Report of Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, C. S. Army,
AUGUST 16-SEPTEMBER 22, 1863.--The Chickamauga Campaign.
HDQRS. BRECKINRIDGE'S DIVISION, HILL'S CORPS,
Lieut. Col. ARCHER ANDERSON,
COLONEL: I have the honor to report the operations of my division in the battle of Chickamauga on September 19 and 20 last.
It was composed of the Second, Fourth, Sixth, and Ninth Kentucky, and Forty-first Alabama Regiments, with Cobb's battery; under the command of Brig. Gen. B. H. Helm; the Thirteenth, Twentieth, Sixteenth, Twenty-fifth, and Nineteenth Louisiana, Thirty-second Alabama, and Austin's battalion of sharpshooters, with Slocomb's battery (Fifth[Company]Washington Artillery), under the command of Brig. Gen. Daniel W. Adams; the First, Third, and Fourth Florida, Forty-seventh Georgia, and Sixtieth North Carolina Regiments, with Mebane's battery, under the command of Brig. Gen. M. A. Stovall.
My effective strength was, of enlisted men, 3,395; total, 3,769.
At daylight of the l8th, my command moved from Catlett's Gap and that neighborhood in the Pigeon Mountain, and the same afternoon took position on the east bank of the Chickamauga, near Glass' Mill, and composed the extreme left of the infantry of the army. I immediately threw the Second Kentucky across the ford to skirmish with the enemy and reveal his position, the Sixth Kentucky being placed in close supporting distance at the mill. Adams' brigade was sent, by order of Lieutenant-General Hill, to a ford a mile and a half above, where the enemy, as the cavalry reported, threatened to cross. It was so late when these dispositions were made that nothing satisfactory was developed that night.
On the morning of the 19th, Slocomb, with four guns, Cobb with two, and the remainder of Helm's brigade were moved across Glass' Ford, to ascertain the position of the enemy, while the two rifled pieces of Slocomb's battery, under Lieutenant Vaught, took position on a bluff upon the east side of the stream. An artillery engagement ensued, much to our advantage, until the enemy, who occupied the better position, brought forward a number of heavy guns and showed the greater weight of metal. While the engagement was progress ing, I received an order from Lieutenant-General Hill to withdraw my command, if it could be done without too great peril, and take position about 3 miles south of Lee and Gordon's Mills on the road leading from Chattanooga to La Fayette, and so as to cover the approach to that road from Glass' Mill and the ford above, leaving a regiment and section of artillery to observe those crossings. The movement was made in good order, Colonel Dilworth, with the First and Third (consolidated) Florida and a section of Cobb's battery, being left in observation.
Our casualties, which fell upon Slocomb, Cobb, and Helm, were 22 killed and wounded.
The loss of the enemy in killed alone, as shown by an examination of the ground after the 20th, was nearly equal to the sum of our casualties.
Although the enemy was in considerable strength at the fords above referred to, the result showed that it was a covering force to columns passing down the valley to unite with the center, and left of his army. Soon after taking up the new position I was ordered to relieve Brig. Gen. Patton Anderson's division, which was facing the enemy opposite Lee and Gordon's Mills. The troops marched rapidly, yet it was late in the afternoon before this movement was completed. The division was hardly in position when I received an order from the general commanding the army to move to the right, cross the Chickamauga at a point farther down, and occupy a position to be indicated. The di vision crossed at Alexander's Bridge, and arriving between 10 and 11 o'clock at night at a field about a mile and a half in rear of the right of our line of battle, bivouacked there by order of Lieutenant-General Polk. Remaining some time at Lieutenant-General Polk's camp fire, I left there two hours before daylight the 20th, to place my command in position.
During the night, General Polk informed me that I was to prolong the line of battle upon the right of Major-General Cleburne. Conducted by Major [Calhoun Benham?], of his staff, and Lieutenant Reid, aide-de-camp to General Hill, my division reached Cleburne's right a little after daybreak. Upon the readjustment of his line, I formed on his right and became the extreme right of the General line of battle. Helm was on the left of my line, Stovall in the center, and Adams on the right, the last extending across a country road leading from Reed's Bridge and striking the Chattanooga road at a place called Glenn's farm. The country was wooded with small openings, and the ground unknown to me. Our skirmishers, a few hundred yards in advance, confronted those of the enemy. Our line was supposed to be parallel to the Chattanooga road.
Soon after sunrise I received a note from Lieutenant-General Polk directing me to advance, and about the same time Major-General Cleburne, who happened to be with me, received one of the same tenor. Lieutenant-General Hill having arrived, the notes were placed in his hands. By his order the movement was delayed for the troops to get their rations, and on other accounts.
Dilworth, who had been relieved by a cavalry force late the preceding evening, and who had marched all night, now arrived and took his place in line. At 9.30 a.m., by order of Lieutenant-General Hill, I moved my division forward in search of the enemy. At the distance of 700 yards we came upon him in force, and the battle was opened by Helm's brigade with great fury. The Second and Ninth Kentucky, with three companies of the Forty-first Alabama, encountered the left of a line of breastworks before reaching the Chattanooga road and, though assailing them with great courage, were compelled to pause. From some cause the line on my left had not advanced simultaneously with my division, and in consequence, from the form of the enemy's works, these brave troops were, in addition to the fire in front, subjected to a severe enfilading fire from the left. Twice they renewed the assault with the utmost resolution, but were too weak to storm the position. The rest of Helm's brigade, in whose front there were no works, after a short but sharp engagement, routed a line of the enemy, pursued it across the Chattanooga road, and captured a section of artillery posted in the center of the road. This portion of the brigade was now brought under a heavy front and enfilading fire, and being separated from its left and without support, I ordered CoL Joseph H. Lewis, of the Sixth Kentucky, who succeeded to the command upon the fall of General Helm, to withdraw the troops some 200 yards to the rear, reunite the brigade, and change his front slightly to meet the new order of things by throwing forward his right and retiring his left. The movement was made without panic or confusion.
This was one of the bloodiest encounters of the day. Here General Helm, ever ready for action, and endeared to his command by his many virtues, received a mortal wound while in the heroic discharge of his duty. Colonel Hewitt, of the Second Kentucky, was killed, acting gallantly at the head of his regiment. Captain Madeira, Captain Rodgers, and Captain Dedman, of the Second; Captain Daniel, of the Ninth Kentucky, and many other officers and men, met their death before the enemy's works, while Colonel Nuckols, of the Fourth Kentucky; Colonel Caldwell, of the Ninth, and many more officers and men were wounded.
In the meantime, Adams and Stovall advanced steadily, driving back two lines of skirmishers. Stovall halted at the Chattanooga road. Adams, after dispersing a regiment and capturing a battery, crossed the road at Glenn's farm and halted a short distance beyond ia an open field.
When Helm's brigade was checked, and I had given Colonel Lewis orders in reference to his new position, I rode to the commands of Adams and Stovall, on the right. It was now evident, from the comparatively slight resistance they had encountered and the fact that they were not threatened ia front, that our line had extended beyond the enemy's left. I at once ordered these brigades to change front perpendicular to the original line of battle, and with the left of Adams and the right of Stovall resting on the Chattanooga road to advance upon the flank of the enemy. Slocomb's battery, which had previously done good service, was posted on favorable ground on the west of the road to support the movement. The brigades advanced in fine order over a field and entered the woods beyond. Stovall soon encountered the extreme left of the enemy's works, which, retiring from the general north and south direction of his intrenchments, extended westwardly nearly to the Chattanooga road. After a severe and well-contested conflict, he was checked and forced to retire. Adams, on the west of the road, met two lines of the enemy, who had improved the short time to bring up re-enforcements and reform nearly at a right angle to the troops in his main line of works. The first line was routed, but it was found impossible to break the second, aided as it was by artillery, and after a sanguinary contest which reflected high honor on the brigade, it was forced back in some confusion. Here General Adams, who is as remarkable for his judgment on the field as for his courage, was severely wounded and fell into the hands of the enemy.
Among the casualties, Lieutenant-Colonel Turner, of the Nineteenth Louisiana, was wounded, and the gallant Major Butler, of the same regiment, was killed. Stovall had gained a point beyond the angle of the enemy's main line of works. Adams had advanced still farther, being actually in rear of his intrenchments. A good supporting line to my division at this moment would probably have produced decisive results. As it was, the engagement on our right had inflicted on the enemy heavy losses and compelled him to weaken other parts of his line to hold his vital point. Adams' brigade reformed behind Slocomb's battery, which repulsed the enemy by a rapid and well-directed fire, rendering on this occasion important and distinguished service. By order of Lieutenant-General Hill, my division was withdrawn a short distance to recruit, while the troops of Major-General Walker engaged the enemy. My new line was about 600 yards in advance of the position on which I first formed in the morning, with a slight change of direction, which brought my right relatively nearer to the Chattanooga road.
Soon after taking this position an attack was reported on our right flank. It proved to be Granger's corps coming up from Rossville and threatening our right with a part of his force. At the re,-quest of Brigadier-General Forrest, I sent him a section of Cobb s battery, under the command of Lieutenant Gracey, who assisted handsomely in repelling the enemy. At the request of the brigade commanders, the artillery of the division had been ordered to report to the brigades with which they were accustomed to serve. Cobb's battery, from the nature of the ground, could not participate to its accustomed extent yet as opportunity offered it displayed its accustomed gallantry. The excellent battery of Captain Mebane, for the same reason, was able to take little part in the action.
The afternoon was waning, and the enemy still obstinately confronted us in his intrenchments. I received permission from Lieutenant-General Hill to make another charge. A line of troops on my right and covering a part of my front advanced at the same time. A portion of these troops obliqued to the right, and my line passed through the rest, who seemed to be out of ammunition, so that after moving a few hundred yards the enemy alone was in my front. The division advanced with intrepidity under a severe fire and dashed over the left of the intrenchments. In passing them I saw on my left the right of Major-General Cleburne, whose brave division stormed the center. Several hundred of the enemy ran through our lines to the rear. The rest were pursued several hundred yards and beyond the Chattanooga road. Of these some were killed and a good many taken prisoners, but most of them escaped in the darkness. It was now night. Pursuit was stopped by order of General Hill, and throwing out pickets, I bivouacked in line near the road.
The prisoners taken by my command during the day, of whom there was a considerable number, were allowed to go to the rear, since details could not be spared for them, and it was known they would be gathered up there. The division captured 9 pieces of artillery. I am aware that it is usually the whole army (not a part of it) that takes guns from the enemy, and that often the troops who obtain possession of them owe their good fortune quite as much to fire from the right and left as to their own efforts; yet I think it due to my command to say that in regard to 6 at least of these guns such considerations do not apply, and that they were taken without assistance from any other troops.
My total casualties, as shown by official reports, amounted to 1,240, of which number 166 were killed, 909 wounded, and 165 missing.
To Brigadier-Generall Stovall, to Colonel Lewis, who succeeded to the command of Helm's brigade, and to Col. R. L. Gibson, who succeeded to the command of Adams' brigade, the country is indebted for the courage and skill with which they discharged their arduous duties.
The officers and men of the division, with exceptions so rare as to place in striking contrast to them the general good conduct, sustained their former reputation and were alike worthy of each other.
To the gentlemen of my staff, I feel sincere gratitude for the prompt, fearless, and cheerful manner in which they discharged their duties. Major Wilson, assistant adjutant-general; Colonel von Zinken, assistant inspector-general, who had 2 horses shot under him; Captain Mastin, assistant inspector-general, who received a contusion from a grape-shot; Lieutenant Breckinridge, aide-de-camp, whose horse was shot; Captain Semple, ordnance officer; Lieutenant Bertus, Twentieth Louisiana, acting assistant inspector-general; Dr. Heustis, chief surgeon; Dr. Kratz, on duty in the field, and Messrs. McGehee, Coleman, Mitchell, and Clay, volunteers on my staff, performed their duties in a manner to command my confidence and regard.
One member of my staff I cannot thank. Maj. R. E. Graves, chief of artillery, received a mortal wound in the action of Sunday, the 20th. Although a very young man, he had won eminence in arms, and he gave promise of the highest distinction. A truer friend, a purer patriot, a better soldier never lived.
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN C. BRECKINRIDGE,
Major-General, Army Confederate Slates.
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