Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

A REMINISCENCE OF THE WAR.

23

nooga to take command, and fresh troops from the Army of the Potomac were whirled with incredible speed over the mountains, across the Ohio, and down into Tennessee. Meanwhile Bragg held his position in front of Chattanooga, his army stretching for miles along Missionary Ridge. The two armies were in sight of each other ; they could see each other's camp fires, and both were preparing for the inevitable struggle. At this moment Bragg, with what seemed an infatuation, detached Longstreet, his best corps commander, to move to the North, and take Knoxville, which was an important point of communication between the western portion of the Confederacy and Richmond. Perhaps he thought it an easy matter, which could be done in a few days, and that Longstreet could return in time for the great battle that was approaching. But it was not so easy. Knoxville, with the country below it, was held by Burnside, not in great force, but with troops sufficient at least to check and harass the enemy. Grant watched the whole movement with the utmost satisfaction, for it suited his military plans to have this strong force out of his way, and he sent orders to Burnside to oppose Longstreet at every step, so as to delay his progress, and yet to fall back after every engagement, so as to draw him on, and as he expressed it, “ toll him over the river,” and then to hold Knoxville at all hazards.

Never were orders more faithfully carried out. Keeping on the defensive, Burnside pursued the policy of fighting and retreating, till his troops, worn out with marching and battle, dragged themselves over the hills and into Knoxville.

Of all this Dr. Park was himself an eye-witness. He said : “I was then pastor of a church ten miles south of Knoxville, and saw both armies as they marched by. First came the Federals : they passed my door, numbers of the

24

THE SIEGE OF KNOXVILLE.

officers were in my house, and spoke freely of the situation, anticipating defeat; and when the next day Longstreet appeared, and began to ask about the roads this side and that side of Knoxville, I said to him, ' You need only to march straight against the city, and send in a flag of truce, with a summons, to receive an immediate surrender!'This was no doubt good sound Presbyterian doctrine, but perhaps the old soldier thought he was a better judge than even the most orthodox minister. However, the latter maintains to this day, that if his advice had been followed, the place would have fallen. Certainly it was in imminent peril, and every moment that the attack could be delayed was a gain to Burnside. No sooner had he entered the town, than his troops, though ready to drop with fatigue and cold and hunger, were set to work with spade and shovel ; and the people of the place, white and black, were pressed into the service ; and all together worked day and night, resting but two hours in the twenty-four ; while a force of 700 cavalry, harassing the Confederates, delayed their advance, till their camps were pitched in sight of the town, when the place was in a state of defence that rendered it possible to hold it. For ten days the siege went on. Longstreet took it deliberately, perhaps thinking that he had a sure thing ; that Burnside was caged where he could not escape, but as time became more pressing he determined to carry the place by assault. This is bloody business, but it is soon over. Dr. Park pointed out just where he planted his batteries, and the slope up which the attack must come. The garrison had cut away the trees so as to have free range for their guns, and strung telegraph-wires from stump to stump to trip the feet of the charging column. Longstreet had given express orders that the assault should be made with a rush, for he knew well that no troops could stand for many minutes the withering fire

a

TERRIBLE SLAUGHTER.

25

that would be opened upon them. Having thus issued the order of battle, he waited only for daybreak. Just as the sun rose the flag of the Fort soared to the peak, and the band saluted it with the Star Spangled Banner. On the instant from without the walls there rose a wild yell, as the troops that had crept up the slope under cover of a fog rushed to the assault. The same moment the earthworks were crested with flame, and shot and shell tore through the Confederates. Yet on they came, like the waves of the sea, dashed up by the tremendous force behind. Men rushed into the ditch and struggled up the embankment, but the fire was incessant; and to add to the destruction, hand-grenades were thrown by the hundred to explode in the mass below. Still the survivors climbed over the bodies of the fallen, and battle-flags were planted on the parapet, to be instantly torn down. An officer planting his hand on a gun, demanded surrender, and was blown into eternity Such a fire no human endurance could stand long. In five minutes it was all over. Seven hundred men lay dead or dying in the trench below, and three hundred were taken prisoners. The siege of Knoxville was ended.

The city remained in Union hands, but the assault was one in which the glory was divided : for never was greater courage shown in an assault, as never was a besieged place more bravely defended.

And now here were we, two ministers of the Gospel, standing on the top of the old earthworks, and talking it all over. My friend is an intense Southerner (for which I don't blame him), and I thought had a lingering regret that Longstreet had not followed his advice ; but still, inasmuch as he is a good Presbyterian and a devout believer in Divine decrees, that “whatsoever is ordained surely cometh to pass," I think he is willing to submit to the decision of the Almighty.

26

A UNION MAN DURING THE WAR.

It was a thrilling story, which had tenfold interest when recalled on the very spot where the events took place, and I was extremely grateful to the best of guide3 who had brought me here, as well as for all his kindness and courtesy to "a pilgrim and a stranger.”

But the hospitality of Knoxville did not end here. As we rode back into town, we met at a great warehouse in the main street a notable citizen, Mr. Perez Dickinson, a New Englander by birth, a native of Amherst, Mass., but who has lived here fifty-nine years, remaining through the war, though he was known as a Union man, and would never take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. As his carriage was at the door, he bade me

come up into the chariot,” and took me off to his house, and kept me to tea and through the evening, during which, as we sat before the fire, I asked him innumerable questions, and learned more about East Tennessee, its early history, the character of its first settlers (who were in the main of Scotch-Irish descent), and of the late war, including the memorable siege, than I ever knew before, and now consider myself (at least among those who are as ignorant as I was) an authority on the subject. At nine o'clock the pastor of the Presbyterian church, which is connected with the Northern Assembly, called and accompanied me to the station, where I took the night train for Chattanooga.

CHAPTER III.

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN-WAR MEMORIES-ATLANTA.

It was after midnight when we left Knoxville. In turning southward, we passed over the very route by which Longstreet had come up the valley of the Tennessee, to make the assault which I have briefly described ; and as I was full of the history, it took such hold of my imagination that I seemed now and then to hear the tramp of armed men, and the rumbling of the artillery wagons as they moved forward to battle. But it was a relief to wake and find that such visions were only in my dreams, and that when I looked out through the curtains of my window, I could not see a single camp-fire, nor hear a sound but that of the wind whispering through the forest. When morning came, we were drawing into Chattanooga, and as a hungry traveller, I was looking round for a breakfast, when I was saluted by a familiar voice—that of Mr. S. A. Cunningham of the Nashville American, to: whom I had telegraphed that I was to take this route, and who had come all the way from Nashville to meet me. It was a pleasant surprise, and of course I gave up at once the idea of going on directly to Atlanta, and accepted his suggestion to spend the forenoon upon Lookout Mountain. This is not at all

« ZurückWeiter »