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At Chickamauga - Lippincott's

1876

It was the cream of army life in Southern Tennessee that we left to go to Chickamauga. Our brigade had been detached, and lay for some days at the foot of Waldron's Ridge, which runs parallel to the broad Tennessee River, and a few miles north of Chattanooga, then the objective point of the campaign of the Army of the Cumberland under Rosecrans. Of course we knew that when the movements in progress in the country below were sufficiently advanced there would probably be lively work in effecting a passage of the river in the face of the formidable force which was guarding the ford two or three miles in our front. In fact, for some days we had been preparing for the effort, and up in a sluggish bayou the best of our mechanics were industriously at work fashioning a rude scow out of such material as axes could get from the native forests. In this craft, if it could be made to float, a select party was to cross the river some foggy morning, while the enemy were intently watching the ford below, and then, while the chosen few were being gloriously shot on the other side, the rest of us were to attempt the waist-deep, crooked ford.

For the time we were, however, as has been said, enjoying the cream of army life. The nights were chilly, though the days were hot and the clay roads dusty. The mornings were glorious with their bracing fresh air, their blue mists clinging about far-off Lookout Mountain, and even hiding the top of Waldron's Ridge at our backs, and their bright sunshine, which came flooding over the distant heights of Georgia and North Carolina. The wagon-tracks winding among the low, mound-like hills which filled the valley from the base of the ridge to the river were as smooth and gravelly as a well-kept private roadway, and an ambulance-ride along their tortuous courses was a most enjoyable recreation in those fine September days of 1863. A gallop twenty miles up the valley to where Minty kept watch and ward upon our flank with his trusty horsemen; a dinner at that hospitable mess-table, furnished maybe with a pig which had strayed from its home not wholly through natural perversity; and then a lively ride back in the early evening,—this, indeed, was pleasure.

The charm of campaigning is its rapidly-succeeding surprises. The general of the army may be proceeding regularly in the path he marked out months before. The corps commanders, and even the chiefs of division, may sometimes be able to foresee the movements from day to day. But to their subordinates everything is a surprise: they lie down at night in delightful uncertainty as to where the next sunset will find them, and they sit down to a breakfast of hard bread and bacon, relieved by a little foraging from the country, not sure that their coffee will cool before the bugle sounds a signal to pack and be off, to Heaven knows where. We found this charm of surprise, as we had hundreds of times before in other places, at our camp in the valley of the Tennessee. The alternating quick and droning notes of "the general" made us spring up from the mess-table one morning, and in a moment the lazy encampment was all hurry and bustle. An aide leaped upon his horse at head-quarters and dashed off on the road to the river, and we saw that the servants of General Hazen, our brigade commander, were stripping his baggage of the small impedimenta which accumulate so rapidly even in a few days of rest, but are abandoned when the army starts on an active campaign. It was not to be a mere change of camp, evidently, but a final adieu to the locality and a dash over the Tennessee—if we could make it.

While some of us were yet sipping our hot coffee, saved out of the general wreck in packing up, the bugles called "the assembly," and in ten minutes the brigade was stretching out at a lively rate on the road the aide had taken. At the river was the detail of mechanics who had been at work on the scow in the bayou. Their task had been suddenly abandoned. It was useless: the enemy had left the opposite bank and fallen back from Chattanooga. The crossing was made, and the brigade struck out into the country toward Ringgold and the Georgia line. We belonged to Palmer's division of Crittenden's corps, but we had no idea where our comrades were. Passing over the uninviting country, and by the cornfields wasted by Bragg's men that we might not gather the grain, the brigade fell in with the rest of its division near a lonely grist-mill at a junction of cross-roads, where a battalion of Southern cavalry had just galloped in upon an infantry regiment lying under its stacked arms by the wayside. So the enemy was not entirely out of the country, it appeared. Still, we saw nothing of him, save in a trifling skirmish the next day on the road from Ringgold to Gordon's Mills. Near this place, however, we fell in with General Thomas J. Wood, who had had a little encounter which convinced him that Bragg's infantry was in force near by. The gallant old soldier was in something of a passion because the theories of his superiors did not coincide with his demonstrations, and of course the demonstrations had to give way in that case.

Passing Gordon's Mills, our division stretched away on the road toward La Fayette, and after a day's march bivouacked in a wilderness of wood and on a sluggish stream different enough from the sparkling waters which came down by the old camp below Waldron's Ridge. McCook's corps, they said, having crossed the Tennessee below Chattanooga and advanced southward on the western side of the Lookout range, was to come through a gap opposite our present position and join us. Then the army, being together once more, and having gained Chattanooga by McCook's flank movement, would return to that point. To get Chattanooga was the object of the campaign, and the movements since we crossed the river were simply to assure the safe reunion of the several corps.

The idle days wore on until the afternoon of the 18th of September. Then "the general" was suddenly sounded from brigade head-quarters, the regimental buglers took up the signal, and in twenty minutes we were on the road and moving back toward Gordon's Mills and Chattanooga. No leisurely march this time, however, but a race which tasked even the legs of the veterans. Two hours of this brought the command to the crest of a ridge from which, away to the right, a wide expanse of country lay in view. There was a broad valley running parallel to the road we were traveling and covered by a dense growth of low oaks, which effectually hid roads, streams, and even the few lonely habitations of the people. But, looking from our eminence over the unbroken expanse of tree-tops, we could see a light yellow snake-like line stretching down the valley. It was dust from the road on which Bragg's army was hurrying toward the Rossville Pass, through which was the way to Chattanooga and all our communications and supplies. The line of dust extended miles down the valley, far in advance of the point we had reached. The rest of our army might be ahead of us and ahead of Bragg, or it might be on our left, or even behind us, for aught we knew, but it was plain enough why we were making such haste back toward Chattanooga.

The afternoon passed: darkness came, and still the march continued. Late in the evening we came upon a group of tents by the roadside—Rosecrans's head-quarters, with Rosecrans himself, and not in the best of humors, as some of us discovered on riding up to see friends on his staff. In his petulance and excitability the commanding general forgot to be gentlemanly, some of them said; and they left him not at all relieved of any doubts they had concerning our sudden and forced march.

It was long after midnight when we reached Gordon's Mills. Here the road was full of ambulances, wagons, artillery and infantry, while in the thickets on the left were heard the confused noises of the bivouac. There were no fires, which showed that we were supposed to be in the immediate presence of the enemy, and that our commander did not want his position revealed by camp-fires. At some distance past the mills Palmer's division was halted in the road, and the troops were massed by regiments, and moved some yards into the thicket to pass the few hours before daylight.

In the morning it was said that Bragg had indeed beaten in the race the day before, and had halted at night, if he halted at all, much nearer to the Rossville Pass than we were. The Chickamauga River was supposed to be between the two armies, but it is a stream which is easily fordable in many places, and a mile or two below where we lay was a bridge over which Bragg could cross rapidly with his artillery and trains, and then strike our road to Rossville ahead of us. A division moved out early in the day and went off toward this bridge. Soon after there was lively musketry and some cannonading in that direction. Word came back that the enemy had crossed the river in force too heavy to be successfully encountered by our reconnoitering division. Another division followed in the path of the first, and there was more firing. Finally, General Palmer moved his division out upon the road, and along it for some distance toward Rossville, approaching the firing down by the bridge. Halting near the Widow Glenn's cottage, about which were a little cloud of cavalry and many officers, we saw that Rosecrans was there, directing the movements in person. Palmer got his orders quickly. He was to move down the road toward Rossville to an indicated point, then form his division en échelon by brigade from the left, and move off the road to the right and attack. When he struck the enemy's left flank he was to envelop and crush it. The formation en échelon was to facilitate this enveloping and crushing.

Moving off the road as ordered, the division passed through several hundred yards of forest, and came upon a wide open field of lower ground, through the centre of which ran, parallel to our front, a narrow belt of timber. The skirmishers passed through this belt and a few yards beyond, and were then driven back by an overpowering fire from the enemy's skirmishers. Our main line came up to the timber and passed through it to the farther side; and then the edge of the forest beyond, in front, on the right and on the left, was suddenly fringed with a line of flashing fire, above which rose a thin white smoke. The tremendous crash of musketry was measured by the deep thunder of artillery farther back, and soon columns of dense white smoke rising above the tree-tops indicated the positions of several swift-working batteries. A storm of bullets whizzed through the ranks of the attacking échelons, while shrieking shells filled the air with a horrid din, and, bursting overhead, sent their ragged fragments hurtling down in every direction. In an instant a hundred gaps were opened in the firm ranks as the men sank to the ground beneath the smiting lead and iron. In an instant the gaps were closed, and in another a hundred more were opened. Every yard of the advance was costing the assailants a full company of men—every rod at least half a regiment. They wavered, halted and fell back to the shelter of the narrow belt of timber. The attack had failed, the flank of the enemy had not been struck.

But the other divisions of the army? Sent in as ours had been, some one of them must surely strike the opposing flank, unless Bragg's whole army had crossed the river and was in position before Rosecrans moved. Palmer's division held its place, fired its sixty rounds of cartridges into the wood where the unseen foe was, and waited for the attack of the succeeding division which should strike Bragg's flank. But we waited in vain. When Rosecrans's last division was forming its échelons it was itself enveloped on its outer flank by the active foe. Rosecrans's line, as he formed it a division at a time, had been constantly outflanked.

The battle was a failure thus far. We could all see that, and some of us saw how nearly it became an irretrievable disaster. Hazen's brigade had been withdrawn to replenish its ammunition after the attack, and was lying along the Rossville road. The men were filling their cartridge-boxes, and the captains were counting their diminished ranks and noting who were dead and who but wounded. Out at the front the fight still went on, but in a desultory way. Suddenly there was an ominous sound in front of Van Cleve's division, which was in the main line next on the right of Palmer.

Hazen leaped upon his horse. "Now Van Cleve is in for it!" he exclaimed. "They're coming for him!"

Quickly getting the men under arms, Hazen moved his brigade behind Van Cleve to act as a support, and awaited the coming attack. It came like a whirlwind, and Van Cleve's lines were scattered like fallen leaves. On came the triumphant enemy in heavy masses, while Van Cleve's disordered horde swept back with it Hazen's supporting regiments. All but one. Colonel Aquila Wiley of the Forty-first Ohio Infantry, seeing the coming avalanche of fugitives, broke his line to the rear by companies and allowed the flying mass to pass through the intervals. Then instantly reforming his line, Wiley delivered a volley by battalion upon the advancing foe. The latter, his ranks loose, as usual in a headlong pursuit, was staggered and stopped in Wiley's front, but pressed forward on his right, and had got well to his rear in that direction before the guns of the Forty-first were reloaded. At a double-quick step Wiley changed front to the rear on his left company, and sent another volley among the swarming enemy on his right. Twice he repeated this manoeuvre, and, gaining ground to the rear with each change of front, kept back the enemy from front and flank until he could take his place in good order upon a new line on a ridge to the rear.

Meantime, Hazen was not idle. Seeing the inevitable result when Van Cleve's lines wavered, he dashed down the road to some unemployed batteries. These he got quickly into position to enfilade the enemy as he passed over Van Cleve's abandoned ground, and while Wiley with his Forty-first was striking in front and flank to clear himself of the surrounding foes, Hazen's batteries were pouring shells at short range into the well-ordered supporting troops which the enemy was hurrying forward to improve the success he had gained. Bragg had actually crossed the Rossville road and cut the Army of the Cumberland in two, with nothing in the gap but one regiment of three hundred men. But the enfilading artillery smote asunder the solid ranks which were to follow up the victory and left their advantage a barren triumph. Night fell and ended there the first day's battle.

The blessed night! better for the Army of the Cumberland then than thirty thousand fresh men. Under its sheltering mantle a thousand necessary things were done. We knew well enough that the struggle must be renewed in the morning, but we hoped that it would not be taken up on our side under such disadvantages as had been against us in the day just closed. So when, some time after dark, an order came to move down the road to the left, it was gladly obeyed. We were going into position, it was evident, though where and how none of us could tell in the darkness. The road and the woods on each side of it were full of troops, ambulances, ammunition and head-quarter wagons, artillery, and, lastly, stragglers hunting for their regiments. Now and then a wounded man, whose hurt did not prevent his walking, came along inquiring for the hospitals. There were not many of these, however, for the hospital service was pretty efficient, and the surgeons were located near the ground where the fighting had been.

Winding about through such surroundings for what seemed a long time, so slow was the movement and so frequent the halts to allow the staff-officer who was directing the march to verify the route, Palmer's division at length stacked arms on a slightly rising ground not many hundred yards in front of the Rossville road. There were troops to the left of us, and soon after we halted troops came up on our right. We knew by this that we were in the main line of battle as it was being formed for the next day's fight. There were sounds occasionally from the forest in front which told us that the enemy also was making his preparations for the morning, and there was moving of troops, wagons, artillery, stragglers and mounted officers in rear of us almost all night. Even our troops in line, tired as they were, were not quite still. The men lay upon the ground and talked of the events of the day. Company commanders were inquiring the fate of their missing men, and some of them were even counting up the guns lost by killed and wounded men, and wondering how they could account for them on their next ordnance returns. Waking and sleeping by turns, officers and men passed the chilly night as best they could until it was near the time when the first gray streaks of dawn should come. Then those who were sleeping were quietly aroused; the ranks were noiselessly formed; the stacks of arms were broken; the first sergeants passed along the fronts of their companies to verify the attendance; and then the men were allowed to sit down, guns in hand, to await the daybreak and be in instant readiness for an attack if the enemy should attempt an early surprise.

Daylight came, however, on the memorable 20th of September, and no attack had been made. The first thought, naturally, after apprehension of an early attack had gone, was to appease hunger and thirst. But there was little in the haversacks, and nothing in the canteens. Details of men were sent for water, and never returned. The enemy had possession of the springs we had used the day before, and our details walked unconsciously into his hands. There was not a drop of water on the whole field, and men and officers resigned themselves to the torments of thirst, a thousand times worse than the gnawings of hunger. But with daylight we could at least get some idea of our position. In front was a dense forest, in which nothing was to be seen except our own skirmishers a few yards in advance. Just behind us was an oblong open field, three hundred yards wide and thrice as long. On the other side of this field ran the Rossville road. Beyond our division, to the left, was Johnson's, and then Baird's division, the latter forming the extreme left of the army, and extending off into the woods beyond the lower end of the open field. To our right—though this we could not see, the line being in a dense forest—was the division of Reynolds; beyond him was Brannan, and then came Wood; and so on to the right of the army, in what further order we did not know. It was evident that the line had been hastily formed: the divisions had been placed just as they were picked up in the confusion of the night. No corps was together in the line, but it was made up of a division from one corps, then a division from another, and then one from a third corps, and so on. Thus it happened that the four divisions on the left of the line had with them no corps commander.

In the idle hour after daylight our brigade commander directed the construction of a barricade of rails and logs, a little more than knee-high, along the front of his command. Some of the troops on the left and the right followed the example. The supposition was that the game would be changed this day, and that we should stand for attack as the enemy had done the day before. There was no little satisfaction in thinking that Bragg's men would have a chance to walk up to a fire at least as murderous as we had faced when attacking them. If the haversacks were empty and the canteens had gone for water never to return, the cartridge-boxes were full, and each man had about him an extra package or two of cartridges.

The morning wore slowly away, and on our part of the line everything was remarkably quiet. There was some skirmishing toward the right between eight and nine o'clock, but evidently nothing serious. The barricade was finished, and there was nothing to do but to lie behind it and wish for water as the day grew warmer and thirst became more intense.—But what is that?

There was a sharp rattle of Springfield rifles from Baird's skirmishers, a third of a mile to our left and hidden from sight by the woods. In a moment came a crash of musketry which brought every man to his feet. Baird's skirmishers had been driven in, and his main line had hurled its thousands of bullets as the attacking enemy came into view. Instantly the answering fire was given, and then followed the continuous rattling roar of a fierce general engagement. Wounded men began to come out of the wood where Baird was as they made their way alone toward the hospitals or were carried off by the hospital corps. Suddenly, a hundred men with arms in their hands emerged from the woods into the open field behind Baird, straggling and without order. These were not wounded men. No: it was too plain that Baird's division was giving way. A moment more, and the lower end of the open field was filled with a dense mass of men as Baird's disordered lines poured forth out of the woods, which were swarming with the exultant enemy. Through and behind the retreating mass the mounted officers rode furiously, their swinging sabres flashing in the sun as they alternately commanded and exhorted their men to rally and breast the storm of lead which the enemy was hurling upon them. Then Johnson, whose division was next to Baird's, wheeled a regiment or two backward and opened fire on the enemy engaged with Baird. The troops of the latter were not running, but falling back, firing as they went. Suddenly, one of their colonels seized his regimental standard from the color-bearer and faced his horse toward the enemy, holding the flag high above his head. The men began to rally around this flag, and in a moment an imperfect line had been formed. The enemy's success was at an end. A moment more, and with a wild cheer Baird's men dashed forward and drove the enemy from their front.

Meanwhile, we were not idle spectators of all this. At the moment when Baird's men had been forced into the open field, and it seemed impossible to re-form them under the fire they were receiving, the skirmishers in front of Johnson's and Palmer's divisions broke out into a lively fire and came in at a run. Close behind them were the rapidly-advancing skirmishers of the enemy. As these came in sight of our position they took shelter behind trees and waited for their main force to come up. Soon the woods behind them were filled with the long, sweeping lines of Bragg's infantry, moving swiftly and steadily up to the attack. They reached their skirmishers, and as the latter fell in with the main body the whole broke into the peculiar shrill and fitful yell of the Southern soldiery, and rushed impetuously upon our line. From behind its barricade Hazen's brigade gave the yelling assailants two volleys, by front and rear rank, and then, as the enemy staggered under the regular blows, the command "Load and fire at will!" rang along the line. Out burst a swift storm of lead, before which the wasting ranks of the assailants first wavered, and then stopped to open a rapid but wild and diminishing fire against the barricade. For a moment or two their colors waved defiantly at their front as their officers rode among them in the vain endeavor to hold them to the hopeless effort; and then they turned and vanished into the deep recesses of the forest whence they came. Not as they came, however, but as a flying multitude of panic-stricken men, insensible to authority, conscious only of their defeat and their peril.

Ah! but this was quite different from yesterday's work, thought the men of Hazen's brigade. It is one thing to march up to an enemy waiting to receive you on his chosen ground, and another to lie quietly in position and let your enemy feel his way up until he is within fair range. This was the thought after the successful defence: before the fight it is a question whether it does not require greater steadiness of nerve to wait inactive for an attack than to rush forward in an onslaught. Officers and men in Palmer's division were in excellent spirits. They saw that their comrades on the right and the left had met with equally good fortune. Johnson's division on one side and Reynolds's on the other remained as steady as rocks.

It was nearly eleven o'clock, and all had prospered with us thus far. The enemy was getting his share of bloody repulses, of which we had had more than enough the day before. The attacks upon our line had begun upon the left, and were traveling toward our right. The two armies were thus brought together gradually, something after the manner of scissor-blades when they are slowly closed. The four divisions on the left had already successfully withstood the shock, which it was to be supposed the enemy had made as heavy as possible at that point, since the left was the vital point of the whole line. Success there would give him the line of retreat to Chattanooga, with Rosecrans's entire army shut out. Besides, we knew that the line was stronger toward the right, where at least two divisions were in reserve. No one apprehended disaster, therefore, when a long and rapid roll of musketry far to the right told that the enemy was attacking there. "Brannan and Wood are attending to 'em now!" said General Palmer, standing in a group of officers in rear of Hazen's brigade. The talk went on as before—about the successful defences of the morning, the barricade, Baird's splendid recovery, etc. But soon everybody was listening anxiously to the sounds of the battle on the right. The roar of musketry had worked round until it was behind our right shoulders as we stood facing to our front. There could be no doubt about it: the line had given way somewhere on the right, and the enemy was following up. It was not long before stray bullets were singing behind and among us, flying in a direction parallel to our line. Then, all in a moment, a battery far to the right and rear opened a rapid fire, and some of its shells came shrieking into the rear of Palmer's and Johnson's divisions. Meanwhile, the crash and roar of battle came nearer and nearer, until the attack struck Reynolds on the flank and in rear. But he had been forewarned, and his line was swung backward, at right angles with his original position, to face the attack from the new direction. Even then he was forced backward until his men were stretched across the open field in rear of Palmer's division, and the battle was going on directly behind us. Something—a shell perhaps—set fire to a log house at the upper end of this field, not three hundred yards from our brigade. This house had been taken for a hospital the night before. It was filled with wounded men, too badly hurt to be taken farther away in the ambulances, and the regular hospital flag floated above it. This unfortunate house, with its maimed occupants, was brought between Reynolds's men and the attacking enemy when the former were driven into the open field; and, despite the non-combatant flag flying from the gable, it was riddled with shells from the Southern batteries. I do not charge upon those gunners a knowledge of the facts here given: their batteries were some distance away through the forest. However, whether they saw the house and the flag or not, their fire swept mercilessly through the house, while many a stout-hearted soldier, knowing what was there, wished that if he were to be hit at all, he might be struck dead at once, and so avoid such sickening horrors.

For the second time on that memorable day it looked for a few moments as if Palmer would have to face his men about and fight to the rear. Preparations to do this were made on the right of the division, but, fortunately, the appalling disaster which seemed imminent in the complete encompassing of the four divisions of the left was averted. The enemy yielded at last to the stubborn resistance, and Reynolds re-established his line—not upon the old ground entirely, but to conform to the altered situation. He was now the right of the army upon the original field, and four divisions comprised all that was left of the Army of the Cumberland in the position of the morning.

The divisions of the centre and the right—where were they? Brannan, and Wood, and Negley, and Davis, and Van Cleve, and gallant Sheridan, who held stubbornly his division even amid the panic at Stone River—where were they? And Rosecrans, commander of the army; Thomas, the hero in every fight; rash McCook and unfortunate Crittenden, chiefs of corps? Gone with the centre and the right of the army; gone with the reserves and the artillery; gone with the ammunition-trains; gone with everything that belonged to the Army of the Cumberland except four divisions of unconquered soldiers with half-filled cartridge-boxes and with hearts that knew no fear.

All gone? No! In the hush which came after Reynolds's desperate defence, and while hearts were yet beating fast from watching the doubtful fight, there arose far off to the right and rear a roar of musketry, telling that somewhere in the distance the flags of the Army of the Cumberland still waved before the foe, as they did with us. Long afterward we knew that this was Thomas—he who would not leave the field amid the wreck which surrounded him—Thomas, with his fragments, posted on a commanding ridge and bravely beating off the thickening foes about him.

The story of the disaster is an old one. It is hardly necessary to tell how Wood, in the main line on the right of Brannan, received an order from Rosecrans to support Reynolds, the second division in line to the left of Wood; how the gallant soldier hesitated to obey an order from which such disaster might come; how McCook, chief of corps, told Wood the order was imperative, and promised to put a reserve division into the line to take his place; how Wood withdrew from the line, as ordered, at the fatal moment when the enemy was preparing to attack; how the furious foe pressed through the gap, cut the army in two, struck the lines to right and left in flank and rear, swept the centre, the right wing and the reserves off the field, and doubled up and crushed the left wing as far as Reynolds's division, whose fortune has been told. All this is familiar enough now, but those who remained on the field in the four divisions of the left knew nothing of it then. They only knew that the line was broken beyond Reynolds, and that, although somewhere in the distance was a force which had not yet fled nor surrendered, they were left to bear alone the battle against Bragg's victorious army. The odds were five or six to one—perhaps more, maybe less. It did not matter to be precise: Bragg had men enough to put a double line of troops entirely around the four divisions. That was enough.

It was after midday when the disaster was complete and the divisions of Baird, Johnson, Palmer and Reynolds were able to understand the situation. I need not recount in detail the repeated attempts of the enemy to crush the line of the four divisions at one point and another. If the reader can recall the description of the first attack on Palmer's division, he will have a very fair example of the work which busied us at intervals during those long hours. The enemy was, of course, not unaware of his great success in dividing the army and driving off the greater part of it; nor was he lacking in efforts to improve the advantage by destroying the divisions which yet confronted him. Every attack, however, resulted in failure,  and the assailants retired each time with heavy losses. At length it was evident to us that it had become difficult to bring even Longstreet's boasted troops up to attacks which met such sure and bloody repulses. There were but four divisions against an army, but the four would not be taken or driven.

With hands and faces blackened by the smoke and dust of battle those men stood devotedly to their posts, their ranks thinned by every assault, but their aim as fatal as ever. But one dread possessed them: ammunition ran short, and there were no supplies. In the intervals between the enemy's assaults the cartridge-boxes of dead comrades along the line and in the open field, where were the fierce struggles of the morning, were emptied of their contents to replenish the failing stock of the survivors. More precious than food and water, though they were sorely needed, were these inheritances from the dead.

The long afternoon wore slowly away. Night could not come too soon, but it seemed that never before was it so tardy. Officers and men were tortured by thirst. Their tongues were swollen and their lips black and distended, often to bursting. Speech became difficult or absolutely impossible. Officers mumbled their commands, and prayed silently for darkness to save them from enforced surrender or flight when the last cartridge should be spent.

Meantime, the relentless but cautious foe was carefully feeling his way around the flanks, apparently unwilling to venture boldly into the rear of the little army which he could not move by attack in front. A group of officers stood by their horses in rear of Hazen's brigade when the crack of an Enfield rifle was heard from the woods in rear across the open field. A bullet came whizzing into the group and killed a colonel's horse. Other shots followed from the same direction. The woods behind us were evidently occupied by the enemy's skirmishers. A captain volunteered to take his company and clear the woods, but ammunition was too scarce to waste on sharpshooters.

Word came at last, in some way, that Thomas, whose firing we heard far to the right and rear, was sorely pressed. A consultation was held by the four division generals. They needed a commander, but who should it be? Who would take command of that beleaguered force and undertake to extricate it from its surrounding peril or deliver it over to Thomas? Would Palmer? No. Would Reynolds? No. The stern duty of fighting their divisions until they could fight no longer, and doing then whatever desperate thing might be possible—that they would not fail in; but that responsibility was as great as they cared to assume. Up came Hazen then. "I'll take my brigade across that interval," said he, "and find Thomas if he's there." Palmer objected: it would make a gap in his line; it would expose one of his brigades to a thousand chances of destruction—for who could tell what forces of the enemy were in that interval or watching it?—and finally, it would take away the brigade which had most ammunition, for Hazen had husbanded his store. But something must be done. If the four divisions could hold out until night, somebody must command them and take them out if it could be done. Thomas was the proper commander, and he was needed. It was agreed that Hazen should make the attempt.

The brigade was withdrawn from the line which it had faithfully held all day, and some disposition made to fill the gap. Hazen formed his regiments in close masses, faced them to the right and rear, covered his front with a trusty battalion as skirmishers, waved an adieu to the comrades left behind, and plunged into the unknown forest in the direction of Thomas's firing. On and on went the brigade and came nearer and nearer to the ridge which Thomas held. Suddenly, the skirmishers strike obliquely an opposing line. They brush it away in an instant, but the warning is not lost. Keep more to the rear: no fighting now, though you should whip three to one. The fate of the four divisions rests upon that. With quick and steady tread the regiments move on. They clear the wood  at last, climb the end of a ridge through a field of standing corn, and burst into an open field at the summit amid the wild cheers of Thomas's exhausted men, while Thomas himself, beloved of all the army, rides down to take Hazen by the hand. And not a moment too soon.

Almost at the very instant Thomas's skirmishers along the front of the ridge broke out into a rattling fire, and were seen falling back. The enemy was about to make his final effort, and it was to be against the flank where now lay Hazen's brigade. Quickly deploying his regiments, Hazen placed them in four lines, closed one upon another, and the men lay flat upon their faces. The yell of the enemy was heard in the wood below, and in a moment the declivity in front was covered with the heavy lines of the assailants. Then the first of Hazen's regiments was brought to its feet and poured its volley straight into the faces of the oncoming foe. The next regiment, and the next, and then the last, followed in quick succession. The echoes of the last volley had hardly died away before the enemy, who came on so confident and so strong, had disappeared, crushed and broken, into the forest, leaving the hillside strewn with his dead and wounded.

So ended the fighting. Night came down and shrouded the fierce combatants from each other's sight.

The dusky ranks take up the unfamiliar march with faces from the foe. Their drums are silent, and their bugles voice-less as the spirit-horns which marshal their heroic dead upon the farther shore. The shadowy ranks pass on into the night. Bearing their close-furled banners and their empty guns, they pass on into the sad and silent night of Chickamauga to await the glorious sun of Mission Ridge.

ROBERT LEWIS KIMBERLY.


NOTE.—The writer is aware that this narrative of the battle of Chickamauga differs so materially from the commonly-received impressions of that event that it ought to be supported by more than his own authority. The reader will observe that the main narrative is made up of the experiences of one command, that to which the writer belonged, and of which he can therefore speak as of things which he saw. For the statements of the general battle reference is made to official reports, as follows: (1) In regard to the first day's battle, see report of General W.S. Rosecrans, which may be found in vol. vii. of Putnam's Rebellion Record, p. 222 and following pages. (2) In regard to the complete isolation of the four divisions of the left during the second day, and the final opening of communication with General Thomas, see General W.B. Hazen's official report on p. 238 of the volume above quoted.

The writer also quotes, by permission, from letters from Generals Hazen and Thomas J. Wood, addressed to him within the present year. General Hazen says: "Do not forget about the length of time Thomas was cut off from us—how we could hear nothing from him; how neither Reynolds nor Palmer would assume command," etc. General Wood says, in reference to the great disaster on the second day: "About 11 A.M. I received the following order from General Rosecrans: 'The commanding general directs that you close up on Reynolds as fast as possible, and support him.' As there was an entire division (Brannan's) between my division and Reynolds, I could only close upon the latter and support him by withdrawing my division from line and passing in rear of Brannan to the rear of Reynolds. This I did. Of course I knew it was an order involving perhaps the most momentous consequences, but General McCook concurred with me that it was so emphatic and positive as to demand instant obedience. I write you stubborn facts, and you can use them as such."

General Wood has been so severely criticised for his obedience to this fatal order that perhaps I should add this further explanation, contained in the letter from which I have quoted above: "After the battle was over, and it was apparent that Rosecrans's ill-considered order had led to a disaster, he offered as an explanation of it the statement that some staff-officer had reported to him that Brannan was out of line, and that he intended I should close to the left on Reynolds, and that I overlooked this direction to close to the left on Reynolds. Certainly, I overlooked it, or rather I did not see it, for it was not there to be seen. On the contrary, I was ordered to close up on Reynolds, and for a purpose—viz., to support him. I remark also that it was impossible for any man, on reading Rosecrans's order to me, to even remotely conjecture that it was based on the supposition that Brannan was out of line. He had previously ordered me to rest my left on Brannan's right, and I had reported to him that I had done so. Colonel Starling (of Crittenden's staff) testified before the McCook-Crittenden court of inquiry that he was with Rosecrans at the time the latter directed the order to be sent to me, and told him that Brannan was not out of line."