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It extended from the Alleghenies to the Mississippi, and contained over two hundred thousand soldiers. The repulse of Rosecrans at Chattanooga had caused intense anxiety and interest throughout the North. It was felt that the crisis demanded energetic action, and that the hero of Vicksburg could alone extricate the Union forces from their perilous position.
General Sherman, who was at Memphis when he heard that Grant had been ordered North, at once wrote to him as follows: "Accept the command of the great Army of the Center; don't hesitate. By your presence at Nashville you will unite all discordant elements, and impress the enemy in proportion; all success and honor to you!”
Notwithstanding Grant's crippled condition, he at once set to work to concentrate his forces at Chattanooga.
To General Thomas at Chattanooga he tele. graphed at 11 o'clock on the night of October 19, from Louisville: “Hold Chatta. nooga at all hazards; I will be there as soon as possible.” Back flashed over the wires from the brave and noble Thomas: “I will hold the town till we starve."
Early the next morning he proceeded to Nashville, from which point he issued several orders. To Burnside, who was in command of the Department of the Ohio, and
GEORGE H. THOMAS.
in a critical position at Knoxville, Tenn., he telegraphed: “Have you tools for fortifying? Important points in East Tennessee should be put in condition to be held by the smallest number of men as soon as possible. I will be in Stephenson to-morrow night, and Chattanooga the next night."
To Admiral Porter he telegraphed: “General Sherman's advance was at Eastport on the 15th. The sooner a gunboat can be got to him, the better. Boats must now be on the way from St. Louis with supplies to go up the
Tennessee to Sherman." To Thomas, who was compelled to cart his supplies by wagon road from Nashville, sixty miles over the mountain, he wires: “Should not large working parties be put upon the road to Bridgeport and Chattanooga at once?" Nearing Bridgeport he telegraphs back to Nash.
ville: Send to the front, COMMODORE PORTER.
as speedily as possible, vegetables for the army. Beans and hominy are especially required.” All this time the army under Thomas was on half rations; three thousand men were in the hospital, ten thousand mules and horses had died around the town, while their ammunition had been so reduced that they could not have fought another battle. The whole army seemed disheartened. Arrived at Bridgeport, Grant and his staff mounted horses and proceeded in a pouring rain over roads torn up by the mountain torrents, and strewn with debris of army wagons, trains and dead animals.
On the night of October 23, cold, weary and hungry he reached Chattanooga and proceeded at once to General Thomas' tent. The following morning Grant and Thomas rode out along the front, examining critically every position held by the enemy. Before nightfall he had matured plans and issued orders for a movement to open a road between Chattanooga and Bridgeport. The southern shore of the Tennessee being then held by the enemy, prevented the use of this road by the Union army. Once in their possession, supplies could be received by steamers, or ordinary teams from Bridgeport. General Grant selected General Hooker, who had earned the soubriquet of “ Fighting Joe Hooker," at the East, for this undertaking. The details of this movement were as follows: General Hooker with the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps was to cross the river at Bridgeport twenty miles below, and advance up Lookout Valley to Wauhatchie, and threaten on Bragg's flank. General W.F. Smith, with 4,000 men was to seize the range of hills north of Lookout Valley,near Brown's Ferry. A force under General Palmer was to cross in front of the city,and march down the river to a point opposite Whitesides, to Hooker's support.
On the night of October 26, 1,400 picked men from Hazen's brigade, floated down in fifty-six pontoon boats, each containing about thirty men; hugging the northern bank, they passed the rebel batteries and pickets without being discovered, and landed on the south side of the river near Brown's Ferry. After a slight skirmish they drove the Confederate pickets, and took possession of a ridge which is here 300 feet high, and before daylight had established their position, thrown up entrenchments and planted their batteries; by 10 o'clock a very excellent pontoon bridge was completed.
While this important movement was in progress, the column, under Hooker, after considerable fighting, forced its way up Lookout Valley, and formed a junction with Hazen, thereby placing the Valley once more in the hands of the Union army. General Bragg, realizing the importance of the Union, position, sent Longstreet with his whole corps to make a night attack upon this vital point. A fierce conflict ensued, resulting in the repulse of the enemy.
Thus, in five days after Grant's arrival, he had opened connection with his base of supplies at Nashville; food,
clothing, blankets, and shoes were supplied to the half-starved troops, and all danger of prospective starvation removed. The condition of the army was now changed; he had found the troops cheerless, feeble from lack of food, and disheartened by recent defeat. Now they felt the inspiriting ef
fects of a master mind, they were hopeful, courageous, and well-fed.
Just previous to Grant's taking command, General Bragg, in his report to Richmond, says: “These dispositions, faithfully sustained, insured the speedy evacuation of Chattanooga for want of food and forage. Possessed of the shortest route to his depot, and the one by which reinforcements must reach him, we held him at our mercy, and his destruction was only a question of time."
About this time President Davis visited the rebel army,
to ascertain the true condition of affairs, and it is stated that the following scene occurred. As Davis looked down upon the Union army almost beneath his feet in the valley below, from the lofty eminence of Lookout Mountain: “I have them now," said he,“ in just the trap I set for them.” To tliis remark, General Pemberton, who was sitting on horseback beside him, remarked, “Mr. Davis, you are Commander-in-Chief, and you are here; you think the enemy are in a trap, and can be captured by vigorous assault; I have been blamed for not having ordered a general attack on the enemy when they were draw. ing around me their lines of circumvallation at Vicksburg. Do you now order an attack
these troops down there below
and I will bet you my life that not one G- dman of the attacking column will ever come back across that valley, except as a prisoner." When Rosecrans was removed the Rebel
sneered at the appointment of Grant; they said: “The Federals have taken away one general (Rosecrans) and put two fools (Grant and Thomas) in his place.” Some one called President Lincoln's attention to this attempt at wit by the Rebel paper, who said that he was "reminded of the story" of the Irishman, who, when buying a cooking stove, being