of Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet, C.S. Army,
Commanding Left Wing.
AUGUST 16-SEPTEMBER 22, 1863.--The Chickamauga Campaign.
Near Chattanooga, October --, 1863.
Col. GEORGE WILLIAM BRENT,
COLONEL: Our train reached Catoosa Platform, near Ringgold, about 2 o'clock in the afternoon of September 19. As soon as our horses came up (about 4 o'clock), I started with Colonels Sorrel and Manning, of my staff, to find the headquarters of the commanding general. We missed our way and did not report till near 11 o'clock at night. Upon my arrival, I was informed that the troops had been engaged during the day in severe skirmishing while endeavoring to get in line for battle. The commanding general gave me a map showing the roads and streams between Lookout Mountain and the Chickamauga River, and a general description of our position, and informed me that the battle was ordered at daylight the next morning, the action to be brought on upon our right and to be taken up successively to the left, the general movement to be a wheel upon my extreme left as a pivot. I was assigned to the command of the Left Wing, composed of Hood's and Hindman's divisions, an improvised division under Brig. Gen. B. R. Johnson, and Buckner's corps, consisting of Stewart's and Preston's divisions. The artillery consisted of the battalions of Majors Williams, Robertson, and Leyden, together with some other batteries attached to brigades.
As soon as the day of the 20th had dawned, I rode to the front to find my troops. The line was arranged from right to left as follows: Stewart's, Johnson's, Hindman's, and Preston's divisions. Hood's division (of which only three brigades were up) was somewhat in the rear of Johnson's. Kershaw's and Humphreys' brigades, of McLaws' division, were ordered forward from Ringgold the night before, but were not yet up. General McLaws had not arrived from Richmond. I set to work to have the line adjusted by closing to the right, in order to occupy some vacant ground between the two wings and to make room for Hood in the front line. The divisions were ordered to form with two brigades in the front line, and one supporting where there were but three brigades, and two supporting where there were more than three. General Hood was ordered to take the brigades of Kershaw and Humphreys and use them as supports for his division, thus making his division the main column of attack. Before these arrangements were completed the attack was made by our right wing about 10 o'clock. The battle seemed to rage with considerable fury, but did not progress as had been anticipated. As soon as I was prepared I sent to the commanding general to suggest that I had probably better make my attack. Before the messenger returned I heard that the commanding general had sent orders for the division commanders to move forward and attack. I had no time to find the officer who brought the order, as some of the troops were in motion when I heard of it. Upon this information I at once issued orders to attack to the troops not already in motion, holding one of Buckner's divisions (Preston's) in reserve. As the battle upon our right was not so successful as had been expected in the plan of attack, I was obliged to reverse the order of battle by retaining my right somewhere near the left of the Right Wing. To do this Stewart's division was obliged to halt upon reaching the La Fayette and Chattanooga road.
Hood's column broke the enemy's line near the Brotherton house and made it wheel to the right. In making this movement Major-General Hood fell severely, and it was feared mortally, wounded by a Minie ball breaking his thigh. He had broken the enemy's line, however, and his own troops and those to his right and left continued to press the enemy with such spirit and force that he could not resist us. Brigadier-General Law succeeded to the command of Hood's division, and Brigadier-General Kershaw to the command of the two brigades of McLaws' division. General Kershaw, having received no definite orders himself (being under the command of General Hood), was not advised of the wheel to the right, and gained more ground to the front than was intended in the movement of his two brigades. Johnson's division followed the movement made by Hood, and gained the Crawfish Spring and Chattanooga road, having a full share in the conflict. Major-General Hindman, in command of my left division, first met the enemy near the Vineyard house, and drove him back upon his strong position near the Widow Glenn's (or burned) house. By a well-directed front and flank attack, he gained the position after a severe struggle. The enemy's dead at this point mark well his line of battle. Hindman was then ordered to move by his right flank and re-enforce Johnson near the Vidito house, who was pressing forward against great odds.
About 3 o'clock in the afternoon I asked the commanding general for some of the troops of the Right Wing, but was informed by him that they had been beaten back so badly that they could be of no service to me. I had but one division that had not been engaged, and hesitated to venture to put it in, as our distress upon our right seemed to be almost as great as that of the enemy upon his right. I therefore concluded to hold Preston for the time, and urge on to renewed efforts our brave men, who had already been engaged many hours. The heights extending from the Vidito house across to the Snodgrass house gave the enemy strong ground upon which to rally. Here he gathered most of his broken forces and re-enforced them. After a long and bloody struggle, Johnson and Hindman gained the heights near the Crawfish Spring road. Kershaw made a most handsome attack upon the heights at the Snodgrass house simultaneously with Johnson and Hindman, but was not strong enough for the work.
It was evident that with this position gained I should be complete master of the field. I therefore ordered General Buckner to move Preston forward. Before this, however, General Buckner had established a battery of 12 guns, raking down the enemy's line which opposed our Right Wing, and at the same time having fine play upon any force that might attempt to re-enforce the hill that he was about to attack. General Stewart, of his corps, was also ordered to move against any such force in flank. The combination was well-timed and arranged. Preston dashed gallantly at the hill. Stewart flanked a re-enforcing column and captured a large portion of it. At the same time the fire of the battery struck such terror into a heavy force close under it that we took there also a large number of prisoners. Preston's assault, though not a complete success at the onset, taken in connection with the other operations, crippled the enemy so badly that his ranks were badly broken, and by a flank movement and another advance the heights were gained. These reenforcements were the enemy's last, or reserve, corps, and a part also of the line that had been opposing our Right Wing during the morning. The enemy broke up in great confusion along my front, and about the same time the Right Wing made a gallant dash and gained the line that had been held so long and obstinately against it. A simultaneous and continuous shout from the two wings announced our success complete. The enemy had fought every man that he had, and every one had been in turn beaten. As it was almost dark I ordered my line to remain as it was, ammunition boxes to be refilled, stragglers to be collected, and everything in readiness for the pursuit in the morning.
Early on the 21st, the commanding general stopped at my bivouac and asked my views as to our future movements. I suggested crossing the river above Chattanooga, so as to make ourselves sufficiently felt on the enemy's rear as to force his evacuation of Chattanooga and, indeed, force him back upon Nashville, and if we should find our transportation inadequate for a continuance of this movement, to follow up the railroad to Knoxville, destroy Burnside, and from there threaten the enemy's railroad communication in rear of Nashville. This I supposed to be the only practicable flank movement, owing to the scarcity of our transportation, and it seemed to keep us very nearly as close to the railroad as we were at the time. At parting I understood the commanding general to agree that such was probably our best move, and that he was about to give the necessary orders for its execution.
Orders came in the afternoon for the march. The rear of the Right Wing did not move until quite dark. I did not, therefore, put my wing in motion till daylight the following morning.
Before moving on the morning of the 22d, McLaws' division was ordered to follow the enemy on to Chattanooga. The remainder of the command marched for the Red House Ford and halted about noon.
During that night I received orders to march the entire command back to Chattanooga, and moved in pursuance thereof early on the 23d. We reached the Watkins house about 11 a.m., and proceeded to take up a line around the enemy's position at Chattanooga.
I desire to mention the following named officers as distinguished for conduct and ability, viz: Major-Generals Hood, Buckner, Hindman, and Stewart; Brig. Gens. B. R. Johnson, Preston, Law (respectively in command of divisions), Kershaw, Patton Anderson, Gracie, McNair (severely wounded), and Colonels Trigg and Kelly, both in command of brigades. Honorable mention should also be made of Brigadier-Generals Humphreys, Benning, Deas, Clayton, Bate, Brown, Robertson, and Manigault.
For more detailed accounts of the noble deeds performed by our gallant officers and brave soldiers I refer you to the reports of my junior officers.
The steady good conduct throughout the long conflict of the subordinate officers and men, which the limits of this report will not permit me to particularize, is worthy of the highest praise and admiration.
I am greatly indebted to Lieutenant Colonel Sorrel, assistant adjutant general; Lieutenant-Colonel Manning, chief of ordnance; Major Latrobe, assistant adjutant and inspector general, and Captain Manning, signal corps, for their able, untiring, and gallant assistance. Colonel Manning received a painful wound. The movement of Stewart's division against the enemy's re-enforcements was made upon the suggestion of Colonel Sorrel and Captain Manning. The result was the beginning of the general break throughout the enemy's line. My other staff officers had not arrived from Virginia.
Major Walton, acting chief of subsistence department, and Major Kelley, acting chief of quartermaster's department, were at the railroad depot in the active discharge of the duties of their departments.
Among the captures made by the Left Wing during the day were not less than 40 pieces of artillery, over 3,000 prisoners, and 10 regimental standards, besides a few wagons, 17,645 small-arms, 1,130 sets accouterments, and 393,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition were collected on the field.
The accompanying list of casualties shows a loss by the command (without McNair's brigade, from which no report has been received) of 1,089 killed, 6,506 wounded, and 273 missing. Its strength on going into action on the morning of the 20th was 2,033 officers and 20,849 men.
I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
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