Battle of Chickamauga


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, October 10, 1863

This site features our collection of Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers. Harper's Weekly was the most popular illustrated newspapers of the day. Our online version of this historical record will help students of the war find in depth information and incredible illustrations of all the key events in the War.

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General Thomas

General Thomas

Battle of Chickamauga

Battle of Chickamauga

Bread Riots

Mobile Bread Riots

Artillery Shells

Artillery Shells

Sabine Pass

Battle of Sabine Pass

Sabine Pass

Sabine Pass

Dead Horse

Soldier with a Dead Horse

Slave Cartoon

Slave Cartoon

Black Island Batteries

Black Island Batteries

Army of the Potomac

Army of the Potomac








[OCTOBER 10, 1863.



WE publish on page 641 a portrait, from a photograph by Brady, of GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS, the hero of the Battle of Chicamauga, or Chattanooga.

General Thomas was born in Southampton Co., Virginia, in July, 1816. He was appointed from that State to West Point in 1836, graduated on 1st July, 1840, and was appointed to the Third Artillery. In the following year he distinguished himself in the war against the Florida Indians, and was brevetted First Lieutenant for his gallantry. He accompanied General Taylor to Mexico, and at Monterey won the brevet rank of Captain. At Buena Vista, again, he distinguished himself nobly, and was brevetted Major. On the close of the war he returned home, and in 1850 assumed the responsible post of Instructor of Artillery and Cavalry at West Point. At the outbreak of the war Major Thomas was one of the few Virginians whose honor would not suffer him to rebel against his country's flag, and in May, 1861, he was appointed Colonel of the Fifth Cavalry—the Colonel, Robert E. Lee, and the Lieutenant-Colonel, having joined the rebels. In August of the same year he received the appointment of Brigadier-General of Volunteers, and proceeded to the West, where for some time he had an independent command. It was he who, when all around seemed black and hopeless, restored joy to the hearts of loyal people by the victory of Mill Spring, in Kentucky, the first of that brilliant series of victories which ended with the seven days before Richmond. He was subsequently appointed to the command of a corps in Buell's army. When Buell fell into disgrace and was removed, the President appointed General Thomas in his stead; but was induced, by the representations of General Thomas himself and others, to reconsider the change. Subsequently General Buell was superseded by General Rosecrans, and General Thomas assumed, and still retains, command of a corps in the Army of the Cumberland. At the recent Battle of Chicamauga his skill, and the unfaltering courage of his troops, saved us from an irreparable disaster, and he is justly entitled to be considered the hero of those bloody days.

We make some extracts from the admirable account of this battle written for the Herald by Mr. W. F. G. Shanks—a narrative we may pronounce equal to any thing ever penned by Napier or Russell. After describing the first check sustained by Longstreet, he says:

Their left thus repulsed, by the timely arrival of our reinforcements, the enemy in front of Thomas's four divisions (Brannan, Baird, Johnston, and Reynolds) became less persistent in their efforts, and upon a charge being ordered by Thomas, the elite of Lee broke. "Whenever I charged their flank they broke," said General Thomas, in talking it over afterward. Certainly the idea, as conveyed by the word "broke," does not convey to any mind the reality which I beheld. The General is not given to exaggeration, and I do not think it exaggeration in me to say that their retreat at this time was as complete a rout as this battle, or any battle of the war, has witnessed. For the fourth time they were driven over ground that they had thrice contested, at fearful cost; but their fourth repulse appeared to me to cost them more than all the rest. They fell at every step, mercilessly shot down, as they fled like sheep. The glory and renown of Longstreet had departed. Thomas pursued him for nearly a mile, driving him from every position which he assumed west of the creek, and forcing him beyond it in such great disorder that he was unable to recover from it during the day. The charge of that corps should go down to posterity in language that would insure the immortality of the story. Moving with admirable precision, yet with great rapidity, the line never wavered as the enemy, attempting to make a stand, would for a moment halt and turn upon the terrible line of leaping flame which pursued him. The incidents of that charge can not be told. A thousand are crowding the note-book of my memory; but I dare not stop now to tell how noble Birnaud and Ludlow and Fessenden, with thirty men and fifty horses killed, fell over their captured guns, nor how their battery was retaken, nor how the Sixteenth Infantry threw itself away against the wall of flame that licked it up till only one wounded captain and twenty men remained. I had seen two batteries fall into our hands and turned upon those who abandoned them, helping to strew the plain with their bodies. I can not now detail how volunteers and regulars vied with each other for the honor of the day. God knows they won glory enough to cover all. What else could they be but heroes with such a General as Thomas urging them forward?—he whom nothing could cheer more than the wild onset-cry of "Charge them!" ringing along his enthusiastic line, and flung as a defiance to the foe. On that field he at least had won victory; yet that day fame only sang the prelude to the hymn of praise that was his. On Saturday General Thomas stands forth the hero and the victor of the day: and while defeat stared at the broken right and centre, victory remained with the eagle of his blue battle-flag. On Sunday he is still the greater victor; for, where he had on Saturday routed a single corps, he repulses and checks the entire rebel army, and saves the Army of the Cumberland from irretrievable dishonor, and stands between it and ruin. Had Thomas broke as McCook and Crittenden had done, Bragg would have found no enemy between him and Nashville.

After describing the beginning of the second day's fight, he says:

General Thomas, near the centre of the army, was engaged, about one o'clock, sitting on his horse in the hollow of a ridge in an open field behind Harker's brigade, busy watching a heavy cloud of dust in his rear, in such a direction that it might be General Granger with reinforcements, or it might be the enemy. It cast a cloud over his spirits which was plainly visible to one who observed him, as I confess I did that day, with ever-increasing admiration. The truth is, that General Thomas at one o'clock P.M., on the last day of this battle, had no disposition to fight any more, and feared the result of the next rebel attack. And so he watched with natural anxiety the development of the cloud of dust, which was then no more than a mile distant. If it dissolved to reveal friends, then they would be welcome; for at this hour fresh friends were all that was needed. if it disclosed the enemy, then the day was lost, and it became the duty of those who formed the "last square" on this battle-field to throw into the teeth of the victorious enemy a defiance as grandly contemptuous as that of Cambronne, and die. There was no escape if the troops moving were, as it was feared, the cavalry of the enemy.

"Take my glass, some one of you whose horse stands steady. Tell me what you see."

In the dust that emerged, thick as the clouds that precede the storm, nothing could be distinguished but a moving mass of men. But it was then that they were infantry. This information made Thomas breathe more freely. If it was infantry, it was much more likely to be Granger than the enemy. At this moment a tall officer, with the yellow straps of a captain of infantry, presented himself to General Thomas.

"General," he said, "I am cut off from General Negley, and can not find him. I beg leave to report to you for duty, Sir, of any character."

"Captain Johnston," said the General to the speaker (Captain Johnston, Second Indiana Cavalry. Inspector-General on General Negley's Staff), "ride over there, and report to me who and what that force is."

In an instant Johnston was gone—gone upon a mission which proved itself to be a more dangerous one than any of us supposed. As he emerged slowly from a dense foliage of willows growing about a narrow stream in the rear we heard the report of several rifles, and saw him halt for a second, and then, dashing spurs to his horse, disappear in a thick wood in the direction of the coming mass of troops still enveloped in clouds of dust. In a few minutes he again emerged from this timber, and following him came the red, white, and blue crescent-shaped battle-flag of Gordon Granger. We had wished for night, and it was Blucher who had come to us. At a quarter past one Steadman first, and Gordon Granger afterward, had wrung the hand of the statue Thomas, who had gone all through the terrible scenes of the last two days' battle to he melted and moved at this hour. As Granger came up I felt that from the face of the heavens a great cloud had passed, and the sun was shining once more upon us as with the same benignant rays of former victories.

Of the close of the day's work he says:

Just behind Harker's brigade, posted in the key of the position, there was a slight hollow in a large open field, in which were still standing about a dozen dead trees. In this deflection of the field, at the time the last fight of Sunday began, there were gathered together Generals Thomas, Gordon Granger, Garfield, Wood, Brannan, Steadman, Whittaker, and Colonel Harker. As the fight opened, Harker and Wood ran up the hill to their brigade and division, both being the one and the same. Steadman, Brannan, and Whittaker, rode off to join their commands. Garfield continued to indite his dispatch. Granger and Thomas remained, the latter on his horse, his arms folded, listening to the awful fire that soon raged along the line with the coolness of assured victory or the calmness of despair. His lips were compressed. His eyes glanced from right to left as the shell and canister exploded about the field, and once I saw him, just as the fight opened, most furiously glance up at a large, beautiful white pigeon or dove which alighted upon a dead tree above him and watched the battle from her dangerous nest. The representative man of that line, in unfaltering courage (Thomas), may be also said to have represented by his thoughts at that moment the thoughts of all. Watching him, we could see his anxiety at the reflection that if that line did not stand all would be lost; and each and every man there knew that the safety of themselves, but more the safety of the whole army, depended upon them. To be defeated there was to be cut to pieces or captured. To be routed was to fall back upon Chattanooga in disgrace, to be ignominiously taken in flight. There was no help to be expected save in the darkness of the slowly approaching night.

Happily Thomas's men did hold out till night, and the army was saved.



WE have at last accounts, oral and written, of the great battles which were fought in Northwestern Georgia on 19th and 20th September. The battle commenced by an attack of the rebels on our advance, on Chickamauga Creek, on the morning of Saturday, 19th; it ended with the repulse of the rebels, at a point near Rossville, by Thomas's corps, about nightfall on Sunday, 20th, and was immediately followed by the retreat of our whole army to Chattanooga. During these two days' fighting we lost all the ground we had occupied between Chattanooga and Chicamauga; some ten thousand men in killed, wounded, and missing; and a number of guns, by some estimated as high as fifty. The rebel loss in guns was considerably less than ours; in men probably considerably more. They gained possession of the battle-field. But they did not gain possession of Chattanooga, and as there is good reason to believe that this was the object of their attack, they must be pronounced to have failed in their purpose.

Chattanooga, besides being a naturally strong place, and suitable for a depot of supplies, a negro recruiting station, and a general point d'appui for future operations in Georgia, the Carolinas, and Alabama, is so far the key to Northern Mississippi and Alabama that, so long as we hold it as well as the Mississippi, we actually hold military possession of that section of country, and cut off all communication between the northern portion of the Gulf States and Virginia and North Carolina. It is, moreover, within striking distance, at Atlanta, of the only other railway line between those Gulf States and the rebel States on the Atlantic. So long as the United States hold Chattanooga, the only communication between Mississippi and Alabama on the one hand, and Virginia and the Carolinas on the other, is liable at any moment to be severed as completely as Grant's victories on the Mississippi have divided Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas from the rest of the Slave Confederacy. Why General Bragg evacuated so vital a point as this—a point which we had been repeatedly assured would never be given up, and could be held indefinitely—we shall not know until the history of the war comes to be written. There may be some truth in the newspaper stories of the demoralization of Bragg's army. It may be, as asserted in some quarters, that Rosecrans had succeeded in flanking the place and threatening Bragg's communications. However this be, it is plain that the only thing for the rebels to do after we had got into Chattanooga was to drive us out of it—or perish. They attempted to drive us out in the battles of the 19th and 20th, and they have failed.

At latest accounts Rosecrans was undisturbedly fortifying himself at Chattanooga, and there were no indications of an immediate resumption of the fight. It stands to reason, however, that the struggle will be renewed at a very early day. If the rebels can not retake Chattanooga the Confederacy is gone. We may take for granted that Jeff Davis is sending every available man from Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama to the scene of conflict, with the intention of crushing out Rosecrans's army, and restoring the communication between the Gulf

and the Atlantic States. It is likewise safe to assume that our Government is following the example, and that immense bodies of troops are pouring down toward Chattanooga from every military station at the North. Thus the issue would seem to be one of time. If Rosecrans can not hold out at Chattanooga until his reinforcements arrive, the whole of the Southern army will presently be in Chattanooga, and marching Northward through Tennessee; if he can hold out a few days only he will have force enough to offer Bragg battle with advantage, and can proceed at his leisure to occupy Atlanta, and give the death-blow to the empire which it was proposed to erect upon the corner-stone of slavery.


JOHN BULL in the loyal States is an epitome of Great Britain. He sniffs and sneers and scolds; depreciating every national success, and delighting in rebel advantages. That our Government is an absurdity, that the Union is hopelessly gone, that the breeders of babies for sale are the only gentlemen in the land, and that all American things are loose, shiftless, vulgar, and repulsive, is John's profound conviction, which he does not affect to conceal. The war, of course, he regards as fratricidal and foolish. He informs us that we have no right, upon our own confessed principles, to try to preserve our Government; that we have never been any thing but a mob; and that after dragging through every extreme of terror and blood, we shall be crushed into silence and order by a military despotism. That despotism, indeed, in the opinion of John, has already begun. All the safeguards of liberty and civilization have been swept away. Every national fort is a bastile, and every citizen who dares to whisper that he does not like the war is immured in slimy dungeons with toads and bats. Liberty, freedom of speech and the press, all the guarantees that make civil society tolerable, are utterly overthrown. At least so Charles Mackay, inspired by Copperheads and speaking for the true-blue John Bull, has been constantly insisting.

Meanwhile John Bull continues to live in the abhorred country, and to try to make money out of the vulgar and ignorant devotees of the almighty dollar. But his continued residence is a permanent refutation of his perpetual slander. If all the John Bulls among us really thought what they say they think, they would do exactly as Mr. R. R. Belshaw, a fellow Bull lately of Montgomery, Alabama, did. He tells his story on the 5th of September to Lord Russell.

In 1859 he went to Montgomery and engaged in business. The war came, and his employes went. He immediately began to close up, but found it impossible, "in consequence of non-payment of debts," a chronic difficulty among "the gallant people," who are the only gentlemen, etc. Last February Mr. Belshaw was arrested as a conscript in his own house, conveyed to the guard-house, kept three days, and released. Notwithstanding his subsequent production of a consular certificate of nationality, he was again seized and hurried off to General Bragg's camp at Tullahoma. Several other British subjects were "forwarded under guard, in chains, with heavy iron collars riveted on their necks." They were put into the guard-house, "a filthy den," and invited to volunteer for the great and glorious cause of women-whipping. They naturally declined. After a few more solicitations, which they did not accept, they were put into the camp of the First Louisiana. Mr. Belshaw refused to do duty, "in obedience to the Queen's proclamation," and was thereupon incontinently "bucked" in front of General Bragg's head-quarters. Another refusal brought further "bucking," with pails of water "thrown over some of us." Continued obstinacy caused him to be tied up by the thumbs, while he saw another of the Queen's subjects held head downward in a tank of water three times until almost drowned. "The punishment of slaves has been inflicted upon us, with a full knowledge of our nationality, in broad daylight, and within a few yards of General Bragg's head-quarters, in the presence of at least fifty or a hundred spectators." He appealed to a trial. It cost him four thousand dollars, and he lost his case. He was adjudged liable to serve. Then he paid three thousand more for a substitute, but was presently summoned again. Thereupon the luckless Belshaw left the Confederacy, at a further expense of three thousand dollars; and is more indebted for his escape to his sister than to the money. In conclusion he calls upon M'lud Russell for indemnification for three months' continuous outrage and imminent risk of life, with the loss of ten thousand dollars, and the damage to his business from enforced absence.

Why should not the John Bulls resident in New York invite their brother, late of Montgomery, to justify their constant hatred of our Government by a little expatiation upon the superior civility and respect for personal rights which distinguish a "gallant nation," struggling for independence against a horde of tin peddlers, beaded by a Gorilla, who are meanly fighting for dominion? If there is one thing you hate, John, it is cant, isn't it?


THE Richmond Dispatch, commenting upon the late battle in Georgia, puts the rebel Iliad in a nutshell. "Unless, however, he [Rosecrans] be driven across the river, our late victory will have been of no value."

That is the truth concisely told. For what, in that case, will have been gained to the rebel cause by Bragg's advantage? Some guns—nothing more. There has been a battle. The loss on both sides is great. The armies withdraw. If, then,

there is no reoccupation of territory, the only question is which of the combatants could best afford to lose men. How many such battles could the rebels safely fight? In the condition to which they have been reduced a barren victory is necessarily a disaster. Consequently, although Bragg claimed a "complete victory" and "a rout" of the enemy, the wiser rebels, who have been disciplined by the dispatches of Beauregard, declared that they waited to see Chattanooga retaken before they gave way to joy.

Should any disaster befall Burnside, or Rosecrane be compelled to abandon Chattanooga and retire northward, the rebels may justly claim a decided advantage. Any thing short of this is a disaster for them. Bunker Hill never ranked high among British victories, although the Americans withdrew. The battle near Ringgold will not save the falling cause of treason and slavery if General Rosecrans should justify his words that he can not be driven from his position.


IT is known that officers and men of the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth Regiment were captured in the assault upon Fort Wagner of the 18th July. Beauregard's chief of staff has reported to Commissioner Ould, who, in turn, reported to Commissioner Meredith that no such persons were found. It is now understood that General Gilmore has been directed to make a demand for an account of their present condition upon Beauregard, and in case of any dodging upon the rebel side the Government will presume that the rebel threats against the prisoners have been carried out, and will act accordingly. That is to say, an equal number of rebel prisoners will be held to "involuntary servitude" until the proper explanations are made.

It is quite time that this were done. It is quite time that the Government of the United States declared by its acts that whoever serves under its flag shall be equally protected by it. It is quite time that we hastened to purge ourselves of the suspicion with which we have taught the men of African descent to regard us. It is certainly fully time, if we have not the heroism to welcome all loyal men to our ranks with the same generosity, that we should at least have the honor to refuse the assistance of all whom we do not mean to protect in every way. A half-hearted policy is a foolish policy. It invites and secures defeat. If the colored man is good enough for a soldier, he is good enough to stand upon the same footing with all other soldiers. If the loyalty and love of liberty among the colored men are to be effectively invoked, it must be done in such a way that they may know our friendship for them as surely as they know the contempt and oppression of the rebels.

It is by the action which the Government takes in this very case that the rebels, the Copperheads, and our foreign enemies will understand our intention and our conscious force. Let them all see and feel that as the United States have said liberty, they mean liberty. Let the whole world know, as we know, that the heart and hand of any brave, earnest, devoted citizen are a thousand-fold more precious to us than the color of a traitor or Copperhead face.


IF we had heard of some overwhelming disaster to the army of Rosecrans the chances of the Wood and Seymour ticket in this State would have been greatly increased. Why? Why should a national misfortune be of good augury to a political party? If we look at this question for a moment, the true character of the anti-administration policy will appear.

The immediate consequence of a great disaster would be despondency and doubt. The old story that the rebels could not be beaten, despite all that we have done, and the national flag floating in every State, would be repeated with exultation by the frank, and with professions of profound sorrow by the sly, Copperheads. The imminence of European intervention would have been lugubriously pressed. Mr. Fernando Wood would have demurely suggested that it is clear we must agree to compromise. Mr. Benjamin Ditto would have chuckled that we had got to let 'em go. And all the Copperhead organs would have asked if it were not sufficiently clear that the policy of the Administration was ruining the country, and that nothing but Tom Seymour in Connecticut, Horatio Seymour in New York, Vallandigham in Ohio, and McClellan in the field, could possibly save the country.

The effect of a disaster would thus have been to increase the tendency to ask whether we must not make peace at any cost whatever, whether it were honor, security, liberty, future tranquillity, decency, or self-respect. And with this would have come the greater willingness to vote for the ticket that was felt to represent that policy; not in terms, not openly, but by the necessity of the case. All the weak in whom disaster would have bred despair would have clutched at the Wood and Seymour policy. All the mean who delight in the peril of noble principles would have seized it even more gladly than they do now. All the traitorous Copperhead crew who agree with Governor Seymour that the Union had better go rather than slavery, would have hailed with rapture the possible success of a ticket which would deliver the imperial State into the hands of men who are more anxious to serve South Carolina than the Union.

It is because rebel victories in the field and Copperhead victories at the polls are thus substantially identical, that the destruction of Rosecrans would have helped defeat the Union ticket in this State.


MR. VERNON HARCOURT, who, under the signature "Historicus," has written some most unanswerable letters upon international questions to the London Times in a spirit friendly to this country, (Next Page)




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