Cobham cut levels on the mountain, side to facilitate the passage of his men. The topmost peak was closely invested by his left, and several attempts made to find a point of escalade up the acclivity, but the gloom was so profound that they met with no success.
The ground occupied by our line was very abrupt, the upper cap of the mountain, sloping from the rocky palisades (occupied by Cobham), merged into a plateau cut into a series of steps or gradations, each comparatively level (held by Ireland). The rear was guarded by Candy. Cobham's flag, about noon, floated from the highest accessible point of the mountain gained on the 24th. The men manifested an eagerness to go forward, and their officers requested to be permitted to cut off the Summertown road.
From half past 12 to 1 o'clock in the afternoon only desultory firing was kept up by the enemy, which was unheeded by my men, who were instructed to husband their ammunition. At about 1 o'clock the enemy made an assault in force upon my left, principally upon the One hundred and forty-ninth New York, which was strengthened with skirmishers of the One hundred and second New York, under Captain Stegman, and one regiment of General Whitaker's, which had formed near the left for support.
My men stood firm, and not a regiment in my front line yielded an inch, but, by some misapprehension, another regiment, not of my command, retired hastily and thereby invited redoubled effort on the part of the assailants,which the One hundred and forty-ninth New York repelled, forcing them back to their cover. Lieutenant-Colonel Randall had striven to rally the retiring regiment, without success, confident in the steadiness of his own men.
I am proud to say,in this connection, that at no time during the operations did my troops waver or, in the most trying moments, present any but a redoubtable front, and that the honor, by the accident of war, fell to my old command of driving with fierce conflict, the enemy before us in a most difficult progress of over 4 miles, possessing all his formidable works, taking prisoners, or disabling all the forces on the mountain side, occupying the entire front to the farthest point gained, and that they, by chance, did the fighting which gained us the mountain,and held all they captured until the enemy retired and could no longer be seen in the fog and were disorganized beyond hostility; and also that the victorious work, so ably progressed with, was not relinquished, for at no time, until the peak of Lookout, on the morning of the 25th, was ours beyond hope of rebel recovery, was my entire command relieved from holding station in the front line of battle.
Such gratulation is substantiated in the exertions of my troops, which exceeded, in accomplishments, my most extravagant hopes.
The substantial fighting was over when my advance was relieved at 2 o'clock. Ireland's men, jaded with incessant fighting, were relieved by regiments from Candy's and Whitaker's brigades.
Colonel Creighton, of the Seventh Ohio, now commanded the brigade, Colonel Candy having a few moments previously been injured by a fall upon the rocks. The three companies of the Fifth Ohio, udner Major Symmes, had been detached to take charge of, and conduct to the rear, the vast influx of prisoners.
My men had exhausted their original supply of ammunition and had expended a portion of a second, equally as large, supply hastily taken from the captured cartridge-boxes of the enemy, but they were at no time straitened for ammunition.