« PreviousContinue »
kept open only with great difficulty. Hooker had a hand in overcoming this critical state of affairs, winning a victory at Wauhatchie and opening a safe line of food supplies.
But Hooker's most famous exploit came in November, after Grant had taken command at Chattanooga. Overlooking that stronghold on the south was the high peak known as Lookout Mountain, rising fifteen hundred feet above the river level. This Hooker was ordered to attack, and in this way to distract the attention of the Confederates while Sherman was crossing the Tennessee with his troops. Fighting Joe” was ready and willing. His men were under arms at four o'clock in the morning of the 24th, and rapidly made their way through the darkness and the heavy mist which lay upon the country after day dawn to the mountain's foot. Most of the Confederates in the rifle pits were taken in the advance through the mist, and on up the rugged slopes went the men, climbing up steep ledges and through tangled ravines, cutting the felled trees with which the mountain side had been covered, making their way under the very muzzles of the Confederate cannon, and driving the enemy before them as they rushed resistlessly on.
When the works at the mountain's base had been taken, Hooker, fearing disorder and entanglement in the mist-covered mountain, ordered his men to halt. But he found them warmed to their work and not to be stayed, and he now gave them the order to charge. Up the steep slopes went the eager, cheering fellows, full of enthusiastic valor, driving all before them, until the plateau was reached and the Confederates were sent flying in dismay and confusion down the mountain side, towards the opposite valley.
It was now two o'clock in the afternoon. A dense cloud covered the mountain, rendering further movements perilous. From the valley and the town below many eyes were strained that day to catch a glimpse of what was taking place under the veil of vapor, from which came the roar of battle. At intervals, as the wind disturbed the mist, a glimpse of the struggling battalions might be caught far up the mountain side, but the result was not fully known until a clear sunrise the next morning showed the National flag waving from the top of Pulpit Rock, the extreme point of the mountain overlooking Chattanooga. Such was the celebrated “battle above the clouds," by which the name of “Fighting Joe Hooker” has since been best remembered.
Hooker also took an active part in the subsequent capture of Missionary Ridge and the pursuit of Bragg after the battle, and in Sherman's famous march to Atlanta in the following year he commanded a corps of the army and did his share well and bravely.
With this campaign Hooker's career as a fighter ended. He afterwards had command of the northern department, and in March, 1865, was brevetted majorgeneral. The full rank of major-general was given him in 1868 when, attacked by paralysis, he retired from the army. He died October 31, 1879. Despite his failure at Chancellorsville he has since been regarded as one of the bravest fighters in the American army.
JOSEPH WHEELER, THE “FIGHTING
JOE” OF THE CONFEDERACY
It was largely in the cavalry service that the Confederate soldiers made a reputation for daring adventure and striking achievements, this giving them an opportunity for bold dashes to the rear of the Federal army and the display of deeds of desperate courage and romantic exploits, not open to a like extent to the Federal cavalrymen. There were reckless guerillas, like Morgan, the bold invader of Indiana and Ohio, and Mosby, some of whose exploits read like those of Marion of Revolutionary fame. Men of greater note were Stuart and Forrest, sketches of whose lives we have given, and Wheeler, the daring dragoon, with whom we have now to deal.
Joseph Wheeler was born at Augusta, Georgia, September 10, 1836. But, though of Southern birth, he was of New England Puritan stock, his father being a Connecticut man who had made Georgia his home. The boy was well educated and was finally sent to West Point, where he graduated as a soldier in 1859, serving as second lieutenant of dragoons in Kansas and New Mexico until April, 1861, when he resigned to enter the Confederate service.
Wheeler began his career in this service with a low grade for a West Pointer, that of first lieutenant of artillery, but in September he was made an infantry colonel, and in the battle of Shiloh, where he showed much ability, was given command of a brigade. He had two horses shot under him and distinguished himself in the last charge. During the retreat he was chosen to cover the rear and check pursuit. From Shiloh Beauregard led the Confederate forces to the fortified town of Corinth, in northern Mississippi, and here Wheeler found plenty of work to do, being in command in front of the town, where he was kept busy in fighting. The siege ended in an evacuation of the city under cover of night, Wheeler again covering the rear and having some sharp fighting with the Federal advance.
Until this period of the war Wheeler had an infantry command, and it was not until July, 1862, that he was given an opportunity to show his genius as a cavalry leader. He was now sent to West Tennessee with a cavalry brigade to mislead the enemy, while General Bragg, then in command, was moving his forces from Tupelo, Mississippi, to Chattanooga. Wheeler did his best to keep the Federal troops busy by sharp skirmishes and sudden attacks on outposts, through which he interrupted the communication between Bolivar and Jackson, Tennessee.
During the remainder of the summer Wheeler, Forrest, and Morgan made things lively in Tennessee and Kentucky, and when, in the late summer, Bragg began his famous expedition northward, Wheeler was his main reliance to disturb the enemy. Both armies headed in September for Louisville, Bragg's to capture that important city if possible, Buell's to save it from capture, and in all haste the soldiers in blue and grey streamed northward over the roads of the two States, each army seeking to outstrip the other in speed.
At Munfordville, in Kentucky, the two lines of march came together, and both armies strove eagerly to reach this point first. Wheeler, sent with his cavalry brigade to delay Buell's march, rode to Bowling Green, threw himself across his path, and did everything he could to annoy and delay him, checking him to such an extent that Bragg was first at the junction, and captured the fort at Munfordville with its valuable armament and four thousand prisoners. Buell in the end succeeded in saving Louisville from capture, but his enemy was meanwhile raiding the State at will and gathering a rich harvest of spoil from the fields and towns.
The armies met in battle at Perryville on October 8, in which engagement Wheeler commanded the cavalry and showed his usual daring and alertness. He had the busiest time of his life during Bragg's subsequent retreat, in which, as chief of cavalry, he covered the rear, a service in which he had much earlier experience. During the thirteen days of the retreat, Wheeler, at the head of his active troopers, fought no less than twenty-six engagements, averaging two for each day, and enabled Bragg to withdraw his men and spoils in safety. For this useful service he was given the rank of brigadier-general.
He was no less alert in December, when Bragg lay intrenched at Murfreesboro, and Rosecrans, who had superseded Buell, was marching upon him from Nashville. The new Federal commander found he had a veritable hornet in Joe Wheeler, who swept around into the rear of his army, attacked troops and supply trains, and in the short interval of twenty-four hours captured four hundred wagons, took over a thousand prisoners, destroyed a million dollars' worth of property, and seized many fresh horses to mount his men. During the battle that followed he commanded the