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On the morning of the 25th of November, the clouds disappeared, and the sun shone out with that magnificent grandeur which often, in November, cheers the soul and makes us in perfect harmony with inanimate nature. GENERAL GRANT, who had made Fort Wood his field headquarters on the 23 and 24th, now moved to Orchard Knob, where Thomas stood in command of the center. Having been directed by my superior to remain at Fort Wood for orders, I, of course, continued there, and for the most part had nothing to do but watch the movements of troops.
SHERMAN opened the ball about nine o'clock in the morning, on the left, and his men charged up the hill, north of the tunnel, in gallant style, but his line was repulsed, and could not gain a lodgmeni on the top of the ridge. All day long the Confederate troops continued marching north along the top of the ridge, apparently massing in front of SHERMAN, who kept pounding away with his artillery, and occasionally pushing his lines up the hillside, in a vain attempt to carry the crest. Midday was passed. HOOKER had crossed the valley from Lookout, and had seized the Rossville Gap, then wheeled to the left, and was pressing the Confederates at the south end of the ridge. We now had a continuous line of battle from Rossville Gap to Boyce Station, about four miles long, extending in the form of a crescent, the center of which was in front of Orchard Knob. GENERAL GRANT ordered the Army of the Cumberland, under THOMAS, to advance at three o'clock in the afternoon, and occupy the Confederate rifle pits in our front, at the foot of the ridge. The signal for the advance was given by six cannon shots fired by Bridges's Battery from Orchard Knob. Owing to a slight delay. in forming the troops, the signal was not given until half past three o'clock. Some fifty pieces of Confederate artillery were massed on the crown of the ridge, and, as our line of battle came within easy range, it was subjected to a plunging fire from the Confederate guns.
But the line moved on, and in about an hour it was in full view on the western slope of the ridge. We had understood that our forces were merely to occupy the rifle-pits, and could not conjecture what this movement up the ridge meant. Was it possible that our
men were actually intent upon scaling the side of a ridge which rose to a height of nearly 400 feet under the fire of fifty pieces of artillery, our lines in many places exposed to a cross-fire from the batteries, as well as the direct fire of the Confederate infantry. The Union line of battle moved steadily upward, and it was soon apparent that our brave men were determined to attempt what seemed to be the impossible task of capturing the Confederate guns and breaking the center of Bragg's army. The Confederate artillery was served as rapidly as the guns could be fired, and the only guns that we had which could be made at all effective in reply to the Confederate artillery was our battery of thirty pounder Parrotts, at Fort Wood. The service of siege guns is much slower than field artillery, and our Parrotts did not speak often, but when they did turn loose their thunder we had the satisfaction of knowing that our shells reached the top of the ridge, and while the aim could not be depended upon every time, nevertheless our gunners were encouraged to keep up their firing, and were finally rewarded by seeing one of their percussion shells explode in a Confederate caisson, silencing the battery and demoralizing the men on that part of the line. All this time our line steadily advanced up the hill.
The western sun shone with wonderful brilliancy on the Union line, and as the colors were advanced we could plainly distinguish the movement through our field-glasses, and then the lines would come up again to the colors, and then the brave color-bearers would advance, and the gallant soldiers would again spring forward in line with their standards. We stood tremulous with anxiety as the great guns of the fort roared about our ears, and the crash of musketry and thunder of the Confederate batteries told of the deadly carnage on the slope of yonder hill. Can it be possible those brave fellows will ever pass through that storm of iron and leaden hail and reach the top? They are almost up; another wait; our hearts almost stood still as we watched the last few steps which should bring the line to the summit of the ridge.
Again the colors are advanced and at last they are on the hill, it seems almost simultaneously in several places, and when the enemy's guns were silenced, we knew that the battle was won and the
Confederate line was broken. But the batıle was not yet over, for in front of BAIRD's division the spiteful musketry was still rattling on top of the ridge, and at this point the fight did not cease till after dark.
Just as soon as the first lodgment was made on the ridge, I was ordered by GENERAL BRANNAN to proceed at once to GENERALS GORDON GRANGER, WOOD, SHERIDAN, and BAIRD, and notify them that I was sent by the chief of artillery to take charge of the captured guns. I proceeded at once to Bragg's headquarters, and as I rode through the Confederate batteries I saw many of the cannoneers lying dead beside their pieces, having laid down their lives in the gallant effort to stem the onward march of the Union veterans.
At Bragg's headquarters I found GRANGER, SHERIDAN, WOOD, HAZEN, and members of their staff, hilarious with joy at the success of the grand assault of the center by the gallant old Army of the Cumberland.
I delivered my message, which was then and there confirmed, and on behalf of the Army of the Cumberland, I took charge of the captured artillery.
It was ten o'clock that night before I completed my tour and was able to report to my chief that we had captured forty pieces of artillery. The next day I commenced moving the captured guns, and parked them on the vacant lot on the west side of Walnut street between Third and Fourth streets, in front of the headquarters of GENERAL BRANNAN, in Chattanooga.
With this capture our army felt as though the evil fortune of our batteries at Chickamauga had been retrieved, and what was of far greater moment to the national cause, we had secured Chattanooga, forevermore, to the Grand Republic.
The Glee Club started up “ Johnny Comes Marching Ilome," and the meeting closed with the members joining in the chorus.
LETTERS AND DISPATCHES
ARMY OF THE CUMBERLAND
The Local Executive Committee.
FROM GENERAL WM. T. SHERMAN.
75 WEST 715T STREET,
NEW YORK, September 3, 1890. COLONEL HENRY S. BUNKER,
Secretary Society Army of the Cumberland,
I am just back from a month's absence, and find your kind invitation to the twenty-first Reunion of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, on the 17th and 18th of September, instant.
As much as I would like to meet the members of your Society on that occasion, I regret that my engagements will not admit of my so doing, and I must therefore beg you to excuse me.
Wishing you all a very pleasant and thoroughly successful meeting, I am, with great respect,
Yours very truly,
FROM GENERAL JOHN POPE.
SANDUSKY, September 8, 1890. COLONEL H. S. BUNKER,
Will you please accept for yourself, and tender to the Committee you represent, my sincere thanks for the kind and courteous invitation you extend to me.
I regret very much to say that the condition of my health absolutely prevents me from taking any part in public meetings or festivities, and I am forced, therefore, reluctantly to decline what I know would be a great pleasure and satisfaction to me, and to deny myself the privilege of being with you on an occasion so full of interest.
With renewed thanks,