[Statement of J. Frank Wheless.]
September 30, 1863.
The following is a statement of facts within my knowledge relating to the engagement on Sunday, September 20:
On the morning of the 20th instant, between daylight and sunrise, Lieutenant-General Polk sent for me to carry orders to Major-Generals Cleburne and Breckinridge to make an immediate attack upon the enemy. I went directly to Colonel Jack, assistant adjutant-general, to get the orders. As he handed them to me he remarked that during the night General Polk sent orders to General Hill to make the attack at daylight, that it was now after that time, and the person who carried the order had returned and reported that he had searched in every part of the field and could not find General Hill, and that the orders he (Colonel Jack) was then giving me were sent direct to the division commanders to make the attack at once. General Polk's last remark to me was not to lose time, but ride as rapidly as possible. This I did, passing by Major-General Cheatham's headquarters in rear of his line. I left with him a copy of the orders I had for Generals Breckinridge and Cleburne, and said to him that it was for his information, and he was expected to conform to the movement. I proceeded rapidly along the line of battle until I found General Cleburne's command, in rear of which I found Lieutenant-General Hill and Major-Generals Breckinridge and Cleburne around a campfire. On dismounting, I remarked that I had orders from General Polk. General Hill put forth his hand as if to receive the orders, when I said, "These orders are for Generals Breckinridge and Cleburne," and then, in explanation of why the orders were sent direct to the division commanders, I told General Hill that during the night General Polk sent him orders to make the attack at daylight, but the bearer of the order could not find him, and when General Polk became aware of this he sent these orders-these orders just delivered-to the division commanders. Either General Cleburne or General Breckinridge, when he had read the order, handed it to General Hill and remarked that the men could not go into the fight until they had their rations distributed to them, to which General H[ill] consented. I then asked General H[ill] if he had anything he desired to say to General Polk. He remarked that General Polk had promised to have a courier at the bridge to show him (General H[ill]) the way to his (General Polk's) headquarters, but that he could not find the courier when he went there. He then requested me to wait and he would write a note to General Polk. I said to General Hill I knew General Polk had couriers placed at the bridge; that they remained there until late, but the hour I did not know. I waited some ten minutes or more for General Hill's note and then I started back to General Polk. On my way I met Captain Williams with duplicate orders to the ones I had just delivered. I informed him that I had delivered the original orders, consequently there was not any use in his going farther, but requested him to go up to General Cheatham and say to him that it would be an hour or two before General Hill was ready to attack the enemy. This he did. Some 200 yards farther on I met General Polk on his way to the field. I turned back and he stopped for me to read General Hill's note. When I had finished I said, "General, you notice General Hill says it will be an hour or so before he is ready to make the attack. I am