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The Army of the Cumberland

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The Army of the Cumberland
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Author(s): Henry M. Cist
Date Published: 2009/12
Page Count: 216
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-863-6
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-864-3

A Union Army at war against the Confederacy

The Army of the Cumberland was one of the principal armies of the Union Army. It was first commanded by Rosecrans who commanded it through its first significant engagement at Stones River and then subsequently during the Tullahoma campaign and at Chickamauga where it received a savaging which was instrumental in causing it to become besieged in Chattanooga. Grant, uncertain of its morale, gave the Cumberland, now under Thomas, a minor role at Missionary Ridge but his concerns were unfounded because, after achieving its primary objective, four divisions stormed the main enemy positions helping to complete the victory. Thomas commanded to the end of the war, but not before the Army of the Cumberland fought in the Atlanta Campaign, at Peachtree Creek, Franklin and finally at the decisive Battle of Nashville where with it crushed Confederate forces under Hood. This is a well rounded unit history. Essential reading for every student of the period. Available in soft cover and cloth bound hard back with dust jacket.

The battle increasing in fury and volume was gradually approaching the centre from the left, but Thomas still sustaining the brunt of the fight was compelled to send again and again for reinforcements. Beatty’s and Stanley’s brigades of Negley’s division had been sent from the right. Van Derveer with his brigade of Brannan’s division also reported. Barnes’s brigade of Van Cleve’s division had also been ordered to Thomas, and now the two of Sheridan’s divisions were under orders to proceed to the left. About this time Lieutenant-Colonel Von Schrader of Thomas’s staff, who had been riding the lines, reported to Thomas that there were no troops on Reynolds’s right, and a long gap existed between Reynolds and Wood; not aware that Brannan’s division although not in front line was still in position, retired in the woods a short distance back, but not out of line. This information was at once sent by Thomas to Rosecrans, who immediately directed Wood to close up the line on Reynolds and support him, and sent word to Thomas that he would be supported if it required all of McCook’s and Crittenden’s corps to do so. <br>
On receipt of this order—impossible for him to execute literally—Wood undertook to carry it out by withdrawing his entire command from the front, leaving a gap of two brigades in the line of battle, moving to the rear past Brannan’s division, to where Reynolds was posted in line. Into the gap thus made by Wood, Davis attempted to throw sufficient force to hold that portion of the line thus vacated, by posting his reserve brigade.<br>
Just at this time the order of battle on the enemy’s lines had reached Longstreet’s command, who, seeing this gap, ordered his troops, formed in heavy columns, to advance. Into this gap there poured Stewart’s, Hood’s, Kershaw’s, Johnson’s, and Hindman’s divisions, dashing impetuously forward, with Preston’s large division as supports. Our right, disabled as it was, was speedily turned, the line of battle on the enemy’s front extending nearly from Brannan’s centre to a point far to the right of the Widow Glenn’s house, and from the front of that portion of the line Sheridan’s brigades had just been taken. McCook, to resist this fierce assault, had only Carlin’s and Heg’s brigades of Davis’s division and Laibold’s brigade of Sheridan’s division. On finding the rebel troops pressing through the space vacated by Wood, McCook ordered Lytle and Walworth to change front and return to assist in repelling the enemy. Wilder and Harrison closed in on Sheridan with their commands as speedily as possible, and aided in resisting the enemy’s attack. Davis, being overpowered by the immense numbers of the rebels, was compelled to retire to save his command. Laibold was in turn driven back in confusion, and the tide of battle then struck Lytle and Walworth, who contended nobly against the overpowering columns, and for a time checked the advance of the enemy on their immediate front. The rebel troops swarming in, turned the left of these brigades, and they were compelled to withdraw to escape being surrounded. At this point the gallant Lytle was killed. Here our army lost several thousand prisoners, forty guns, and a large number of wagon-trains.<br>
Once more the right of the army was broken all to pieces, and five brigades of that wing cut off entirely from the rest of the command. In the meantime Bragg, determined to turn Thomas’s left, and cut him off from Chattanooga, was making his preparations for a second assault on his right in heavier force. Bragg directed this movement in person. Extending his right by moving Breckinridge’s division beyond its former position, he ordered Walker’s corps in line on Breckinridge’s left, and connected to Cleburne’s right on the left of Walker. Bragg’s plan was for Breckenridge to advance, wheeling to the left, and thus envelop Thomas’s exposed left flank, striking it in the rear. Breckinridge, advancing, was soon in position on the Chattanooga road, partly in rear of Thomas. But he was now detached from the main body of the rebel troops engaged in the movement, and, making a bold assault on the rear, he was here met by the three reserve brigades under Van Deveer, Willich, and Grose, and hurled in rout back on his original line. On reaching it he there found the other troops that had taken part in this charge, and that they had been repulsed at every point by Baird’s, Johnson’s, and Palmer’s divisions.<br>
Beatty, just prior to the repulse of the enemy on the left by Thomas, applied in person to the latter for at least a brigade to support him in the attack of the rebels he was then expecting. Thomas sent an aid to hurry Sheridan up. This officer returned soon afterward, and reported that he had encountered a heavy force of the enemy in the rear of Reynolds’s position, which was advancing slowly, with a strong line of skirmishers thrown out; that he had met Harker, who, with his brigade posted on a ridge a short distance to Reynolds’s rear, was watching this force approaching, and was of the opinion that these troops were Sheridan’s coming to Thomas’s assistance. Thomas then rode forward to determine the character of the advancing troops, which he soon did, and ordered Harker to open fire upon them, resisting their farther advance. Thomas then selected the crest of the commanding ridge, known as “Horseshoe Ridge,” on which to place Brannan’s division in line, which—on Longstreet’s sweeping McCook’s lines from the right—had been struck in the flank on the line of battle. On the spurs to the rear he posted his artillery. On Thomas leaving Harker, the latter opening fire with skirmishers, then posted his right to connect with Brannan’s division and portions of Beatty’s and Stanley’s brigades of Negley’s division, which had been ordered over to his point from the extreme left. Thomas then went to the crest of the hill on the front, where he met Wood with his division, who confirmed him in the opinion that the troops advancing were those of the enemy. Thomas was not aware at that time of the extent of the disaster to the right. He ordered Wood to place his division in line with Brannan’s, and to resist as long as possible the advance of the enemy. On receipt of this order Wood immediately threw his troops on the left of Brannan, and had barely time to form his lines when the enemy was upon them in a heavy, fierce assault like those early in the day. This, however, was handsomely repulsed, the enemy charging again and again with fresh troops, but their efforts were successfully resisted. These were Bushrod Johnson’s men, with Patton Anderson’s brigade on his right, which had been formed on the brow of the secondary spur of the ridge, and at about two o’clock moved forward, making a most determined assault on our forces. Part of his line reached the crest held by Wood, but was hurled back to its original position under as determined a counter-charge.<br>
Away off at Rossville Gordon Granger with three brigades of reserve corps was stationed. He had heard during the morning heavy firing from the front, in the direction of Thomas, and as the firing increased in volume and intensity on the right, he judged that the enemy were pressing him hard. He then determined, although contrary to his orders, to gather what troops he could and go to Thomas’s assistance. Ordering Whittaker’s and Mitchell’s brigades under the immediate command of Steedman to move to his front, he placed Dan McCook’s brigade at the McAfee church, to cover the Ringgold road. Thomas was at this time heavily engaged on “Horseshoe Ridge,” between the La Fayette and the Dry Valley roads, about three miles and a half from Granger’s headquarters. Pushing forward his troops rapidly, Granger moved past a detachment of the enemy some two miles out, and ordered Dan McCook forward to watch the movements of the rebels, to keep open the La Fayette road, and to cover the open fields on the right of the road intervening between this point and Thomas’s position. McCook brought up his brigade as rapidly as possible, took and held his position until late that night. Granger moving to the front arrived with his command about three o’clock, and reported at once to Thomas, who was then with this part of his command on “Horseshoe Ridge,” where the enemy was pressing him hard on front and endeavouring to turn both of his flanks. To the right of this position was a ridge running east and west nearly at right angles with it. On this Bushrod Johnson had reformed his command, so severely repulsed by Wood. Longstreet now strengthened it with Hindman’s division and that of Kershaw, all under the command of Hindman, who formed it in heavy columns for an attack on the right flank and rear of Thomas’s troops. Kershaw’s division had possession of a gorge in this ridge through which his division was moving in heavy masses, with the design of making an attack in the rear. This was the most critical hour of this eventful day. Granger promptly ordered Whittaker and Mitchell to hurl themselves against this threatening force. Steedman gallantly seizing the colours of a regiment, led his command to the charge. Rushing upon the enemy with loud cheers, after a terrific conflict, only of some twenty minutes’ duration, with a hot infantry and artillery fire, Steedman drove them from their position and occupied both the ridge and gorge. Here the slaughter was frightful. The victory was won at a fearful cost, but the army was saved. After Hindman was driven back, Longstreet about four o’clock, determined to re-take the ridge. Asking Bragg for reinforcements from the right, he was informed by him “that they had been beaten back so badly that they could be of no service to me.” Longstreet then ordered up his reserve division of fresh troops under Preston, four brigades strong, supported by Stewart’s corps, and directed him to attack the troops on the ridge. Advancing with wild yells, confident of success, Preston dashed boldly up the hill, supported by Kershaw’s troops with Johnson’s—part of Hindman’s—and later on by those of Stewart’s. But once more the enemy was driven back with frightful slaughter, and thus was charge and counter-charge at this part of the field, lasting for nearly two hours, the day wore away until darkness settled down, night finding Thomas’s command—the troops under Brannan, Wood, and Granger—still holding the ridge. Some unauthorized person had ordered Thomas’s ammunition train back to Chattanooga, and the supply with the troops on the field was running very low. The ammunition that ranger brought up with him was divided with the troops on that part of the field where his command fought—Brannan’s and Wood’s divisions—but this supply was soon exhausted. The troops then gathered what could be found in the cartridge-boxes of the slain, friend and foe being alike examined. With the fresh charges of the enemy, the troops were ordered to use their bayonets and give the rebels cold steel, and in the final charges the enemy was met and repulsed in this way.
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