War of the Rebellion: Serial 010 Page 0657 Chapter XXII. ACTION AT WEST BRIDGE, ALA.

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guns) had been placed in the position last named, but were withdrawn as soon as the enemy's advance had developed itself as an attack. You aware that a defense of the place by a small force was very difficult. The two bridges, with the high railroad embankment between them, were a mile and a quarter long, extending in one straight line toward the heights before mentioned, and these heights were of far too great extent to be properly occupied and held by our forces. The enemy could advance in any direction on our front and flanks and cut off our troops from the bridge or else drive them to a disastrous retreat under a fire destructive to their only avenue of escape. To have placed our men at the bridge end and along the river bank would have been to subject them to a plunging fire from the heights, together with the disadvantages before mentioned. On the island, or at the east shore of the river, they would have occupied low ground, and been unable to protect the West Bridge against surprise and destruction.

Finding, at 5 p. m., that the enemy were near at hand, the two guns were moved on a platform car, and immediately after the troops were defiled across, the rear guard only remaining. At this time I crossed to the east end of the West Bridge, in order to see that everything was prepared for blowing up a span, and while examining the magazine within the bridge the enemy opened fire, apparently with a rifled gun and howitzer. Ascending to the roadway, I found the rear guard crossing the bridge at double-quick, and at the same time observed some 10 or 12 of our scouts at 600 or 800 yards southwest of the bridge end, hesitating to cross. After waiting a reasonable time, and finding that they had apparently decided not to move, I ordered the fuse to be shortened and fired. this was done by Lieutenant Margraves, of the Sappers and Miners, assisted by one man of his company. The charge which was exploded consisted of 200 pounds of powder in one mass; but from the difficulty of confining it the effect was not such as had been hoped for, and the span did not fall. I determined, therefore, to carry out the spirit of your instructions and burn the East Bridge. With the assistance of Captain Kain, of the artillery, and Lieutenant Margraves it was soon in flames and impassable to the enemy. During the retreat of the rear guard and the burning of the bridge the enemy kept up a warm fire of shells along the line of the track, but, fortunately, with little effect. Only two of our infantry were hit and slightly wounded by fragments.

Finding that the enemy was advancing his guns upon the island and directing his fire toward our encampment, which had never been removed to the west bank, the tents were ordered to be struck and be prepared to move. This was an immediate necessity, and regarding the position there untenable, I determined to evacuate it. As the receipt of supplies depended on the integrity of the railroad track to Chattanooga and the road at several points touches the river bank, it would have been easy for the enemy to cross above us, destroy the track or bridges, or else plant his guns on the opposite side, so as to command the road, closing it to the passage of trains. We would thus have been compelled to retire perhaps across the mountain eastward, leaving the road to Chattanooga open. I preferred to retire to Chattanooga, disembarrassing ourselves of sick, wounded, and baggage; thence turning to a favorable point on the road and hold the enemy under observation, always hoping for re-enforcements. if he advanced, it was reasonably expected it would be with his whole force of 5,000 men.

Being unable to find the telegraph or the operator, removed from

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