The Siege of Chattanooga

By Oct. 3, 1863, Humphreys Brigade had moved near the base of Lookout Mountain, and General Longstreet had ordered his artillery mounted atop the north end of mountain to be able to fire on the enemy occupying the town below.

Spartan Band diarist William H. Hill, clerking for the 13th regiment’s quartermaster, recorded that day, a Saturday, in clear and pleasant weather: “We moved with the baggage to McFarland’s Springs [Rossville Gap] 4 miles southeast of Chattanooga.” 

Two days later, “Our batteries opened up on the enemy and kept up a slow fire all day. The enemy replied a few times.”

It was the most concentrated fire the Rebel artillery would undertake in the Siege of Chattanooga, a Union-held railroad junction of about 3,000 residents, though sporadic shelling would follow over the course of the rest of the month.

On Oct. 8, for instance, a clear and cool Thursday, Hill wrote:

“The enemy opened fire on our batteries this evening and kept up a slow fire for 3 or 4 hours. Lt. James A. Smith of Company B [Wayne Rifles] was wounded in the leg by a piece of shell. No other damage was done.”

On Saturday morning, Oct. 10, Confederate President Jefferson Davis reviewed the troops, including Humphreys Brigade and the 13th regiment. Hill wrote “The troops received him with great enthusiasm and cheered vociferously as he passed along the line.”

McLaws, who counted himself a friend of General Bragg and therefore did not join Longstreet and the other generals in protesting his leadership, told his wife in an Oct. 14 letter that Davis “has been here for some time endeavoring to settle the difficulties among the generals…

“…to tell you the truth I do not admire him, although he is about the best man we have. He is not despotic enough for the times. His authority is not sufficiently felt to correct existing evils and his manners are cold and repelling. I hope he may be able to settle the difficulties so as to make the army homogeneous, but I doubt it very much…”

Davis rebuffed Longstreet and some other generals who wanted Bragg dismissed. Davis left Bragg in charge and Bragg promptly dismissed two of the generals opposing him and recommended that Longstreet leave the Army of Tennessee. Even the weather was contentious, McLaws wrote:

“It has been raining nearly forty eight hours without intermission, the whole country is covered with water, the creeks are impassable, and our animals are tied to their stakes without food, it being impossible to cross Chicamauga [sic] River, which is between us and the station where supplies can be obtained…”

Bragg and Davis wanted Longstreet to take his two-division First Corps north to try to dislodge Union General Ambrose Burnside and his Army of the Ohio from their occupation of Knoxville. Longstreet protested that he didn’t have enough troops to oust Burnside’s 25,000.

In that general direction, at least, lay Virginia, and according to historian Robert K. Krick, some of the First Corps’ brass bands underscored the general feeling the evening before they left on Nov. 4, by playing the popular tune Carry Me Back To Old Virginny. And Krick quoted a South Carolina infantryman who said that when they marched away “‘Longstreet’s Corps bade farewell to Bragg’s Army and the West in prolonged cheers.'”

General McLaws, meanwhile, was worried about his division as he had written his wife on Oct. 14:

“…many of my command are without tents and hundreds are without blankets or shoes. Added to these wants, the ration is not sufficient, and hundreds are sick. This seems to be a most detestable climate and the men are suffering by the change from Virginia. Where there was order and system and satisfaction and a fine country with a fine climate.”

The rains continued, such that as Hill wrote in his diary on Oct. 16 that “The roads are almost impassable…All of the bridges on the Chickamauga are washed away…”

It kept raining, off and on, and the intermittant cannonading also continued. Humphreys’ Brigade shifted its camp a few miles on Oct. 29. The reason was unspecified but perhaps was due to flooding in the rocky terrain, because they all moved back again the next day.

On Nov. 4, 1863, McLaws Division left the siege to Bragg’s army, following General Longstreet’s orders to move towards Knoxville with the two divisions he had brought from Virginia.

“The wagon trains, with all the baggage of McLaws Division left Lookout Mountain this morning,” Hill recorded, “and went to [Tyner’s] Station and the Georgia R.R. The troops left the front at dark and camped at Rossville [Gap].”

The troops soon marched to Tyner’s Station on the Tennessee & Georgia Railroad where they were expected to catch a train.

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About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Siege of Chattanooga, The Spartan Band, Wayne Rifles, William H. Hill Diary and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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