Sandra Merville Hart loves to find unusual facts in her historical research to use in her stories. She and her husband enjoy traveling to many of the sites in her books to explore the history. She serves as Assistant Editor for DevoKids.com where she contributes articles about history and holidays. She has written for several publications and websites including The Secret Place, Harpstring, Splickety Magazine, Pockets Magazine, Common Ground, Afictionado, and ChristianDevotions.us. Her inspirational Civil War novella, A Stranger on My Land, released on August 21, 2014. Her book is available on Amazon at this link.
The Siege of Chattanooga
by Sandra Merville Hart
In the second week of September, 1863, the Ninety-ninth Ohio regiment marched with the Twenty-first Army Corps under the leadership of Major General Thomas L. Crittenden into Chattanooga after the Confederate Army, under General Braxton Bragg, evacuated without firing a shot. Crittenden secured the town with troops before heading south to Georgia.
By Sunday, September 13, the corps reached the area of Lee & Gordon’s Mills, a two-story white building on the Chickamauga Creek. When fighting started on Saturday, September 19, Major General George H. Thomas’ Fourteenth Corps and Major General Alexander McCook’s Twentieth Corps were also in the Union’s line of defense. A Reserve Corps under Major General Gordon Granger waited to be called if needed. All these army corps made up the Army of the Cumberland with Major General William S. Rosecrans in charge.
The Ninety-ninth Ohio infantry was part of Brigadier General Van Cleve’s division. Divisions were divided into brigades and Colonel Sidney M. Barnes led the brigade for the Ohio regiment.
The amount of activity on the Confederate line showed that a large force waited to meet the Union Army in the coming battle. Before the first shot fired on that September day, most realized it would be a fierce fight.
Confederate soldiers attacked the Union line where the Ninety-ninth Ohio laid waiting under the command of Colonel Swaine. Though unprepared for the swiftness of the assault, their training took over. When Union troops began retreating behind his regiment, Colonel Swaine ordered his men to lie flat until the soldiers in blue passed them.
Then Swaine ordered an advance. Brave men leaped to their feet to obey the command despite the muskets aimed at them. They checked the Confederate advance as the two sides peppered one another with lead. Fighting went against them when they were flanked on the right. Swaine ordered his men to fall back to the La Fayette Road. Bullets and cannon fire came in such rapid succession in several areas of the battlefield that it seemed one continuous sound. Smoke and the smell of gunpowder surrounded them.
The day’s fighting ended as darkness fell though gunfire continued on the picket line from those assigned to guard the troops. The night turned bitterly cold. Campfires to make coffee were forbidden as the light would give away their position and make them a target.
The worst part of the long, frosty night for most soldiers was listening to the cries of the wounded that lay between the opposing lines. The sound of ambulance wheels ambling along to pick up the wounded mingled with the artillery being moved into place. Troops were repositioned. No one got much sleep.
The next day’s fighting intensified. When the southern army broke through a gap in the Union line, the northern army retreated in mass confusion. The withdrawal eventually led to Chattanooga.
The last of the Union soldiers finally reached Chattanooga on September twenty-second. There had been so much confusion during the retreat that many soldiers didn’t find their regiments until reaching the town.
The huge battle fought near the Chickamauga Creek in Georgia was a decisive win for the Confederates.
Union generals anticipated an attack in Chattanooga by the Confederate Army. Those not working to build up fortifications waited in lines of battle, ready to ward off an attack.
Another major battle didn’t come though some fighting erupted as the two armies met again. The southern soldiers took up positions on Missionary Ridge, which rose to about six hundred feet and formed a wall on the east side of Chattanooga. On the west side of the valley stood the impressive Lookout Mountain. Rosecrans withdrew his troops from this mountain on September twenty-fourth. The Confederate Army immediately occupied the dominant mountain that rose over two thousand feet above sea level. The southerners placed sharpshooters and artillery along the Tennessee River valley.
This placed the Union Army in Chattanooga under siege.
Union soldiers waited anxiously for a truce to retrieve the wounded from Chickamauga and bury the dead. Confederate General Bragg allowed Union General Rosecrans to send ambulances and hospital supplies to the thousands of Northern wounded. These ambulance wagons crossed into Confederate lines where southern soldiers took over, picked up the wounded, and returned them as paroled prisoners of war. Those who stood guard on the picket lines of both sides agreed not to fire on each other. This truce brought about socializing between the soldiers of both lines. They began trading coffee and tobacco or swapping newspapers. Soldiers crossed picket lines to play cards together, building tentative friendships that couldn’t last.
As the siege around Chattanooga continued, supplies ran low. Soldiers received half-rations of food. They continued to build fortifications and work harder than normal, but no one had enough to eat. This included the animals. Mules and horses, so important in moving artillery and supply wagons, began to die by the dozens.
When the food was cut to quarter-rations, many wondered if they would all starve to death in Tennessee. No one received sufficient food. Men lost too much weight to be healthy.
In the middle of October, leaders in Washington combined the Departments of the Ohio, the Tennessee, and the Cumberland into the Military Division of the Mississippi and chose General Ulysses S. Grant to command it. Rosecrans was relieved of his command. Maybe Grant could unlock the siege and open supply lines.
After Union troops captured Brown’s Ferry, a supply route to provide food opened. The soldiers called it the “Cracker Line” for the hard squares of bread known as hard tack, a staple in their diet. A few days later, jubilant soldiers drew full rations. Only after stomachs had been filled did some find out how dire their circumstances had become. Before the shipment arrived, only four boxes of hard tack remained in the commissary warehouses.
Only then did they realize how close to starving the Union Army had come.
Carrie and her little brother, Jay, find a wounded soldier on their land after a battle which later became known as “The Battle Above the Clouds.” Adam, a Union soldier, has been shot twice in the arm. Though Carrie is reluctant to take Adam to their cave where her family hides their livestock from both armies, she cannot turn her back on him.
But her Aunt Lavinia, bitter over what Yankees have done to their land, urges Carrie to allow Adam to die. Carrie refuses, but cannot remove the bullets. Adam’s friendship with Jay softens her heart toward him. It’s not long until his gratitude and teasing manner spark a friendship between the young couple. Even though Carrie’s father fights for the Confederacy in far-off Virginia, her feelings for the handsome young soldier begin to blossom into love.
When Adam’s condition worsens, Carrie knows a Union surgeon is needed to save his life. How can she accomplish this and keep her family’s hiding place a secret?