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The battle of Ringgold Gap - Civil War in GA

Portion of Gen. John W. Geary official report covering the action on November 27th at Ringgold Gap.

No. 112.
Reports of Brig. Gen. John W. Geary, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division, Twelfth Army Corps, Filed on December 13, 1863.

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During the afternoon and night previous, and up to the time of our arrival, the whole of Braggs retreating forces had passed through the gap toward Dalton, leaving Cleburne´s division, of Hardees Corps, in position upon the ridge to dispute our passage and enable their trains and artillery to get well on their way, as they were now closely pressed. The rebel division was reputed as the best in Bragg´s army-its position was a very strong one, the rebel lines extending both ways from the gap. At 7.30 a. m. Osterhaus had formed his lines at the foot of the hill, and pushing forward heavy lines of skirmishers, assaulted the ridge under severe fire from the enemy.

Shortly after 8 o´clock, Osterhaus being warmly engaged, I received orders from General Hooker to send a brigade to the left to scale the mountain, gain the summit, if possible, attack the enemy in flank, and to charge with vigor along the ridge. I immediately dispatched Creighton´s brigade past Osterhaus left, which it un- masked about a quarter of a mile, and it was formed about three- quarters of a mile from the gap, parallel with the railroad, in two lines en echelon, the Sixty-sixth Ohio and Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania in front, and the Seventh Ohio and One hundred and forty-seventh Pennsylvania 100 yards in rear.

Creighton´s movements were made with rapidity. He marched across a large open field to the foot of the ridge under a severe fire from the summit. The two lines were here deployed into a single line of battle, throwing the Seventh Ohio and One hundred and forty-seventh Pennsylvania on the left to prevent the enemy from having the advantage of a concentration of fire, and to cause an extension of his line and weakening of his front. Under an accurate and galling fire poured down upon them from the heights 500 feet above with effect that began to tell upon his ranks, Creighton steadily ascended the steep sides of the hill, resolutely determined to carry it with that sanguineness which prowess had in its many engagements inspired that gallant command. Our fire was withheld unit half way up and within close range, when the whole line opened upon the rebels on the summit, the carcasses of many of whom attested to its accuracy and effect. Volley after volley was poured into the opposing hosts above, and a murderous fire swept back into our own lines. The men regarded not the fatigue consequent upon climbing the precipitous hill-side, but with the proverbial coolness of that gallant organization, it sustained the shock of battle, and for half an hour dealt destruction to the foe, who was formidably engaged with like intent.

Observing the enemy to be massing in Creighton´s front, and re-enforcements against us arriving, I directed him to make a final attempt to carry the point and execute the mission of so much importance bearing upon our success, keeping the troops as much sheltered as possible. The brigade continued the assault, protected as much as could be with rocks and trees, delivering its fire with precision as it advanced.

The ascent was necessarily slow, as it would have been a severe task to have mounted the abrupt acclivity even without opposition in front.

The Seventh Ohio, on the right of the regiment of the extreme left, was compelled to move through a ravine, through which it was rapidly ascending when a terrific enfilading fire from the enemy, quickly massed at that point, suddenly rose up, mostly taking effect on this regiment. It received and returned it unflinchingly, and pressed on until some of its skirmishers were near the summit, and the regiment was within less than 25 yards of it. But the enemy, strongly re-enforced, was overpoweringly superior, with every advantage of position. The skirmishers were repulsed, and the Seventh, having lost its gallant leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Crane, 12 out of 13 of its officers, and nearly one-half its men taken into action being disabled was retired. It moved back slowly and sullenly, delivering its volleys with coolness, and bringing off as many of its wounded as possible.

The One hundred and forty-seventh Pennsylvania, on the extreme left, gaining a position near the top simultaneous with the Seventh, had the advantage of protection behind a ledge of rocks, but both flanks of this regiment being endangered by the falling back of the Seventh, and a force of the enemy advancing down the mountain, which would render the position untenable, it was ordered to retire slowly. In good order, with parting volleys, it descended half way down the hill, where both regiments formed in a sheltered position, which they maintained until the enemy was routed.

In this last movement the brave Creighton fell mortally wounded, and the command of the brigade devolved on Colonel Ahl, of the Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania. The regiments on the right, Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania and Sixty-sixth Ohio, well protected, held their ground about 40 yards below the crest line, engaged with the enemy, but, owing to the overpowering strength of their antagonists, they could not advance without almost total annihilation. I ordered them to form on the line below.

This veteran brigade, the heroes of many well-fought fields, had, for two and a half hours, done all that brave and redoubtable men could do, sustaining the concentrating fury of an intense battle, with an enemy who had opposed them with overwhelming numbers from an almost impregnable position.

During this action Carlins brigade, of Palmers corps, arrived and formed on the railroad in rear of the First Brigade, in reserve.

As soon as Creighton´s command moved under orders to the left, Cobham´s little brigade was brought imp and massed behind a large stone depot on time confines of the town toward the ridge, to protect him from the rebel fire, while he was held for an emergency. Ireland was halted in reserve, 400 yards back, in the main street of Ringgold.

Cobham had remained but a few minutes under shelter, when the enemy, with vigorous fire of musketry and artillery, was pressing back some of Osterhaus regiments on the right. Cobham was sent to his support, and, moving upon the double-quick, crossed the railroad under severe fire and took position in front on a mound to the left of the railroad and gap, facing the ridge. The impetuous advance of time rebel line was checked and hurled back toward the ridge. and sharpshooters were sent out to operate against those of the enemy who, in large numbers, were active in our front, and the men were ordered to lie down.

Irelands brigade was brought up as soon as Cobhams was sent to the relief of the right, and it was disposed in column of regiments, en masse, behind the stone depot. The fight raged in front, and at 10:40 a vigorous, concentrated fire of artillery and infantry, Osterhaus, on the extreme right, was giving way, sorely pressed by the quickly advancing lines of the enemy. It was a critical moment. Many of the troops fell back to the railroad, and that flank was threatened to be turned. Ireland was at once ordered to the right, on the double-quick, to drive the enemy back. His troops, in compact order, swept over an open, swampy space of nearly half a mile like an avalanche, fairly running, in their eagerness to stem the advancing tide, a murderous fire of grape, canister, and musketry sweeping through our ranks and dropping a number of our men. Quickly crossing the open field, he moved to the left, along the Catoosa Creek, passing the troops in front, toward the mouth of the gap, and hastily formed line, with his right resting on an old barn in the gap bottom, on the banks of the creek, and the left on the railroad.

The One hundred and forty-ninth New York was on the right, and the One hundred and thirty-seventh New York on the left, of the brigade, the latter joining Cobham´s right. They at once warmly engaged the enemy, and compelled him to recoil in the zenith of his audacious charge; at first, at close quarters.

The hills on both sides of the gap were lined with busy sharp-shooters, and the shell and grape came plunging and hurtling into and around our position. Ireland handled his men with great skill, covering his men as much as the ground would admit of, while they were giving battle, and he carried out my orders with promptitude and precision. The enemy, at first checked, were soon repulsed and compelled to seek protection upon the ridge in the sides of the gap, under a murderous fire from Ireland´s whole line. Our ammunition was expended only with effect.

About fifteen minutes after retiring, they advanced a piece of artillery to the edge of a belt of woods, at the mouth of the gap, with infantry supports, under cover of the timber and within 100 yards of Ireland´s line. At this short range it commenced hurling shrapnel into our lines. A detachment of sharpshooters from the One hundred and forty-ninth New York were at once directed to lay upon the artillerists, a number of whom were disabled, and the balance retired from their gun to the woods behind. Four or five advances, made by them to recover it, were driven back, when, after the lapse of half an hour, they succeeded in dragging it off, losing a number of men in doing so. Our men were eager to charge, but, in the face of the forces massed in the woods, such a movement would have unnecessarily inflicted serious loss upon us.

Ireland retained this position, with some sharp skirmishing, until Major Reynolds arrived with his batteries, at noon. These had been detained on the other side of the West Chickamauga until 8 a.m. They had made all haste from that point to the front. One section of Knaps (Pennsylvania) battery was wheeled into position near Ireland´s right, and in front of the gap, and one section of Captain Landgraeber´s 12-pounder howitzers was placed to the right of Knaps. This move directed the fire of the rebel sharpshooters upon the artillery, which opened upon the gap and silenced the hostile guns with a few discharges, and drove back the infantry.

Simultaneous with the posting of the artillery on the right, one section of Knaps battery, under my guidance, opened from the line of the railroad, near our left, upon the point where the enemy had massed in front of the First Brigade. Our guns were admirably served, and, at 1 o´clock, the rebels gave evidences of weakness, when several of Osterhaus regiments scaled the mountain, and Ireland pushed his skirmishers into the gap, the One hundred and forty-ninth New York capturing two flags, one, the guidon of the enemy´s battery. The enemy were driven back and the ridge was in our possession, after about five hours´ contest. A number of prisoners fell into our hands.

Skirmishers from the Sixtieth and One hundred and second New York, under Captain Stegman, were immediately sent through the gap, annoying the rear skirmishers of the enemy. On nearing the railroad bridge over the Catoosa, they found a party of the enemy attempting to destroy it with fire. Driving them off with a few volleys, the flames were extinguished.

At half a mile from this point, they drove another party, which made a temporary stand, from the second bridge, amid put out the fire they had applied to it. Prisoners were taken by my skirmishers, who remained out until relieved in the morning. I sent the One hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania into the gap, and retired the balance of my command a short distance to the rear for rest. Detachmnemmts were sent up on the ridge to bury the dead and gather the wounded, some of whom had fallen into the hands of the rebels, who carried off a number of their own dead and their wounded, leaving ours. Quite a number of rebel dead were found in front of the locality where the First Brigade had fought; also arms and accouterments.

Two companies were sent to Chattanooga with prisoners. Houses in the town were converted into hospitals, and our wounded occupied the careful attention of our own medical corps and that of General Craft, which was kindly tendered with his hospital supplies and ambulances.

I appointed a provost guard for the town, which, on the following day, pursuant to your orders, destroyed the mills, tanneries, and manufactories that could have been rendered serviceable to the enemy.

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