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Third division were across with men, horses, artillery, and every thing. General Jeff. C. Davis was ready to take the Missionary Hills.
The movement had been carefully explained to all division commanders, and at one P.m. we marched from the river in three columns in echelon; the left, General Morgan L. Smith, the column of direction, following substantially Chickamauga Creek; the centre, General J. E. Smith, in columns, doubled on the centre at full brigade intervals to the right and rear; the right, General Ewing, in column at the same distance to the right and rear, prepared to deploy to the right, on tho supposition that wo would meet an enemy in that direction.
Each head of column was covered by a good line of skirmishers, with supports. A light drizzling rain prevailed, and the clouds hung low, cloaking our movements from tho enemy's tower of observation on Lookout We soon gained the foot-hills, our skirmishers kept up the face of the hill, followed by their supports, and at half-past three P.m. we gained with no loss the desired point.
A brigade of each division was pushed up rapidly to the top of the hill, and the enemy, for the first time, seemed to realize the movement, but too late, for we were in possession. He opened with artillery, but General Ewing soon got some of Captain Richardson's guns up that steep hill, and we gave back artillery, and tho enemy's skirmishers made one or two ineffectual dashes at General Lightburn, who had swept around and got a further hill, which was the real continuation of the ridge.
From studying all the maps, I had inferred that Missionary Ridge was a continuous hill, but we found ourselves on two high points, with a deep depression between us and tho one immediately over the tunnel, which was my chief objective point. The ground we had gained, however, was so important that I could leave nothing to chance, and ordered it to be fortitied during the night. One brigade of each division was left on the hill, one of General Morgan L. Smith's closed the gap to Chickamauga Creek, two of General John E. Smith's wero drawn back to the base in reserve, and General Ewing's right was extended down into the plain, thus crossing tho ridge in a general line facing south-east
The enemy felt our left flank about four P.m., and a pretty sharp engagement with artillery and muskets ensued, when he drew off, but it cost us dear, for General Giles A. Smith was severely wounded, and had to go to the rear, and the command of the brigade then devolved on Colonel Tuppcr, One Hundred and Sixteenth Illinois, who managed it with skill during tho rest of tho operations.
At the moment of my crossing the bridge, General Howard appeared, having come with three regiments from Chattanooga along the cast bankof the Tennessee,connectingmy new position •with that of the main army in Chattanooga. He left tho three regiments, which I attached temporarily to General Ewing's right, and ho re
turned to his own corps at Chattanooga. As night closed, I ordered General Jeff. C. Davis to keep one of his brigades at the bridge, one close up to my position, and one intermediate. Thus we passed the night, heavy details being kept at work on the intrenchments on the hill.
During the night the sky cleared away bright, and a cold frost filled the air, and our carnp-lires revealed to tho enemy and to our friends in Chattanooga our position on Missionary Ridge.
About midnight I received at the hands of Major Rowley, of General Grant's staff, orders to attack the enemy at dawn of day, and notice that General Thomas would attack in force early in the day.
Accordingly, before day I was in the saddle, attended by all my staff, rode to the extreme left of our position, near Chickamauga, thence up the hill held by General Lightburn, and round to the extreme right of General Ewing.
Catching as accurate an idea of the ground as possible by tho dim light of morning, I saw that our line of attack was in the direction of Missionary Ridge, with wings supporting on cither flank; iquite a valley lay between us and the next hill of the series, and this hill presented steep sides, the one to tho west partially cleared, but the other covered with the native forest; the crest of the ridge was narrow and wooded.
The further point of the hill was held by tho enemy with a breastwork of logs and fresh earth, filled with men and two guns. The enemy was also seen in great force on a still higher hill beyond the tunnel, from which he had a fair plunging fire on the hill in dispute.
The gorge between, through which several roads and the railroad tunnel pass, could not bo seen from our position, but formed the natural place (Tarmes where tho enemy covered his masses, to resist our contemplated movement of turning his right and endangering his communications with his dep6t at Chickamauga.
As soon as possible, the following dispositions were made:
The brigades of Colonels Cockrell and Alexander and General Lightburn wero to hold our hill as the key point; General Corse, with as much of his brigade as could operate along the narrow ridge, was to attack from our right centre; General Lightburn was to despatch a good regiment from his position to cooperate with General Corse; and General Morgan L. Smith was to move along the east base of Missionary Ridge, connecting, with General Corse, and Colonel Loomis, in like manner, to move along the west base, supported by the two reserve brigades of General John E. Smith.
The sun had already risen before General Corse had completed his preparations and his bugle sounded the "forward."
The Fortieth Illinois, supported by the Fortysixth Ohio, on our right centre, with the Twentieth Ohio, Colonel Jones, moved down the face of our hill, and up that held by the enemy. Tho line advanced to within about eighty yards of the intrenched position, where General Corse found a secondary crest, which ho gained and held.
To this point ho called his reserves, and asked for reinforcements, which were sent, hut t,he space was narrow, and it was not well to crowd the men, as the enemy's artillery and musketry fire swept the approach to his position, giving him great advantage.
As soon as General Corse had made his preparations he assaulted, and a close, severe contest ensued, lasting more than an hour, giving and losing ground, hut never the position first ob'tainod, from which the enemy in vain attempted to drive him.
General Morgan L. Smith kept gaining ground on the left spur of Missionary Ridge, and Colonel Loomis got abreast of the tunnel and the railroad embankment on his side, drawing the enemy's fire, and to that extent relieving the assaulting party on the hill-crest
Calander had four of his guns on General Ewing's hill, and Captain Wood his Napoleon battery on General Lightburn's; also, two guns of Dillon's battery were with Colonel Alexander's brigade. •
The suddenness of the attack disconcerted the men, and, exposed as they were in the open field, they fell back in some disorder to the lower end of the field, and re-formed. These two brigades were in the nature of supports, and did not constitute a part of the real attack.
The movement, seen from Chattanooga, five miles off, gave rise to the report, which even General Meigs had repeated, that wo were repulsed on the left. Not so. The real attacking columns of General Corse, Colonel Loomis, and General Smith were not repulsed. They engaged in a close struggle all day persistently, stubbornly, and well. VV'hen the two reserve brigades of General John E. Smith fell back as described, the enemy made a show of pursuit, but were caught in flank by the well-directed fire of our brigade on the wooded crest, and hastily sought his cover behind the hill.
Thus matters stood about three P.M. The day was bright and clear, and the amphitheatre of Chattanooga lay in beauty at our feet. I had watched for the attack of General Thomas ■' early in the day." Column after column of the enemy were streaming toward me, gun after gun poured its concentric shot on us from every hill and spur that gave a view of any part of the ground held by us.
All directed their fire as carefully as possible to clear the hill to our front without endangering our own men. The fight raged furiously about ton A.m., when General Corso received a severe wound and was carried off the field, and the command of the brigade, and of the assault at that key point, devolved on that fine young officer, Colonel Wolcott, of tho Forty-sixth Ohio, who filled his post manfully. He continued the contest, pressing forward at all points. Colonel Loomis had made good progress to the right; and at about two P.m. General John E. Smith, judging the battlo to be most severe on the hill,
and being required to support General Ewing, ordered up Colonel Runion's and General Matthias's brigades across the fields to the summit that was being fought for. They moved up under a heavy tire of cannon and musketry, and joined to Colonel Wolcott, but the crest was so narrow that they necessarily occupied the west face of the hill. Tho enemy at the time being massed in great strength in the tunnel gorge, moved a large force, under cover of the ground and the thick bushes, and suddenly appeared on the right and rear of this command.
An occasional shot from Fort Wood and Orchard Knoll, and some musketry fire and artillery over about Lookout, was all that I could detect on our side; but about three P.m. I noticed the white line of musketry fire, in front of Orchard Knoll, extending further right and left, and on. We could only hear a faint echo of sound, but enough was seen to satisfy me that General Thomas was moving on the centre. I knew our attack had drawn vast masses of the enemy to our flank, and felt sure of the result. Some guns which had been firing at us all day were silent, or were turned in a different direction.
The advancing line of musketry fire from Orchard Knoll disappeared to us behind a spur of the hill, and could no longer bo seen, and it was not until night closed that I know that the troops in Chattanooga had swept across Missionary Ridge, and broken the enemy's centre.
Of course, the victory was won, and pursuit was the next step. I ordered General Morgan L. Smith to feel the tunnel, and it was found vacant, save by tho dead and wounded of our own and enemy's, commingled.
The reserve of General Jeff. C. Davis was ordered to march at once, by the pontoon-bridge across the GJiickamauga at its mouth, and push forward for the depot.
General Howard had reported to me, in the early part of the day, with the remainder of his army corps, (the Eleventh,) and had been posted to connect ray left with Chickamauga Creek.
He was ordered to repair an old broken bridge about two miles up Chickamauga, and to follow General Davis at four A.m., and the Fifteenth army corps to march at daylight. But General Howard found to repair the bridge more of a task than at first supposed, and we were compelled all to cross Chickamauga on the new pontoon-bridge at its mouth.
By about eleven A.m., General Jeff. C. Davis's division appeared at tho depot, just in time to see it in flames. He entered with one brigade, and found the enemy occupying two hills partially intrenched just beyond the depot These he soon drovo away.
Tho depot presented a scene of desolation that war alone exhibits. Corn-meal and corn, in huge burning piles, broken wagons, abandoned caissons, two thirty-two pounder rifled guns, with carriages burned, pieces of pontoons, balks, chesses, etc., (destined, doubtless, for the famous invasion of Kentucky,) and all manner of things burning and broken. Still the enemy kindly left us a good supply of forage for our horses, and meal, beans, etc., for our men.
Pausing but a short while, we passed on, the road lined with broken wagons and abandoned caissons, till night. Just as the head of the column emerged from a dark, miry swamp, we encountered the rear-guard of the retreating army. The fight was sharp, but the night closed in so dark that we could not move. General Grant came up to us there—General Davis still leading.
At daylight we resumed the march, and at Greysvillc, whero a good bridge spanned the Chickamauga, we found the corps of General Palmer, on the south bank. He informed us that General Hooker was on a road still further south, and we could hear his guns near Kinggold.
As the roads were filled with all the troops they could accommodate, I then turned to the east to fulfil another part of the general plan, namely, to break up all communications between Bragg and Longstrect.
We had all sorts of rumors as to tho latter, but it was manifest that we should interpose a proper force between these two armies.
I therefore directed General Howard to move to Parker's Gap, and thence send a competent force to Red Clay, or the Council Ground, and there destroy a large section of the railroad which connects with Dalton and Cleveland. This work was most successfully and completely performed that day.
The division of General Jeff. C. Davis was moved up close to Ringgold, to assist General Hooker, if needed, and the Fifteenth corps held at Greysville, for any thing that might turn up. About noon, I had a message from General Hooker, saying that he had had a pretty hard fight at the mountain pass just beyond Ringgold, and he wanted mo to come forward, and turn the position.
He was not aware, at the time, that Howard, by running through Parker's Gap toward Red Clay, had already turned it. So I rode forward to Ringgold, and found the enemy had already fallen back to Tunnel Hill. Ho was already out of tho valley of Chickamauga, and on ground where the waters flow to the Coosa. Ho was out of Tennessee.
I found General Grant at Ringgold, and, after some explanations as to breaking up the railroad from Ringgold back to the State line, as soon as sonic cars loaded with wounded could be pushed back to Chickamauga Depot, I was ordered to move slowly and leisurely back to Chattanooga. On the following day, the Fifteenth corps destroyed absolutely and effectually the railroad, from a point half-way between Greysville and Ringgold, back to the State line; and General Grant, coming to Greysville, consented that, instead of returning to Chattanooga, I might send back my artillery, wagons, and impediments, and make a circuit by the north as far as the Hiawassee.
Accordingly, on tho morning of November twenty-ninth, General Howard moved from Parker's Gap to Cleveland, General Davis by way of McDaniel's Gap, and General Blair, with two divisions of the Fifteenth army corps, by way of Julian's Gap — all meeting at Cleveland that night. Here another good break was mado in the Cleveland and Dalton road. On the thirtieth, the army moved to Charleston, General Howard approaching so rapidly that the enemy evacuated in haste, leaving the bridge but partially damaged, and five car-loads of flour and provisions on the north bank of the Hiawassee.
This was to have been tho limit of our journey. Officers and men had brought no luggage or provisions, and the weather was bitter cold. I had hardly entered the town of Charleston, when General Wilson arrived with a letter from General Grant, at Chattanooga, informing mo that the latest authontic accounts from Knoxville were to the twenty-seventh, at which time General Burnside was completely invested, and had provisions only to include the third December; that General Granger had left Chattanooga for Knoxville by the railroad, with a steamboat following him in the river; but the General feared Granger could not reach Knoxville in time, and ordered me to take command of all troops moving to the relief of Knoxville, and hasten to Burnside.
Seven days before, we had left our camps on the other side of the Tennessee, with two days' rations, without a change of clothing, stripped for the fight, with but a single blanket or coat per man—from myself to the private included; of course, we then had no provisions, save what we gathered by the road, and were ill supplied for such a march.
But we learned that twelve thousand of our fellow-soldiers were beleaguered in the mountain town of Knoxville, eighty-four miles distant, that they needed relief, and must have it in three days. This was enough, and it had to be done.
General Howard, that night, repaired and planked the railroad bridge, and at daylight tho army passed the Hiawassee, and marched to Athens, fifteen miles. I had supposed rightfully that General Granger was about the mouth of the Hiawassee, and sent him notice of my orders that the General had sent me a copy of his written instructions, which were full and complete, and that he must push for Kingston, near which wo would make a junction. By the time I reached Athens, I had time to study the geography, and sent him orders which found him at Decatur; that Kingston was out of our way; that he should send his boat to Kingston, but with his command strike across to Philadelphia, and report to me there. I had but a small force of cavalry, which was, at the time of my receipt of General Grant's orders, scouting over and about Benton and Columbus. I left my aid, Major McCoy, at Charleston, to communicate with the cavalry, and hurry it forward. It overtook me in the night at Athens.
On the second December, the army moved
rapidly north toward Loudon, twenty-six miles distant
About eleven A.m., the cavalry passed to the head of the column, and was ordered to push to Loudon, and, if possible, save the pontoon-bridge across the Tennessee, held by a brigade of the enemy, commanded by General Vaughn. The cavalry moved with such rapidity as to capture every picket; but the brigade of Vaughn had artillery in position, covered with earthworks, and displayed a force too respectable to be carried by a cavalry dash, and darkness closed in before General Howard's infantry got in.
The enemy abandoned that place in the night, destroying the pontoons, running three locomotives and forty-eight cars into the Tennessee, and abandoning a large quantity of provisions, four guns, and other material, which General Howard took at daylight
But the bridge was gone, and we were forced to turn east, and trust to General Burnside's bridge at Knoxville.
It was all-important that General Burnside should have notice of our coming, and but one day of the time remained.
Accordingly, at Philadelphia, during the night of December second, I sent my Aid, Captain Audenreid, forward to Colonel Long, commanding the brigade of cavalry, to explain to him how all-important it was that General Burnside should have notice within twenty-four hours of our approach, and ordering him to select the best material of his command to start at once, ford the Little Tennessee, and push into Knoxvilleat whatever cost of life and horseflesh.
Captain Audenreid was ordered to go along. The distance to be travelled was about fortymiles, and the roads villainous. Before day they were off, and at daylight the Fifteenth corps was turned from Philadelphia to the Little Tennessee at Morgan town, where my maps represented the river as very shallow, but it was found too deep for fording, and the water freezing cold—width two hundred and forty yards, deptli from two to live feet. Horses could ford, but artillerymen could not. A bridge was indispensable. General Wilson, who accompanied me, undertook to superintend the bridge, and I am under many obligations to him, as I was without an engineer, having sent Captain Jenny back to Grcysville to survey the field of battle. We had our pioneers, but only such tools as axes, picks, and spades; but General Wilson, working part with crib-work and part with trestles, made of the houses of the late town of Morgantown, progressed apace, and by dark of December fourth troops and animals passed on the bridge, and by daylight of the fifth the Fifteenth corps, General Blair, was over, and General Granger's corps and General Davis's division were ready to pass; but the diagonal bracings were imperfect for want of proper spikes, and the bridge broke, causing delay.
I had ordered General Blair to march out on the Marysville Toad five miles, there to await notice that General Granger was on a parallel
road abreast of him, and in person I was at a house where the roads parted, when a messenger rode up bringing me a few words from General Burnside, dated December fourth.
Colonel Long had arrived at Knoxville with his cavalry, and all was well there. Longstreet still lay before the place, but there were symptoms of a speedy departure. I felt that I had accomplished the first great step in the problem for the relief of General Burnside's army, but still urged on the work.
As soon as the bridge was mended, all the troops moved forward. General Howard had marched from Loudon and had formed a pretty good ford for bis wagons and horses at Davis, seven miles from Morgantown, and had made an ingenious bridge of the wagons left by Vaughn at Loudon, on which to pass his men. He marched by Unitia and Louisville. On the night of the fifth, all the heads of columns communicated at Marysville, where I met Major Van Buren, of General Burnside's staff, announcing that Longstreet had the night before retreated on the Rutledge, Rodgersville, and Bristol road, leading to Virginia; that General Burnside's cavalry was on his heels; that the General desired to see me in person as soon as I could come to Knoxville I ordered all the troops to halt and rest, except the two divisions of General Granger, which were ordered to move forward to Little River, and General Granger to report in person to General Burnside for orders.
His force was originally designed to reenforce General Burnside, and it was eminently proper that it should join in the stern chase after Longstreet On the morning of December sixth, I rode from Marysville into Knoxville and met General Burnsida General Granger arrived later in the day. We examined his lines of fortifications, which were a wonderful production for the short time allowed in the selection of ground and construction of work. It seemed to me they were nearly impregnable. We examined tho redoubt named Saunders, where, on the Sunday previous, three brigades of the enemy had assaulted and met a bloody repulse. Now all was peaceful and quiet, where, but a few hours before, the deadly bullet sought its victim, all rouud about that hilly barren.
The General explained fully and frankly what he had done and what ho had proposed to do. He asked of me nothing but General Granger's command, and suggested, in view of the large force I had brought from Chattanooga, that I should return with due expedition to the line of the Hiawassce, lost Bragg, reeuforced, might take advantage of his absence to assume the offensive. I asked him to reduce it to writing, which he did, and I here introduce it as part of my report:
IlKADQtTARTBRS ARMT OP T1IS OtTIO, J
K> Iwille, December 7, l^dS- J
Major-Gen. W. T. Sherman, Command'ing, etc:
General: I desire to express to you and your
command my most hearty thanks and gratitude
for your promptness in coming to our relief during the siege of Knoxville; and I am satisfied your approach served to raise the siege.
The emergency having passed, I do not deem for the present any other portion of your command but the corps of General Granger necessary for operations in this section ; and inasmuch as General Grant has weakened the force immediately with him in order to relieve us, thereby rendering the position of General Thomas less secure, I deem it advisable that all the troops now here, save those commanded by General Granger, should return at once to within supporting distance of the forces in front of Bragg's army.
In behalf of my command, I desire again to thank you and your command for the kindness you have done us.
I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant, A. E. Bcknside,
Accordingly, having seen the forces of General Burnside move out of Knoxville in pursuit of Longstrect, and General Granger's move in, I put in motion my own command to return.
General Howard was ordered to move, Tvi Davis's Ford and Sweetwater, to Athens, with a guard formed at Charleston, to hold and repair the bridge which the enemy had taken after our passage up. General Jeff. C. Davis moved to Columbus on the Hiawassee, via Madisonville, and the two divisions of the Fifteenth corps moved to Telire Plains, to cover a movement of cavalry across the mountain into Georgia to overtake a wagon train which had dodged us on our way up, and had escaped by way of Murphy. Subsequently, on a report from General Howard that the enemy still held Charleston, I directed General Ewing's division to Athens, and went in person to Telire with General Morgan L. Smith's division. By the ninth, all our troops were in position, and we held the rich country between the Little Tennessee and the Hiawassee. The cavalry under Colonel Long passed the mountains at Telire, and proceeded about seventeen miles beyond Murphy, when Colonel Long deeming his further pursuit of the wagon train useless, he returned on the twelfth to Telire.
I then ordered him and the division of General Morgan L. Smith to move to Charleston, to which point I had previously ordered the corps of General Howard.
On the fourteenth of December, all of my command on the field lay along the Hiawassee. Having communicated to General Grant the actual state of affairs, I received orders to leave on the line of the Hawassec all the cavalry and come to Chattanooga with the balance of my command. I left the brigade of cavalry, commanded by Colonel Long, reenforced by the Fifth Ohio cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Heath, the only cavalry properly belonging to the Fifteenth army corps, at Charleston, and with the remainder moved by easy marches by Cleveland and Tymus depot into Chattanooga, when I received in person from General Grant, orders to transfer back to -he appropriate commands the corps of General
Howard and division commanded by General Jeff. C. Davis, and to conduct the Fifteenth army corps to its now field of operations.
It will thus appear that we have been constantly in motion since our departure from the Big Black until the present moment I have been unable to receive from subordinate commanders the usual full detailed reports, and have therefore been compelled to make up this report from my own personal memory, but as soon as possible subordinate reports will be received and duly forwarded.
In reviewing the facts, I must do justice to my command for the patience, cheerfulness, and courage which officers and men have displayed throughout, in battle, on the march, and in camp. For long periods, without regular rations or supplies of any kind, they have marched through mud and over rocks, sometimes barefooted, without a murmur, without a moment's rest. After a march of over four hundred miles, without stop for three successive nights, we crossed the Tennessee, fought our part of the battle of Chattanooga, pursued the enemy out of Tennessee, and then turned more than one hundred miles north, and compelled Longstrcet to raise the siege of Knoxville, which gave so much anxiety to the whole country.
It is hard to realize the importance of these events without recalling the memory of the general feeling which pervaded all minds at Chattanooga prior to our arrival. I cannot speak of the Fifteenth army corps without a seeming vanity, but as I am no longer its commander, I assert that there is no better body of soldiers in America than it, or who have done more or better service. I wish all to feel a just pride in its real honors. To General Howard and his command, to General Jeff C. Davis and his, I am more than usually indebted for the intelligence of commanders and fidelity of command. The brigade of Colonel Buschbrek, belonging to the Eleventh corps, which was the first to come out of Chattanooga to my flank, fought at the Tunnel Hill in connection with General Ewing's division, and displayed a courage almost amounting to rashness; following tho enemy almost to the tunnel gorge, it lost many valuable lives, prominent among them Licutoftant-ColonelTaft, spoken of as a most gallant soldier.
In General Howard throughout I found a polished and Christian gentleman, exhibiting the highest and most chivalrous traits of the soldier.
General Davis handled his division with artistic skill, more especially at the moment we encountered the enemy's rear-guard near Greysville at nightfall. I must award to this division the credit of the best order during our marches through East-Tennessee, when long marches and the necessity of foraging to the right and left gave some reasons for disordered ranks.
Inasmuch as exceptions might be taken to my explanation of the temporary confusion, during the battle of Chattanooga, in the two brigades of General Matthews and Colonel Baum, I will here state that accidents will happen in battle as else