MILITARY REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR
BY JACOB DOLSON COX, A.M., LL.D.
Formerly Major-General commanding Twenty-Third Army Corps_
NOVEMBER 1863-JUNE 1865
GRANT IN COMMAND--ROSECRANS RELIEVED
Importance of unity in command--Inevitable difficulties in a double organization--Burnside's problem different from that of Rosecrans--Cooperation necessarily imperfect--Growth of Grant's reputation--Solid grounds of it--Special orders sent him--Voyage to
Louisville--Division of the Mississippi created--It included Burnside's and Rosecrans's departments--Alternate forms in regard to Rosecrans--He is relieved--Thomas succeeds him--Grant's relations to the change--His intellectual methods--Taciturnity--Patience--Discussions in his presence--Clear judgments--His "good anecdote"--Rosecrans sends Garfield to Washington--Congressman or General--Duplication of offices--Interview between Garfield and Stanton--Dana's dispatches--Garfield's visit to me--Description of the rout of Rosecrans's right wing--Effect on the general--Retreat to Chattanooga--Lookout Mountain abandoned--The President's problem--Dana's light upon it--Stanton's use of it--Grant's acquiescence--Subsequent relations of Garfield and Rosecrans--Improving the "cracker line"--Opening the Tennessee--Combat at Wauhatchie.
It is very evident that, at the close of September,
Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Stanton had become satisfied that a radical change must be made in the organization of the Western armies. The plan of sending separate armies to co-operate, as Rosecrans's and Burnside's had been expected to do, was in itself vicious. It is, after a fashion, an attempt of two to ride a horse without one of them riding behind. Each will form a plan for his own army, as indeed he ought to do, and when one of them thinks the time has come for help from the other, that other may be out of reach or committed to operations which cannot readily be dropped. It is almost axiomatic that in any one theatre of operations there must be one head to direct. [Footnote: Napoleon used to ridicule the vicious practice of subdividing armies in the same theatre of war. He called it putting them up in small parcels, "_des petits paquets_." Memoirs of Gouvion St.-Cyr, vol. iv.] In the present case it ought to have been evident to the authorities at
Washington that as soon as Burnside occupied East Tennessee, both distance and the peculiar conditions of his problem would forbid any efficient cooperation with Rosecrans. The latter was the junior in rank, and knew that, whatever might be Burnside's generosity, there were many possible contingencies in such a campaign in which the War Department might find it the easy solution of a difficulty to direct the senior officer to assume the command of both armies. So long as matters went well, Rosecrans had little or no communication with Burnside; but as soon as the enemy began to show a bold front, he became impatient for assistance. The perplexities of his own situation made him blind to those of Burnside. This is human nature, and was, no doubt, true of both in varying degrees.
Halleck, at Washington, was in no true sense a commander of the armies. He had given peremptory orders to advance in June and again in July, but when asked whether this relieved the subordinate of responsibility and took away his discretion, could make no distinct answer. The unpleasant relations thus created necessarily affected the whole campaign.
Halleck hesitated to advise a halt when he learned that Longstreet had gone to reinforce Bragg, and Rosecrans dreaded the blame of halting without such suggestion. So the battle had to be fought, and the ill consequences had to be repaired afterward as best they could.
The official correspondence of the summer shows a constantly growing faith in Grant. His great success at Vicksburg gave him fame and prestige, but there was beside this a specific effect produced on the President and the War Department by his unceasing activity, his unflagging zeal, his undismayed courage. He was as little inclined to stop as they at Washington were inclined to have him. He was as ready to move as they were to ask it, and anticipated their wish. He took what was given him and did the best he could with it. The result was that the tone adopted toward him was very different from that used with any other commander. It was confidently assumed that he was doing all that was possible, and there was no disposition to worry him with suggestions or orders.
When the operations in the Mississippi valley were reduced to secondary importance by the surrender of Vicksburg, it was certain that Grant would be called to conduct one of the great armies which must still make war upon the rebellion. In a visit to New Orleans to consult with Banks, he had been lamed by a fractious horse and was disabled for some days. As soon as he was able to ride in an ambulance he was on duty, and was assured by
General Halleck that plenty of work would be cut out for him as soon as he was fully recovered. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. iv. p. 274.] At the beginning of October he was ordered to take steamboat and go to
Cairo, where he would find special instructions. This dispatch reached him on the 9th, and the same day he sailed for Cairo, arriving there on the 16th, when he learned that an officer of the War Department would meet him at Louisville. Hastening to Louisville by rail, he met Mr. Stanton himself, who had travelled _incognito_ from Washington. The Secretary of War produced the formal orders which had been drawn at the War Department creating the Division of the Mississippi, which included Rosecrans's, Burnside's, and his own departments, and put him in supreme command of all. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 404.] The order was drawn in two forms, one relieving Rosecrans and putting Thomas in command of the Department of the Cumberland, and the other omitting this. After consultation with Mr. Stanton, the order relieving Rosecrans was issued and Grant published his own assumption of command. His staff had accompanied him, on a hint contained in an earlier dispatch, and after a day spent with the Secretary of War (October 18-19) he immediately proceeded to Chattanooga. He was hardly able to mount a horse, and when on foot had to get about on crutches.
It has been commonly assumed that the choice whether he would remove Rosecrans was submitted to Grant as a personal question affecting his relations with his subordinates, and that he decided it on the ground of his dislike of Rosecrans. The records of the official correspondence seem to me to show the fact rather to be that Rosecrans's removal was thought best by the Secretary, the doubt being whether Grant would prefer to retain him instead of meeting the embarrassments incident to so important a change in the organization of the beleaguered army. Grant was always disposed to work with the tools he had, and through his whole military career showed himself averse to meddling much with the organization of his army. He had strong likes and dislikes, but was very reticent of his expression of them. He would quietly take advantage of vacancies or of circumstances to put men where he wanted them, but very rarely made sweeping reorganization. If any one crossed him or became antagonistic without open insubordination, he would bear with it till an opportunity came to get rid of the offender. He hated verbal quarrelling, never used violent language, but formed his judgments and bided his time for acting on them. This sometimes looked like a lack of frankness, and there were times when a warm but honest altercation would have cleared the air and removed misunderstandings. It was really due to a sort of shyness which was curiously blended with remarkable faith in himself. From behind his wall of taciturnity he was on the alert to see what was within sight, and to form opinions of men and things that rooted fast and became part of his mental constitution. He sometimes unbent and would talk with apparent freedom and ease; but, so far as I observed, it was in the way of narrative or anecdote, and almost never in the form of discussion or comparison of views. It used to be said that during the Vicksburg campaign he liked to have Sherman and
McPherson meet at his tent, and would manage to set them to discussing the military situation. Sherman would be brilliant and trenchant; McPherson would be politely critical and intellectual; Rawlins would break in occasionally with some blunt and vigorous opinion of his own: Grant sat impassable and dumb in his camp-chair, smoking; but the lively discussion stimulated his strong commonsense, and gave him more assured confidence in the judgments and conclusions he reached. He sometimes enjoyed with a spice of real humor the mistaken assumption of fluent men that reticent ones lack brains. I will venture to illustrate it by an anecdote of a date subsequent to the war. One day during his presidency, he came into the room where his cabinet was assembling, quietly laughing to himself. "I have just read," said he, "one of the best anecdotes I have ever met. It was that John Adams after he had been President was one day taking a party out to dinner, at his home in Quincy, when one of his guests noticed a portrait over the door and said, 'You have a fine portrait of Washington there, Mr. Adams!' 'Yes,' was the reply, 'and that old wooden head made his fortune by keeping his mouth shut;'" and Grant laughed again with uncommon enjoyment. The apocryphal story gained a permanent interest in Grant's mouth, for though he showed no consciousness that it could have any application to himself, he evidently thought that keeping the mouth shut was not enough in itself to ensure fortune, and at any rate was not displeased at finding such a ground of sympathy with the Father of his country. Grant's telling the story seemed to me, under the circumstances, infinitely more amusing than the original.
During the month which followed the battle of Chickamauga, Rosecrans had elaborated his report of the campaign. On the 15th of October he ordered General Garfield to proceed to Washington with it and to explain personally to the Secretary of the War and the General-in-Chief the details of the actual condition of the army, its lines of communication, the scarcity of supplies and especially of forage for horses and mules, with all other matters which would assist the War Department in fully appreciating the situation. Garfield's term as member of Congress began with the 4th of March preceding, but the active session would only commence on the first Monday of December. There was some doubt as to the status of army officers who were elected to Congress. General Frank P. Blair had been elected as well as Garfield, and it was in Blair's case that the issue was made by those who objected to the legality of what they called a duplication of offices. Later in the session of Congress it was settled that the two commissions were incompatible, and that one must choose between them. Blair resigned his seat at Washington and returned to Sherman's army. Garfield, who had found camp life a cause of oft-recurring and severe disease of his digestive system, resigned his army commission and retained his place in Congress. When he left Rosecrans, however, he was still hopeful that the two duties might be found consistent, and looked forward to further military employment.
On his way to Nashville, Garfield made a careful inspection of the road to Jasper and Bridgeport, and reported it with recommendations for the improvement of the transportation service. He arrived at Nashville on the 19th of October, and was met by the rumor that the Secretary of War and
General Grant were at Louisville, and that Grant would come down the road by special train next day. He telegraphed the news to Rosecrans with the significant question, What does it mean? Rosecrans knew what it meant, for Grant's order assuming command and relieving him had been earlier telegraphed to him, and he had already penned his dignified and appropriate farewell order to the Army of the Cumberland.
Mr. Stanton awaited Garfield's coming at Louisville, and there was a full and frank interview between them. The order relieving Rosecrans ended Garfield's official connection with him, and, even if it had not been so, it would have been his duty to make no concealments in answering the earnest and eager cross-questioning of the Secretary. Mr. Stanton had not only had dispatches full of information from General Meigs, who now also met him at Louisville, but his assistant, Mr. Charles A. Dana, had gone early to Chattanooga, had been present at the battle of Chickamauga, and had there some perilous experiences of his own. Dana was still with Rosecrans, and had sent to the Secretary a series of cipher dispatches giving a vivid interior view of affairs and of men. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. i. pp. 220, etc.; vol. xxxi. pt. i. pp. 69-74, 265; pt. ii. pp. 52-70.] The talented journalist had known how to give his communications the most lively effect, and they had great weight with the Secretary. They were not always quite just, for they were written at speed under the spell of first impressions, and necessarily under the influence of army acquaintances in whom he had confidence. There is, however, no evidence that he was predisposed to judge harshly of Rosecrans, and the unfavorable conclusions he reached were echoed in Mr. Stanton's words and acts. [Footnote: Since this was written Mr. Dana has published his Recollections, based on his dispatches, but the omissions make it still important to read the originals.] The Secretary of War was consequently prepared to show such knowledge of the battle of Chickamauga and the events which followed it, that it would be impossible for Garfield to avoid mention of incidents which bore unfavorably upon Rosecrans. He might have been silent if Mr. Stanton had not known so well how to question him, but when he found how full the information of the Secretary was, his duty as a military subordinate coincided with his duty as a responsible member of Congress, and he discussed without reserve the battle and its results.
Mr. Stanton also questioned General Steedman, who was on his way home, and wrote to his assistant in Washington for the information of the President, that his interview with these officers more than confirmed the worst that had reached him from other sources as to the conduct of Rosecrans, and the strongest things he had heard of the credit due to Thomas. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxi. pt. i. p. 684.]
Garfield came from Louisville to Cincinnati, where I was on duty at headquarters of my district, and found me, as may easily be believed, full of intense interest in the campaign. I had been kept informed of all that directly affected Burnside, my immediate chief, but my old acquaintance with Rosecrans and sincere personal regard for him made me desire much more complete information touching his campaign than was given the public. Garfield's own relations to it were hardly less interesting to me, and our intimacy was such that our thoughts at that time were common property. He spent a day with me, and we talked far into the night, going over the chief points of the campaign and his interview with Mr. Stanton. His friendship for Rosecrans amounted to warm affection and very strong personal liking. Yet I found he had reached the same judgment of his mental qualities and his capacity as a commander which I had formed at an earlier day. Rosecrans's perceptions were acute and often intuitively clear. His fertility was great. He lacked poise, however, and the steadiness of will necessary to handle great affairs successfully. Then there was the fatal defect of the liability to be swept away by excitement and to lose all efficient control of himself and of others in the very crisis when complete self-possession is the essential quality of a great general.
We sat alone in my room, face to face, at midnight, as Garfield described to me the scene on the 20th of September on the battlefield, when through the gap in the line made by the withdrawal of Wood's division the Confederates poured. He pictured the astonishment of all who witnessed it, the doubt as to the evidence of their own senses; the effort of
Sheridan further to the right to change front and strike the enemy in flank; the hesitation of the men; the wavering and then the breaking of the right wing into a panic-stricken rout, each man running for life to the Dry Valley road, thinking only how he might reach Chattanooga before the enemy should overtake him, officers and men swept along in that most hopeless of mobs, a disorganized army. He described the effort of Rosecrans and the staff to rally the fugitives and to bring a battery into action, under a shower of flying bullets and crashing shells. It failed, for men were as deaf to reason in their mad panic as would be a drove of stampeded cattle. What was needed was a fresh and well-organized division to cover the rout, to hold back the enemy, and to give time for rallying the fugitives. But no such division was at hand, and the rush to the rear could not be stayed. The enemy was already between the headquarters group and Brannan's division which Wood had joined, and these, throwing back the right flank, were presenting a new front toward the west, where Longstreet, preventing his men from pursuing too far, turned his energies to the effort to break the curved line of which Thomas at the Snodgrass house was the centre.
The staff and orderlies gathered about Rosecrans and tried to make their way out of the press. With the conviction that nothing more could be done, mental and physical weakness seemed to overcome the general. He rode silently along, abstracted, as if he neither saw nor heard. Garfield went to him and suggested that he be allowed to try to make his way by Rossville to Thomas, the sound of whose battle seemed to indicate that he was not yet broken. Rosecrans assented listlessly and mechanically. As Garfield told it to me, he leaned forward, bringing his excited face close to mine, and his hand came heavily down upon my knee as in whispered tones he described the collapse of nerve and of will that had befallen his chief. The words burned themselves into my memory.
Garfield called for volunteers to accompany him, but only a single orderly with his personal aide-de-camp followed him; and he made his way to the right, passed through the gap at Rossville, saw Granger, who was preparing to move Steedman's division to the front, and rode on to join Thomas, running the gantlet of the enemy's fire as he passed near them on the Kelley farm. He never tired of telling of the calm and quiet heroism of Thomas, holding his position on the horse-shoe ridge till night put an end to the fighting, and then retiring in perfect order to the Rossville Gap, to which he was ordered. This part of the story has been made familiar to all. An eyewitness has told how, when Rosecrans reached Chattanooga, he had to be helped from his horse. His nerves were exhausted by the strain he had undergone, and only gradually recovered from the shock. [Footnote: Cist, The Army of the Cumberland, p. 226.] His first dispatch to Washington was the announcement that his army had met with a serious disaster, the extent of which he could not himself tell. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. i. p. 142.] The most alarming feature of the news was that he was himself a dozen miles from the battlefield and had evidently lost all control of events. The truth turned out to be that two divisions would include all the troops that were broken,--namely, Sheridan's, two brigades of Davis's, and one of Van Cleve's,--whilst seven other divisions stood firm and Thomas assumed command of them. As these retired in order, and as the enemy had suffered more in killed and wounded than our army, Bragg was entitled to claim a victory only because the field was left in his hands with large numbers of wounded and numerous trophies of cannon. It was then claimed by some of our best officers, and is still an open question whether, if Rosecrans had been with Thomas and, calling to him Granger's troops, had resumed the offensive, the chances were not in our favor, and whether Bragg might not have been the one to retreat.
Unfortunately there was no doubt that the general was defeated, whether his army was or not. The most cursory study of the map showed that the only practicable road by which the army could be supplied was along the river from Bridgeport. Lookout Mountain commanded this; and not to hold Lookout was practically to announce a purpose to retreat into middle Tennessee. Dana informed the Secretary of War that Garfield and Granger had urged Rosecrans to hold the mountain, but that he would not listen to it. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. i. p. 215.] He could much better afford to intrench a division there than Bragg could, for the Confederates were tied to Mission Ridge by the necessity of covering the Atlanta Railroad, which was their line of supply, and any troops put across the Chattanooga valley were in the air and likely to be cut off if the long and thin line which connected them were broken. Had Lookout Mountain been held, Hooker could have come at once into his place in line when he reached the Tennessee, and the reinforced army would have been ready, as soon as it was rested and supplied, to resume an offensive campaign. Instead of this, the country was for a month tortured with the apprehension that the Army of the Cumberland must retreat because it could not be fed by means of the mountain road over Walden's Ridge. After the fortifications at Chattanooga were strong enough to put the place beyond danger from direct assault, it would only be adding to the danger of starvation to send more men there before a better line of supply was opened.
The problem which the President and Secretary of War pondered most anxiously was the capacity and fitness of Rosecrans to conduct the new campaign. Would he rise energetically to the height of the great task, or would he sink into the paralysis of will which so long followed the battle of Stone's River? Dana's dispatches were studied for the light they threw on this question more than for all the other interesting details they contained. For the first three or four days, they teemed with impressions of the battle itself and the cause of the disaster to the right wing. Then came the assurance that Chattanooga was safe and could withstand a regular siege. Next, in logical order as in time, was the attempt to look into the future and to estimate the commander by the way he grappled with the difficulties of the situation. On the 27th of September Dana discussed at some length the army feeling toward the corps and division commanders who had been involved in the rout, and the embarrassment of Rosecrans in dealing with the subject. "The defects of his character," he wrote, "complicate the difficulty. He abounds in friendliness and approbativeness, and is greatly lacking in firmness and steadiness of will. He is a temporizing man, dreads so heavy an alternative as is now presented." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. i p. 202.] On the 12th of October he returned to the subject of Rosecrans's characteristics, mentioning his refusal to listen to the urgent reasons why he should hold Lookout Mountain to protect his supply line. "Rosecrans," he said, "who is sometimes as obstinate and inaccessible to reason as at others he is irresolute, vacillating, and inconclusive, rejected all their arguments, and the mountain was given up." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. i. p. 215.] Picturing the starvation of the horses and mules and the danger of it for the soldiers, he added: "In the midst of this the commanding general devotes that part of the time which is not employed in pleasant gossip, to the composition of a long report to prove that the government is to blame for his failure. It is my duty to declare that while few persons exhibit more estimable social qualities, I have never seen a public man possessing talent with less administrative power, less clearness and steadiness in difficulty, and greater practical incapacity than General Rosecrans. He has inventive fertility and knowledge, but he has no strength of will and no concentration of purpose. His mind scatters. There is no system in the use of his busy days and restless nights, no courage against individuals in his composition, and with great love of command he is a feeble commander." [Footnote: _Ibid_.]
It needs no proof that such a report would have great influence at Washington, and if it at all harmonized with the drift of impressions caused by the inaction and the wrangling of the summer, it would be decisive. It was with it in his pocket that Mr. Stanton had cross-questioned Garfield, and drew out answers which, as he said, corroborated it. The same correspondence had set forth the universal faith in Thomas's imperturbable steadiness and courage, and the admiring faith in him which had possessed the whole army. The natural and the almost necessary outcome of it all was that Thomas should be placed in command of the Department and Army of the Cumberland, and Grant in supreme control of the active operations in the whole valley of the Mississippi. As to Rosecrans's removal, Grant did not bring it about, he only acquiesced in it; willingly, no doubt, but without initiative or suggestion on his part. [Footnote: Grant's Personal Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 18.]
It may be well here to say a word upon the subsequent relations of Garfield and Rosecrans. In the next winter a joint resolution was offered in Congress thanking General Thomas and the officers and men under his command for their conduct in the battle of Chickamauga. The established etiquette in such matters is to name the general commanding the army, whose services are recognized, and not his subordinates; these are included in the phrase, "officers and men under his command." To omit Rosecrans's name and to substitute Thomas's was equivalent to a public condemnation of the former. Garfield had been promoted to be major-general for his conduct in the battle, and it was popularly understood that this meant his special act in volunteering to make his way to Thomas after Rosecrans and the staff were swept along the Dry Valley road in the rout. The promotion was recognized as a censure by implication on his chief. As Garfield was now chairman of the committee of the House of Representatives on military affairs, he was placed in a peculiarly embarrassing position. His sincere liking for Rosecrans made him wish to spare him the humiliation involved in the passage of such a resolution, and his generosity was the more stimulated by the knowledge that his own promotion had been used to emphasize the shortcoming of his friend. He could not argue that on the battlefield itself there had been no faults committed; but he was very earnest in insisting that the general strategy of the campaign had been admirable, and the result in securing Chattanooga as a fortified base for future operations had been glorious. He therefore moved to amend the resolution by inserting Rosecrans's name and modifying the rest so as to make it apply to the campaign and its results. He supported this in an eloquent speech which dwelt upon the admirable parts of Rosecrans's generalship and skilfully avoided the question of personal conduct on the field. He carried the House with him, but a joint resolution must pass the Senate also, and it never came to a vote in that body.
When in 1880 Garfield was elected President, and in the midst of a heated campaign had to run the gantlet of personal attacks infinitely worse than the picket fire under which he had galloped across the Kelley farm, a letter was produced which he had written to
Mr. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, in June, 1863, when he was urging Rosecrans to terminate the inglorious delays at Murfreesboro by marching on Tullahoma. In his letter to Mr. Chase he had expressed in warmest terms his personal affection for Rosecrans, but had also condemned the summer's delays as unnecessary and contrary to military principles. In the violence of partisan discussion the letter was seized upon as evidence of a breach of faith toward his chief, who was now acting with the political party opposed to Garfield's election. The letter was a personal one, written in private friendship to Mr. Chase, with whom Garfield had kept up an occasional correspondence since the beginning of the war. I had done the like, for Mr. Chase had admitted us both to his intimacy when he was Governor of Ohio. It cannot for a moment be maintained that military subordination is inconsistent with temperate and respectful criticism (for such this was) of a superior, in private communications to a friend. But it was argued that the relation of chief of staff involved another kind of confidence. It unquestionably involved the duty of observing and maintaining perfectly every confidence actually reposed in him. But the public acts of the chief were anything but confidential. They were in the face of all the world, and these only were the subject of his private and friendly criticism. That criticism he had, moreover, expressed to Rosecrans himself as distinctly as he wrote it to Mr. Chase, and had declared it publicly in the written consultation or council of war to which the corps and division commanders were called. [Footnote: _Ante_, vol. i. p. 483.]
But Garfield was also at that time a member of Congress, having duties to the President, the
Cabinet, and his colleagues and fellow members growing out of that relation. Rosecrans not only knew this, but was supposed by many to have invited Garfield to take the staff appointment partly by reason of this. Under all the circumstances, therefore, the ground of complaint becomes shadowy and disappears. Rosecrans, however, was made to think he had suffered a wrong. He forgot the generosity with which Garfield had saved him from humiliation in the session of 1863-64, and said bitter things which put an end to the friendly relations which had till then been maintained.
To return to Chattanooga in October, 1863: one thing remained to be done before a new campaign could begin. A better mode of supplying the army must be found. Thomas had answered Grant's injunction to hold Chattanooga at all hazards by saying, "I will hold the town till we starve." The memorable words have been interpreted as a dauntless assurance of stubborn defence; but they more truly meant that the actual peril was not from the enemy, but from hunger. Rosecrans had begun to feel the necessity of opening a new route to Bridgeport before he was relieved, and on the very day he laid down the command, he had directed Brigadier-General W. F. Smith, sent to him to be chief engineer of his army since the battle, to examine the river banks in the vicinity of Williams Island, six or seven miles below the town by the river, and to report upon the feasibility of laying a pontoon bridge there which could be protected. The expectation had been that Hooker would concentrate his two corps at Bridgeport, make his own crossing of the Tennessee, and push forward to the hills commanding Lookout Valley. By intrenching himself strongly in the vicinity of Wauhatchie, he would confine the Confederates to Lookout Mountain on the west, and cover the roads along the river so as to make them safe for supply trains. The only interruption in the connected communications would then be around the base of Lookout itself, where the road could not be used, of course, so long as Bragg should be able to hold the mountain. If, however, a bridge could be laid somewhere in rear of such a fortified position, the road on the north bank of the river could be used, for this road ran across the neck of Moccasin Point, out of range of a cannonade from the mountain, and after a short haul of a mile or two, the wagon trains could recross the river by the bridge at the town.
Hooker had showed no eagerness to take the laboring oar in this business, and excused his delay in concentrating at Bridgeport by the lack of wagons. General Smith's reconnoissance satisfied him that Brown's Ferry, a little above the island, would admirably serve the purpose. A roadway to the river on each side already existed. On the south side was a gorge and a brook, which sheltered the landing there, and would cover and hide troops moving toward the top of the ridge commanding Lookout Valley. Smith reported his discovery to Thomas and suggested that pontoons be built in Chattanooga, and used to convey a force by night to the ferry, where they might be met by Hooker coming from below. Thomas approved the plan, and as soon as Grant arrived, he inspected the ground in company with Thomas and Smith, and ordered it to be executed. The boats were completed by the end of a week, and on the night of the 26th of October the expedition started under the command of General Smith in person. Brigadier-Generals Hazen and Turchin and Colonel T. R. Stanley of the Eighteenth Ohio [Footnote: Colonel Stanley had been one of my associates in the Ohio Senate in the winter of 1860-61. On the origin and development of the plan and its complete execution, see Reports of General Smith and others, Official Records, vol. xxxi. pt. i. pp. 77-137.] were assigned to command the three detachments of troops and boats assigned to the duty, and reported to Smith. Covered by the darkness and in absolute silence, they were to float down the stream which flowed around Moccasin Point in a great curve under the base of Lookout, on which batteries commanded long reaches of the river both above and below. Reaching the ferry on the enemy's side, they would land and carry the picket posts with a rush, Hazen to move to the left and seize the ridge facing the mountain, and Turchin to do the like toward the right, facing down stream. Colonel Stanley's detachment had the charge of the boats, which were fitted with row-locks and oars, and these were to do the ferrying when the proper place was reached. Each boat contained a corporal and four men as a crew, and twenty-five armed soldiers. They were fifty in number, besides two flatboats to be used as a ferry to cross the artillery. The whole force consisted of 5000 men and three batteries of artillery. The boats carried about a third of the whole, and the principal columns marched by the road on the north bank to the places assigned and were concealed in the forest. The plan worked beautifully. Starting at three o'clock in the morning of the 27th, the darkness of the night and a slight fog hid the boats from the Confederate pickets. The oars were only used to keep the boats in proper position in the current, and great care was taken to move silently. Colonel Stanley took the lead with General Hazen in one of the flatboats, having a good guide. The landing on the south bank was found, and the troops landed and drove off the enemy's picket, which was taken completely by surprise. The boats were swiftly pulled to the north bank, where the troops which marched by the road were already in position. The ferrying was hurried with a will, and before the Confederates had time to bring any considerable force to oppose, strong positions were taken covering the ferry, these were covered by an abatis of slashed forest trees and intrenched. The surprise had been complete, and the success had been perfect.
Hooker crossed the river on the bridge at Bridgeport, and on the morning of the 28th marched by way of Running Waters and Whitesides to Wauhatchie. Geary's division reached Wauhatchie about five in the afternoon, and about midnight was fiercely attacked by Jenkins' division of Longstreet's corps. The combat continued for some time, the enemy having some advantage at first as they attacked Geary's left flank in a direction from which he did not expect them. Other troops were urged forward to Geary's assistance, but the enemy retired as they approached the scene of action and only his division was seriously engaged. He reported a list of 216 casualties, whilst the Confederates admitted a loss of about 400. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxi. pt. i. pp. 119, 233.] Hooker's position was made strongly defensible, so that Bragg did not again venture to disturb it, and the easy lines of supply for Chattanooga were opened. The subsistence problem was solved.