Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
THE CRISIS AT CHICKAMAUGA.
was away from his line of battle at this time was not derived from his own knowledge, but from a statement of one of his staff-officers, as is shown in the following extract from an unpublished private letter from General Bragg, dated Mobile, February 8th, 1873 :
"The staff officer sent to General Polk (Major Lee, A. I. G.) to urge his compliance with the orders of the previous night, reported to me that he found him at a farmhouse, three miles from the line of his troops, about one hour after sunrise, sitting on the gallery reading a newspaper, and waiting as he (the general) said, for his breakfast." The facts of the records above quoted are sufficient answer to this absurd statement. But I can add further that I saw Major Lee when he delivered General Bragg's message to General Polk, at his (Polk's) camp in the woods, at Alexander's Bridge, 1200 yards from his line, before sunrise. General Polk was then preparing to mount his horse.
I will also add of my own knowledge that General 663 Polk had ridden from one end of his line to the other, and had met General Hill and each of the division commanders before General Bragg came upon his line of battle. They met on the line about 7 : 45 A. M.
As to the failure to attack on the 13th, the object of Polk's movement was to intercept Crittenden before he should cross to the west side of the Chickamauga and unite with other portions of Rosecrans's army. Polk was told that he would find Crittenden east of the creek about Pea Vine Church on the Graysville road, and was directed to attack him there at daylight of the 13th. He moved as ordered and found no enemy, Crittenden having crossed to the west of the creek the evening before. General Bragg in his report neglects to take this fact into account, and thus leaves the impression that Crittenden's escape was due to Polk's tardiness in moving rather than to his own tardiness in ordering the movement. It should have been ordered for the morning of the 12th.
THE CRISIS AT CHICKAMAUGA. (1) BY GATES P. THRUSTON, BREVET BRIGADIER-GENERAL, U. S. V.
THE furious initial attack on the Federal left on the morning of the 20th, although repulsed, unfortunately led to changes in Rosecrans's army materially affecting the results of the general conflict. Thomas, discovering his position turned and his front assaulted, hurried messengers to Rosecrans for assistance. Two aides, in rapid succession, called for reenforcements. All was still on the Federal right. The fight was raging with grand fury on the left.
Rosecrans felt that his apprehensions of the morning were to be realized. The Confederates were doubtless massing on his left. They had reached the much-coveted Chattanooga road. McCook was at once notified that Thomas was heavily pressed, that the left must be held at all hazards, and that he must be ready to reenforce Thomas at a moment's warning. Five minutes later came the order to hurry Sheridan's two brigades to the left. Negley's troops, replaced by Wood, had started. Van Cleve, with two brigades, was also sent to aid Thomas. McCook was now left with one of Sheridan's brigades and two of Jefferson C. Davis's, all depleted by Saturday's losses.
They were unable to form a connected front, but joined Wood on their left. Captain Kellogg, of Thomas's staff, hurrying along the line with orders unfortunately reported to Rosecrans that he had noticed " Brannan was out of line, and Reynolds's right exposed." Turning to an aide (Major Frank Bond), Rosecrans directed him to order Wood " to close up on Reynolds as fast as possible and support him." In fact, Reynolds was not needing help, and Brannan was in position on his right, but slightly in rear. Wood, whose left connected with Brannan's right, passed to the rear of Brannan to reach Reynolds's position thus a wide gap was left in the ; Union line. McCook had already called up Wilder to strengthen his front, and sent for the main cavalry to protect the right. The right had unexpectedly become, as it were, the rear of the army .
Unhappily for the National army, Bragg was not now massing his forces on our left. He had just been defeated and repulsed there. Bragg's main plan had failed ; but in the quiet forest, within almost a stone's-throw of our right, and in the still overclouding mist, were Longstreet ana Buckner, with the left wing of the Confederate army massed in battle array, impatiently awaiting the signal for attack.
Longstreet's troops were placed in column of brigades at half distance,-a masterpiece of tactics. Hood, a soldier full of energy and dash, was to lead the column, his own division being massed five brigades deep, with the brigades of Kershaw and Humphreys as additional supports.
The order to advance came at last. The deep Confederate lines suddenly appeared. The woods in our front seemed alive. On they came like an angry flood. They struck McCook's three remaining brigades, the remnants of the Federal right. Under the daring personal exertions of McCook and Davis, they made a gallant but vain resistance. The massed lines of the enemy swarmed around their flanks. Pouring through the opening made by Wood's withdrawal, they struck his last brigade as it was leaving the line. It was slammed back like a door, and shattered. Brannan, on Wood's left, was struck in front and flank. His right was flung back; his left stood fast. Sheridan, hastening to the left with two brigades, was called back, and rushed to the rescue. His little force stayed the storm for a time. Wave after wave of Con-
(1)Condensed from the ' Southern Bivouac" for December, 1886.-EDITORS.