looking the Chattanooga road. The faultiness of our plan of attack was now but too apparent. Perhaps never before in the history of war had an attack been made in a single line without reserves or supporting force. It was still more unfortunate that our attack was directly in front, against breastworks. The important results effected by two brigades on the flank proved that, had our army been moved under cover of the woods a mile farther to the right, the whole Yankee position would have been turned and an almost bloodless victory gained. A simple reconnaissance before the battle would have shown the practicability of the movement and the advantage to be gained by it; but while General Breckinridge had to encounter the difficulty of two lines with a single one, General Cleburne had the still more difficult task of attacking breastworks along his entire front, and of disentangling his troops mixed up with those of the left wing owing to the want of adjustment (already alluded to) of the line of battle before the action began. After alluding to the check of his advance by the fire from the breastworks, General Cleburne adds:
Passing toward the left at this time, I found that the line of advance of my division, which was the left of the right wing of the army, converged with the line of advance of the left wing of the army. The flanks of the two wings had already come into collision. Part of Wood's brigade had passed over Bate's brigade, of Stewart's division, which was the right of the left wing, and Deshler's brigade, which was my left, was thrown out entirely and was in rear of the left wing of the army. I ordered Wood to move forward the remainder of his brigade, opening at the same time in the direction of the enemy's fire with Semple's battery. That part of Wood's brigade to the left of Lowrey's regiment, and to the left of the southern angle of the breastworks, in its advance at this time entered an old field bordering the road (Chattanooga and La Fayette) and attempted to cross it in face of a heavy fire in its front. It had almost reached the road, its left being at Poe's house (known as the burning house), when it was driven back by a heavy oblique fire of small-arms and artillery which was opened upon both its flanks, the fire from the right coming from the south face of the breastworks, which was hid from view by the thick
growth of scrub-oak bordering the field.
Five hundred men were killed or wounded by this fire in a few minutes. Upon this repulse (Lowrey's regiment having been forced to retire), I ordered the brigade still farther back to reform. Semple's battery, which had no position, I also ordered back. I now moved Deshler's brigade by the right flank, with the intention of connecting it with Polk's left, so filling the gap left in my center by the withdrawal of Wood. This connection, however, I could not establish, as Polk's left had in its turn been driven back also. Finding it a useless sacrifice of life for Polk to retain his position, I ordered him to fall back with the rest of his line, and with his and Wood's brigade I took up a strong defensive position some 300 or 400 yards in rear of the point from which they had been repulsed. Deshler's brigade had moved forward toward the right of the enemy's advanced works, but could not go beyond the crest of a low ridge from which Lowrey had been repulsed. I therefore ordered him to cover himself behind the ridge and to hold his position as long as possible. His brigade was now en echelon about 400 yards in front of the left of the division, which here rested for some time.
In effecting the last disposition of his command General Deshler fell, a shell passing fair through his chest. It was the first battle in which this gentleman had the honor of commanding as a general officer. He was a brave and efficient one. He brought always to the discharge of his duty a warm zeal and a high conscientiousness.
The whole corps had failed in its attack; Breckinridge had been compelled to fall back a short distance, and Cleburne still farther after a heavy repulse; but the fierceness of their assault had a most important bearing upon the issue of the battle. It appears from the report of the Yankee General Halleck that Rosecrans gave us the credit of having a plan of battle and trying to seize the road