Amazing articles on just about every subject...


Chickamauga

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

IT is said to be easy to defend a mountainous country," said General Braxton Bragg, commanding the Army of Tennessee, "but mountains hide your foe from you, while they are full of gaps through which he can pounce upon you at any time. A mountain is like the wall of a house full of rat-holes. Who can tell what lies hidden behind that wall ?"

The wall was the Cumberland Range. The several general officers, riding with General Bragg, uttered a murmur, whether of agreement or disagreement was not apparent.

General D. H. Hill, lately sent from Virginia to the support of the forces in Tennessee, made a sound too gruff for agreement. He fell back a pace or two and drew up beside General Cleburne. "You can know mountainous country, you know," he said. "It's a matter of learning, like everything else."

"True enough," agreed the other. "But there's precious few of mankind with any talent for learning!"

The group sitting their horses in the scrub oak, in the September sunshine, gazed in a momentary silence upon Pigeon Mountain and Missionary Ridge and the towering Lookout Mountain. Bragg, brave, able in his own way, but melancholy, depressed, ill in body and mind, at war with himself and all his subordinates, sat staring. Below him lay the slender valley of the Chickamauga. Clear, sinuous, the little stream ran between overbending shrubs and trees. A vague purple mist hung over the valley and the tree-clad slopes beyond. The knot of horsemen fell silent, there in the oak scrub, looking at the folds of the Cumberland Range. Past them on the Lafayette road marched endlessly the Army of Tennessee. Tanned and gaunt, ragged and cheerful, moving out from Chattanooga, but moving out, there was assurance, to give fight, by went the grey, patient, hardy legions, corps of Hill, Polk, Buckner, and Walker, divisions of Cheatham, Cleburne, Breckenridge, Liddell, Hindman, Bushrod Johnson, Preston, and Stewart. Colours, mounted officers, grey foot soldiers and grey foot soldiers and grey foot soldiers, the rumbling guns, old, courageous battalions, on they went, endlessly. The dust rose and clothed them; the purple mountains made a dreamy background. The party, sitting their horses on the scrub-covered low hill, looked again westward.

Bragg spoke to one of his corps commanders, Leonidas Polk, bishop and general. "Chickamauga! This was Cherokee country, was n't it ? "

"Yes, General. Cherokee Georgia. Chief Ross had his house near here. `Chickamauga' means River of Death. For ages they must have gone up and down, over these ridges and through these vales, hunting and warring, camping and breaking camp —"

"Killing and being killed. We've only changed the colour, not the actuality. McLemore's Cove! The scouts think that Rosecrans is going to push a column across Missionary Ridge and occupy McLemore's Cove. I think they are mistaken. They are often mistaken."

" General Forrest —"

"He is near Ringgold, I suppose. General Forrest does not keep me properly informed as to where he is —"

Cleburne came in with his rich Irish voice. "Well, that would make quite a shower of notes, would n't it, sir ?"

"I have never had the pleasure of meeting General Forrest," said D. H. Hill. "He must be a remarkable man."

"He is a military genius of the first order," said Cleburne.

Bragg continued to gaze upon the Chickamauga. "The three gaps in Pigeon Mountain are Bluebird and Dug and Catlett's. We will of course hold these, and if Crittenden or Thomas is really in McLemore's Cove, I will dispatch a force against them. General Long-street's arrival cannot now be long delayed."

Longstreet, travelling from Louisa Court-House in Virginia by Petersburg, Wilmington, Augusta, and Atlanta, because Burnside held the shorter Knoxville route, had in all nine hundred miles to traverse, and to serve him and his corps but one single-track, war-worn grey railroad of dejected behaviour. Lone and lorn as was the railroad, it rose to the emergency and deserved the cheers with which, after long days of companionship, Longstreet's troops finally quitted the rails. On the sixteenth the regiments of Hood began to arrive at Dalton. On this day also Rosecrans, a tenacious, able general, completed the drawing of his lines — eleven miles, northeast to southwest — from Lee and Gordon's Mills on the east bank of Chickamauga to Stevens's Gap in Lookout Mountain.

On the eighteenth, General Bragg, at Lafayette, issued the following order: —

"1. Bushrod Johnson's column, on crossing at or near Reed's Bridge will turn to the left by the most practical route, and sweep up the Chickamauga toward Lee and Gordon's Mills.

"2. Walker, crossing at Alexander's Bridge, will unite in this move, and push vigorously on the enemy's flank and rear in the same direction.

"3. Buckner, crossing at Tedford's Ford, will join in the movement to the left, and press the enemy up the stream from Polk's front at Lee and Gordon's.

"4. Polk will press his forces to the front of Lee and Gordon's Mills, and if met by too much resistance to cross, will bear to the right and cross at Dalton's Ford or at Tedford's, as may be necessary, and join the attack wherever the enemy may be.

"5. Hill will cover our left flank from an advance of the enemy from the cove, and by pressing the cavalry on his front, ascertain if the enemy is reinforcing at Lee and Gordon's Mills, in which event he will attack them in flank.

"6. Wheeler's cavalry will hold the gaps in Pigeon Mountain, and cover our rear and left and bring up stragglers.

"7. All teams, etc., not with the troops should go toward Ring-gold and Dalton beyond Taylor's Ridge. All cooking should be done at the trains. Rations when cooked will be forwarded to the troops.

"8. The above movements will be executed with the utmost promptness, vigour, and persistence."

"That's an excellent order," said D. H. Hill. "The only fault to be found with it is that it's excellent-too-late. Some days ago was the proper date. Then we could have dealt with them piecemeal; now they're fifty thousand men behind breastworks."

The aide wagged his head. "Even so, we can beat them, General." D. H. Hill looked at him a little sardonically. "Of course, of course, we can beat them ! But have you noticed how many men we lose in beating them ? And have you any idea how we are to continue to get men? It takes time to grow oaks and men. What the South needs is some Cadmus to break the teeth out of skulls, sow them, and raise overnight a crop of armed men! There are plenty of skulls, God knows! We are seeing in our day a curious phenomenon. Armies are growing younger. We are galloping toward the cradle. The V. M. I. Cadets will be out presently, and then the nine- and ten-year-olds. Of course the women might come on afterwards, though, to tell the truth," said Hill, " they 've been in the field from the first."

"Here's General Forrest."

Forrest rode up. " General Hill, ain't it ? Good morning, sir. I am going to fight my men dismounted. This is going to be an infantry battle."

" I have heard, General," said Hill, " that you have never lost a fight. How do you manage it? "

"I git there first with the most men."

"You don't hold then with throwing in troops piecemeal ?"

"No," said Forrest, with a kind of violence. "You kin play the banjo all right with one finger after another, but in war I clutch with the whole hand!"

He rode on, a strange figure, an uneducated countryman, behind him no military training or influence, no West Point; a man of violences and magnanimities, a big, smoky personality, here dark, here clearly, broadly lighted. "He was born a soldier as men are born poets." "Forrest!" said General Joseph E. Johnston long afterwards. "Had Forrest had the advantage of a military education and training, he would have been the great central figure of the war! "

The sun of the eighteenth of September sank behind the mountains. A cool night wind sprang up, sighing through the bronzing. wood and rippling the surface of the Chickamauga. Three brigades of Hood's division, marching rapidly from Dalton, had come upon the field; with them Hood himself, with his splendid, personal reputation, his blue eyes and yellow hair and headlong courage. He had now his three brigades and three of Bushrod Johnson's. That church man militant, Leonidas Polk, held the centre at Lee and Gordon's Mills, and D. H. Hill the left. Joseph Wheeler and his cavalry watched the left flank, Forrest and his cavalry the right.

The country was rough, the roads few and poor, the fords of the Chickamauga in the same category. Dusk of the eighteenth found Hood and Walker across the stream, but other divisions with the fords yet to make. At dawn of the nineteenth, the Army of the Cumberland began to put itself into position. In the faint light the out-posts of the blue caught sight of Buckner's division fording the Chickamauga at Tedford's. In the mist and dimness they thought they saw only a small detached grey force. Three brigades of Brannan's division were at once put forward. In the first pink light Buckner's advanced brigade clashed with Croxton's. With a burst of sound like an explosion in the dim wood began the battle of Chickamauga — one of the worst in history, twice bloodier than Wagram, than Marengo, than Austerlitz, higher in its two days' fallen than Sharpsburg, a terrible, piteous fight.

Forrest, on the right, was immediately engaged. "We've stirred up a yaller-jacket's nest," he said, and sent to General Polk a re-quest for Armstrong's division of his own corps. The centre needing cavalry, too, there was returned only Dibbrell's brigade. Dibbrell's men were dismounted, and together with John Pegram's division also, in this battle, acting foot soldiers - began a bloody, continued struggle. The point of the blue wedge had been four infantry brigades and one of cavalry, but now the thickness was disclosed, and it fairly proved to be Rosecrans in position. While the grey had moved up the Chickamauga, that able blue strategist, under the cover of night, had moved down the opposite bank. The grey crossed — and found their right enveloped! The Fourteenth Army Corps, George H. Thomas commanding, was here, and later there were reinforcements from the Twenty-first, Crittenden's corps. The storm, beginning with no great fury, promptly swelled until it attained the terrific. Forrest sent again for infantry support. None came, the centre having its own anxieties. "If you want to git a thing done, do it yourself," quoth Forrest, and rode up to John Pegram. "We've got to have more fighters and I'm going to fetch them. Hold your ground, General Pegram, I don't care what happens!"

"All right, sir. Neither do I," said Pegram, and held it, with the loss of one fourth of his command. The pall of smoke settled, heavily, heavily! The dismounted troops fought here in the open, here behind piled brushwood and fallen logs, while the few grey batteries spoke from every little point of vantage. From the woods in front leaped the volleys of the blue, came whistling the horrible shells. The brushwood was set afire, the cavalrymen moving from place to place. They fought like Forrest's men. Rifle barrels grew too hot to touch; all lips were blackened with cartridge powder. There was a certain calmness in the face of storm, sotto voce remarks, now and then a chuckling laugh. The finger of Death was forever pointing, but by now the men were used to Death's attitudinizing. They took no great account of the habitual gesture. When he came to sweep with his whole arm, then of course you had to get out of his way! The hot day mounted and the clangour of the right mounted. Back came Forrest, riding hard, at his heels the infantry brigades of Wilson and Walthall. A line of battle was formed; Wilson and Walthall, Dibbrell and Pegram and Nathan Bedford Forrest advancing with a yell, coming to close range, pouring volley after volley into the dense, blue ranks. The dense, blue ranks answered; Death howled through the vale of Chickamauga. Wilson's men took a battery, hard fought to the last. The grey brigade of Ector came up and formed on Wilson's right. Fiercely attacked, Ector sent an aide to Forrest. "General Forrest, General Ector is hard pressed and is uneasy as to his right flank." Forrest nodded his head, his eyes on a Federal battery spouting flame. "Tell General Ector not to bother about his right flank! I'll take care of it." The aide went back, to find Wilson's brigade, on Ector's left, in extremity. Ector sent him again, and he found Forrest now in action, directing, urging his men forward with a voice like a bull of Bashan's and with a great, war-like appearance. "General Forrest, General Ector says that his left flank is now in danger!" Forrest turned, stamped his foot, and shouted, "Tell General Ector that, by God! I am here, and I will take care of his left flank and of his right flank!"

On went the grey charge, infantry and dismounted cavalry. Yaaaaih! Yaaaaihhh! Yaaaaiiihhhh! it yelled and tossed its col-ours. Back it pressed the blue, back, back! The first line went back, the second line went back . . . and then was seen through rifts in the smoke the great third line, breastworks in front.

George Thomas was a fighter, too, and he flung forward Brannan and Baird and Reynolds, with Palmer and Van Cleve of Crittenden's corps. Out of the smoky wood the blue burst with thunder, flanking Wilson and opening a furious enfilading fire. It grew terrible, a withering blast before which none could stand. Wilson was forced back, the whole grey line was forced back. Forrest's guns were al-ways clean to the front. They must be gotten back — but so many of the horses were dead or dying, and so many of the artillerymen. Those left put strength to the pieces, got them off, got them back through the brush in ways that could afterwards hardly be remembered. There was a piece entirely endangered — all the horses down and most of the men. Forrest shouted to four of his mounted escort. Cavalry dropped into the places of battery horses and drivers. In a twinkling they were harnessed — off went cavalry with the gun through the echoing wood, the smoke wreaths, and the shouting. The grey went back not far: the blue but regained their first position. It was high noon. Then entered the fight the divisions of Liddell and Cheatham.

Liddell had two thousand men. Bursting through the under-growth they came into hot touch with Baird's re-forming lines. They broke the brigades of King and Scribner; they took two batteries; yelling, they pursued their victory. The smoke lifted. The two thousand were in the concave of a blue sickle, their line over-lapped, right and left — Brannan's men now and R. W. Johnson, of McCook's corps. Liddell, wheeling to the right, beat from that deadly hollow a justifiable retreat.

Cheatham came over a low hill with five brigades. It was a veteran division, predestined to grim fighting. Down on the Alexander Bridge road he formed his line, then, as Walker's commands were pressed back, as the hurrahing blue columns swept forward, he entered the battle with the precision of a stone from David's sling. The blue wavered, broke! In rushed Cheatham's thousands, driving the foe, fiercely driving him. The foe withdrew behind his breast-works, and from that shelter turned against the grey a concentrated fire of musketry and artillery. The grey stood and answered with fury. The ground was all covered with felled trees, piles of brush-wood, timber shaken down like jackstraws. No alignment could be kept; the men fired in groups or as single marksmen. As such they strove to advance, as such they were mowed down. The blue began to hurrah. Palmer of Crittenden's corps came swinging in with a flanking movement.

But Palmer's hurrahing lines were checked, as had been Brannan's and Johnson's. In through the woods, now all afire, came A. P. Stewart's division of Buckner's corps. Alabama and Tennessee, three thousand muskets, it struck Palmer's line and forced it aside. Van Cleve came to help, but Van Cleve gave way, too, pressed by the grey across the vast, smoke-filled stage to the ridge crowned by earthworks that like a drop-scene closed the back. The roar of battle filled all space; officers could not be heard, nor, in the universal smoke, could waved sword or hat be seen. Off to the right, Forrest's bugles were ringing. Now and then drums were beaten, but this noise seemed no louder than woodpeckers tapping, lost in the crash of the volleys. Alabama and Tennessee pressed on. It was half past two o'clock.

Hood had three brigades of his own division and three of Bushrod Johnson's, and now, from the Lee and Gordon's Mills road, Hood, unleashed at last, entered the battle. Into it, yelling and firing, double-quicked his tall grey lines. He came with the force of a catapult. Yaaaih! Yaaaiiiihhh! yelled Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas. They struck the Chattanooga road and drove the blue along it, toward the westering sun. Up at a double swung the fresh blue troops of Negley and Wood, Davis and Sheridan. In the descending day they pushed the grey again to the eastward of the contested road.

At sunset in came Patrick Cleburne, general beloved, marching with his division over wildly obstructed roads from Hill on the extreme right. But it was late and the dark and smoky day was closing down. Night came, filled with the smell and taste of burned powder and of the wood smoke from all the forest afire. The firing became desultory, died away, save for now and then a sound of skirmishers. The two armies, Army of Tennessee, Army of Cumberland, rested.

They rested from strife, but not from preparation for strife. The two giants, the blue and the grey, were weary enough, but between Chickamauga and the slopes of Missionary Ridge they did small sleeping that Saturday night, the nineteenth of September, 1863.

All night rang the axes. "Log-works," said the grey giant. "At dawn, I am going to storm log-works." Fifty-seven thousand strong was the blue giant and the grey about the same. "To-morrow's fight," said both, "is going to lay over today's." "Where," said, in addition, the grey — "where is General Longstreet ?"

The soldiers who might sleep, slept on their arms, under a sulphurous canopy. All the forest hereabouts was thick with brushwood and summer-parched. It burned in a hundred places. The details, gathering the wounded, carried torches. It was lurid enough, all the far-flung field. There were very many wounded, many dead. Blue and grey alike heard the groaning of their fallen. Ahh ! ahhh I groaned the forest. And the word that was always heard, as soon as the guns were silent, was heard now, steady as cicadas in a grove. Water! Water! Water! Water! Water! There was a moon, but not plainly seen because of the gauze that was over the earth. A chill and restless night it was, filled with comings and goings, and movements of large bodies of troops.

Just before midnight Longstreet appeared in person. The weary grey railroad had brought him, in the afternoon, to Catoosa plat-form, near Ringgold. With two aides he took horse at once and pushed out toward the field of action. But the woods were thick and the roads an unmarked tangle. He came at last upon the field and met General Bragg at midnight. Behind him, yet upon the road, were three brigades of Hood's division and Kershaw's and Humphrey's, of McLaws's.

There was a council of war. It was understood, it was in the air, that the past day had been but a prelude. Now Bragg announced to his officers a change of plan. The Army of Tennessee was divided into two wings. The right was composed of Walker's and Hill's corps, Cheatham's division, and the cavalry of Forrest. Leonidas Polk commanded here. The left was formed by Hood's and Buckner's corps, the division of Hindman, and Joe Wheeler's cavalry, and Longstreet commanded this wing.

"And the plan of attack ?"

"As it was today. Successive pushes from right to left. The attack to begin at daylight."

But daylight was not far away, and the movements to be made were many. The sun was above the tree-tops when Breckinridge advanced upon the Chattanooga road and opened the battle of the twentieth. "Sunday," said the men. "Going to church — going to church — going to a little mountain church! Going to be singing — Minie singing. Going to be preaching — big gun preaching. We've got what the General calls a ponshon for Sunday service.... Lot of dead people in this wood. Have n't you ever noticed how much worse a half-burned cabin looks than one burned right down ? That one over there — it looks as if home was still a-lingering around. Go 'way! it does! You boys have n't got no imagination. — No imagination — no imagination — No shoes and pretty nearly no breakfast. . . . I wish this here dust was imagination —

"The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home;
'T is summer, the darkies are gay,
The corn-top's ripe and the meadow's in the bloom,
While the birds make music all the day."

"Birds all fly away from battle-fields" — "Not when there are nestlings! Saw a tree set on fire by hot shot from Yankee gunboat on the Tennessee. Marched by it when it was jest a pillar of flame, and, by gum! there was a mocking-bird dead on her nest, with her wings spread out over the little birds. All of them dead. . . . It made you wonder. And, by gum! the captain, when he saw it — the captain saluted!"

"The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy and bright;
By 'n' by hard times comes a-knocking at the door,
Then, my old Kentucky home, good night!"

"Whew! That's a pretty line of breastworks over there before Helm's brigade! Reckon that's what Billy Yank was building all night long ! — Helm's going forward —" Kentuckians ! Charge bayonets ! Double-quick !

Helm was killed, heroically leading his brigade. The colonel of the Second Kentucky was killed, the colonel of the Ninth badly wounded. The Ninth lost a third of its number. "I went into the fight," says the colonel of the Second, "with thirty officers and two hundred and seventy-two men, and came out with ten officers and one hundred and forty-six men. Both officers and men behaved gallantly." The colonel of the Fourth was badly wounded; the Sixth had its losses; the Forty-first Alabama went in with something over three hundred men, and lost in killed twenty-seven, in wounded, one hundred and twenty. Three captains of the Second were killed at the foot of the works, and the colour-sergeant, Robert Anderson, having planted the flag a-top, died with his hands about the staff. Adams's Louisiana brigade came to the help of Helm. Adams, severely wounded, was taken prisoner. The combat raged, bitter and bloody. There was a long, long line of well-erected breastworks, with a shorter line at right angles. The divisions of Thomas fought grimly, heroically; the brigades of Breckinridge went to the assault as heroically. Nowadays no Confederate brigade, no Confederate regiment, had full complement of muskets. They were skeleton organizations, gaunt as their units, but declining to merge because each would keep its old, heroic name. Spare as they were, they threw themselves, yelling, against the log-works. Breckinridge was tall and straight and filled with fiery courage. Vice-President, on a time, of the United States, now grey general on the chessboard, he showed here, as there, a brilliant, commanding personality. His men, proud of him, fought with his own high ardour. The withering blast came against them; they shouted and tossed it back. Now there came also against the breastworks the division of Cleburne.

Patrick Romayne Cleburne, — thirty-six years old, but with greying hair above his steel-grey eyes, Irishman of the county of Cork, one time soldier in the English army, then lawyer in the city of Helena and the State of Arkansas, then private in the Confederate army, then captain, then colonel, then brigadier, and now major-general, — Patrick Cleburne commanded a division that, also, had its personality. The division's heart and his heart beat in unison. "He was not only a commander, but a comrade fighting with his men." Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and the Irish regiment adored Cleburne, and Cleburne returned their love. "To my noble division," he wrote to a lady, "and not to myself, belong the praises for the deeds of gallantry you mention." Cleburne's division had its own flags, and on each was worked a device of "crossed cannon inverted," and the name of the battle-fields over which it had been carried. "Prior to the battle of Shiloh," says General Hardee, "a blue battle-flag had been adopted by me for this division, and when the Confederate battle-flag became the national colours, Cleburne's, division, at its urgent request, was allowed to retain its own bullet-ridden battle-flags. . . . Friends and foes soon learned to watch the course of the blue flag that marked where Cleburne was in the battle. Where this division defended, no odds broke its lines where it attacked, no numbers resisted its onslaught—save only once — and there is the grave of Cleburne and his heroic division." Now at Chickamauga, Cleburne and forty-four hundred bayonets swung into battle to the support of Breckinridge. Before Cleburne, also, at short range, were breastworks, and now from these there burst a tempest of grape and canister, with an undersong of musketry. It was a fire that mowed like a scythe. Wood's brigade had to cross an old field bordering the Chattanooga road, an old field marked by a burning house. Crossing, there burst against it, from hidden batteries to right and left, a blast as from a furnace seven times heated. Five hundred men fell here, killed and wounded. On the left Lucius Polk's brigade came against breastworks cresting a hill covered with scrub oak. Blue and grey engaged with fury. Down poured the blast from the ridge, canister and grape and musketry. Lucius Polk's men lay down behind the crest of a lower ridge, and kept up the fight, losing in no great time three hundred and fifty officers and men. Deshler's brigade moved forward, A shell came shrieking, struck Deshler in the breast, and killed him. Cleburne shook his head. "Too much loss of good life!" -- and withdrawing the division four hundred yards, took up a strong defensive position.

Breckinridge and Cleburne, there was loss of life enough. What was gained was this: Thomas called for reinforcements, and Rose-crans, to strengthen his left, began to weaken his right. To the aid of Baird and Johnson, Palmer and Reynolds behind the breast-works, came first a brigade of Negley's division, then regiments from Palmer's reserve, and then from the left troops of McCook and Sheridan.

The divisions of Gist and Liddell, Walker's corps, moved to the aid of Breckinridge, Gist throwing himself with fury against the works before which Helm had fallen. It was eleven o'clock. Bragg ordered in Stewart's division. The three brigades — Clayton, Brown, and Bate — charged under a deadly fire, "the most terrible fire it has ever been my fortune to witness." Brown's men, exposed to an enfilade, broke, but Clayton and Bate rushed on past the clearing, past the burning house, past the Chattanooga road. They drove the blue within entrenchments, they took a battery and many prisoners. Thomas sent again to Rosecrans, and Rosecrans further weakened his right. His adjutant forwarded an order to McCook. The left must be supported at all hazards, "even if the right is drawn wholly to the present left." After Van Cleve had been sent, and Sheridan and Negley, there came yet another message that the left was heavily pressed. The aide bringing it stated that Brannan was out of line and Reynolds's right exposed. Rosecrans sent an order to Wood, commanding a division —

"The general commanding directs that you close up on Reynolds as fast as possible and support him."

It was the fatal, the pivotal order. Wood moved — and left a great opening in the blue line of battle. Toward the filling of this gap there moved with precision two brigades of Sheridan's. But some one else moved first, with a masterful change of plan, made with the swiftness of that glint of Opportunity's eye.

Longstreet had made a column of attack, three lines, eight brigades. Long, grey, magnificent, these moved forward, steady as steel, eyes just narrowed in the face of the hurricane of shot and shell. "Old Pete," "the old war horse," rode with them, massively directing. The smoke was drifting, drifting over the field of Chickamauga, over the River of Death and the slopes of Missionary Ridge. Under-foot was dust and charred herbage and the dead and the wounded. On the right the roar of the fight never ceased — Forrest, Breckinridge, Cleburne, Walker, Stewart, and George Thomas behind his breastworks.

Longstreet with his eight brigades, swinging toward the right, saw, through a rift in the smoke, the movement of Wood and the gap which now, suddenly, was made between the Federal right and left. A kind of slow light came into Longstreet's face. "By the right flank, wheel ! — Double-quick ! — Forward 1 Charge ! "

Hood was leading. His line struck like a thunderbolt the foe in reverse, struck McCook's unprepared brigades. There sprang and swelled an uproar that overcrowed all the din to the right. McCook broke, the grey drove on. They yelled. Yaaaih ! Yaaaahhh ! Yaaaaihh! yelled the grey. Hood rose in his stirrups and shouted an order to Bushrod Johnson. "Go ahead, and keep ahead of everything!" A minie ball shattered his thigh. He sank from his horse; Law took command; on swept the great charge. Brigades of Manigault and Deas, McNair, Gregg, Johnson, Law, Humphrey, Benning, with Patton Anderson, of Hindman's division, they burst from the forest into open fields running through smoky sunshine backward and upward to ridges crowned by Federal batteries. All these broke into thunder, loud and fast, but the blue infantry, surprised, broken, streamed across the fields in disorder. Behind them came the vehement charge, long, triumphant, furious, with blare and dust and smoke and thunder, with slanted colours, with neighing chargers, with burning eyes and lifted voices. All the ιlan of the South was here. Brigade by brigade, Longstreet burst from the forest. Yelling, this charge drove the blue from their breastworks, took the house that was their headquarters, took twenty-seven pieces of artillery, and more than a thousand prisoners, laid hand upon hospitals and ordnance trains, slew and wounded and bore the blue back, back! McCook suffered heavily, oh, heavily! "I have never," says D. H. Hill, — "I have never seen the Federal dead lie so thickly on the ground save in front of the sunken wall at Fredericksburg."

There was a line of heights behind the Vidito house, beyond the Crawfish Spring road. Thomas seized these, and here the blue rallied and turned for a yet more desperate struggle. It came. Hindman and Bushrod Johnson proposed to take those heights by assault. They took them, but at a cost, at a cost, at a cost! When they won to the Vidito house, the women of the family left whatever hiding-place from the shells they had contrived, and ran, careless of the whistling death in the air, out before the house. They laughed, they wept, they welcomed. "God bless you! God bless you! It's going to be a victory! It's going to be a victory! God bless you!" The grey, storming on, waved hat and cheered. "It's going to be a victory! It's going to be a victory! God bless you!"

Up on the sides of the ridge it came to hand-to-hand fighting, a dreadful, prolonged struggle, men clubbing men with muskets, men piercing men's breasts with bayonets, men's faces scorched, so near were they to the iron, flaming muzzles! Over all roared the guns, settled the smoke; underfoot the earth grew blood-soaked. Inch by inch the grey fought their way; inch by inch the blue gave back, driven up the long slope to the very crest of the ridge. The sun was low in the heavens.

On Horseshoe Ridge the fight grew fell. And now came to the aid of the right wing, came in long, resistless combers, the brigades of Hill. They came through the woods afire, over the clearings sown with dead and wounded, up the slope of Horseshoe. Once more the summit flamed and thundered — then the blue summit turned grey. Over the crest, down the northern slope of the ridge swept the united wings, right wing and left wing. They made a thresher's fan; before it the blue fell away, passed from the slope into deep hollows of the approaching night. Right wing and left wing shouted; they shouted until Lookout Mountain, dark against the sunset sky, might have heard their shouting.

On the field of Chickamauga, by the River of Death, thirty thou-sand men lay dead or wounded, or were prisoners or missing. If there were Indian spirits in these woods they might have said in council that September night: "How fierce and fell and bloody-minded is this white man who wars where once we warred! Look at the long files of. his ghost, rising like mist from Chickamauga, passing like thin smoke across the moon!"

Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com