In 1863 Rosecrans had flanked Bragg from his position in Tennessee, and on September 19th and 20th the battle of Chickamauga was fought and Rosecrans' army was forced from the field.
At the battle of Shiloh when Bragg received orders from Beauregard to retire from the field on the evening of April 16th, he replied: "If I were not personally acquainted with the bearer of this order I would not obey it;" but he himself did the same thing at Chickamauga that Beauregard did at Shiloh. Rosecrans and Thomas were in full retreat at Chickamauga and for some reason Bragg failed to follow up his victory with pursuit and all the advantages that might have derived from success in this battle were lost.
The Union forces were at last forced back and occupied and fortified Chattanooga, while Bragg occupied Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. On November 24th Bragg was forced to abandon Lookout Mountain and he then concentrated his entire force on the crest of Missionary Ridge. On the 25th. of November the enemy carried Missionary Ridge, capturing some artillery and prisoners.
Bragg was pursued to Dalton, Georgia where he remained until the opening of the Georgia campaign in the spring of 1864.
In the meantime General Joseph E. Johnson had been given command of the Confederate army and W. Sherman that of the Union army. About the first of May 1864 Sherman with his army of near 100,000 well-equipped and disciplined soldiers marched out from Chattanooga and camped near by to crush Johnson with his 54,000 men. This army, while under Bragg, had become somewhat discouraged, but when Johnson took command all this was changed and every soldier in that army had the utmost confidence in Johnson's ability to successfully cope with Sherman.
On the 8th. to the 12th. of May there were some hard battles fought by different parties of both armies: DUG GAP, BUZZARD ROOST, ROCKY FACE and RESACCA, and from thence forward to the 7th of September at Lovejoy Station thirty miles below Atlanta and 150 miles south of Dalton, was enacted what is known as the Georgia campaign, and some of the greatest feats of military strategy ever witnessed by man took place in this campaign.
But I digress, and I must reiterate that I am not trying to write a history of the war, for historians from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line have worn history threadbare. I am only trying to write some sketches of the war as viewed by a boy who was carrying a musket on this campaign.
One of the actions in which I was involved included a large block house that we came upon one day said to be strongly defended by Federals.
General B.F. Cheatham, in command of Hardee's old corps, demanded the unconditional surrender of the place. This was promptly refused by the Federal commander, at which Cheatham commenced to deploy his men around their works, myself and others of the barefoots had found a high elevation which overlooked the enemy's works. We could plainly see our lines making ready to assault their works, and when this line was about ready to start moving forward and we were watching to see this dark line wiped out of existence, the Stars and Stripes floating over the main fort, came down and a white flag was seen to float in its stead, which no doubt saved many a negro soldier from an untimely death. This force of negro soldiers and a large detail of our own men were put to work tearing up the railroad and by twelve o'clock the next day the road from Dalton to Tunnel Hill was destroyed, and the bulk of the army was marching towards Decatur, Alabama.
There is a small river running near Dalton but I cannot recall the name of it just now. I believe the river's name is Covsa. The railroad crosses this stream, and I was but a short distance from this bridge when we came upon a block house occupied by Union soldiers who were guarding the bridge.
While Cheatham was getting ready to attack the main force a cavalryman was sent on horseback to demand the surrender of the block house. When the horseman came within range he was fired on by the occupants of the block house, breaking one of his arms, and causing him to drop his mission of peace and to return in regular 'John Gilpin' style. In a few moments a field battery was pelting this block house with percussion shells from Parrot guns, most of the shells exploding inside. (The old soldiers will understand this job.) Soon smoke from the shells was coming from port holes of the house and white flags were strictly in evidence, and the defenders marched out and surrendered. Their excuse for firing on the white flag of truce was that they thought that it was a small guerrilla band.
On this march any soldier apprehended molesting private property was required to carry a fence rail or other weight as punishment for the balance of the day on which the offense was committed, and the provost guard was kept in the rear to arrest foragers and stragglers and enforce this order.
The barefoots were allowed more privileges than soldiers with shoes but he was expected to get into camp at, or in the night.
Late one evening tired, hungry, footsore and angry could be seen more than a hundred barefoots, provost guards, stragglers and foragers, the last two named under guard, and each one, besides his usual baggage, carrying a fence rail. It had been a long time since the people of Tuscumbia, Alabama had seen a Confederate army, and Hood's entry into this little city called forth its entire population. When this last installment of the army appeared on the streets it caused many questions to be asked by the ladies who were not posted on Hood's army regulations. Some of the questions were: "What are those soldiers carrying those rails for?", "What are you soldiers going to do with those rails?", and "Do you carry those rails with you to make fires with at night?". The answers were usually more forcible than polite, and Confederate chivalry for a while was at the freezing point in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
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