informed and reliable officer as Lieutenant-Colonel Embree,
Fifty-eighth Indiana, on outpost duty, sent me information that a most distinct and considerable movement was taking place in the enemy's lines; that commands indicating the movement of troops, and the peculiar sound of moving artillery, could be heard. He judged that these signs indicated a night or early morning attack. Indeed, general, the indications of such an event were as unmistakable as on a certain famous night you will remember in front of Corinth in May of 1862. What, under these imperiling circumstances, was my duty? I was charged with the safety of the lives of my officers and men, I was charged with what is dearer to a true soldier, the preservation, untarnished, of their honor. I was charged with the execution of one feature in the programme of the great enterprise we are now engaged in.
At 2 o'clock in the afternoon I had informed General Crittenden that the enemy seemed to be in force in my front, that my position was hazardous, and suggested his moving a part of the force with him in supporting distance. I had received his reply in which he had declined to act on my suggestion (while still expressing his appreciation of the danger of my position), and advising me, if it should become necessary, to retreat, and moreover, indicating the Trenton road as the most practicable route for the purpose.
As already remarked, my small, isolated command was in an indefensible position if attacked in force - a position in which it could be cut off, overwhelmed, and destroyed by a superior force, without a soldier's satisfaction of inflicting severe punishment on the enemy. My duty was clearly to put my command in a position in which in could make a respectable, a vigorous, a determined defense, by which means it might have been succored, or if succor had been denied, perhaps a line of retreat could be secured. I decided to change mu position, and I frankly own, it was mad wholly and solely on my own military judgment. And I have no hesitation in saying that I am perfectly willing to submit my conduct and the reasons therefor to the judgment of the commanding general of this gallant army and of military peers generally.
An attack was imminent, and there was no time to consult higher authority. Who, with any strength of judgment, of any power to weigh facts and come to conclusions, of any force of character, would, when such a disaster was impending, trust the fate of his command to the uncertain communication of couriers through a hostile, mountainous region? And yet this is what General Crittenden seems to think I ought to have done.
My judgment and my conscience approved the change of position then and do so now, and that without waiting for the approval of any senior commander. I moved my command to the juncture of the road via Whiteside's with the dirt road from Trenton to Chattanoga. The Trenton and Chattanooga Railroad passes through the position I occupy and the Chattanooga and Nashville Railroad skirts my left flank, their junction being some mile and a half in advance. As my guns to a considerable extent command both roads, it may be said, in a military sense, though not absolutely in point of fact, that I occupy their junction General Crittenden speaks of my falling back on the Trenton road in such a way as to produce the impression that I have lost control of the road via Whiteside's. In this he is entirely mistaken, as my command occupies a strong, abrupt, wooded ridge, which runs partially athwart the valley nearly at