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- The Army of the Cumberland - 30/43 -


Colonel Dan. McCook, of Granger's reserve corps, who had been posted on the road leading to Reed's Bridge, on the evening of the 18th, made a reconnoissance to Chickamauga Creek as far as Reed's Bridge, which he burned. On the 19th, meeting Thomas, he reported that an isolated brigade of the enemy was on the west side of the creek, and as the bridge was destroyed a prompt movement in that direction might succeed in capturing the entire force. Thomas ordered Brannan to post a brigade on the road to Alexander's Bridge as support to Baird, and with his other brigades to reconnoitre the road to Reed's Bridge in search of this brigade of the enemy. Brannan moved at nine o'clock A.M., and Baird, under orders from Thomas, threw forward his right wing so as to get into line with Brannan. Baird was also ordered to keep a sharp outlook on his right flank and watch the movements of the enemy in that quarter. Shortly after these movements a part of Palmer's division reported to Thomas and was placed in position on the right of Baird. Rosecrans, when he sent Thomas to the left--the critical point--told him that he was to hold the road to Rossville, and if hard pressed, that he should be re-enforced with the entire army.

Under Bragg's orders, Walker's corps on the 18th crossed the west side of Chickamauga a little below Alexander's Bridge and then moved up the stream opposite this point. Bushrod Johnson's command the same day crossed at Reed's bridge, and then marched up the stream some three miles and took position on the morning of the 19th. Walker resumed his movement to his left up the stream, under the impression that our centre was still at Lee and Gordon's Mills, Bragg's plan being to mass Walker's and Johnson's commands and attack our left flank. The advance movement of Brannan's division, Croxton's brigade in front, about ten o'clock encountered the enemy, being the cavalry under Forrest with Wilson's and Ector's brigades of infantry, and drove them nearly half a mile, when it met with obstinate resistance. This reconnoissance of Brannan in pursuit of the brigade reported by Dan. McCook developed the relative position of the opposing contending forces, which up to this time was unknown to the respective commanders of each. It gave to Bragg the knowledge that his right was greatly overlapped by Thomas on our left, and that his flank was in danger of being turned. It compelled him at once to halt Walker's command on its march, and to direct it to retrace its steps and reinforce Forrest, now engaged with Croxton, whose movement brought on the battle of Chickamauga before Bragg had his troops in the position ordered.

Thomas then ordered Baird's division forward to Croxton's support. Moving at once with two brigades on the front, with Starkweather's in reserve, Baird and Croxton drove the enemy steadily for some distance with great loss, capturing many prisoners. Croxton's brigade having exhausted its ammunition in the severe fighting of over an hour, was then moved to the rear, and Brannan's and Baird's divisions with united forces drove the enemy from their immediate front. Here the line was halted and readjusted. Baird learning from his prisoners that the rebel army was in heavy force on his immediate front, gathering for an attack in mass, drew back his right wing and waited the assault of Bragg's right on his line, which was made in heavy force by Walker, who had reached his new position. Before Baird had completed the reforming of his line, Walker's corps, in overwhelming numbers was upon him, assaulting Scribner's and King's brigades, and driving them back in disorder.

McCook, early on the morning of the 19th, had taken position with his corps at Crawfish Spring, and was now beyond the extreme left of the rebel army, massing his troops at this point and waiting for orders. At a little after ten o'clock in the morning he was directed to take command of the right and the cavalry on that flank. This included Negley's division of the Fourteenth Corps, which was watching the fords of Chickamauga near Crawfish Spring, one brigade of his command being then engaged with the enemy. The same order directed McCook to send Johnson's divisions to the left to report to Thomas, and following this came another one from Rosecrans directing McCook to send Davis's division also to Thomas. On Baird being driven back, General Thomas ordered Johnson's and Reynolds's division of his own corps--both of whom had opportunely arrived by this time--immediately to advance and drive the enemy back. Johnson arriving first was ordered at once to advance his left, connecting with Baird's right, Palmer was immediately placed on Johnson's right and Reynolds still to the right of Palmer, with one brigade of his division in reserve. As soon as the line was thus formed the troops advanced, attacking Walker's corps on the flank with great vigor, driving it in confusion back to its first position, while Brannan's division, fighting them on the front, drove back the head of the column and retook the artillery which had been captured from Baird when he was driven back. Bragg then ordered up Cheatham's division, which had been in reserve, reinforcing Walker. With these two commands united, the rebels pressed forward with loud yells, determined on the destruction of our left. As these two commands advanced, a gap was made in their lines, into which Bragg threw Stewart's division. As they encountered our line, these troops moved forward. Striking Johnson first, they drove him from his position in disorder, then Palmer was compelled to retire, when Van Cleve coming to his support was also beaten back. Reynolds then in turn was overpowered and the rebels seemed to be sweeping every thing before them as at Stone's River. By this time Davis had reported with his division, and moving at once to the front checked the rebel advance, when Wood coming up to his assistance, our lines were reformed, and Cheatham's, Stewart's, and Walker's troops were driven in rapid retreat back to their original line. Sheridan, under orders, had left Lytle's brigade to hold Lee and Gordon's Mills on our extreme right, and moved to our left in support of the new line near Wood's and Davis's divisions. He reached the position opportunely and aided in driving back the rebels, Bradley's brigade recapturing the Eighth Indiana battery previously taken by the enemy. A large number of prisoners were captured belonging to Longstreet's corps.

Bragg, finding that his plan of battle was discovered by his opponent, and that the latter intended to dispute to the end for the possession of the Rossville and Chattanooga road, ordered Polk to cross the creek with his remaining division at the nearest ford and to assume command in person on their right. Hill with his corps was also ordered to move across the Chickamauga below Lee and Gordon's Mills and to join the line on the right.

The rebels made another desperate assault at about half past two o'clock on our right. Hood's corps, with Bushrod Johnson's division from the enemy's centre, moved forward in heavy masses, assaulting furiously Reynolds's and Van Cleve's divisions. Here they met with fearful loss from the heavy infantry and artillery fire, portions of six batteries opening with canister on their advancing columns, but still on they came. Soon the roar of battle was heard approaching near to the Widow Glenn's house, where Rosecrans's headquarters were. Our right centre now was pierced and the enemy was on the La Fayette road. Negley, from the right under McCook, was immediately ordered up with his division, Brannan from Thomas's left joining him. These two divisions were at once sent in to the fight. Moving rapidly forward to the attack, with cheer on cheer, they hurled back Hood and Johnson, steadily driving them until darkness ended the combat, our troops re-occupying their old positions.

Thomas, wishing to reform his lines--which had become greatly extended in driving the rebels--and concentrate them on more commanding ground in the rear preparatory to the engagement to be renewed on the morrow, selected a new position for Baird's and Johnson's divisions, the former on the extreme left. These positions were designated to them and were occupied at once. Palmer and Reynolds were ordered into position in line on the right of Johnson, with Brannan to the rear and right of Reynolds as reserve. While these movements were being made, Cleburne with his fresh division of Hill's corps, who had been ordered to the extreme right by Bragg, under orders to attack immediately, advancing in full force, supported by Cheatham, assaulted Johnson first and then Baird with tremendous force. The onset was so determined that some confusion in the line resulted, but in a few minutes our troops rallied and the enemy was repulsed in fine style. This conflict lasted for some time after dark with heavy losses on both sides, the heavy firing lighting up the struggle. At this point our artillery was again used with good effect. Wilder's brigade had occupied a position during the day on the La Fayette road about a mile north of Lee and Gordon's Mills, with Minty close by. The latter was now ordered to report to Granger at Rossville, to hold in check the enemy's cavalry operating on their right. Granger, with his reserves protected the roads to the rear toward Rossville and covered our left flank.

With night the fighting ceased, and the troops, worn out after the marching of the night before--moving from the right to the extreme left--and the heavy fighting of the day, slept on their arms, awaiting the heavier conflict of the morrow. Though weary, the troops were in most excellent spirits, and confident of final victory. It was known throughout the army that we had been fighting during the day largely superior forces. That Bragg had been heavily re-enforced from Mississippi and East Tennessee, and by Longstreet's command from Virginia, and that the enemy was fighting most desperately. Bragg's great aim had been to conceal his main attack on our left by the feint on the centre, and supposed that our centre on the morning of the 19th was still at Lee and Gordon's Mills. Presuming this to be the case, Bragg had massed heavily on our left, intending to repeat his movement made on our right at Murfreesboro. His plan contemplated the breaking of our left, sweeping it before him in broken masses, crushing our centre, and destroying our right, and then occupying the road to Chattanooga in force he would have the Federal army completely in his power. The movement made by Croxton compelled Bragg to open the battle in heavy force on the left, before his troops had secured the positions assigned them, and then, to his surprise, he found that during the night our left had been greatly prolonged, and that Rosecrans was in force, occupying a position far to the north of what he had been led to expect. During the night Bragg ordered up by forced marches all reinforcements arriving by railroad. Three brigades of fresh troops reached the enemy during the night, and were placed in line early in the morning of the 20th. These, with the troops ordered late the day before from the east bank of the Chickamauga, gave Bragg a large number of fresh troops, which he placed in line of battle on the 20th. During the night Bragg summoned his generals to meet him at his camp fire, and there gave them orders for the following day. He divided his entire force into two commands, to which he assigned his senior Lieutenant-Generals Longstreet and Polk. The former--who had reported during the night--to the left, composed of six divisions where his own troops were stationed, and the latter continuing in his command of five divisions on the right. Bragg's plan of battle for the 20th was for Polk to assault in force, with Breckinridge's division on his extreme right at day-dawn, when the attack was to be taken up rapidly in succession by the divisions to his left. The left wing was to await the movement on the right, and when the attack was made there to take it up promptly. When the entire line became engaged it was to move forward vigorously and persistently throughout its entire length, the whole army wheeling on Longstreet's left as a pivot, but constantly pressing our left to get possession of the road to Chattanooga.


The Army of the Cumberland - 30/43

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