In front of our right our line of skirmishers occupied some woods beyond the open ground, about 800 yards from our line of battle.
Just as we arrived upon the ground our skirmishers were driven back some 200 yards from the wood and took shelter behind a fence. The enemy then had the advantage and his fire was quite sharp, but indicated nothing serious. Attracted by the appearance of mounted officers on the line, many shots were directed toward them, with much accuracy, notwithstanding the distance, and one passing quite near inflicted a serious, if not fatal, wound upon my orderly just in rear.
We then returned to General Negley's headquarters, and I [proceeded] to get my men under arms and to remove my wagons, which I found to be too much exposed, to a more secure locality. I was about the same time told by General Negley that a large force was coming toward us from Blue Bird Gap, and his informant said within three-quarters of a mile; also that the enemy was working around our left, and that he must make his new dispositions at once. I then, as speedily from the Dug Gap road to the Chattanooga road, relieving those of General Negley.
The line was so extended that it left me nothing with which to guard or support my right flank had it been heavily attacked. This was the portion of our line then immediately under the fire of the enemy's skirmishers, and the replacement off General Negley's men by my own, and throwing out a new line of skirmishers, was an operation of some delicacy; but, thanks to the skill of my commanders and the good instruction of the men, was performed without a mishap. Hardly had I got my men in position when General Negley informed me that his information became more threatening, and that he would fall back and take up a new position on the Missionary Ridge. He asked what I thought of this, and I replied that I concurred with him, and mentioned my suggestion of the night before that he should fall back to me at Stevens' Gap.
The plan he adopted was to form a second line with a portion of his troops, on the first rise west of the creek, and then to pass his train to the rear, to be followed by mine. Then I was to withdraw and form again a third line upon Missionary Ridge.
It was immediately put in operation and rapidly executed.
The enemy saw, without doubt, the movement of our trains to the rear, and hastened the collection of troops in the woods to assail both of my flanks. The sequel showed that it was their intention to throw a strong force upon Widow Davis' house, where it would have been one-half mile in rear of my right flank. I was not aware of this at the time, but had made preparations to draw troops from the other flank to meet such a contingency. The trains having all passed, I prepared to bring back my troops, the line first and then the skirmishers, each 500 yards at a time, pivoting on my left already on the Chattanooga road, and swinging around to reform our line at the cross-roads.
To do this successfully required a complete understanding between the commanders, and as my regiments were all in a dense wood where one could not see the length of a regiment, it required a little time to put it in operation. It had barely commenced when General Negley sent me word that I could not get my men over the creek too soon, and I hastened accordingly.
Our line was reformed with regularity by columns of battalions,