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Series 1 Volume XXXI; Part 2, - Operations in Kentucky, Southwest Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, North Alabama, and North Georgia. August 11-October 19, 1863

Official Report Number 248 pp 753 - 758



 
 
Reports of Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne, C. S. Army, commanding division, etc., with thanks of the Confederate Congress.
 
Headquarters Cleburne´s DIVISION,
December 9, 1863.
 

COLONEL: On the retreat of the Army of Tennessee from Missionary Ridge, Tenn., to Ringgold, Ga., my division covered the retreat of Hardees corps, arriving safely on the west bank of the East Chickamauga River at 10 p. m. on November 26. At this point the river had to be forded. It was nearly waist-deep and the night was freezing cold. I therefore determined to postpone crossing until the morning, and bivouacked on the hills near by.


At 3 a. m. on the 27th, I received the following order, viz:


Major-General CLEBURNE:


GENERAL: The general desires that you will take strong position in the gorge of the mountain and attempt to check pursuit of enemy. He must be punished until our trains and the rear of our troops get well advanced. The reports from the rear are meager and the general is not thoroughly advised of the state of things there. Will you be good enough to report fully? Respectfully,



GEORGE WM. BRENT,
Assistant Adjutant-General.


Leaving staff officers to conduct the troops across the river to the position designated, I went forward myself to examine the ground and form a plan for its defense.


The town of Ringgold, a place of 2,000 or 3,000 inhabitants, stands on a plain between the East Chickamauga River and the range of hills known as Taylors Ridge. It is on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, about 20 miles southeast of Chattanooga. Taylors Ridge, which rises up immediately back of the town, runs in a northerly and southerly direction. Opposite the town the ridge is intersected by a narrow gap, which admits the railroad, a wagon road, and a good sized creek, a tributary of the Chickamauga. The creek hugs the southernmost or left-hand hill as you face Ringgold. The wagon and railroad run close to the creek. At its western mouth, next to Ringgold, the gap widens out to a breadth of over 100 yards, leaving room for a patch of level wooded land on each side of the roads. The gap is about half a mile through, but the plain immediately in front of its east or rear mouth is so cut up by the windings of the creek that three bridges, or three fords, have to be crossed in the first half mile of road leading from the gap to Dalton. It will be perceived at once that this was a most dangerous position to be caught in if the enemy should succeed in turning either flank.


The gap and the hills on either hand are thinly wooded, except the base of the right-hand hill, along which, next to the town, a heavy fringe of young timber extends from the gap northward for 300 or 400 yards. Behind this fringe of trees I placed two regiments of Smiths (Texas) brigade, Col. H. B. Granbury, Seventh Texas, commanding; the Sixth, Tenth, and Fifteenth Texas (consolidated), Capt. John R. Kennard commanding, on the left; the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-fifth Texas Dismounted Cavalry (consolidated), Maj. W. A. Taylor commanding, on the right; the remaining regiment of the brigade, the Seventh Texas, Capt. C. E. Talley commanding, I sent to the top of the right-hand hill, with instructions to keep out of view but watch well the right flank of its brigade at the foot. On the precipitous hill to the left of the gap and creek I placed the Sixteenth Alabama, Maj. F. A. Ashford commanding, of Lowreys (Alabama and Mississippi) brigade, with instructions to conceal itself and guard well the left flank. I also sent on the face of this hill fronting Ringgold three companies of the Sixth and Seventh Arkansas (consolidated), of Liddell´s (Arkansas) brigade, under charge of Lieutenant Dulin, of General Liddell´s staff. For the defense of the gap itself, I disposed the rest of the Arkansas brigade, under command of Col. D. C. Govan: The Fifth and Thirteenth Arkansas (consolidated), Col. John E. Murray commanding, I placed in a small ravine running across the mouth of the gap from the right-hand hill to the railroad embankment; the and Nineteenth Arkansas (consolidated), under command of Lieut. Col. A. S. Hutchison, 50 paces in rear and parallel to the former regiment; the Sixth and Seventh Arkansas (consolidated), under command of Lieut. Col. Peter Snyder, and the Second, Fifteenth, and Twenty-fourth Arkansas Regiments (consolidated), under Lieut. Col. E. Warfield, at suitable distances in rear and covered as well as the nature of the ground would permit, thus giving me four short lines across the gap. From these regiments I sent a body of skirmishers to occupy the patch of woods at the month of the gap and left of the railroad and that portion of the bank of the creek close to the month of the gap. In front of the mouth of the gap, supported by Govan´s foremost regiment in the ravine, I placed a section of Semple´s battery, two Napoleon guns, commanded by Lieutenant Goldthwaite. I had screens of withered branches built up in front of these, so as to effectually conceal them from view, and made the artillerymen shelter themselves in the ravine close by. The remaining three regiments of Lowrey´s brigade consisting of the Thirty-second and Forty-fifth Mississippi Regiments (consolidated), under command of Col. A. B. Hardcastle; the Thirty-third Alabama, under command of Col. Samuel Adams, and the Forty-fifth Alabama, Lieut. Col. H. D. Lampley commanding. I placed in reserve in the center of the gap. The portion of Polks (Tennessee and Arkansas) brigade with me - consisting of the First Arkansas, Col. J. W. Colquitt commanding; the Second Tennessee, Col. W. D. Robison commanding, and the Third and Fifth Confederate Regiments (consolidated), under Lieut. Col. J. C. Cole. I ordered to fake position temporarily near the rear mouth of the gap with directions to observe my right flank and prevent the enemy from turning me in that quarter.


I had scarcely half an hour to make these dispositions, when I was informed the enemy´s skirmishers were crossing the Chickamauga, driving our cavalry before them. Immediately after the cavalry retreated through the gap at a trot, and the valley in front was clear of our troops, but close in rear of the ridge our immense train was still in full view, struggling through the fords of the creek and the deeply cut up roads leading to Dalton, and my division, silent, but cool and ready, was the only barrier between it and the flushed and eager advance of the pursuing Federal army.


Shortly after 8 a. m. the enemy´s skirmishers were in view, advancing. He opened fire, and under cover of it his lines of battle were placed and moved with the utmost decision and celerity against the ridge on the right of the gap. So quick and confident was this attack, the enemy must have been acting on a concerted plan, and must have had guides who knew well the nature of the country. As the first line moved toward the ridge its right flank became exposed at canister range to my artillery in the mouth of the gap. Five or six rapid discharges broke the right of this line to pieces and caused them to run for shelter under the railroad embankment. Farther to his left, however, he continued to advance, and made a heavy attack on the right-hand ridge. He continued to advance in the face of a deadly fire from Major Taylors regiment, with the determination to turn the right flank of the Texas brigade. Major Taylor deployed skirmishers up the hill at right angles to his line of battle, and held him in check, while he informed Colonel Granbury of the state of affairs, Colonel Granbury sent two companies of his left regiment to reinforce his right. With three companies of his own regiment Major Taylor charged down the hill upon the force attempting to turn him, and routed it, capturing between 60 and 100 prisoners and the colors of the Twenty-ninth Missouri Regiment.


In the meantime, I had ascertained that the enemy was moving another line of battle some distance beyond my present right with the view of ascending the ridge in that quarter. I instantly notified Brigadier-General Polk, stationed in the rear of the gap, to ascend the, ridge and meet this attempt of the enemy. Luckily General Polk had already heard of this movement from a breathless straggler of our army who was fleeing before the enemy, and, anticipating my order, sent the First Arkansas up the hill and met the enemy´s skirmishers within a few yards of the top. With the assistance of the Seventh Texas, after an obstinate fight, the enemy was driven down the hill. By this time large bodies of the enemy had crossed the Chickamauga, and it was evident that the main attack was about to be made upon the right. I ordered General Lowrey to move his command up the hill and assist General Polk in defending that position. Moving rapidly ahead of his command, General Lowrey found the First Arkansas again heavily engaged, but heroically holding its ground against great odds. Assuring the regiment that support was at hand, he brought up the Thirty-second and Forty- fifth Mississippi in double time, and threw them into the fight at the critical moment. The enemy gave way and went down the ridge in great confusion. Lowrey now brought up the two remaining regiments of his brigade and Polk up the two other regiments of his command. The enemy, constantly re-enforcing, made another powerful effort to crown the ridge still farther to the right.


A peculiarity of Taylors Ridge is the wavy conformation of its north side. The enemy, moving up in a long line of battle, suddenly concentrated opposite one of the depressions in this wavy surface and rushed up it in heavy column. General Polk, with the assistance of General Lowrey, as quickly concentrated a double line opposite this point, at the same time placing the Second Tennessee in such a position as to command the flank of any force emerging from it. The attack was again defeated and the enemy hurled down the hill, with the loss of many killed on the spot, several prisoners, and the colors of the Seventy-sixth Ohio Regiment. The colors and most of the prisoners were captured by the First Arkansas.


In a fight where all fought nobly I feel it my duty to particularly compliment this regiment for its courage and constancy. In the battle the officers fought with pistols and with rocks, and so close was the fight that some of the enemy were knocked down with the latter missiles and captured. Apprehending another attack, General Polk rapidly threw up some slight defenses in his front.


But I must now return to the extreme left, which the enemy attempted to turn. He sent what appeared to be a brigade of three regiments to the creek upon my left, and crossed over some companies of skirmishers. These were promptly met and stopped by a detachment from the Sixteenth Alabama, posted on the left-hand hill, and the main body was for some time held in check by Dulin´s skirmishers, on the face of the left-hand hill, and the other skirmishers of Govan´s brigade, on the creek bank and in the patch of woods to the left of the railroad. He got possession, however, of some houses and barns opposite this point, from which he annoyed me with a constant and well-directed fire of sharpshooters. At length, collecting in large numbers behind these houses, he made a charge on Govan´s skirmishers on the left of the railroad. Lieutenant Goldthwaite quickly trained round his guns and swept them at quarter range with a load of canister and a solid shot. They ran back, leaving several dead and a stand of colors on the ground. Lieutenant Goldthwaite then shelled the houses, and greatly relieved us of the firing from that quarter. The stand of colors lay temptingly within 60 yards of my line, and some of the officers wanted to charge and get it, but as it promised no solid advantage to compensate for the loss of brave soldiers, I would not permit it.


About 12 m. I received a dispatch from Lieutenant-General Hardee, to the effect that the train was now well advanced, and I might safely withdraw. On consultation with Generals Breckinridge and Wheeler, both of whom were present lending me their personal assistance, I determined to withdraw from Taylors Ridge, and take up a new position on some wooded hills I mile in rear.


About 1 p. m. I rebuilt the screen in front of the artillery, which had been partially blown away, and then withdrew both pieces by hand without loss. By this time the enemy had concentrated a large portion of his army at Ringgold, and was doubtless preparing to throw an overwhelming force on my flanks. He opened a rapid artillery fire down the gap and on the crest of the ridge, but showed no disposition to advance in front. I now simultaneously withdrew the brigades, leaving a few skirmishers to hold the front, which they did without difficulty.


Soon after 2 p. m. I withdrew my skirmishers, fired the bridges in my rear, and proceeded to form line of battle in my new position. The enemy was visible on the ridge in about half an hour after I had withdrawn my skirmishers. He saw my new dispositions for defense, but showed no further inclination to attack, and ceased from all farther pursuit of our army.


I took into the fight: In Polk´s brigade, 545; Lowrey´s brigade, 1,330; Smiths´ (Texas) brigade, 1,266; Liddell´s brigade, 1,016 effective men, making a total of 4,157 bayonets.


My loss was 20 killed, 190 wounded, and 11 missing. I am confident the enemy´s loss was out of all proportion greater than mine.


The conduct of officers and men in this fight needs no comment every man, as far as I know, did his whole duty. To Brigadier-Generals Polk and Lowrey and Colonels Govan and Granbury, I must return my thanks. Four better officers are not in the service of the Confederacy.


Lieutenant Goldthwaite, of the artillery, proved himself a brave and skillful officer.


The following officers of my staff have my thanks for the efficient manner in which they discharged their responsible and dangerous duties: Maj. Calhoun Benham, assistant adjutant-general; Maj. J. K. Dixon, assistant inspector-general; Capt. Irving A. Buck, assist- ant adjutant-general; Capt. C. S. Hill, ordnance officer; Surg. D. A., Linthicum; Lients. L. H. Mangum, S. P. Hanly, aides-de-camp; Capt. C. H. Byrne, volunteer aide-de-camp; also Messrs. Henry Smith and William Rucker, of the signed corps, who volunteered their services, and who I found very efficient and useful.


I forward herewith the reports of the brigade; regimental, and battery commanders. General Liddell was absent on leave, but hearing of the fight returned and rendered me all the assistance in his power. He selected and reformed the new line after we withdrew from our first position.


Respectfully, your obedient servant,
P. R. CLEBURNE,
Major-General.
Col. GEORGE WILLIAM BRENT,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of Tennessee.

 

 
No. 16. JOINT RESOLUTION of thanks to Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne, and the officers and men under his command, for distinguished service at Ringgold Gap, in the State of Georgia, November 27, 1868.
 

Resolved, That the thanks of Congress are due, and are hereby tendered, to Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne. and the officers and men under his command, for the victory obtained by them over superior forces of the enemy at Ringgold Gap, in the State of Georgia, on the 27th day of November, 1863, by which the advance of the enemy was impeded, our wagon train and most of our artillery saved, and a large number of the enemy killed and wounded.


Resolved, That the President be requested to communicate the foregoing resolution to Major-General Cleburne and his command.


Approved February 9, 1864.