Northern Georgia. The report was therefore made by the assistant- quartermaster-general, Colonel Charles Thomas, an officer of long experience in the department, who performed the official duties of his office during my protracted absence.
I had called for personal reports from the officers of this department, hoping in the annual report to do justice to the services of many officers to whose zeal, energy, and active exertion the armies in the field much of their success. My protracted absence prevented the accomplishment of this intention, but the reports of these officers are carefully preserved in the archives of the department.
They have been collected, and full abstracts of the more interesting and important have been prepared, and I recommend that they be transmitted to Congress at some proper day to be published. They are an Honorable record of unostentatious but most laborious and valuable service.
Reaching Chattanooga a few days after the battle of Chickamauga, I found the Army of the Cumberland encamped in and around that town and closely beleaguered by the enemy, who, having been permitted to gather the spoils of the battle-field, was flushed with the confidence of victory.
The Army of the Cumberland had opened the campaign with a magnificent train; most of its wagons and mules had been long enough in service to be thoroughly tested and trained. The long rest at Murfreesborough had given opportunity to repair all defects of material and to bring the animals into good condition, and, thus prepared, they had made the campaign, crossing the mountains of Southern Tennessee and North Alabama and Georgia with very little loss or injury. The loss of material in the battle of Chickamauga was not great, and the army which I found at Chattanooga on the 25th of September, 1863, was then well provided. Forage and subsistence of some time still remained in the wagons.
But the rebels had then just broken up the shorter line of communication, by the south bank of the Tennessee, with Bridgeport, at which point the destruction of the railroad bridge cut the railroad communication with Nashville, the base of supplies. This compelled the wagon trains which fed the army to move by a circuitous route along the bottom lands of the Tennessee and Sequatchie Valleys for some distance, and then ascending and descending Waldron's Ridge by very steep, narrow, and rough roads.
Until the fall rains set in these roads were practicable though difficult, and the corn which remained standing upon the abandoned plantations lining the banks of the Tennessee supplied some forage to the animals and some food to the men of the trains.
The rain, however, commenced early in October and the roads became impassable. The rebel cavalry, crossing the Tennessee above Chattanooga, fell upon the trains entangled in the mud of the Sequatchie Valley and the rocks of the western ascent of Waldron's Ridge and destroyed in one day about 300 wagons and killed or captured some 1,800 mules. From this time distress reigned in the camp; the animals of the train, starved to death, lined the roadside, the horses of the artillery died at the picket ropes or were sent to duced to disability in the hope of recuperating themld be obtained.
The destruction of the train; the bad state of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, which, slightly constructed with a light rail and stringer track, had come into our possession nearly worn out in