Retreat from Missionary Ridge
November 25-27, 1863
Due to the illness of Gen. Marcus J. Wright, Col. John H. Anderson commanded the brigade on Nov. 25. By 9 a.m., Wright's brigade, including Lt. Col. John Gracey Hall's 51st/52d Tennessee regiment, were marching farther to the left where they remained until near dark, cutting trees and arranging them into breastworks.
Afterwards, the brigade reported to Gen. Lucius E. Polk (Cleburne's division) near the railroad bridges over the Chickamauga. Wright's brigade was deployed in line of battle with two batteries of artillery. Hall's 51st and 52d Tennessee was near the center of the line with Scoggins' battery.
About 4 p.m., Bragg sent orders to Wright's brigade to leave a regiment near the railroad bridges and Chickamauga Creek. With the balance of the brigade and artillery, he was to move to the bridge at Shallow Ford, two miles higher up South Chickamauga Creek. Once there, the regiments and artillery were to take position and protect the north bank of the bridge and ford and "to resist the enemy to the last extremity." The brigade was to remain there until all of the retreating Confederates had passed over, then, destroy the bridge and bring up the rear. Hall's 51st and 52d Tennessee was directed to guard the ford while the remainder of the brigade remained at the bridge.
At midnight, scouts informed Col. Anderson the Confederate troops had passed over.
It took the men of Wright's brigade two hours of hard labor to destroy the bridge. (They had to cut away at the bridge, the timbers being green and would not burn.) The brigade then marched the two miles to Chickamauga Station, arriving about 3 a.m. and resumed the retreat. Lt. Col. John Hall reported the 51st/52d Tennessee lost one barefooted soldier, presumed captured.
Wright's brigade wagon train had the misfortune of being attacked by Federal cavalry. Nearly all the vehicles were captured, including one belonging to Tennessee Governor Isham G. Harris.
Several reasons caused the Confederate disaster at Missionary Ridge: faulty troops dispositions, preponderance of the Union forces and the diminution of Confederate strength besieging Chattanooga. From the battlefield, a Richmond, Va. newspaper correspondent wrote at midnight:
"The Confederates have sustained today the most ignominious defeat of the whole war--a defeat for which there is but little excuse or palliation. For the first time during our struggle for national independence, our defeat is chargeable to the troops themselves and not to the blunder or incompetency of their leaders. It is difficult for one to realize how a defeat so complete could have occurred on ground so favorable."
George Maney's brigade, Walker's division, had supported Cleburne's stalwart division in the repulse of Sherman. Capt. James I. Hall of Mt. Carmel, commanding Co. C, 6th and 9th Tennessee infantry, recalled the night of Nov. 25th:
"After eating our supper without the slightest suspicion of what had really taken place, we lay down about 9 o'clock and were preparing for a good night's rest. About that time, an orderly came along with orders to us to move quietly and rapidly to the rear...Our lines were immediately formed...We moved a quiet and orderly way five miles to the rear across Chickamauga Creek. Why General Grant did not pursue us that night and capture our whole army has always been a mystery to me...
"We were from 9 until 12 a.m.--three hours in marching these 5 miles as we had to cross Chickamauga Creek on a railroad bridge...After sleeping about 3 hours, our brigade with (state rights) Gist's South Carolina brigade, were formed in line of battle facing toward the enemy whom we were momentarily expecting.We remained in this position from 3 o'clock a.m. until after sunrise."
Continued next week