Tuesday, December 10, 2013

November 23, 1863

November 23, 1863

Battle of Chattanooga
Nov. 23-25, 1863

Day 1:  Orchard Knob

---Union scouts are surprised to find that Cleburne’s division has withdrawn from their lines during the night. 

Meanwhile, Sherman’s troops have been taking up position on the Federal right.  Grant hopes that Sherman can crush the Rebel right, and thus cut off Longstreet from Bragg.  Gen. Thomas Wood’s pickets are reporting that Rebel deserters are suggesting that Bragg is falling back.  Grant orders a reconnaissance in force, and Wood’s division is chosen to advance across the valley to the only eminence between the river and Missionary Ridge, Orchard Knob, a high, round hill upon which the Confederates have established a fortified advance post with rifle pits.   
The view today from Orchard Knob toward Missionary Ridge

On Woods’ right will be another division under Philip Sheridan, and another on Sheridan’s right under Absalom Baird.  On Wood’s left will advance O.O. Howard’s skeletal XI Corps from the Army of the Potomac.  This force of 14,000 men in blue step off at about 12 Noon.  On Missionary Ridge, a higher vantage point, Gen. Bragg and Gen. Breckinridge observe the movement, Bragg musing that it must be some kind of review.  Breckinridge retorts, “General, in about fifteen minutes, you are going to see the damnedest review you ever saw. I am going to my command.”  Bragg sends a message to Cleburne to stop entraining his troops for Knoxville, but still waits and watches.  Soon, the Federal line hits the first rifle pits before Orchard Knob, and the two Rebel regiments defending it find themselves overwhelmed.  Some of the Rebels flee, and others decide to fight it out, but they are chased off or captured in short order.  Alarmed, Bragg sends a dispatch to Cleburne to return his division immediately.  But, Bragg is now caught without Longstreet and without Johnson’s division, which has already left for Knoxville.

On the Confederate side, Gen. Patton Anderson, one of Bragg’s division commanders, wants to send Gen. Manigault’s brigade to re-take Orchard Knob.  Manigault asks for supporting brigades on either flank, but finds that Anderson is supplying only flanking skirmishers.   

Brig. Gen. Arthur Manigault, CSA

He goes to Anderson and calls the order “reckless stupidity.”  Anderson calls Manigault a coward, but finally rescinds the order.  Bragg is now convinced that the main Federal attack will come on his right flank, and so, as darkness falls, he sends orders to strip Lookout Mountain of most of its troops and send them to the right.

---Jenkin Lloyd Jones, with Sherman’s men and at some distance from the Orchard Knob engagement, writes in his journal of what he heard and saw, and pondered on the cruelty of war:

3 P. M. Heavy volleys of musketry are heard in the direction of Chattanooga, which is said by a correspondent passing by to be a reconnoitering party to ascertain if they are evacuating, which is supposed to be the case. But I don’t credit it.

5 P. M. A fierce engagement is in progress. Since my last writing the well-timed volleys soon grew into a continual rattle, and the cannonading fell heavy and fast. I climbed the bluff as soon as possible to take a better view. Here I found the summit covered with spectators, and every tree loaded as with grapes. The lines most of the time were enveloped in smoke, and we could not discern which were the gainers. The firing commenced well on to the right in the rear of Chattanooga, but fast crossed over toward the left. The artillery’s roar, reverberating through the valleys and from mountains, made a deep and impressive sound as though the whole country was in convulsion. From Lookout the heaviest guns were fired. The flash could be seen as it vomited its load of destruction twenty-two seconds before the report arrived, and its echo was answered by half a dozen smaller guns from Moccasin Point in quick succession; but it was so much lower I do not think it was of much effect. Two distinct charges were made (I know not by which party) and the musketry fire unceasing, and heavy columns of fresh smoke arose, a pall for those departed to their eternal rest. As I sat upon the brow of that eminence I could think of the many groans that were now uttered on the field of strife, where friend and foe lay as an equal in the gore of their own blood, while many more lay with the ghastliness of death upon their features, that but a few hours before beamed with life and animation, and whose hearts melted with love and hopes in the future. Sad! sad! But it does not stop here. How many hearts will bleed. How many mothers’ hearts will be heavy in anguish when the news will reach them of the fate of their offspring and object of their care and love. How little is this realized by the crowd surrounding. Their thoughts are light and trifling; they think not of death or futurity. Removed from all destruction, accustomed to look at death as of minor importance, they feel not the due importance. But such is war. Although a soldier and inured to meet the foe with determination and calmness, I must say, Oh what a cruel and wicked thing is war! A deer ran along the mountain and the attention of the masses was drawn from the conflict and gleefully passed to the animal. This was not in keeping with the state of my mind, and I left and returned to my tent, the musketry having nearly ceased.

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