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artillery fire from the ridge, but they marched steadily through the wood. At the edge of the plain they closed their columns, charged on the double-quick, and carried an irresistible line of gleaming bayonets across the open space
in the face of the enemy's musketry and a plunging fire from the heights. Not a shot was fired in turn, but as the glistening lines of steel approached the Confederate works the effect was to carry dismay to those who thought themselves safely protected. They threw themselves prostrate in the trenches, and the Federal charge swept over them. A thousand prisoners were captured and sent to the rear. Others fled rapidly up the steep slopes. The charge was a magnificent one, and all the forces engaged reached the long lines of rifle-pits near together.
The orders were to halt and reform for the ascent. But the impulse to follow this preliminary success was too strong. The men took to the slopes in wild, ungovernable desire to scale them and complete their victory at the top. They were met by a raking fire from the second line of works about half way up, and by enfilading fires of canister from the summits. Many color-bearers fell, and the havoc was general. But neither thinned ranks nor toilsome climbing broke the ascending lines. Up, up, they pushed, steadily here, rapidly there, close after the retiring foe. The crests were reached simultaneously at six different points, and the victorious streams began to pour into the upper trenches and to swarm around the batteries. Whole regiments surrendered. Artillerists were bayoneted and their guns captured. Panic seized the remainder, who began a hasty retreat down the eastern slopes of the ridge. The route of the centre was general and complete. Bragg could not believe it, so confident was he of the strength of his position, even against a greatly superior force. He therefore made strenuous exertions to reform his lines again, but was dismayed to find that the Federals had also crowned
the ridge on his right. A few moments afterward the divisions from his left began to crowd in upon his broken centre in confusion, and then he learned that his left, too, had been turned. There was nothing to do but to organize retreat and save what was possible from the wreck. Breckenridge and Hardee gathered up the broken detachments, as best they could, and fell back toward the depot at Chickamauga creek. Fortunately it was near night, and the retreat would be along familiar roads.
When Grant saw his forces climbing the ridge after their success at the first line of rifle pits, he could not remain longer at his point of observation on Orchard Knoll, but galloped to the front, with his staff, and began to mount the ridge also. The wounded forgot their pain as he passed, and cried out, “We've gained the day, general!” “We're even with them now for Chickamauga!” “All we wanted was a leader!” He worked his way up the steeps and into the midst of the fray at the top, where he was exposed to the enemy's heaviest fire. His desire to see the victory made complete, overcame for the time his discretion.
Here he took in the whole situation. It was apparent that the enemy's centre was hopelessly broken. The cannonading to the south and the confused surging of Confederate divisions northward told him that Hooker had rebuilt the burned bridge across the Chattanooga, had gained the crests on the enemy's left, and was sweeping all before him. And as to Sherman, he knew that he would not only hold on, but would take advantage of the turn in the tide to force in the enemy's right. Therefore he organized as speedily as circumstances would permit for effective pursuit. But night intervened ere the ridge was cleared. From the eastern verges Bragg, who had barely escaped capture, was seen in the valley below with his disorganized troops and a large wagon train, together with artillery, seeking the protection of a high ridge still further
east, on which was posted several batteries and an infantry reserve. Sheridan, who was at the head of the pursuing
columns, could not resist the temptation presented by such a prize. His men plunged down the eastern slopes of the ridge and across the narrow valley. Then, as a few hours before on
the western side, they began to clamber up this less difficult range on either flank of the enemy's regiments, artillery and wagon train. Gaining the summit, they closed on the roadway and captured the entire train, most of the guns and many men. Not yet content, the pursuit was kept up, though it was long after nightfall, till the Confederates passed the South Chickamauga by bridges which they burned. Then the tired victors went into bivouac, passing their cheers back from ridge to ridge, and regiment to regiment, till all the hills and valleys rang with their glad good-night salvos. Chickamauga was avenged. Grant ere he slept sent the following to Halleck : “Although the battle has lasted from 'early dawn till dark this evening, I believe I am not premature in announcing a complete victory over Bragg.” To which Halleck responded on the 26th : “I congratulate you and your army on the victories of Chattanooga. This is truly a day of thanksgiving."
But though victory was complete and all the mountain ranges encircling Chattanooga were rid of the enemy, though the troops were exhausted by their three days of active manoeuvring and hard fighting, there must be no remission of effort. Bragg must not be allowed to retreat toward Burnside. Sherman had already been warned, and had pushed his left well toward Cleveland on the railroad running to Knoxville. Bragg therefore turned south, and Hooker was ordered to pursue rapidly the next morning with the hope of cutting off his new troops and trains. Granger was ordered to march up the south side of the Tennessee with a force of twenty thousand men to strike Longstreet in the rear and relieve Burnside at Knoxville. Thomas was to supervise the direct pursuit of Bragg, and to contribute all the strength he could spare to it.
The next day Bragg was closely followed. He burned his supply depot at Chickamauga creek, and hurriedly pushed toward Dalton, leaving evidences everywhere in his trail of
his haste and demoralization. Just before reaching Dalton, at a gap twenty-two miles south of Chattanooga, the pursuit was checked for a time by the rear guard of the enemy who occupied a strong position, and offered battle. They were not dislodged till after a sharp fight in which some two hundred were killed and wounded on both sides. Hooker was then ordered to discontinue the pursuit and hold the gap. The railroad was destroyed from Dalton almost to Cleveland, and all direct communication cut off between Bragg and Longstreet.
The battle of Chattanooga was the grandest fought west of the Alleghenies during the Civil War, and was in many respects the most remarkable in history. It covered an extent of thirteen miles, and Grant had sixty thousand men engaged, while Bragg, in his report of December ioth, reported fifty-eight thousand seven hundred and fifty-five men present, of whom forty three thousand and ninety-four were effective. The Federal losses were 757 killed, 4529 wounded and 330 missing; total 5616. The enemy's losses in killed and wounded were less, owing to the nature of the ground and their entrenched positions, but their total losses must have approximated 10,000, as they left 6140 prisoners behind, 69 pieces of artillery and 7000 small arms.
No battle, ancient or modern, ever reflected greater credit for generalship on a commander. The situation was wholly desperate till Grant's arrival. He found an army hemmed in, demoralized, without clothing, starving, immovable as to guns, wagons, animals and paraphernalia. He was a new officer, in a new field, and in command of three armies that had not hitherto fought together or even actively co-operated. His lieutenants were fortunately without jealousy, were able and loyal, and men who would disappoint no confidence, but they were occupying wide areas, and had to be hurriedly brought together with their forces, or strongly supported where they were. In fact the army o. Chattanooga had to be