Report of Brig. Gen. John K. Jackson, C. S. Army,
commanding Cheatham's division, Hardee's corps.
NOVEMBER 23-27, 1863.--The Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXI/2 [S# 55]
HEADQUARTERS CHEATHAM'S DIVISION,
Near Dalton, Ga., December 21, 1863.
Maj. J. J. REEVE,
MAJOR: My report of the unfortunate disaster on Lookout Mountain on the 24th ultimo has been somewhat delayed in consequence of the delay of the brigade commanders in sending their reports to me, the last of which (that of Brigadier-General Moore) was received this day. The result of that day's operations and the character of the reports of brigade commanders, which are herewith inclosed, require of me a report more in detail than I would otherwise make it, and will excuse the personal cast which it assumes:
On November 9, in conformity with orders from army headquarters, being temporarily in command of Cheatham's division, I reported to Maj. Gen. W. H. T. Walker. A reorganization of the army having just taken place, I had with me to report to General Walker but one brigade of the division, Wright's brigade having been left at Charleston, Tenn., under orders, and Moore's and Walthall's brigades having not then reported to me under the new organization. My headquarters were located on the west side of Chattanooga Creek, at a point advised by General Walker, and my brigade was placed where he directed. On the same day I was invited by General Walker to accompany him and Lieutenant-General Hardee to the Craven house, which I did. The ground in that neighborhood was passed over, viewed, and discussed, but no line to fight on was recommended by any one present. Indeed, it was agreed on all hands that the position was one extremely difficult of defense against a strong force of the enemy advancing under cover of a heavy artillery fire. General Walker's opinion was expressed to the effect that at a certain point to which we had walked, which was a narrow pass, artillery should be placed in position extending to the left for a short distance toward the top of the mountain; that this would prevent any surprise by forces approaching in that direction, and at the same time they would answer the guns from the hills on the opposite side of Lookout Creek; also to have artillery near the Craven house to answer the Moccasin battery guns. By the first arrangement, he said, the artillery could have retreated by the road, and the infantry, which was put there to defend the artillery and pass, would have felt strong and been better satisfied and better able to hold their position. He said his experience was that infantry care but little for artillery if they have artillery to respond with, and that they are soon demoralized when they have quietly to sit and receive artillery fire without having some of their own to reply with. I ventured to express my own opinion to Lieutenant-General Hardee subsequently, and in it I differed somewhat (not without great presumption, but with equal diffidence) from that of so experienced a soldier as General Walker. If we were defeated on the slope the guns, as I thought, must inevitably be lost, from the impossibility of removing them under fire from their positions. My plan of defense was to place a gun in every available position on Lookout Point, and to sink the wheels or elevate the trails, so as to command the slope of the mountain. In addition to which I respectfully suggested that on the point a sharpshooter should be placed wherever a man could stand, so as to annoy the flank of the enemy. In my judgment there was no place northwest of the Craven house at which our infantry force could be held on the slope of the mountain, and in consequence of this firm conviction I gave orders to Brigadier-General Walthall, which are hereinafter mentioned.
Upon my return to the foot of the mountain, on November 9, I found Brigadier-General Walthall and his brigade in camp there. Brigadier-General Moore's brigade was then at the Craven house, where it had been for a time--how long I am not informed. General Walker directed that Brigadier-General Gist, commanding his division, and I, with my own and Walthall's brigades, of Cheatham's division, should defend the line from Chattanooga Creek to the foot of the mountain, and permitted us to divide the line according to our respective strength as we wished.
After riding along the line with General Gist we made the apportionment of it, and gave orders to our respective commands. At that time I had no command over the mountain slope, although one of the brigades (Moore's) of the division was then on duty at or near the Craven house. General Moore was in command of that portion of the line, under General Walker's orders, from November 10 to 14. The command I found General Walker exercising extended over all the troops west of Chattanooga Creek, under the general supervision of Lieutenant-General Hardee, and upon General Walker's going away on a short leave on November 12, which he informed me he had some weeks before applied for, and upon the assurance of General Bragg that he would telegraph him when Sherman came up, before which time he anticipated no trouble, this command devolved on me. I at once asked for written instructions from the corps commander as to the mode of defense of the line, but received none. The command was a unit and was doubtless intended to be handled as such. I continued to exercise it, and gave orders, subject to the approval of Lieutenant-General Hardee, until his headquarters were removed from the extreme right of the army to a point a little east of Chattanooga Creek. This was about November 14.
About this time I went to the top of the mountain with Lieuten-ant-General Hardee. We there met General Bragg, and after a view from Lookout Point General Bragg indicated a line on the slope of the mountain, which, from that standpoint, he thought ought to be the fighting line. As we descended the mountain I again rode out with Lieutenant-General Hardee to the Craven house, and again looked over the ground. The line indicated by General Bragg was found to present quite a different appearance upon a close view from the same as seen from the mountain top, this line, as I understood it, passed from Lookout Point a little in rear of the Craven house and down to a point not far from the junction of the Kelley's Ferry and Craven house roads, and thence to the precipitous rocks near the mouth of Chattanooga Creek. The engineers were put to work under some one's orders--whose I do not know--and fatigue parties furnished to them from my command, at their request.
On November 14, a new disposition of the command was made. Major-General Stevenson was assigned to the command of the troops and defenses on the top of Lookout Mountain. The ranking officer of Cheatham's division was directed to assume command of all troops and defenses at and near the Craven house. The ranking officer of Walker's division was charged with the line from the base of Lookout Mountain east to Chattanooga Creek, and all the troops not at the points above named. This order emanated from headquarters Hardee's corps, and, in conformity with it, as the ranking officer of Cheatham's division, I assumed command of the troops and defenses at and near the Craven house, and on the following day (November 15) established my headquarters at the junction of the Summertown road with the mountain-side road leading to the Craven house, with the approval of Lieutenant-General Hardee. On the same day Brigadier-General Walthall's brigade relieved that of Brigadier-General Pettus, near the Craven house.
On the night of the 16th and 17th, a fatigue party was ordered to report to Lieutenant Steele, of the Engineers, to commence work on the new line below the Craven house. By direction of Lieutenant-General Hardee, I went out in person to see that the work was progressing; found that there was a misunderstanding as to the place of reporting; walked down the road a considerable distance along the contemplated line, then went to the Craven house and ordered the detail to be reassembled and to report to Lieutenant Steele immediately.
This was at night. The work was directed to be done at night, as the working party would be under the fire of the Moccasin Point batteries. General Walthall's troops being some distance in advance of the proposed line, and exposed to the enemy's artillery fire, I ordered him on the 18th, with the approval of Lieutenant-General Hardee, to shorten his picket line, as he proposed, and notice of which I promptly gave to General Stevenson, and to bring back his troops in the rear (south) of the Craven house, leaving his pickets where they were, supported by one regiment. Upon inspection of the ground, General Walthall reported to me that, as General Moore's troops were also in the rear of the Craven house, there would not be room enough for his brigade between General Moore's and my headquarters, and said that as he supposed the order I had given him was permissive rather than directory, if I had no objections, he would keep his troops where they were. To this I assented, giving him at the same time instructions, if attacked by the enemy in heavy force, to fall back fighting over the rocks. I expected by the time his troops reached the Craven house to be with them and form line of battle, with Walthall's left against the cliff and his right at or near the Craven house, and Moore prolonging this line to the right. This was the general line pointed out by General Bragg, although it had not been defined by the engineers, nor had any work been done on it between the cliff and the Craven house. Beyond the Craven house there was no practicable line which was not enfiladed by the enemy's batteries, except the covered way prepared by General Jenkins, and the flank of that was exposed to the infantry attack.
On the afternoon of the 20th (I believe), I visited the works below the Craven house in company with Captain Henry, of the division staff, and spent some time in their inspection. These works, being a mere rifle-pit, would be of no service when the enemy were once in possession of the Craven house, as they would thence be taken in flank--almost in reverse.
On November 22, my own brigade was ordered to report to me, and was moved from the top of the mountain to the slope and placed in the position which I had desired General Walthall to take.
On the 23d, it was ordered to the foot of the mountain, out of my command, to take with Cumming's brigade the place on the line which had been occupied by Walker's division. My position and that of General Stevenson were thus each weakened by a brigade.
On the same day a brisk fire of artillery and small-arms was heard, coming from the extreme right. It was supposed to be a struggle for wood.
Late in the afternoon of the 23d, General Stevenson was placed in command of the forces west of Chattanooga Creek, Lieutenant-General Hardee having been removed to the extreme right, and on the same night orders were received and distributed to prepare three days' cooked rations and to hold the troops in readiness to move at a moment's notice. In order to avoid anything like a surprise along the line, at about 7.30 p.m. I ordered Captain Henry, of the division staff, to visit the chiefs of pickets and direct them to be unusually vigilant in watching the movements of the enemy and to guard against surprise.
About 9 a.m. of the 24th, I received a note from General Walthall to the effect that the enemy were moving in heavy force toward our left; that their tents had pearly all disappeared, and their pontoon bridges been cut away. Shortly afterward I received another note from him to the effect that he was mistaken as to the number of tents that had disappeared, but that many of those which could be seen on previous days were not then visible. The originals of both these notes were immediately dispatched to General Bragg and copies to General Stevenson. I also sent a staff officer to order Generals Moore and Walthall to hold their commands under arms ready for action. I walked out on the road toward the Craven house to a favorable point and could distinguish the enemy's troops in the plain in front of Chattanooga--all quiet, no massing, no movements of any kind. From this point I sent another staff officer to the Craven house to report to me immediately anything of interest, and returned myself to my position at the fork of the road. The demonstrations of the enemy did not, down to this time, indicate the point of attack--whether upon my portion of the line or farther to the left. General Stevenson inquired of me about this time if I needed re-enforcements, to which I replied that I could not tell until there were further developments. I sent orders by a staff officer to Generals Moore and Walthall to place their troops in line as soon as skirmishing commenced, but not unnecessarily to expose them to the fire of the enemy's artillery. I expected, from the rugged nature of the ground, and the fact that the enemy had to ascend the mountain, that the picket fighting would continue for some time before the main body would be engaged.
About this time I received a message from General Moore that he did not know where the line was. I sent back immediately an order that General Walthall would occupy the left, and that he (General Moore) would form on General Walthall's right, prolonging the line in the earth-works below the Craven house as far as his troops would extend.
About 12 m. I received a note from General Moore that the enemy had formed line and commenced skirmishing with our pickets near the railroad bridge crossing Lookout Creek; that he could not then tell their object, and inquiring where he should place his brigade. I sent to General Stevenson to ask for the offered re-enforcements. Information came to me from General Walthall about the same time that the pickets had commenced firing, and a message from General Stevenson by Major Pickett that the enemy was making an attack on my line. I now asked in writing for a brigade from General Stevenson to be sent down at once, and ordered Maj. John Ingram, assistant adjutant-general, to direct General Walthall to fight back the enemy with his pickets and reserves as long as possible, and finally to take position with his left against the cliff and his right at or in direction of the Craven house, and to direct General Moore to advance and form on the right of General Walthall and prolong the line in the earth-works below the Craven house. Major Ingram reported to me that he rode rapidly forward to a point some 200 yards from the Craven house, passing General Moore's brigade moving up to their position and to support General Walthall's brigade, which was being rapidly driven back by overwhelming numbers. The substance of my order was delivered by Major Ingram to Generals Moore and Walthall. The latter stated that, although the order did not reach him in time, he had carried it out in his efforts to defend the position. General Moore expressing a desire to have a full supply of ammunition, was informed by Major Ingram that Captain Clark, division ordnance officer, had been ordered to furnish him from the division train. Within a few minutes after Major Ingram left as bearer of the above order to Generals Moore and Walthall, I proceeded in person, accompanied by Major Vaulx, of the division staff, to superintend the execution.
Passing a great many stragglers (officers and men) along the road, I was met at some short distance from the Craven house by an officer from General Walthall, who brought the information that his brigade had been driven back in considerable confusion, and that the Craven house was in possession of the enemy. I immediately dispatched a staff officer to speed the re-enforcements and endeavored to rally the men, who were coming to the rear in large numbers, and form a line where I was, selecting what I considered the most favorable position for a line among rocks, where no regular line was practicable and where the battle could be but a general skirmish. Failing in this, I rode back to the junction of the roads and there met Brigadier-General Pettus with three regiments of his brigade. He informed me that he had been ordered by General Stevenson to report to me. I directed him to proceed on the road and form line to re-enforce Generals Moore and Walthall. I at the same time sent for a piece of artillery from the battalion of the division, and upon its arrival directed the officer in command to select the most favorable position on the Craven house road and check the enemy. He soon after reported that he could find no position in which he could use his gun to advantage, and for not more than one or two shots at all.
I remained generally at the junction of the two roads, because I considered it most accessible from all points. General Stevenson was communicating with me by the road down the mountain, General Moore by the same road up the mountain, and Generals Pettus and Walthall by the cross-road. General Pettus informed me by an officer of the disposition made of his troops, and asked for orders. Having placed his regiments on the left of the cross-road with their left against the cliff and with extended intervals, so as to connect with General Moore on the right of the road, I had no orders to give him except to hold that position against the enemy. His dispositions were satisfactory, and I did not wish to change them. I subsequently received a message from him that the enemy was pressing his left and asking for re-enforcements, and about the same time I was informed by one of the division staff that General Walthall had sent the fragments of two regiments to that point, and that there was no danger to be apprehended there. I replied to General Pettus that I had no re-enforcements to send him; that no more could be obtained from General Stevenson, and that he must hold his position.
The enemy being held in check, matters so continued not materially changed until quite late in the afternoon, when I received report by an officer of General Moore's brigade that unless he was re-enforced his right would be turned. Receiving intelligence also from officers of pickets who had escaped that way that the Kelley's Ferry road was entirely open, I knew that the enemy had only to press forward on it to obtain control of our road from the mountain, and expecting that they certainly would do so, I rode to the top of the mountain to confer with General Stevenson, my immediate superior, upon the subject. We agreed that if the enemy did get possession of the road at or near the base of the mountain, I should withdraw the troops of my command at dark and join him on the top of the mountain, and he so directed. Availing myself of General Stevenson's writing material, I addressed written orders to the division quartermaster, commissary of subsistence, ordnance officer, and chief of artillery, who were in the plain below, to retire beyond Chattanooga Creek and then look for orders from corps headquarters, as I expected to be cut off from them.
After this short absence I returned to my position on the mountain side, and there remained until near dark, having sent orders to the brigade commanders that if we were cut off or overpowered we would retire by the top of the mountain, but to hold their positions if possible until dark, and to await further orders. When it was near dark, and when the firing had become rather desultory, I again went to General Stevenson's headquarters for final orders as to withdrawing the troops. I was there informed that General Bragg ordered us to retire down the mountain, the road being still open, and that we must assemble at the Gillespie house to make final arrangements. A guard having been detailed from my command for some subsistence stores on the top of the mountain, I went to relieve them, but found that it had already been done. Proceeding to the Gillespie house, at the base of the mountain, I received orders from General Bragg, through General Cheatham, as to the time and mode of withdrawing the troops, and immediately dispatched them to the brigade commanders by the assistant adjutant-general and the acting inspector-general of the division. In conformity with these orders, the troops retired south of Chattanooga Creek, and the bridge was destroyed.
On November 20, the date of the report nearest to the day of the battle, Moore's brigade had a total effective of 1,205, and Walthall's brigade a total effective of 1,489. The casualties in the first were 4 killed, 48 wounded, and 199 missing. In the second the casualties were 8 killed, 91 wounded, and 845 captured. In Pettus' brigade there were 9 killed, 38 wounded, and 9 missing.
General Moore ventures the opinion that if I had given proper orders a different result would have been accomplished. I beg leave to differ. The whole effective force at my command at the beginning was 2,694 men. Of these 1,044 had been captured, some had been wounded, and a few killed. The enemy's force was (as reported) a division and two brigades. They were in possession of the high grounds around the Craven house, from which, by General Moore's own statement, his left was completely enfiladed. Under these circumstances I was unwilling to hazard an advance movement with my shattered command, even aided by the three regiments under General Pettus, who was himself pressed by the enemy.
General Moore adds a report of the battle the next day on Missionary Ridge, when he was not under my command, and goes out of his way to say that he did not see me during the engagement. I did not think it necessary for me to show myself to him. If he had desired to see me, he could have found me at all times during the engagement near the right of my line, which was on the top of the ridge, while the left was down the hill. If General Moore means to reflect upon the conduct of my brigade, I am glad to say that there are other witnesses who bear different testimony.
General Walthall must have misapprehended the remark made to him as I descended the mountain. I expected to receive orders from General Bragg, but not to see him in person. These orders were to come through General Cheatham.
It may be remarked that there were two 6-pounder guns at the Craven house under the command of Lieutenant Gibson, but they were without horses and could not be moved. In their position they could not be fired without endangering the troops of General Walthall. Lieutenant Gibson's report accompanies this. He never reported to me, although subject to my orders, and his two guns were all the artillery that I could command for purposes of defense, although I took the responsibility of ordering up a piece from the battalion of Cheatham's division. General Walthall's communication in relation to a piece of artillery to be placed in position was sent by me immediately on its receipt to General Stevenson. Captain Henry, of the division staff, was the bearer of it.
The movements of the enemy were very rapid. An impenetrable fog hung around the mountain all day.
I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN K. JACKSON,
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