Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/163

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
159
THE CHATTANOOGA CAMPAIGNS.

The other approach lay along the river valley and across Sand Mountain. The advantage of this route was that the army was near its base of supplies, with which it had both river and railroad connection. However, the roads were poor and the route lay across parallel ridges, almost inaccessible except in a few places. It would be hard to maintain a compact advance over the rough country, and a regiment of the enemy could easily delay an army. Rosecrans chose this route and the manner in which he maneuvered his army was certainly a brilliant piece of strategy.

Bragg had expected the federal army to come over Walden's Ridge, and Rosecrans did all in his power to strengthen that belief. Troops were deployed in front of Chattanooga and at night camp fires were lighted on the hills above the river. By feinting in this way Rosecrans was able to advance his army into Lookout Valley without encountering opposition. From here he went through the passes of Lookout Mountain into Chattanooga Valley and threatened Bragg 's line of communication with the south. Bragg led his army out and, after a series of maneuvers, the battle of Chickamauga was fought with disastrous results to the federals. Had it not been for the stand made by Thomas, the 'Rock of Chickamauga,' the union army would have been routed. As it was, they were driven into Chattanooga and imprisoned by a seemingly impregnable line of works. Lookout Mountain was abandoned and at once occupied by the confederates. It was apparently the key to the situation.

Rosecrans had caught the wolf by the ears. He had gained Chattanooga, but was a prisoner in its outworks. To advance against the strongly entrenched enemy was folly. To retreat across the plateau would have demoralized his army besides losing the position he had won at such cost. Worst of all, the enemy had taken possession of Lookout Mountain, which Rosecrans had felt obliged to abandon. They had fortified the position and placed guns which commanded the river and railroad west of Chattanooga, thus cutting off supplies from that direction. For awhile provisions came over the Cumberland plateau, but the hardships of the route soon exhausted the teams which could not follow the river, as that was patrolled by the enemy's pickets and were obliged to take circuitous roads over the hills and away from the river. The cattle that were driven that way were hardly able to stand alone, much less furnish sustenance. The soldiers with grim humor spoke of them as 'dried beef on the hoof.' Bragg, confident of his game, sat down and waited for the union army to be starved into surrendering, and his hopes did not seem unreasonable.

The north was thoroughly alarmed at this state of affairs and Grant was put in command. His first work was to open a line by which supplies could reach the city. The celerity with which he accomplished this makes one wonder why it was not done before. The only feasible