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self strongly, and to live as much as possible off the country, by concentrating his own forces more strongly at Chattanooga, by getting ready for an offensive blow which, if successful, must speedily recall any forces sent northward from his immediate front.
The Confederate movement against Burnside took shape. It consisted of a diversion from Abingdon in his rear. At the same time Bragg, commander of the Confederate army besieging Chattanooga, detached Longstreet's corps, and sent it by way of Cleveland, Sweetwater, and Loudon to Burnside's front. Halleck grew almost frantic for his safety, and his dispatches to Grant took the shape of appeals. On November 14th, he sent word, "advices from East Tennessee indicate that Burnside intends to abandon the defence of Little Tennessee river and fall back before Longstreet to Cumberland Gap and the Upper Valley. Longstreet is said to be near the Little Tennessee with twenty to forty thousand men. Burnside has about thirty thousand in all, and can hold his position; he ought not to retreat. I fear further delay may result in Burnside's abandonment of East Tennessee. This would be a terrible misfortune, and must be averted if possible."
To this Grant replied developing his whole scheme, for he had for days been advised of Bragg's daring movement, and saw in it all the elements of a stupendous military blunder, if only Sherman were within supporting distance, and he could concentrate his forces to take advantage of it. His dispatch ran: "Burnside can certainly detain Longstreet in the Tennessee Valley until we can make such moves here as will entirely free him from present danger. I have asked him if he can hold the Knoxville and Clinton line for one week; if can make moves here that will save all danger in East Tennessee. Sherman is now at Bridgeport. He will commence moving to-morrow or next day, throwing one brigade from Whiteside into Trenton, thus threatening the
enemy's left flank. The remainder of his force will pass over Kelley's Ferry, evading view of Lookout, and march up to the mouth of Chickamauga creek. Pontoons are made and making to throw across at that point, over which it is intended that Sherman's force and one division of Thomas' shall pass. This force will attack Missionary Ridge with the left flank of Thomas supporting from here. In the meantime Hooker will attack Lookout and carry it if possible. If Burnside can hold the line from Knoxville to Clinton, as I have asked him, for six days, I believe Bragg will be started back for south side of Oostanawla, and Longstreet cut off.”
Here then was Grant's great double thought—to fight the battle for one of his armies threatened at Knoxville a hundred miles distant, at Chattanooga; to concentrate the other two there, and so make all co-operate in a grand movement which should eventuate in securing the advantages which the natural stronghold had so long promised to the Federal forces. Halleck grew more distrustful of Burnside's ability or willingness to hold on. But Grant had assurances of both, and worked away with characteristic industry and patience to complete his plans of action.
Burnside had really never expressed a desire to retreat except to help Grant. On November 14th he reported to Grant that Longstreet was on the Holston river at Loudon, and intending to cross. He gave as his plan, to concentrate in his front but not to fight him there. He would make a show of fight, and then retreat to Nashville so as to entice him so far away from Bragg that he could not have time to reinforce him should Grant's move at Chattanooga be successful. This looked like a full understanding of Grant's tactics and a wish to aid them. And on the 14th of November Grant sent him word to the effect that if he could hold Longstreet in check, or by skirmishing and falling back avoid serious loss and gain time, "I will be able to force the enemy
back from here and place a force between Longstreet and Bragg that must inevitably make the former take to the mountain passes by every available road, to get his supplies."
As has been seen in the previous chapter, Sherman arrived at Bridgeport on November 13th and 14th. On November 15th he was in Chattanooga. On the 16th he rode out with Grant and Thomas to the hills on the north bank of the Tennessee, from which could be seen the line of Missionary Ridge with its northeastern terminus on Chickamauga creek, the point where he was expected to make the crossing of the river and begin his attack.
All in Chattanooga were impatient for action. Sherman's men had made a long and toilsome march of nearly four hundred miles, and they were tired, shoeless and almost clotheless, but he saw enough of the condition of men and animals in the mountain- and enemy-begirt town to inspire him with renewed energy. He returned at once to Bridgeport, to bring up his army and dispose it for action.
On November 18th Grant telegraphed Halleck: "Burnside's troops back to Knoxville. Sherman's advance reached Lookout Mountain to-day. Movements will progress threatening enemy's left flank until forces can be got up and thrown across the river to attack their right flank and Missionary Ridge. A battle or a falling back of the enemy is inevitable by Saturday at the furthest. Burnside speaks hopefully."
The same day written orders were issued to Sherman and Thomas for the battle of Chattanooga, in all respects a unique contest, and one which was not only to relieve Burnside's army and the valley of the upper Tennessee, but all of Grant's armies, and further to open the way for active and offensive. operations in the interior of Georgia and the heart of the Confederacy. The aggressive spirit that now chafed for release from a pen-like area amid hostile mountains and impassable rivers was all unused to hampered situations and defensive lines.
By means of repeated reconnoissances Grant had discovered that it was perfectly feasible to move any number of troops from points below Chattanooga, on the river, to points above, by keeping them well to the north of the stream, and back among the hills, out of sight of the enemy on the pinnacles
of Lookout. He had further discovered that the north end of Missionary Ridge, near the mouth of Chickamauga creek, and really overlooking Chickamauga Station, Bragg's depot of supplies, was imperfectly guarded. These discoveries were taken advantage of to throw Sherman's forces around north of Chattanooga and across the Tennessee to the south, near Chickamauga creek. They also determined Grant not to make too much of his contemplated movement on the Confederate left by way of the Lookout valley and ranges. He therefore detached Howard's corps from Hooker and ordered it to follow Sherman, and reinforce Thomas in the centre, if necessary.
The orders of Grant, issued on November 18th, contemplated the completion of all these movements by the 20th, and an attack on the morning of the 21st. Nothing that officers and men could do was left undone to bring the troops into the positions designated in time. Thomas strove with the energy of desperation to extend his centre out to the edges of Missionary Ridge, so as to co-operate with Sherman after the passage of the river. He strove equally to plant batteries so as to protect Sherman's crossing. But the horses were yet too
few in number, and too weak, to meet the strain upon them. Sherman meanwhile was forcing his men over the hilly roads back of the river toward their destination. But the routes became fearfully cut up. The river rose and interfered with the pontoon bridges, both below at Brown's Ferry and above near the mouth of Chickamauga creek. He was obliged to inform Grant of the impossibility of performing his herculean task in the required time. So the proposed attack of the 21st was compulsorily postponed.
This filled Grant with alarm for Burnside's safety. He was not succeeding as he had expected in his promised diversion. Halleck was more than ever anxious about the fate of Knoxville and East Tennessee. Grant's communications with Burnside had been cut off, and he had heard nothing from him in two days. The last word was that he had been fighting Longstreet and had been driven into Knoxville. "I have never," wrote Grant to Halleck, "felt such restlessness before, as I have at the fixed and immovable condition of the Army of the Cumberland."
Seeing that attack on the morning of the 21st was impossible, Grant, rising with the emergency, made his orders more peremptory for a hard. combination of effort, so as to attack on the 22d. In this he was again disappointed, for the increasing rise in the river swept away the pontoons at Brown's Ferry and endangered all others on the river. Sherman could not get his forces up. Howard's corps, however, was more fortunate. It managed to get into Chattanooga, on the 22d, and was sent at once to a commanding position well out on Missionary Ridge. This was done that the Confederates might suppose the troops at