Sunday, December 1, 2013

November 26, 1863 (Thursday): Victory and Pursuit at Chattanooga

Charles M. Dana

Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
CHATTANOOGA, November 26, 1863-10 a.m.
     Prisoners taken yesterday reported this morning at 3,500 but probably not over 3,000 with 52 stand small-arms, 10 flags. Among prisoners large proportion officers from colonels down. Sheridan continued the fight on our right, along the east slope of Missionary Ridge, until 9 p.m., by the light of the full moon. He took there 300 prisoners, 13 cannon, and a train of 12 wagons. On our left Bragg burned a train he could not carry off. Bragg has rallied his forces within the forks of the Chickamauga, on the Rossville and Ringgold road. Sherman and Hooker, with Baird's and Stanley's divisions, Fourteenth Corps, ordered to move upon him at 7 a.m. this morning. Grant has just gone out to the front, expecting Bragg to fight another battle rather than abandon Longstreet's line of retreat. Prisoners say Longstreet was ordered back day before yesterday, and Buckner, who had been started to re-enforce Longstreet, was sent for on Monday. Battle yesterday was fought by corps of Hardee (late Polk's) and Breckinridge, 25,000 to 30,000 men in all. Hardee was before Sherman; Breckinridge before Thomas. Breckinridge was with Bragg at the moment of the rout, and they escaped together. The storming of the ridge by our troops was one of the greatest miracles in military history. No man who climbs the ascent by any of the roads that wind along its front can believe that 18,000 men were moved up its broken and crumbling face unless it was his fortune to witness the deed. It seems as awful as a visible interposition of God. Neither Grant nor Thomas intended it. Their orders were to carry the rifle-pits along the base of the ridge and capture their occupants, but when this was accomplished the unaccountable spirit of the troops bore them bodily up those impracticable steeps, over the bristling rifle-pits on the crest and the thirty cannon enfilading every gully. The order to storm appears to have been given simultaneously by Generals Sheridan and Wood, because the men were not to be held back, dangerous as the attempt appeared to military prudence. Besides, the generals had caught the inspiration of the men, and were ready themselves to undertake impossibilities.
    Our losses in this assault are estimated at about 2,000 though we have no report yet. Probably the total casualties of this great battle will not exceed 5,000.

     [C. A. DANA.]
     Honorable E. M. STANTON,
     Secretary of War.

CHATTANOOGA, November 26, 1863. (Received 30th.)
General HURLBUT,
    We outwitted Bragg and drove him off Missionary Ridge. We pursue at once. Keep Tuttle for the present. As soon as we are done here, I will try and come to Eastport, Miss., with our force and strike those fellows who are hanging about Okolona. In the mean time do your best. I want a good organization and command at Eastport to watch Iuka, Florence, and Russelville. I have telegraphed Allen to supply all regiments there full complement of trains and wagons. Don't abandon Corinth, as Halleck thinks it the best permanent stronghold. If we can catch Bragg before he joins Longstreet we will make short work of him, and produce a just effect. I lost heavy in officers yesterday. Fought hard all day for one hill.

     W. T. SHERMAN,

CUMBERLAND GAP, November 26, 1863-10.30 a.m.
Major-General GRANT:
     Another of my couriers from General Burnside has just got in Tazewell from a house in the mountains where he lay concealed last night. He learned from the family that the rebels when they had crossed the mountain went toward Rogersville. This indicates rather a want of confidence in Longstreet's success or a fear of movement on salt-works. His dispatches from General Burnside are on the way to me.

     O. B. WILLCOX,

In the Field, Chattanooga, November 26, 1863.
Commanding Army of the Tennessee:
    GENERAL: Your dispatch received. Thomas was ordered to pursue with all his force, except Granger's, on the road the enemy retreated,and is no doubt in motion before this.
The general commanding will be with the pursuing column, that he may give such general directions on the field as circumstances may suggest. Until you receive other orders, you will follow up the enemy on the most easterly road he may have taken, as directed by dispatch of last evening, being governed by your own judgment and the enemy's movements, the object being to bring him to battle again if possible.
     By order of Major General U. S. Grant:

   Brigadier-General, and Chief of Staff.

HEADQUARTERS, Ringgold, Ga., November 26, 1863.
     On arriving here yesterday about 1 p.m., I found that our lines had been broken and our army falling back. General Bragg desires me to say he wishes you to fall back with your command upon Dalton if possible. If you find that impracticable, he thinks you will have to fall back toward Virginia. At all events he desires that your order all the cavalry to Dalton.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


 Official Records, Series I., Vol. 31, Part 3, Pages 46, 254, 255, 760.

The miracle of the Union victory was in no small part due to Bragg's improper positioning of his lines.  Nevertheless, it was a signal accomplishment.  The momentum of the attacks carried a position which would normally have been very much defensible.  Now Grant was loose on Longstreet's line of retreat and Bragg was moving South towards Dalton.  It was not, despite the decisive nature of the outcome, a particularly bloody battle for the number of troops engaged.  But is was a resounding defeat for the Confederacy and put not only Longstreet's command, but also the strategically important salt works at Saltville in jeopardy.

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