In a fairly light skirmish, Thomas’s troops moved toward Missionary Ridge, taking Orchard Knob, a strategically useful vantage point that would serve as Grant’s observation post during the battle to come. Sherman is still trying to get his troops there, and he takes full blame for his delay.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
CHATTANOOGA, November 23, 1863-3.30 p.m.
The reconnaissance in force made by Thomas has been completed in the most brilliant and successful manner. The troops employed were the divisions of Wood and Sheridan, of the Fourth Corps, under the immediate orders of Granger. The object of the movement was only to ascertain the strength of the enemy, but to occupy two bald knobs situated in front of our left, half way between our lines and Missionary Ridge. The principal attack was made by Hazen’s brigade, commanded by that general, supported on the left by Willich and on the right by the whole division of Sheridan. The entire field was distinctly visible from Fort Wood, in front of which Hazen’s line of battle was formed and as the whole army was under arms, with Howard’s corps formed in solid column as a reserve to the attacking force, the spectacle was one of singular magnificence.
The field being commanded by the heavy guns of the forts, only one field battery was taken into action. This was planted on an elevated knoll in front of the center, on which Sheridan’s line of battle was formed before the order to advance was given. The troops moved out of their intrenchments just before 1 o’clock, and remained in line for three-quarters of an hour, in full view of the enemy. At last, everything being ready, Granger gave the order to advance, and Hazen and Willich pushed out simultaneously.
The first shot was fired at 2 o’clock, and in five minutes Hazen’s skirmishers were briskly engaged, while the artillery of Forts Wood and Thomas was opened upon the rebel rifle-pits and camps behind the line of fighting. The practice of our gunners was splendid-the camps and batteries of the enemy being about a mile and three-quarters distant-but elicited no reply, and it was soon evident that the rebels had no heavy artillery, in that part of their lines at least. Our troops, rapidly advancing as steadily as if on parade, occupied the knobs upon which they were directed at twenty minutes past 2. Ten minutes later Willich, driving forward across an open field, carried the rifle-pits in his front, whose occupants fled as they fired their last volley, and Sheridan, moving through the forest which stretched before him, drove in the enemy’s pickets, and halted his advance, in obedience to orders, on reaching the rifle-pits, where the rebel force was waiting for his attack. No such attack was made, however, the design being to secure the heights on our left, but not to assault the rebel works.
We have taken about 200 prisoners, mostly Alabama troops, and have gained a position of great importance, should the rebels still attempt to hold the Chattanooga Valley, as with these heights in our possession a column marching to turn Missionary Ridge is secure from flank attack. The rebels fired three small guns only during the affair, and this tends to confirm the impression that they have withdrawn their main force. Prisoners who have been examined say they belong to Hindman’s division, and know nothing of any general evacuation. Troops withdrawn have been sent to Knoxville, they say. Our losses not yet ascertained.
Sherman wrote Grant this morning expressing his sorrow and mortification at the failure of his forces to get up. It seems that Blair reported his whole command at Stevenson before they had really arrived, which led Sherman to make erroneous calculations. But the fault of marching with trains Sherman attributes to himself, Grant’s orders that he should get all his troops here before Friday night having been positive, and it was his own duty to see that nothing hindered his arrival. Clear.
[C. A. DANA.]