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Whether Thomas makes any demonstration before his arrival, will depend upon advices of the enemy's movements.”
On the 7th he issued the following order to General Thomas: “The news is of such a nature that it becomes an imperative duty for your force to draw the attention of the enemy from Burnside to your own front. I deem the best movement to attack the enemy, to be an attack on the northern end of Missionary Ridge, with all the force you can bring to bear against it; and, when that is carried, to threaten and even attack, if possible, the enemy's line of communication between Dalton and Cleveland. Rations should be ready to issue a sufficiency to last four days the moment Missionary Ridge is in our possession; rations to be carried in haversacks. Where there are not horses to move the artillery, mules must be taken from teams, or horses from ambulances; or, if necessary, officers dismounted, and their horses taken. Immediate preparations should be made to carry these directions into execution. The movement should not be made a moinent later than to-morrow morning."
On the same day he said to Burnside: “I have ordered an immediate move from here to Missionary Ridge, and to threaten or attack the railroad between Cleveland and Dalton. This must have the effect to draw the enemy back from your western front.” Thomas was in such condition at this time that he could not make this forward movement, and so informed Grant. Having no horses for his artillery, under the circumstances, and a sober second thought, suggested by that "calm prudence which is one of his best characteristics," he concluded to await the arrival of Sherman's force; and while thus waiting he had to content himself with exhorting Burnside to keep firm, and with preparing the means for supplying his army with supplies and material, so that it would be able to take the offensive when the time came for so doing.
The anxiety of the government at Washington for the safety of Burnside is shown in the dispatches that follow. On the 14th Halleck teiegraphed: “Advices received from East Tennessee indicate that Burnside intends to abandon the defense of Little Tennessee River, and fall back before Longstreet toward Cumberland Gap and the upper valley. Longstreet is said to be near the Little Tennessee, with from 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, reassuringly: “Burnside certainly can detain Longstreet in the Tennessee Valley until we can make such moves here as will entirely free him from present dangers. I have asked him if he could hold the Knoxville and Clinton line for one week; if so, we 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 Kelly's Ferry, evading view from Lookout, and march up to the mouth of Chickamauga. 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 the south side of Oostanaula, and Longstreet cut off.”
On the 17th he telegraphs: “I have not heard from you since the 14th. What progress is Longstreet making, and what are your chances for defending yourself? Sherman's forces have commenced their movement from Bridgeport, threatening the enemy. This alone may turn Longstreet back, and if it does not, the attack will be prosecuted until we reach the roads over which all the supplies must pass, while you hold East Tennessee."
Later on the same day: “Your dispatch received. You are doing exactly what appears to me to be right. I want the enemy's progress retarded at every point all it can be, only giving up each place when it becomes evident that it cannot longer be held without endangering your force to capture. I think our movements here must cause Longstreet's recall within a day or two, if he is not successful before that time. Sherman moved this morning from Bridgeport, with one division. The remainder of his command moves in the morning. There will be no halt until a severe battle is fought, or the railroads cut supplying the enemy.”
On the 18th he telegraphs Halleck: “Dispatches from General Burnside received at 10 P. M. yesterday. Troops had got back from 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 farthest. Burnside speaks hopefully."
On this day he also gives written orders to Thomas and Sherman. Those to Thomas were as follows: "All preparations should be made for attacking the enemy's position on Missionary Ridge by Saturday morning, at daylight. . . . The general plan is for Sherman, with the force brought with him, strengthened by a division from your command, to effect a crossing of the Tennessee River just below the mouth of the Chickamauga; his crossing to be protected by artillery from the heights of the north bank of the river (to be located by your chief of artillery), and to secure the heights (Missionary Ridge) from the northern extremity to about the railroad tunnel, before the enemy can concentrate against him. You will coöperate with Sherman. The troops in the Chattanooga Valley should all be concentrated on your left flank, leaving only the necessary force to defend fortifications on the right and center, and a movable column of one division in readiness to move wherever ordered. This division should show itself as threateningly as possible, on the most practicable line for making an attack up the valley. Your effort, then, will be to form a junction with Sherman, making your advance well toward the northern end of Missionary Ridge, and moving as near simultaneously with him as possible. The junction once formed, and the Ridge carried, connection will be at once established between the two armies by roads on the south bank of the river. Further movements will then depend on those of the enemy.
“Lookout Valley, I think, will be easily held by Geary's Division, and what troops you may still have there of the old Army of the Cumberland. Howard's Corps can then be held in readiness to act, either with you at Chattanooga, or with Sherman. It should be marched, on Friday night, to a position on the north side of the river, not lower down than the first pontoon bridge (at Chatta.
nooga), and then held in readiness for such orders as may become necessary. All these troops will be provided with two days' cooked rations, in haversacks, and one hundred rounds of ammunition on the person of each infantry soldier."
To Sherman a copy of these instructions was furnished for his guidance, and he was told: “It is particularly desirable that a force should be got through the railroad between Cleveland and Dalton, and Longstreet thus cut off from communication with the South; but being confronted by a large force here, strongly located, it is not easy to tell how this is to be effected until the result of our first effort is known."
The preliminary movements and furiously contested battles around Chattanooga occupied several days and resulted in an overwhelming victory for the Union forces. The details of this important contest cannot better be told than in the following pithy dispatch from General Meigs, Quartermaster General of the United States Army, who was present during the entire action:
HEADQUARTERS CHATTANOOGA, Nov. 26, 1863. EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
SIR:- On the 23d inst., at half-past i A. M., General Grant ordered a demonstration against Missionary Ridge, to develop the force holding it. The troops marched out, formed in order, and advanced in line of battle, as if on parade.
The Rebels watched the formation and movement from their picket lines and rifle pits, and from the summits of Missionary Ridge, five hundred feet above us, and thought it was a review and drill, so openly and deliberately, so regular, was it all done.
The line advanced, preceded by skirmishers, and at 2 o'clock P. M. reached our picket lines, and opened a rattling volley upon the Rebel pickets, who replied and ran into their advanced line of rifle. pits. After them went out our skirmishers and into them, along the