while from the ridge or Lookout Mountain' our whole camp was clearly in view. By daylight our troops could be counted, our reveille heard, our roll-call noted, our scanty meals of half rations seen-the last without envy. And we were not only heard and seen, but the enemy's signal-flag on Lookout talked, over our heads, with the signal-flag on Missionary Ridge.
The fall rains were beginning, and hauling was becoming each day more difficult. Ten thousand dead mules walled the sides of the road from Bridgeport to Chattanooga. In Chattanooga the men were on less than half rations. Guards stood at the troughs of artillery horses to keep the soldiers from taking the scant supply of corn allowed these starving animals. Many horses died of starvation, and most of those that survived grew too weak for use in pulling the lightest guns. Men followed the wagons as they came over the river, picking up the grains of corn and bits of crackers that fell to the ground. Yet there was no murmur of discontent.
Ever since Longstreet got into Lookout Valley, Rosecrans had been making preparation to drive him out. A small stern-wheel steamboat was built at Bridgeport; a captured ferry-boat, reconstructed, was made an available transport; and material for boats and pontoons, or either, with stringers and flooring for bridges, was prepared at Chattanooga as rapidly as possible, at an improvised saw-mill. But the plan finally adapted was conceived and worked out by General William F. Smith, Chief Engineer of the Army of the Cumber-land. On the 20th of October, after having been fully matured, it was submitted, and was warmly approved by Thomas, who had then succeeded Rosecrans, and who at once gave orders to General Smith, General Hooker, and others to carry it into execution with all possible expedition. General Grant reached Chattanooga the evening of the 23d. General Smith's plan was explained to him, and he heartily approved it and directed its execution.
Everything necessary for the movement being in readiness, it was commenced with the greatest possible haste and secrecy on the night of the 26th. After midnight, fourteen hundred picked men from Hazen's and Turchin's brigades, under command of Brigadier-General Hazen, quietly marched to the river-bank at Chattanooga; the rest of the troops of these two brigades, with three batteries of artillery under Major John Mendenhall, crossed the river and marched over Moccasin Point to a place near Brown's Ferry where under cover of , , the woods, they awaited the arrival of General Hazen's force. The success of this expedition depended on surprising the enemy at Brown's Ferry.
It was known that he had there 1000 infantry, 3 pieces of artillery, and a squadron of cavalry, while Longstreet's corps was not far off. At 3 o'clock in the morning, 52 pontoons filled with , Hazen's 1400 men, and under the direction of Colonel 'r. R. Stanley, 18th Ohio Infantry, noiselessly started down the river on the nine-mile course to Brown's Ferry. There was a full moon , but the light was dimmed by floating clouds and by a fog rising from the water. Oars were used till the first picket fire of the enemy was approached; then the boats were steered close to the right bank aud allowed to float with the current. On top of Lookout a signal torch was seen flashing against the sky, but not a gun had yet been fired,-not an alarm given. Brown's Ferry was reached at break of dawn. Suddenly the oars were put into use, and before the enemy could make out the sounds the boats were rowed to the left bank. The pickets on guard greeted them with a volley of musketry, and then fell back on their reserves. The fourteen hundred men quickly and in perfect order occupied the crest of the hill and began to throw up light breastworks. But they had not proceeded far in this work w hen the enemy appeared and made a fruitless effort to drive them from the hill.
In the meantime the boats were bringing over the river the rest of the two brigades that had marched to the north ferry landing. When the transfer had been accomplished, the boats were used in the construction of a pontoon-bridge, which was finished by 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and over which Mendenhall's artillery crossed.
At daylight on the morning of October 28th General Hooker crossed the river at Bridgeport with the Eleventh and Geary's division of the Twelfth Corps, and moved along the direct road to Brown's Ferry by the base of Raccoon Mountain. He brushed away the enemy's pickets and light bodies of skirmishers, and moved cautiously, as he knew Longstreet was in Lookout Valley and might at any moment appear to oppose his advance. At 5 o'clock in the afternoon the head of his column reached a point about one mile from the ferry up Lookout Valley ; and here his command went into camp, excepting Geary's division, which w as left three miles in the rear, in a position covering the ferry . A short distance from the ferry, up the little valley of Lookout, was Longstreet, with his troops. When Longstreet discovered Hooker's object, he did not even wait the light of day to repeat his old tactics. The night of the 28th was clear and the air crisp. The moon shone bright from before midnight till morning.
Hooker's troops were sleeping soundly after their hard march of nearly twenty-five miles when Longstreet's men came crowding down the valley. An hour past midnight a terrific onslaught was made on Geary's division. It was assaulted on three sides. Artillery in the valley and on Lookout opened a severe fire. Our men, w ho slept in line of battle, sprang to their feet at the first shot of a sentinel. The contest lasted for three hours, till Longstreet's line was broken and his men driven from the field. It was Longstreet's intention to crush Geary ; then, with his whole force, to attack General Howard's Eleventh Corps, nearly three miles away. In order to hold Howard where he was, aud to prevent him from lending assistance to Geary, he had sent a smaller column to move round his camp, and, almost in its rear, to occupy a steep hill nearly two hundred feet high. General Howard ordered Colonel Orland Smith, with his brigade, to carry the hill. In gallant response a magnificent charge was made up the steep side, and the enemy was driven from the barricades on top at the point of the bayonet.
Longstreet, routed at every point, retreated up the valley, leaving it at daybreak. Four hundred and twenty of our men, and many more of the enemy, w ere killed and wounded. Hooker thus gained Lookout Valley ; the siege of Chattanooga was raised ; the " cracker line " was opened !
The credit of this result is chiefly due to General W. F. Smith, Chief Engineer of the Army of the Cumberland, who conceived the plan of operations, and under whose directions it was mostly carried out. The raising of the siege of Chattanooga, by opening up the river and the road on its south bank, was determined upon by the commanding officers of the Army of the Cumberland soon after the occupation, though the plan of operations w as adopted later, but before General Grant came to Chattanooga.
On November lath General Sherman reached Chattanooga in advance of his troops. General Grant's plan, in brief, now was to turn Bragg's right. He selected his old army-the Army of the Tennessee, under Sherman-to open the battle, to make the grand attack, and to carry Missionary Ridge as far as Tunnel Hill. The Army of the Cumberland was simply to get into position and cooperate.
No battle-field in our war, probably none in history, where large armies were engaged, was so spectacular or so well fitted for a display of soldierly courage and daring as the amphitheater of Chattanooga. Late on the night of November 22d a sentinel who had deserted from the enemy was brought to General Sheridan, and informed him that Bragg's baggage was being reduced and that he was about to fall back. On account of these indications and reports, General Grant decided not to wait longer for General Sherman's troops to come up, but to find out whether Bragg was in fact withdrawing, and, if so, to attack him at once.
Therefore at 11 o'clock on the morning of the , 23d, he directed General Thomas to " drive in the enemy's pickets," and feel his lines for the purpose of finding out whether he still held in force. Thus Grant was about to change his plans. He was compelled to depart from his original purpose, and was obliged to call on troops of the Army of the Cumberland to make the first offensive movement.
General Thomas ordered General Granger, commanding the Fourth Corps, to throw one division forward in the direction of Orchard Knob, with a second division in support, to discover if the enemy still remained near his old camp.
Orchard Knob is a rough, steep hill, one hundred feet high, covered with a growth of small timber, rising abruptly from the Chattanooga Valley, and lying about half-way between our outer pits and the breastworks of logs and stones. At its western base, and extending for a mile beyond, both north and south of the hill, were other rifle-pits, hid in part by a heavy belt of timber that extended about a quarter of a mile from the foot of the hill into the plain. Between this belt of timber and our lines were open fields, in which there was not a tree, fence, or other obstruction, save the bed of the East Tennessee Railroad. On the plain were hundreds of little mounds, thrown up by our own and the enemy's pickets, giving it the appearance of an overgrown prairie-dog village.
At noon General Grant, Assistant Secretary of War Dana, General Thomas, Generals Hooker Granger, Howard, and other distinguished officers stood on the parapet of Fort Wood facing Orchard Knob, waiting to see this initial movement,-the overture to the battle of Chattanooga. At half past twelve, Wood's division, supported by Sheridan, marched out on the plain in front of the fort.
It was an inspiriting sight. Flags were flying ; the quick, earnest steps of thousands beat equal time.
The sharp commands of hundreds of company officers, the sound of the drums, the ringing notes of the bugle, companies wheeling and countermarching and regiments getting into line, the bright sun lighting up ten thousand polished bayonets till they glistened and flashed like a flying shower of electric sparks,- all looked like preparations for a peaceful pageant, rather than for the bloody work of death.
Groups of officers on Missionary Ridge looked down through their glasses, and the enemy's pickets, but a few hundred yards away, came out of their pits and stood idly looking on, unconcernedly viewing what they supposed to be preparation s for a grand review. But at half-past one o'clock the advance was sounded. Instantly Wood's division, moving with the steadiness of a machine, started forward. Not a straggler or laggard was on the field, and, what was probably hardly ever before seen, drummers w ere marching with their companies, beating the charge. Now the enemy realized, for the first time, that it w as not a review.
His pickets fell back to their reserves. The reserves were quickly driven back to the main line.
Firing opened from the enemy's advanced rifle-pits, followed by a tremendous roll of musketry and roar of artillery. Men were seen on the ground, dotting the field over which the line of battle had passed.
Ambulances came hurrying back with the first of the wounded. Columns of puffy smoke arose from the Orchard Knob woods. A cheer, faint to those on the parapet of Fort Wood, indicated that the boys in blue were carrying the breastworks on the Knob ! A sharp, short struggle, and the hill was ours.
About 4 o'clock in the afternoon of November 23d, when it became certain that Osterhaus, cut off by the breaking of the pontoon-bridge at Brown's Ferry, would be attached to Hooker's command, General Thomas directed Hooker to make a demonstration against Lookout Mountain the next morning, and, if the demonstration showed it could be carried, to proceed to take it. Later in the day, orders to the same effect came to General Hooker from General Grant. The success at Orchard Knob, and the breaking of the bridge, caused this radical change to be made in Grant's plans. Yet he still held to the chief feature which was to turn Bragg's right.
The morning of November 24th opened with a cold, drizzling rain. Thick clouds of mist were settling on Lookout Mountain. At daybreak Geary's division, and Whitaker's brigade of Cruft's division, marched up to Wauhatchie, the nearest point at which Lookout Creek, swelled by recent rains, could be forded, and at 8 o'clock they crossed. The heavy clouds of mist reaching down the mountain-side hid the movement from the enemy, who was expecting and was well prepared to resist a crossing at the Chattanooga road below, As soon as this movement was discovered , the enemy withdrew his troops from the summit of the mountain, changed front, and formed a new line to meet our advance, his left resting at the palisade, and his right at the heavy works in the valley, where the road crossed the creek. Having crossed at Wauhatchie, Whitaker's brigade, being in the advance, drove back the enemy's pickets, and quickly ascended the mountain till it reached the foot of the palisade. Here, firmly attaching its right, the brigade faced left in front, with its left joined to Geary's division. Geary now moved along the side of the mountain, and through the valley, thus covering the crossing of the rest of Hooker's command. In the meantime Grose's brigade was engaging the enemy at the lower road crossing, and Wood's brigade of Osterhaus's division was building a bridge rather more than half a mile farther up the creek. Geary, moving down the valley, reached this point at 11 o'clock, just after the bridge was finished, and as Osterhaus's division and Grose's brigade were crossing. Hooker's command, now united in the enemy's field, was ready to advance and sweep around the mountain. His line, hanging at the base of the palisades like a great pendulum, reached down the side of the mountain to the valley, where the force that had just crossed the creek was attached as its weight. Now, as, at the command of Hooker, it swung forward in its upward movement, the artillery of the Army of the Cumberland, on Moccasin Point, opened fire, throwing a stream of shot and shell into the enemy's rifle-pits at the foot of the mountain, and into the works thickly planted on the " White House" plateau. At the same time the guns planted by Hooker on the west side of the creek opened on the works which covered the enemy's right. Then followed a gallant assault by Osterhaus and Grose. After fighting for nearly two hours, step by step up the steep mountain-side, over and through deep gullies and ravines, over great rocks and fallen trees, the earth-works on the plateau were assaulted and carried, and the enemy was driven out and forced to fall back. He did so slowly and reluctantly, taking advantage of the rough ground to continue the fight. It was now 2 o'clock. A halt all along the line was ordered by General Hooker, as the clouds had grown so thick that further advance was impracticable, and as his ammunition was almost exhausted and more could not w ell be brought up the mountain. But all the enemy's works had been taken. Hooker had carried the mountain on the east side, had opened communication with Chattanooga, and he commanded the enemy's line of defensive works im Chattanooga Valley.(1),
At 2 o'clock Hooker reported to General Thomas and informed him that he was out of ammunition. Thomas at once sent Carlin's brigade from the valley, each soldier taking with him all the small ammunition he could carry. At 5 o'clock Carlin was on the mountain, and Hooker's skirmishers were quickly supplied with the means of carrying on their work.
In the morning it had not been known in Chattanooga, in Sherman's army, or in Bragg's camp, that a battle was to be fought. Indeed, it was not definitely known even to General Grant ; for Hooker was only ordered to make a demonstration, and, if this showed a good chance for success, then to make an attack. Soon after breakfast Sherman's men at the other end of the line, intent on the north end of Missionary Ridge, and Thomas's men in the center, fretting to be let loose from their intrenchments, were startled by the sound of artillery and musketry firing in Lookout Valley.
(1)Colonel D. R. Hundley, of Greenbrier, Alabama, writing to the editors, May 27th, 1887, said : " The impression conveyed in the above is that Osterhaus and Grose were confronted by at least a reasonably large force in their fight up the mountain-side and at the earth-works. The fact is, the only force opposed to them on the side of the mountain were skirmishers from the weak brigade in charge of the earth-works, and the only force to confront them in the earth-works was the same weak brigade, but little over a thousand strong, commanded by General Walthall, of Mississippi. Nearly half of this weak force was killed or captured, but the rest fought their way gallantly back to the Craven farm, where, for killed or captured, but the rest fought their way gallantly back to the Craven farm, where, for the first time, they received reenforcements. I personally know that no step backward was taken from that hour, and that the conflict raged furiously for some time on that ground before the Federals ceased firing. General Hooker had no occasion to `order a halt all along the line'-the `boys in gray' in his front, concealed in the mist and hid behind trees and rocks, had already most effectually halted the gallant `boys in blue."'
Surprise possessed the thousands who turned their anxious eyes toward the mountain. The hours slowly wore away ; the roar of battle increased, as it came rolling around the point of the mountain, and the anxiety grew. A battle was being fought just before and above them. They could hear, but could not see how it was going. Finally, the wind, tossing about the clouds and mist, made a rift that for a few minutes opened a view of White House plateau. The enemy was seen to be in flight, and Hooker's men were in pursuit ! Then went up a mighty cheer from the thirty thousand in the valley that was heard above the battle by their comrades on the mountain.
As the sun went down the clouds rolled away, and the night came on clear and cool. A grand sight was old Lookout that night.. Not two miles apart were the parallel camp-fires of the two armies, extending from the summit of the mountain to its base, looking like streams of burning lav a, while in between, the flashes from the skirmishers' muskets glowed like giant fire-flies.
The next morning there was silence in Hooker's front. Before daylight eight adventurous, active volunteers from the 8th Kentucky Infantry scaled the palisades and ran up the Stars and Stripes. The enemy had stolen away in the night.
Although General Grant had twice changed his original plan, first in the movement from the center, then in the reconnoissance and resulting attack on Lookout Mountain, he still adhered to his purpose of turning Bragg's right, and made no change in the instructions given to General Sherman, except as to the time of attack. Every necessary preparation for crossing Sherman's troops had been made secretly, under direction of General W. F. Smith ; 116 pontoons had been placed in North Chickamauga Creek, and in ravines near its mouth, and many wagon-loads of " balks" (stringers) and chess (flooring) had been hid near by. Before dark on the evening of November 23d General Sherman had his troops well massed and hid behind the hills on the north side of the river opposite the end of Missionary Ridge. After dark General Barnett, Chief of Artillery of the Army of the Cumberland, planted fifty-six guns on the low foot-hills on the north bank of the river, to cover Sherman's crossing and to protect the pontoon bridge when laid. Everything now being in readiness for the movement, at midnight General Giles A. Smith's brigade entered the pontoons, floated out of North Chickamauga Creek, and was rowed to the south bank of the river. Landing quietly, he surprised and captured the enemy's pickets, and secured a firm foothold. The pontoons were sent across the river, and with these and the small steamboat brought up from Chattanooga General b Morgan L. Smith's and General John E. Smith's divisions were ferried over the river. As soon as these troops had been landed, work was commenced on the pontoon-bridge, which was skillfully laid under the supervision of General W. F. Smith. The bridge was 1350 feet in length, and was completed by 11 o'clock in the morning, when General Ewing's division and Sherman's artillery crossed. At 1 o'clock, just as Hooker was rounding the front of Lookout Mountain, the roar of his battle stirring the blood of the veterans of the Army of the Tennessee, General Sherman gave the command, " Forward!" At 3 : 30 General Sherman took the hill which was supposed to be the north end of the ridge, and soon afterward took another hill a little in advance, both separated by a deep depression from the heavily fortified Tunnel Hill, on which Bragg's right flank rested and which was Sherman's objective point.
None of the men of the Army of the Cumberland, who for nine weeks were buried in the trenches at Chattanooga, can ever forget the glorious night of the 24th of November. As the sun went down, the clouds rolled up the mountain, and the mist was blown out of the valley. Night came on clear, with the stars lighting up the heavens.
But there followed a sight to cheer their hearts and thrill their souls. Away off to their right, and reaching skyward, Lookout Mountain w as ablaze with the fires of Hooker's men, while off to their left, and reaching far above the valley, the north end of Missionary Ridge was aflame with the lights of Sherman's army. The great iron crescent that had, with threatening aspect, so long hung over them, was disappearing. The only thought that dampened their enthusiasm was that the enemy was being destroyed on the flanks, while they were tied down in the center, without a part in the victories. But late that night General Grant, thinking that General Sherman had carried Tunnel Hill, and acting in that belief, gave orders for the next day's battle. General Sherman was directed to attack the enemy at early dawn, Thomas to cooperate with him, and Hooker, to be ready to advance into Chattanooga Valley, to hold the road that zigzagged from the valley to the summit.
Early the next morning, when General Grant learned that the ridge had not been carried as far as Tunnel Hill, and that Lookout Mountain had been evacuated by the enemy, he suspended his orders, except those to Sherman, and directed Hooker to come down from the mountain, to carry the pass at Rossville, and then operate on Bragg's left and rear. Bragg's army was now concentrated on Missionary Ridge, and in the valley at the east foot. Cheatham's and Stevenson's divisions had been withdrawn from Lookout Mountain on the night of the 24th, and, marching all night, were seen at dawn the next morning moving along the summit of Missionary Ridge, on the way to reenforce Bragg's right. For several hours after daylight the flowing of this steady stream of troops continued.
Early in the morning of the 25th General Grant and General Thomas established their headquarters on Orchard Knob, a point from which the best view of the movements of the whole army could be had. At sunrise General Sherman commenced his attack, but after repeated assaults and severe fighting, it appearing to be impossible for General Sherman to take the enemy's works, operations ceased early in the afternoon.
Meanwhile Hooker was detained three hours at Chattanooga Creek, while a bridge that the retreating enemy had burned was being rebuilt. As soon as he had taken Rossville, he moved against the south end of Missionary Ridge. The ridge was quickly carried, and, sweeping northward, Hooker soon came upon Stewart's division, posted on the summit, and behind the earth-works which the Army of the Cumberland had thrown up the day after Chickamauga. Cruft's division assaulted and carried the works, thus having the good fortune of retaking the works they themselves had constructed. It was by this time nearly sundown. Hooker reached the south end of the ridge too late inthe day to relieve the pressure on Sherman, who was at the north end six miles off.
Bragg's right had not been turned. Success had not followed Sherman's movement. The battle as planned had not been won.
Late on this memorable afternoon there was an accident-an accident like the charge at Balaklava; though, unlike this theme for poetry, it called for greater daring, and was attended by completesuccess, and yielded most important results, for it led to the complete shattering of the enemy's army, and drove him from the field. On Orchard Knob, and opposite the center of Missionary Ridge, werefour divisions of the Army of the Cumberland. On the left was Baird's division ; then Wood's and Sheridan's divisions occupying the lines which, two days before, they had taken in their magnificent advance ; on the right was R. W. Johnson's division,-all under the personal command of Thomas. It was past 3 o'clock.
General Sherman had ceased operations. General Hooker's advance had not yet been felt. The day was dying, and Bragg still held the ridge. If any movement to dislodge him was to be made that day it must be made at once. At half-past three o'clock an attack was ordered by General Grant.
He had changed his plan of battle. At once orders were issued that at the firing, in rapid succession, of six guns on Orchard Knob, Thomas's whole line should instantaneously move forward, Sheridan's and Wood's divisions in the center, Sheridan to be supported on the right by Johnson, and Wood on the left by Baird. This demonstration was to be made to relieve the pressure on Sherman. The only order given was to move forward and take the rifle-pits at the foot of the ridge. In Sheridan's division the order was, " As soon as the signal is given, the v-hole line will advance, and you will take what is before you." Between Orchard Knob and Missionary Ridge was a valley, partly covered with a small growth of timber. It was wooded in front of the right of Baird's and of the whole of Wood's division. In front, of Sheridan's and Johnson's it had been almost entirely cleared. At the foot of the ridge were heavy rifle-pits, which could be seen from Orchard Knob, and extending in front of them, for four and five hundred yards, the ground was covered with felled trees. There was a good plain for both direct and enfilading fire from the rifle-pits, and the approaches were commanded by the enemy's artillery. At this point the ridge is five or six hundred feet high. Its side, scored with gullies and showing but little timber, had a rough and bare appearance. Half-way up was another line of rifle-pits, and the summit was furrowed with additional lines and dotted over with epaulements, in which were placed fifty pieces of artillery. Directly in front of Orchard Knob, and on the summit of the ridge, in a small house, was Bragg's headquarters.
At twenty minutes before four the signal-guns were fired. Suddenly twenty thousand men rushed forward, moving in line of battle by brigades, with a double line of skirmishers in front, and closely followed by the reserves in mass. The big siege-guns in the Chattanooga forts roared above the light artillery and musketry in the valley. The enemy's rifle-pits were ablaze, and the whole ridge in our front had broken out like another AEtna. Not many minutes afterward our men were seen working through the felled trees and other obstructions.
Though exposed to such a terrific fire, they neither fell back nor halted. By a bold and desperate push they broke through the works in several places and opened flank and reverse fires. The enemy was thrown into confusion, and took precipitate flight up the ridge. Many prisoners and a large number of small-arms were captured. The order of the commanding general had now been fully and most successfully carried out. But it did not go far enough to satisfy these brave men, who thought the time had come to finish the battle of Chickamauga. There was a halt of but a few minutes, to take breath and to re-form lines ; then , with a sudden impulse, and without orders, all started up the ridge. Officers, catching their spirit, first followed, then led. There was no thought of supports or of protecting flanks, though the enemy's line could be seen, stretching on either side. (1)
As soon as this movement was seen from Orchard Knob, Grant quickly turned to Thomas, who stood by his side, and I heard him say angrily: "Thomas , who ordered those men up the ridge?" Thomas replied, in his usual slow, quiet manner: "I don't know; I did not." Then, addressing General Gordon Granger, he said, "Did you order them up, Granger?" "No,"said Granger; "they started up without orders. When those fellows get started all hell can't stop them." General Grant said something to the effect that somebody would suffer if it did not turn out well, and then, turning, stoically watched the ridge. He gave no further orders.
As soon as Granger had replied to Thomas, he turned to me, his chief-of-staff, and said: "Ride at once to Wood, and then to Sheridan, and ask them if they ordered their men up the ridge, and tell them, if they can take it, to push ahead." As I was mounting, Granger added: "It is hot over , there, and you may not get through. I shall send Captain Avery to Sheridan and other officers after both of you." As fast as my horse could carry me, I rode first to General Wood, and delivered the message. "I didn't order them up," said Wood; "they started up on their own account , and they are going up, too! Tell Granger, if we are supported, we will take and hold the ridge !" As soon as I reached General Wood, Captain Avery got to General Sheridan, and delivered his message. "I didn't order them up," said Sheridan " ; but we are going to take the ridge !" He then asked Avery for his flask and waved it at a group of Confederate officers, standing just in front of Bragg's headquarters, with the salutation, "Heres at you!" At once two guns-the "Lady Breckinridge" and the "Lady Buckner" in front of Bragg's headquarters were fired at Sheridan and the group of officers about him. One shell struck so near as to throw dirt over Sheridan and Avery. "Ah!" said the general, "that is ungenerous; I shall take those guns for that !" Before Sheridan received the message taken by Captain Avery, he had sent a staff-officer to Granger, to inquire whether "the order given to take the rifle-pits meant the rifle-pits at the base, or those on the top of the ridge." Granger told this officer that " the order given was to take those at the base. Conceiving this to be an order to fall back, the officer, on his way to Sheridan, gave it to General Wagner, commanding the Second Brigade of the division, which was then nearly half-way up the ridge. Wagner ordered his brigade back to the rifle-pits at the base, but it only remained there till Sheridan, seeing the mistake, ordered it forward. It again advanced under a terrific fire.
The men, fighting and climbing up the steep hill, sought the roads, ravines, and less rugged parts. The ground was so broken that it was impossible to keep a regular line of battle. At times their movements were in shape like the flight of migratory birds-sometimes in line, sometimes in mass, mostly in V-shaped groups, with the points toward the enemy. At these points regimental flags were flying, sometimes drooping as the bearers were shot, but never reaching the ground, for other brave hands were there to seize them.
Sixty flags were advancing up the hill. Bragg was hurrying large bodies of men from his right to the center. They could be seen hastening along the ridge. Cheatham's division was being withdrawn from Sherman's front. Bragg and Hardee were at the center, urging their men to stand firm and drive back the advancing enemy, now so near the summit-indeed, so near that, the guns, which could not be sufficiently depressed to reach them, became useless. Artillerymen were lighting the
(1) The Confederate line from right to left, on the ridge was as follows : Hardee's corps on the right, Cleburne's division confronting Sherman ; Stevenson and Cheatham came next, the latter joining on Breckinridge's corps, which occupied the slope of the ridge, with outposts in trenches at the foot of the slope. Breckinridge's own division, under General Bate, was in the center, in front of Truman's house, Bragg's headquarters. [See map, p. 686.] Stewart's division, deployed, formed the left of the line.-EDITORS.
fuses of shells, and bowling them by hundreds down the hill. The critical moment arrived when the summit was just within reach. At six different points, and almost simultaneously, Sheridan's and Wood's divisions broke over the crest; Sheridan's first, near Bragg's headquarters; and in a few minutes Sheridan was beside the guns that had been fired at him, and claiming them as captures of his division. Baird's division took the works on Wood's left almost immediately afterward ; and then Johnson came up on Sheridan's right.
The enemy's guns were turned upon those who still remained in the works, and soon all were in flight down the eastern slope. Baird got on the ridge just in time to change front and oppose a large body of the enemy moving down from Bragg's right to attack our left. After a sharp engagement, that lasted till dark, he drove the enemy back beyond a high point on the north, which he at once occupied. (1)
The sun had not yet gone down, Missionary Ridge was ours, and Bragg's army was broken and in fight ! Dead and wounded comrades lay thickly strewn on the ground : but thicker yet were the dead and wounded men in gray. Then followed the wildest confusion, as the victors gave vent to their joy. Some madly shouted; some wept from very excess of joy; some grotesquely danced out their delight,-even our wounded forgot their pain, to join in the general hurrah. But Sheridan did not long stop to receive praise and congratulations.
With two brigades he started down the Mission Mills road, and found, strongly posted on a second hill, the enemy's rear. They made a stout resistance, but by a sudden flank movement he drove them from the heights and captured two guns and many prisoners. The day was succeeded by a clear moonlight night. At 7 o'clock General Granger sent word to General Thomas that by a bold dash at Chickamauga Crossing he might cut off a large number of the enemy now supposed to be leaving Sherman's front, and that he proposed to move in that direction. It was midnight before guides could be found, and then General Sheridan again put his tired and well-worn men in motion. He reached the creek just as the rear-guard of the enemy was crossing, and pressed it so closely that it burned the pontoon-bridge before all its troops were over. Here Sheridan captured several hundred prisoners, a large number of quartermasters' wagons, together with caissons, artillery, ammunition, and many small-arms.
In this battle Sheridan's and Wood's divisions -the two center assaulting
divisions-took 31 pieces of artillery, several thousand small-arms, and
3800 prisoners. In that one hour of assault they lost 2337 men in killed
and wounded,-over twenty per cent. of their whole force ! On the northern
end of the ridge General Sherman lost in his two days' fighting 1097 in
killed and wounded. Of these, 1268 were in his own three divisions.
During the night the last of Bragg's army was with drawn from Missionary Ridge, and Chattanooga from that time remained in undisputed possession of the Union forces.
(1)Governor John A. Martin, of Kansas, colonel of the 8th Kansas Volunteers, of Willich's brigade, Wood's division, in a letter to General Fullerton, dated November 16th, 1886, describes the charge as follows : "When the advance on Missionary Ridge was ordered, on November 25th, my regiment went out directly from Orchard Knob. General Willich, in communicating to me the orders received, distinctly stated that we were directed to take the line of Confederate works at the foot of the hill. We reached these works without serious difficulty, the losses being very small. Shortly after, we emerged from the woods into the open field, and were charging tho Confederate works on the double-quick ; the soldiers there threw down their arms, and, holding up their hands, in token of surrender, jumped to our side. I had ridden my horse to this line, and, on reaching it, halted my regiment behind the enemy's intrenchments. Dismounting, I ran forward to the little huts that were built by the Confederates, on the plateau just back of their line, with a view of ascertaining what the situation was. I had seen, as soon as I reached the first line of works, as did every soldier in the command, that it was impossible for the troops to remain there long. The line was within easy range of the musketry on the summit of the ridge, and was raked by the artillery fire on the projecting points of the ridge on either side. Reaching the foot of the ridge east of the plateau, I found the position there fairly well protected,-that is, not so easily reached, either by the musketry or artillery of the enemy,- and I at once ran back to rear where my regiment had been halted. Just as I got there General Willich came up, and I said to him, ` We can't live here, and ought to go forward.' He gave me directions to move ahead, and I at once ordered my regiment forward. By that time, or about that time, it seemed to me that there was a simultaneous advance of many of the regiments in different parts of the line, and I got the impression that possibly orders had been communicate for an advance on the ridge, which I had not received; hence I hurried my regiment forward as rapidly as possible. When I reached the foot of the ridge again, with the regiment, my orderly came up with my horse, and I mounted it, as my adjutant did his. The advance to the ridge was as rapid as the nature of the ground would permit ; and I think, from the position I occupied, I had a fair opportunity to see what was going on, not only immediately above me, but to the right and left. I was impressed with the idea, I know, that a sharp rivalry had sprung up between several regiments, including my own, as to which should reach the summit first. Another idea, I remember distinctly, which impressed me, was that the different regiments had assumed the form of a triangle or wedge-the advance point in nearly every case being the regimental battle-flag. I have always believed that my own regiment made the first break in the enemy's lines on the summit of Missionary Ridge ; but the difference between the break thus made by the 8th Kansas ami the progress made by one or two regiments of Hazen's brigade on our right aud the 25th Illinois of our own brigade, was exceedingly brief.
"But that the first break in the enemy's lines was made in front of our division, I have not the slightest doubt. After we passed through tho Confederate works, and while the men were rushing with great enthusiasm after the fleeing Confederates, who were running down the hill on the other side, my attention was directed to the right, where, at the point of a knob, I saw other troops were still engaged in a fierce struggle with the Confederates, who were yet in force behind their works ; and while thus, for a moment, watching the progress of the fight to the right, a Confederate battery on a point to the left of our position was swung round, and poured a fire directly down our line. Immediately I ordered my bugler to sound the recall, and began forming all the troops I could gather at that point, with a view of moving to the left to clear tho enemy's works in that direction. I had assembled probably a hundred men, when suddenly the whole Confederate line, both to the right and left, gave way before the furious attack of our troops, and was soon in full retreat through the woods and down the roads to the rear.
"I have stated hastily some of my impressions of the battle, but tho
principal point, which, in my judgment, should always be made prominent,
is the fact that Missionary Ridge was fought without orders from the commander-in-chief.
I remember, too, and this only confirms what I have said, that shortly
after the battle was over General Granger rode along our lines, and said,
in a joking way, to the troops, ` I am going to have you all court-martialed
! You were ordered to take the works at the foot of the hill, and you have
taken those on top ! You have disobeyed orders, all of you, and you know
that you ought to be court-martialed ! "' EDITORS.