Report of Major General James S. Negley, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division.
HDQRS. SECOND DIVISION, FOURTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Chattanooga, Tenn., September 26, 1863.
Col. GEORGE E. FLYNT,
Chief of Staff, Fourteenth Army Corps.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command since September 17, 1863:
September 17, 8 a.m., marched to Owens' Ford, encamping there for the night.
September 18, 3.30 p.m., received orders to march to the left and relieve General Palmer's division; reached his First Brigade (General Hazen's) at 5 p.m. General Hazen informed me and General Beatty that he had no orders to move from his position.
I reported in person to General Rosecrans for instructions; was directed by him, through Colonel Ducat, to send one brigade to Crawfish Spring; was afterward ordered by General Thomas, through Captain Willard, to move up and encamp my division en masse.
Subsequently this order was changed, directing me to relieve General Palmer, which attenuated my command from Crawfish Spring, along the Chickamauga, a distance of 3½ miles.
My troops did not get into position until near daylight. They were greatly exhausted by fatigue and want of sleep.
September 19, at daylight I sent all my transportation, except ammunition and ambulance trains, to Chattanooga for safety.
Very early in the morning the enemy advanced a heavy line of skirmishers upon Beatty's front, which was a very exposed position, engaging his pickets sharply for some hours.
11.30 the enemy appeared in force, planting two batteries within 400 yards of Beatty's position, which was followed by a fierce cannonading, during which Bridges' Battery, of Beatty's brigade, sustained a loss in men and horses. A part of Beatty's line being gradually driven back (but soon re-established), I sent one regiment (Eighteenth Ohio Volunteers) and a section of Schultz's Battery, of Stanley's brigade, to his support.
12.30 p.m. Beatty repulsed the enemy.
2.30 General McCook's corps had passed to the left of my position, leaving me on the extreme right, General McCook assuming command.
Shortly afterward I received written orders to report to General McCook.
3.30 p.m. received orders from Generals McCook and Rosecrans to withdraw my command and push forward as rapidly as possible to the support of Major-General Thomas, who was about 3 miles distant.
Moved forward at once, and reported to Major-General Rosecrans, who directed me to take position and support General Thomas.
Moved to the left of his (General Rosecrans') headquarters, at the farm-house, one-half mile, when I discovered a gap in our line, through which the enemy was moving upon the right flank and rear of General Thomas' line.
Stanley's brigade was immediately dispatched to meet and check the advance of the enemy, Sirwell supporting him on his right.
After a brisk skirmish the enemy was driven back into the woods.
6 p.m. Stanley and Sirwell were ordered to push the enemy back vigorously, so as to connect our line with the troops on the left.
A sharp engagement with the enemy immediately followed, lasting until 7.30 p.m., during which time our line was pushed forward from one-half to three-fourths of a mile, but I was unable to connect with any of our forces on my right or left. Held this position during the night.
September 20 military operations were suspended until 8 a.m. in consequence of a dense fog.
8 a.m. received a pressing order from General Thomas, through Captain Willard, to move at once to his support. I immediately commenced withdrawing my division for that purpose, when the enemy was reported to be massing a heavy force in my front, sharply engaging my line of skirmishers. I was directed by Major-General Rosecrans to hold my position until relieved by some other command.
General Beatty, however, with his brigade was sent at 8 a.m., under guidance of Captain Willard, to report to General Thomas, going into action immediately.
Although the most strenuous efforts were made to hasten into position the troops that were to relieve me, the remaining two brigades of my command were not relieved until 9.30, when one brigade was sent from General Wood's division for that purpose.
In withdrawing these two brigades, the enemy availed himself of the change and pressed so hard upon the relieving force that I was compelled to halt and send one of the brigades back to assist in reestablishing my former line, also to protect my ammunition train, which was passing at the time.
These serious detentions had the effect of separating my division and destroying the unity of action in my command, which I was unable to restore during the day.
I deeply regret the circumstances which rendered this subdivision necessary, actually placing two of my brigades entirely beyond my personal supervision. Although I am satisfied that the causes which interfered with the unity and concerted movements of my command are properly appreciated by my corps and department commanders, and will not be allowed to detract from the credit due the division, yet I feel that it would have been more advantageous and satisfactory had it been otherwise.
10 a.m., on being informed that General Thomas' left was being turned, I left Sirwell's brigade to follow with the artillery, and pushed Stanley's brigade forward under heavy fire to the left of General Thomas' line, where Stanley met the enemy in heavy force.
Here I received orders, through Captain Gaw, to take charge of and mass all the artillery at hand on a high ridge facing the south.
I now learned with surprise that Sirwell's brigade was not yet relieved, and that Captain Johnson, of my staff, was compelled to withdraw his brigade, leaving only a weak line of skirmishers.
I immediately took charge of all batteries at this point and massed them on the ridge, placing them in position supported by Sirwell's brigade when it arrived.
1 p.m. a heavy force of the enemy was discovered to be moving to our left and rear; also, that Beatty's brigade was being overwhelmed.
Sirwell's brigade was at once sent forward to check his advance, while Bridges' Battery, of Beatty's brigade, and Smith's (Fourth Regular) battery were placed in position and immediately opened a very destructive fire upon him from the ridge facing eastward, causing him to fall back, thus temporarily relieving the left wing.
The character of the ground prevented the effective use of all the batteries: they were placed on a ridge to the rear, and the Seventy-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers sent to protect them; the remainder of Sirwell's brigade was deployed at the most exposed points.
2 p.m., finding that our right wing and center had given way before the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, and being hard pressed on my front and right, I sent Lieutenant Moody, of my staff, to General Rosecrans for a brigade.
Upon being applied to, General Rosecrans replied that it was too late, that he could give me no help.
At this juncture, General Brannan applied to me for support, and I ordered the Twenty-first Ohio Volunteers, of Sirwell's brigade, to his assistance.'
I then rode forward to the crest of the ridge over which the right wing and center were retiring, to get a position for artillery, when I was met by a strong column of the enemy, who pressed forward rapidly between me and the troops on my left, leaving me but one whole regiment (Seventy-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers) and a part of another organized, with the artillery in my charge with its ammunition nearly exhausted; at the same time my ammunition train had been driven off the field.
At this moment reliable, information reached me that a force of the enemy's cavalry was moving from our right to our rear, and a column of infantry on our front and left.
Finding it impossible to organize any of the passing troops, and unable to communicate with General Thomas, and being informed by a staff officer that Generals Rosecrans, McCook, and Crittenden had left the field, I deemed it vitally important to secure the safety of the artillery, which appeared to be threatened with immediate capture by a large force of the enemy which was pressing forward on my front and right.
I immediately took the Seventy-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers and marched to the mouth of the gap, 2 miles from Rossville, the first open ground where the troops could be collected and reorganized.
I found Colonel Parkhurst here, with the Ninth Michigan Volunteers, energetically checking the stragglers. He informed me that; General Crittenden had passed some hours before, and had ordered him, with all the troops, to fall back to Chattanooga. This I stated to him was inexpedient; that the troops must be immediately reorganized and prepared to march to the front.
In this purpose I was ably assisted by Colonel Ducat, Colonel McKibbin, and Capt. Joe Hill, of General Rosecrans staff; Colonel Parkhurst, of General Thomas' staff; Lieutenant Elkin and Lieutenant Morris, of General Baird's staff, and Lieutenant Wilson, of General Sheridan's staff, members of my own staff, with other officers whose names I cannot now recall.
As soon as I had cleared the gap of the artillery and transportation, which extended back some distance and in great confusion, and formed the scattered troops into battalions, I learned that General Sheridan was close at hand with some 1,500 men.
I rode forward and respectfully suggested to General Sheridan to move to the support of General Thomas, stating that I would join him with all the troops I had collected. He stated his object was to march to Rossville.
I then rode forward to communicate with General Thomas. Found the enemy's cavalry in possession of the road between us, preventing my farther passage.
I then returned and held a consultation with Generals Davis, Sheridan, and Colonel Ducat.
It was determined as advisable to proceed to Rossville, to prevent the enemy from obtaining possession of the cross-roads, and from there General Sheridan would move to the support of General Thomas, via La Fayette road.
The column reached Rossville at dark, and the scattered troops were organized as rapidly as possible. Provisions and ammunition, of which the troops were destitute, were telegraphed for and received from Chattanooga.
At this moment I learned that General Granger had gone to the assistance of General Thomas, that he was safe, and that the troops were retiring to Rossville; also that General Sheridan had halted 3 miles from Rossville.
I therefore continued the organization and preparation of the troops, to hold our position against a force of the enemy who were reported to be advancing from the direction of Ringgold.
Before the disposition of the force was completed General Thomas with a portion of his command, arrived.
September 21, early in the morning, my division was disposed so as to hold the gap and mountain crest east of Rossville.
2 p.m. the enemy advanced a heavy force, with artillery, on the La Fayette road, and on the crest of the mountain.
After a brisk engagement, with artillery and musketry, he was checked in the gap by Stanley's brigade and driven from the mountain crest by a gallant charge of the Fifteenth Kentucky, General Beatty's brigade.
5 p.m. the enemy was seen moving in heavy columns to our right, and massing a considerable force in our front.
He was able to shell our position, which was greatly exposed to his artillery and which would become immediately untenable should he plant artillery on the crest of the mountain beyond our line; at the same time communication with Chattanooga could be easily cut off.
The troops were without supplies and the animals had had no food for twenty-four hours. The troops were accordingly ordered to fall back to Chattanooga.
6 p.m. the Sixty-ninth Ohio Volunteers, of Stanley's brigade, which had been left at Cowan, arrived and took position in the gap. My division was directed to quietly withdraw to Chattanooga at midnight, leaving three regiments to hold the picket line until daylight. This important duty was intrusted to Colonel Stoughton, Eleventh Michigan Volunteers, who performed it in a most judicious manner. My command reached Chattanooga at 2.30 a.m., and took the position designated by Major Bond, of General Rosecrans' staff.
At daylight we occupied the unfinished rebel fort on the west stile of Chattanooga and La Fayette road, and immediately commenced its completion for defense.
I beg leave to refer to the reports of General Beatty and Colonel Stanley for the details of the brilliant operations of their brigades while temporarily separated by order, and the tide of battle on Sunday. The conduct of these two officers was highly creditable, and that of their troops brave and efficient.
General Beatty gallantly remained upon the field of battle, in command of scattered troops, after most of his brigade had been driven from it and separated from him by the charge of the enemy upon his left.
Colonel Stanley continued to command his brigade until he received a severe contusion from a fragment of a shell, when Colonel Stoughton, Eleventh Michigan Volunteers, assumed command and ably handled the brigade.
In Sirwell's brigade, the Twenty-first Ohio Volunteers, which assisted General Brannan, suffered severely, holding their position at the base of the ridge until they had exhausted nearly all their ammunition and were compelled to supply themselves from their dead comrades.
When General Brannan retired with his division, the remaining portion of the Twenty-first Ohio Volunteers was left to hold their position, during which time they lost heavily.
The balance of Colonel Sirwell's brigade, although deployed at several points, and compelled to change position frequently during the day, rendered valuable services not only in battle but, with the assistance of the Ninth Michigan Volunteers, in rallying and organizing a number of the scattered troops, and in saving the artillery and transportation, which occupied the road and choked up the gap, endangering the immediate capture of the whole by the enemy.
The highest compliment I am able to bestow upon both officers and men of the entire division is to simply refer to their endurance, fortitude, cheerful obedience, and heroic conduct during the entire campaign and battle.
I respectfully direct attention to the reports of brigade and regimental commanders for the lists of those deserving honorable mention, which I cordially approve.
All members of my staff performed their duties with coolness and ability and entirely satisfactory.
Captain Johnson, division inspector; Captain Hough, Nineteenth U.S. Infantry, assistant commissary of musters; Lieutenant Moody, aide-de-camp, rendered important services. Their gallantry and efficiency are worthy of special mention.
I have the honor to remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAS S. NEGLEY,
Text Source - The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
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