Sunday, September 29, 2013

September 20, 1863 (Tuesday): Half Dead With Fatigure

Chickamauga, September 20.

Map by Hal Jespersen,

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND, McDonald's, September 20, 1863-6.35 a.m.
Major-General McCOOK,
Commanding Twentieth Army Corps;
    General Negley's division has been ordered to General Thomas' left. The general commanding directs you to fill the space left vacant by his removal, if practicable. The enemy appears to be moving toward our left.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     J. A. GARFIELD,
     Brigadier-General, Chief of Staff.

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND, In the Field,  September 20, 1863-10.10 a.m.
Major-General McCOOK,
Commanding Twentieth Army Corps:
    General Thomas is being heavily pressed on the left. The general commanding directs you to make immediate dispositions to withdraw the right, so as to spare as much force as possible to re-enforce Thomas. The left must be held at all hazards, even if the right is drawn wholly back to the present left. Select a good position back this way, and be ready to start re-enforcements to Thomas at a moment's warning.

     J. A. GARFIELD,
     Brigadier-General, Chief of Staff.

CHATTANOOGA, [September 20,] 1863-3.40 p.m.*
The operator at Rossville says that the troops have quit passing there, and that he saw General Garfield going back to front while ago, and says that it is reported we are driving them.


CHATTANOOGA, September 20, 1863-5 p.m.
Major-General BURNSIDE:
    We have met with a serious disaster. The extent of it is not yet known. If you are near enough to join us, do so at once. If you are still too far away to form a junction, let me know your exact position, and I will advise you what you had better do.


CHATTANOOGA, September 20, 1863-5 o'clock.
     Verbal message by Captain Hill received. Support General Thomas by all means. If he is obliged to fall back he must secure the Dug [Dry] Valley. Right falling back slowly, contesting the ground inch by inch.
     By order of Major-General Rosecrans:

     C. GODDARD,
     Assistant Adjutant-General.

CHATTANOOGA, TENN., September 20, 1863-5 p.m. (Received 8.40 p.m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
     We have met with a serious disaster; extent not yet ascertained. Enemy overwhelmed us, drove our right, pierced our center, and scattered troops there. Thomas, who had seven divisions, remained intact at last news. Granger, with two brigades, had gone to support Thomas on the left. Every available reserve was used when the men stampeded. Burnside will be notified of the state of things at once, and you will be informed. Troops from Charleston, Florida, Virginia, and all along the seaboard are found among the prisoners. It seems that every available man was thrown against us.

     Major-General, Commanding.

In Field, September 20, 1863.-5 p.m.
Major-General WHEELER:
    GENERAL: Your dispatch Numbers 66 just received. The tidings from all parts of the field cheering. Enemy has been driven back from all parts. We have twenty-two pieces of artillery from the enemy.
     Longstreet is now engaged warmly on the left pressing the enemy back. We dispatched you about 2 o'clock to attack the enemy at Gordon's Mills. His force there must be [sic].

     Assistant Adjutant-General.

BATTLE-FIELD, September 20, 1863-5.09 p.m.
General WHEELER:
     Lieutenant-General Longstreet orders you to proceed down the road toward the enemy's right, and with your artillery endeavor to enfilade his line, with celerity.
     By order of Lieutenant-General Longstreet:

     Lieutenant Colonel, Cavalry.

ROSSVILLE, September 20, 1863-6.30 p.m.
Major-General ROSECRANS:
      Would it not be well to send a flag of truce to make arrangements to recover our wounded? Otherwise their suffering will be very great. They have only provisions enough for to-night.

     G. PERIN,
     Medical Director.

[ROSSVILLE,] September 20, 1863-8.40 p.m.
Major-General ROSECRANS:
    I have this moment returned from the front. I wrote you a long dispatch as I arrived on the field and while the battle was in progress, but it was so difficult to get communication to the rear that I fear you have not yet received it. Thomas has kept Baird's, Brannan's, Reynold's, Wood's, and Palmer's division in good order, and has maintained almost the exact position he occupied this morning, except
that his right has swung back nearly at right angles with the Gordon's Mills and Rossville road. Negley has stopped about 6,000 men at this place. Sheridan gathered 1,500 of his division, and reached a point 3 miles south of here at sunset. Davis is here with two brigades. General Thomas has fought magnificently. From the time I reached the battle-field (3.45 p.m.) till sunset the fighting was by far the fiercest I have ever seen. Our men not only held their ground, but at many points drove the enemy splendidly. Longstreet's Virginians have got their bellies full. Nearly every division in the field exhausted its ammunition, got supplies, and exhausted it again. Turchin charged the rebel lines and took 500 prisoners; became enveloped, swept around behind their lines and cut his way out in another place, but abandoned his prisoners. Another brigade was attacked just at the close of the fight, and its ammunition being exhausted, it went in with the bayonet and drove the rebels, taking over 200 prisoners, and have got them yet. On the whole, Generals Thomas and Granger have got them, and they have successfully repelled the repeated combined attacks, most fiercely made, of the whole rebel army, frequently pressing the front and both flanks at the same time. The disaster on the right cannot, of course, be estimated now. It must be very considerable in men and material, especially the latter. The rebels have, however, done their best to-day, and I believe we can whip them to-morrow. I believe we can now crown the whole battle with victory. Granger regards them as thoroughly whipped to-night, and thinks they would not renew the fight were we to remain on the field. Clouds of dust to the eastward and northward seem to indicate some movement to our left. Sheridan thinks they may be projecting to come in directly on Chattanooga. I do not think so. Your order to retire on this place was received a little after sunset and communicated to General Thomas and Granger. The troops are now moving back, and will be here in good shape and strong position before morning. I hope you will not budge an inch from this place, but come up early in the morning, and if the rebs try it on, accommodate them. General Mitchell left Crawfish Spring at 5 p.m. Our trains are reported safe with him. We have not heard from General McCook. General Crittenden reported with you. General Lytle killed; also Colonel King and many officers. If I am not needed at headquarters to-night I will stay here. I am half dead with fatigue. Answer if I can do anything here.

      J. A. GARFIELD,
      Brigadier-General, Chief of Staff.

September 20, 1863-9.30 p.m.
Brigadier-General GARFIELD,
Chief of Staff:
     You may stay all night. It the enemy are drifting toward our left (Rossville position), have men ordered up. I like your suggestions.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 30, Part 1, Pages 140-145, 675, 749, 965.

In general, communication from the field during battles exists in much fuller measure in the Union archives.  Not much Confederate correspondence from battles remains.  Here, only the reports of Wheeler give any feel for rebel activity.  Garfield's reports reflect a fighting spirit, but limited awareness of how bad the situation was.  Thomas had, indeed, been the "Rock of Chickmauga" and held fast after Longstreet's Corp had punctured the Union center and the Confederates increased pressure to the breaking point on the Union left.  There is something poignant in the message of Perin, the medical director, as he considers what will become of the wounded left on the battlefield.  Combined casualties in killed, wounded, and captured between the two armies would be over 34,000.  It was, perhaps, as close as either army would come to the complete destruction of an opposing army in a major battle, but Bragg would not be able to exploit his victory.

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