Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
THE ARMY' OF THE CUMBERLAND AT CHATTANOOGA.
AFTER it became apparent that Bragg would not assault Rosecrans at Chattanooga, it was thought that he might cross the river above, threaten our lines of communication with the rear, and thus repeat, on the north side, the manoeuvre of Rosecrans. Longstreet advised such a movement, but Bragg preferred to adopt the plan of starving us out.
On September 24th a brigade that had held the point of Lookout Mountain was withdrawn. Bragg at once took possession, and sent Longstreet's corps over into Lookout Valley. He also extended his pickets down the south bank of the river, nearly to Bridgeport, our base of supplies. This cut us off from the river and the roads on its north and south banks, and left us but one open road to the rear.
Over this, for a time, we might haul supplies ; but we were in a state of semi-siege.
The trees within our lines were soon cut down for use in the fortifications, or for fuel. There had been but little rain since early in July. The earth was parched and blistered. Leaves had dried up on the trees, and all the grass had withered and turned gray. The moving of men and animals stirred up blinding clouds of dust which every breeze sent whirling through the camps. With the first week in October came the rains, and it was a question whether the deep and sticky mud was not more objectionable than the dust.
Our whole army was obliged to depend for every ration and every pound of forage on the mules that hauled the army wagons over the sixty miles of horrible road from Bridgeport. Some of the hills along this route were so steep that a heavy wagon was almost a load going up, and, now that the rains were falling, that part of it in the little valleys had become so soft and was so cut up that a lightly loaded wagon would sink up to the axles.
In the third week of the occupation of Chattanooga, no one, from commanding general down, any longer expected or even thought of an attack.
Missionary Ridge, summit, side, and base, was furrowed with rifle-pits and studded with batteries.
The little valley of Chattanooga was dammed up with earth-works ; and Lookout Mountain, now a mighty fortress, lifted to tho low hanging clouds its threatening head crowned with siege-guns.
The two lines of pickets were not more than three hundred yards apart; but, by common consent, there was no picket firing. On a still night, standing on the picket line, one could hear the old negro song " Dixie," adopted by the Confederates as their national music ; while from our line came, in swelling response, "Hail Columbia" and " The Star-spangled Banner." With a glass Bragg's headquarters on Missionary Ridge, even the movement of his officers and orderlies, could be seen; while from the ridge or Lookout Mountain' our whole camp was clearly in view. By daylight our troops could be counted, our reveille heard, our roll-call noted, our scanty meals of half rations seen-the last without envy. And we were not only heard and seen, but the enemy's signal-flag on Lookout talked, over our heads, with the signal-flag on Missionary Ridge.
The fall rains were beginning, and hauling was becoming each day more difficult. Ten thousand dead mules walled the sides of the road from Bridgeport to Chattanooga. In Chattanooga the men were on less than half rations. Guards stood at the troughs of artillery horses to keep the soldiers from taking the scant supply of corn allowed these starving animals. Many horses died of starvation, and most of those that survived grew too weak for use in pulling the lightest guns. Men followed the wagons as they came over the river, picking up the grains of corn and bits of crackers that fell to the ground. Yet there was no murmur of discontent.