night, all being quiet, Bate retired in good order, the enemy attempting no pursuit.
Lieutenant-General Hardee's command, under his judicious management, retired in good order and unmolested.
As soon as all troops had crossed, the bridges over the Chickamauga were destroyed to impede the enemy, though the stream was fordable at several places.
No satisfactory excuse can possibly be given for the shameful conduct of our troops on the left in allowing their line to be penetrated. The position was one which ought to have been held by a line of skirmishers against any assaulting column, and wherever resistance was made the enemy fled in disorder after suffering heavy loss. Those who reached the ridge did so in a condition of exhaustion from the great physical exertion in climbing, which rendered them powerless, and the slightest effort would have destroyed them. Having secured much of our artillery, they soon availed themselves of our panic, and, turning our guns upon us, enfiladed the lines, both right and left, rendering them entirely untenable.
Had all parts of the line been maintained with equal gallantry and persistence no enemy could ever have dislodged us, and but one possible reason presents itself to my mind in explanation of this bad conduct in veteran troops who had never before failed in any duty assigned them, however difficult and hazardous. They had for two days confronted the enemy, marshaling his immense forces in plain view, and exhibiting to their sight such a superiority in numbers as may have intimidated weak-minded and untried soldiers; but our veterans had so often encountered similar hosts when the strength of position was against us, and with perfect success, that not a doubt crossed my mind. As yet I am not fully informed as to the commands which first fled and brought this great disaster and disgrace upon our arms. Investigation will bring out the truth, however, and full justice shall be done to the good and the bad.
After arriving at Chickamauga and informing myself of the full condition of affairs, it was decided to put the army in motion for a point farther removed from a powerful and victorious army, that we might have some little time to replenish and recuperate for another struggle. The enemy made pursuit as far as Ringgold, but was so handsomely checked by Major-General Cleburne and Brigadier-General Gist, in command of their respective divisions, that he gave us but little annoyance.
Lieutenant-General Hardee, as usual, is entitled to my warmest thanks and high commendation for his gallant and judicious conduct during the whole of the trying scenes through which we passed.
Major-General Cleburne, whose command defeated the enemy in every assault on the 25th, and who eventually charged and routed him on that day, capturing several stand of colors and several hundred prisoners, and who afterward brought up our rear with great success, again charging and routing the pursuing column at Ringgold on the 27th, is commended to the special notice of the Government.
Brigadier-Generals Gist and Bate, commanding divisions; Cumming, Walthall, and Polk, commanding brigades, were distinguished for coolness, gallantry, and successful conduct throughout the engagements and in the rear guard on the retreat.
To my staff, personal and general, my thanks are specially due for