Thursday, September 5, 2013

September 5, 1863 (Monday): Wilder Reports

Monument to Wilder's "Lightning Brigade" at Chickamauga

September 5, 1863-7 p.m.
Lieutenant Colonel R. L. KIMBERLY,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General:
    SIR: I have the honor to report that my battery threw some thirty shells at the pontoon-bridge that is moored to the landing at Chattanooga, all laid ready to swing across the stream. We succeeded in sinking two of the pontoon-boats, but there is a reserve of several in the water near by. All of the small flat-boats that were at the landing when we first arrived are taken away. We suppose they are in the mouth of Chattanooga Creek, where a great deal of pounding was going on last night.
     There appears to be more camp-fires back of Chattanooga than every before. Nothing would be easier than for the rebels to ferry a force across the river at the base of Lookout Mountain, as their artillery completely covers the long promontory below Chattanooga formed by the bend in the river, and if they could throw their whole army between Burnside and Rosecrans, on the north side of the river, they would compel both to fall back without a battle, and perhaps with the loss of their communications and a quantity of supplies, leaving them in a country destitute of rations. This is, however, only speculation, with a possibility of its being accomplished. I have sent my caissons and baggage up the mountain to-night, so as to be prepared for anything.
    Two deserters of the Thirty-fourth Alabama came in to-day and state that it is currently reported that Longstreet's corps from Lee's army is arriving, and that the rebels are going to dash through on the line indicated to invade the North. They also state that a cavalry force is stationed on South Chickamauga Creek, ready to ford the river at Friar's Island, covered by their artillery.
     A courier just arrived from midway between Friar's and Chattanooga states that the infantry picket opposite is to-night relieved by a cavalry force. Ambulances have been busy to-day running between Chattanooga and the direction of Tyner's, as if disposing of their sick, preparatory to a move.
I have directed two companies to guard the road going down the river below Williams' Island, and in case we are compelled to fall back, they are to hold the road going to Sequatchie Valley. I have also two companies at Therman, in Sequatchie Valley, guarding some rations left there. I have sent one more company to the mouth of North Chickamauga as a reserve. My entire available force in the three regiments here, including all detached parties, is not over 1,200 effective men.
     I am, sir, very respectfully, yours to command,

      J. T. WILDER,
      Colonel, Commanding.
      P. S.-I have forwarded your orders to signal officer.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 30, Part 3, Page 367.

Not wanting to be trapped in another Vicksburg, Bragg abandoned Chattanooga, spreading false stories through fake deserters as he left.  Halleck and the Union high command believed he was fleeing for Atlanta when his real purpose, as supposed by Wilder, was to interpose between Burnside, about to take Knoxville, and Rosecrans.  Bragg's army was on the loose and the Chickamauga campaign fully underway.  Wilder was a very able officer, who had come to prominence in the Tullahoma Campaign.  His mounted soldiers moved swiftly and were well armed, earning the sobriquet "The Lightning Brigade".  Much would be heard from them at Chickamauga.

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