The most friendly relations seemed to exist between the pickets
of the two armies. At one place there was a tree which had
fallen across the stream, and which was used by the soldiers of
both armies in drawing water for their camps. General
Longstreet’s corps was stationed there at the time, and wore
blue of a little different shade from our uniform. Seeing a
soldier in blue on this log, I rode up to him, commenced
conversing with him, and asked whose corps he belonged to. He
was very polite, and, touching his hat to me, said he belonged
to General Longstreet’s corps. I asked him a few questions–but
not with a view of gaining any particular information–all of
which he answered, and I rode off.

CHAPTER XLII.

CONDITION OF THE ARMY–REBUILDING THE RAILROAD–GENERAL
BURNSIDE’S SITUATION–ORDERS FOR BATTLE–PLANS FOR THE
ATTACK–HOOKER’S POSITION–SHERMAN’S MOVEMENTS.

Having got the Army of the Cumberland in a comfortable position,
I now began to look after the remainder of my new command.
Burnside was in about as desperate a condition as the Army of
the Cumberland had been, only he was not yet besieged. He was a
hundred miles from the nearest possible base, Big South Fork of
the Cumberland River, and much farther from any railroad we had
possession of. The roads back were over mountains, and all
supplies along the line had long since been exhausted. His
animals, too, had been starved, and their carcasses lined the
road from Cumberland Gap, and far back towards Lexington, Ky.
East Tennessee still furnished supplies of beef, bread and
forage, but it did not supply ammunition, clothing, medical
supplies, or small rations, such as coffee, sugar, salt and rice.

Sherman had started from Memphis for Corinth on the 11th of
October. His instructions required him to repair the road in
his rear in order to bring up supplies. The distance was about
three hundred and thirty miles through a hostile country. His
entire command could not have maintained the road if it had been
completed. The bridges had all been destroyed by the enemy, and
much other damage done. A hostile community lived along the
road; guerilla bands infested the country, and more or less of
the cavalry of the enemy was still in the West. Often Sherman’s
work was destroyed as soon as completed, and he only a short
distance away.

The Memphis and Charleston Railroad strikes the Tennessee River
at Eastport, Mississippi. Knowing the difficulty Sherman would
have to supply himself from Memphis, I had previously ordered
supplies sent from St. Louis on small steamers, to be convoyed
by the navy, to meet him at Eastport. These he got. I now
ordered him to discontinue his work of repairing roads and to
move on with his whole force to Stevenson, Alabama, without
delay. This order was borne to Sherman by a messenger, who
paddled down the Tennessee in a canoe and floated over Muscle
Shoals; it was delivered at Iuka on the 27th. In this Sherman
was notified that the rebels were moving a force towards
Cleveland, East Tennessee, and might be going to Nashville, in
which event his troops were in the best position to beat them
there. Sherman, with his characteristic promptness, abandoned
the work he was engaged upon and pushed on at once. On the 1st
of November he crossed the Tennessee at Eastport, and that day
was in Florence, Alabama, with the head of column, while his
troops were still crossing at Eastport, with Blair bringing up
the rear.

Sherman’s force made an additional army, with cavalry,
artillery, and trains, all to be supplied by the single track
road from Nashville. All indications pointed also to the
probable necessity of supplying Burnside’s command in East
Tennessee, twenty-five thousand more, by the same route. A
single track could not do this. I gave, therefore, an order to
Sherman to halt General G. M. Dodge’s command, of about eight
thousand men, at Athens, and subsequently directed the latter to
arrange his troops along the railroad from Decatur north towards
Nashville, and to rebuild that road. The road from Nashville to
Decatur passes over a broken country, cut up with innumerable
streams, many of them of considerable width, and with valleys
far below the road-bed. All the bridges over these had been
destroyed, and the rails taken up and twisted by the enemy. All
the cars and locomotives not carried off had been destroyed as
effectually as they knew how to destroy them. All bridges and
culverts had been destroyed between Nashville and Decatur, and
thence to Stevenson, where the Memphis and Charleston and the
Nashville and Chattanooga roads unite. The rebuilding of this
road would give us two roads as far as Stevenson over which to
supply the army. From Bridgeport, a short distance farther
east, the river supplements the road.

General Dodge, besides being a most capable soldier, was an
experienced railroad builder. He had no tools to work with
except those of the pioneers–axes, picks, and spades. With
these he was able to intrench his men and protect them against
surprises by small parties of the enemy. As he had no base of
supplies until the road could be completed back to Nashville,
the first matter to consider after protecting his men was the
getting in of food and forage from the surrounding country. He
had his men and teams bring in all the grain they could find, or
all they needed, and all the cattle for beef, and such other food
as could be found. Millers were detailed from the ranks to run
the mills along the line of the army. When these were not near
enough to the troops for protection they were taken down and
moved up to the line of the road. Blacksmith shops, with all
the iron and steel found in them, were moved up in like
manner. Blacksmiths were detailed and set to work making the
tools necessary in railroad and bridge building. Axemen were
put to work getting out timber for bridges and cutting fuel for
locomotives when the road should be completed. Car-builders
were set to work repairing the locomotives and cars. Thus every
branch of railroad building, making tools to work with, and
supplying the workmen with food, was all going on at once, and
without the aid of a mechanic or laborer except what the command
itself furnished. But rails and cars the men could not make
without material, and there was not enough rolling stock to keep
the road we already had worked to its full capacity. There were
no rails except those in use. To supply these deficiencies I
ordered eight of the ten engines General McPherson had at
Vicksburg to be sent to Nashville, and all the cars he had
except ten. I also ordered the troops in West Tennessee to
points on the river and on the Memphis and Charleston road, and
ordered the cars, locomotives and rails from all the railroads
except the Memphis and Charleston to Nashville. The military
manager of railroads also was directed to furnish more rolling
stock and, as far as he could, bridge material. General Dodge
had the work assigned him finished within forty days after
receiving his orders. The number of bridges to rebuild was one
hundred and eighty-two, many of them over deep and wide chasms;
the length of road repaired was one hundred and two miles.

The enemy’s troops, which it was thought were either moving
against Burnside or were going to Nashville, went no farther
than Cleveland. Their presence there, however, alarmed the
authorities at Washington, and, on account of our helpless
condition at Chattanooga, caused me much uneasiness. Dispatches
were constantly coming, urging me to do something for Burnside’s
relief; calling attention to the importance of holding East
Tennessee; saying the President was much concerned for the
protection of the loyal people in that section, etc. We had not
at Chattanooga animals to pull a single piece of artillery, much
less a supply train. Reinforcements could not help Burnside,
because he had neither supplies nor ammunition sufficient for
them; hardly, indeed, bread and meat for the men he had. There
was no relief possible for him except by expelling the enemy
from Missionary Ridge and about Chattanooga.

On the 4th of November Longstreet left our front with about
fifteen thousand troops, besides Wheeler’s cavalry, five
thousand more, to go against Burnside. The situation seemed
desperate, and was more aggravating because nothing could be
done until Sherman should get up. The authorities at Washington
were now more than ever anxious for the safety of Burnside’s
army, and plied me with dispatches faster than ever, urging that
something should be done for his relief. On the 7th, before
Longstreet could possibly have reached Knoxville, I ordered
Thomas peremptorily to attack the enemy’s right, so as to force
the return of the troops that had gone up the valley. I
directed him to take mules, officers’ horses, or animals
wherever he could get them to move the necessary artillery. But
he persisted in the declaration that he could not move a single
piece of artillery, and could not see how he could possibly
comply with the order. Nothing was left to be done but to
answer Washington dispatches as best I could; urge Sherman
forward, although he was making every effort to get forward, and
encourage Burnside to hold on, assuring him that in a short time
he should be relieved. All of Burnside’s dispatches showed the
greatest confidence in his ability to hold his position as long
as his ammunition held out. He even suggested the propriety of
abandoning the territory he held south and west of Knoxville, so
as to draw the enemy farther from his base and make it more
difficult for him to get back to Chattanooga when the battle
should begin. Longstreet had a railroad as far as Loudon; but
from there to Knoxville he had to rely on wagon trains.
Burnside’s suggestion, therefore, was a good one, and it was
adopted. On the 14th I telegraphed him:

“Sherman’s advance has reached Bridgeport. His whole force will
be ready to move from there by Tuesday at farthest. If you can
hold Longstreet in check until he gets up, or by skirmishing and
falling back can avoid serious loss to yourself and gain time, I
will be able to force the enemy back from here and place a force
between Longstreet and Bragg that must inevitably make the former
take to the mountain-passes by every available road, to get to
his supplies. Sherman would have been here before this but for
high water in Elk River driving him some thirty miles up that
river to cross.”

And again later in the day, indicating my plans for his relief,
as follows:

“Your dispatch and Dana’s just received. Being there, you can
tell better how to resist Longstreet’s attack than I can
direct. With your showing you had better give up Kingston at
the last moment and save the most productive part of your
possessions. Every arrangement is now made to throw Sherman’s
force across the river, just at and below the mouth of
Chickamauga Creek, as soon as it arrives. Thomas will attack on
his left at the same time, and together it is expected to carry
Missionary Ridge, and from there push a force on to the railroad
between Cleveland and Dalton. Hooker will at the same time
attack, and, if he can, carry Lookout Mountain. The enemy now
seems to be looking for an attack on his left flank. This
favors us. To further confirm this, Sherman’s advance division
will march direct from Whiteside to Trenton. The remainder of
his force will pass over a new road just made from Whiteside to
Kelly’s Ferry, thus being concealed from the enemy, and leave
him to suppose the whole force is going up Lookout Valley.
Sherman’s advance has only just reached Bridgeport. The rear
will only reach there on the 16th. This will bring it to the
19th as the earliest day for making the combined movement as
desired. Inform me if you think you can sustain yourself until
this time. I can hardly conceive of the enemy breaking through
at Kingston and pushing for Kentucky. If they should, however,
a new problem would be left for solution. Thomas has ordered a
division of cavalry to the vicinity of Sparta. I will ascertain
if they have started, and inform you. It will be entirely out
of the question to send you ten thousand men, not because they
cannot be spared, but how would they be fed after they got even
one day east from here?”

Longstreet, for some reason or other, stopped at Loudon until
the 13th. That being the terminus of his railroad
communications, it is probable he was directed to remain there
awaiting orders. He was in a position threatening Knoxville,
and at the same time where he could be brought back speedily to
Chattanooga. The day after Longstreet left Loudon, Sherman
reached Bridgeport in person and proceeded on to see me that
evening, the 14th, and reached Chattanooga the next day.

My orders for battle were all prepared in advance of Sherman’s
arrival (*15), except the dates, which could not be fixed while
troops to be engaged were so far away. The possession of
Lookout Mountain was of no special advantage to us now. Hooker
was instructed to send Howard’s corps to the north side of the
Tennessee, thence up behind the hills on the north side, and to
go into camp opposite Chattanooga; with the remainder of the
command, Hooker was, at a time to be afterwards appointed, to
ascend the western slope between the upper and lower palisades,
and so get into Chattanooga valley.

The plan of battle was for Sherman to attack the enemy’s right
flank, form a line across it, extend our left over South
Chickamauga River so as to threaten or hold the railroad in
Bragg’s rear, and thus force him either to weaken his lines
elsewhere or lose his connection with his base at Chickamauga
Station. Hooker was to perform like service on our right. His
problem was to get from Lookout Valley to Chattanooga Valley in
the most expeditious way possible; cross the latter valley
rapidly to Rossville, south of Bragg’s line on Missionary Ridge,
form line there across the ridge facing north, with his right
flank extended to Chickamauga Valley east of the ridge, thus
threatening the enemy’s rear on that flank and compelling him to
reinforce this also. Thomas, with the Army of the Cumberland,
occupied the centre, and was to assault while the enemy was
engaged with most of his forces on his two flanks.

To carry out this plan, Sherman was to cross the Tennessee at
Brown’s Ferry and move east of Chattanooga to a point opposite
the north end of Mission Ridge, and to place his command back of
the foot-hills out of sight of the enemy on the ridge. There are
two streams called Chickamauga emptying into the Tennessee River
east of Chattanooga–North Chickamauga, taking its rise in
Tennessee, flowing south, and emptying into the river some seven
or eight miles east; while the South Chickamauga, which takes its
rise in Georgia, flows northward, and empties into the Tennessee
some three or four miles above the town. There were now one
hundred and sixteen pontoons in the North Chickamauga River,
their presence there being unknown to the enemy.

At night a division was to be marched up to that point, and at
two o’clock in the morning moved down with the current, thirty
men in each boat. A few were to land east of the mouth of the
South Chickamauga, capture the pickets there, and then lay a
bridge connecting the two banks of the river. The rest were to
land on the south side of the Tennessee, where Missionary Ridge
would strike it if prolonged, and a sufficient number of men to
man the boats were to push to the north side to ferry over the
main body of Sherman’s command while those left on the south
side intrenched themselves. Thomas was to move out from his
lines facing the ridge, leaving enough of Palmer’s corps to
guard against an attack down the valley. Lookout Valley being
of no present value to us, and being untenable by the enemy if
we should secure Missionary Ridge, Hooker’s orders were
changed. His revised orders brought him to Chattanooga by the
established route north of the Tennessee. He was then to move
out to the right to Rossville.

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