The War Between The States

Battle of

November 1863

An Unwritten History

William Ralston Talley, of Dixie, Georgia, was a private in Havis's Battery, Robertson 's Battalion, Georgia Reserve Artillery. Below is account of his experiences at the Battle of Missionary Ridge as it was presented to the Quitman Chapter No.112, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Quitman, Georgia. Submitted by Mrs. Samuel S. Rountree, Chapter Historian.


"The Army of Tennessee has been censured and ridiculed for our defeat at Missionary Ridge in November of 1863. As to the battle and general situation, there still seems to be some facts that the world does not know, facts that I have never seen in print. I thought that these facts might be interesting to Quitman Chapter, UDC, so I will give a few of them as I saw them and experienced them.

I was a private in Havis Georgia Battery, Robertson's Battalion Reserve, Artillery.

Our Battery was in position just south of the road leading from Chattanooga to the Chickamauga Station. We had been there some two or three days and were located so as to have a fine view of Lookout Mountain and the valley between Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. General Bragg had one small brigade on Lookout Mountain, and Grant sent a corps down the Tennessee River and made an attack on this little brigade and drove them back into the valley. It may sound a bit strange, but it took this corps a whole day and night to drive this little brigade off the mountain. This battle, or part of the general engagement, has been called through these more recent years, "The Battle Above The Clouds". This is a beautiful poetic conception and fits in well with Lookout Mountain, the Ridge, the beautiful valley, at that time, and all the surroundings as a possibility. But to one who was actually there and in the full vigor of early youth, it is just mere poetry. For if there were any clouds at all they could not be seen by one standing on Missionary Ridge with a full and clear view.

Without going into details, I think it ought to be of interest, even at the risk of repeating some things, to give some general account of Bragg's Army. After the battle of Chickamauga, the Yankees had been hemmed in about Chattanooga, and Bragg's Army extended from the mouth of the Chickamauga River, or creek, to the top of Missionary Ridge, and on to or near Rossville. For the sake of water, the army was camped east of the ridge in the valley. A bad spell of rainy weather set in. The whole land became boggy. Provisions became scarcer and teams became of little service because of the condition of the soil. Soon all living conditions became unsanitary and bad. Many soldiers fell sick, and for one thing or another the army was reduced to about do one-third of its manpower. So it happened that at the time of which I am writing, Bragg had not more than twenty-five thousand available men. It will be remembered that Grant, for the Federal Army, had relieved Rosecrans, and with the additional troops that had been brought forward, Grant's Army about Chattanooga now must have numbered a hundred thousand or more men. These men were displayed all over the plains around Chattanooga, and also south of the Chattanooga creek.

I never saw so many Yankees at one sight. Thinking that Grant was concentrating on our right, Bragg moved troops from the left into the space at our right. In the formation of this line of battle, it was planned for a brigade to come up the ridge and take position from a little white house that was Bragg's headquarters, and then to move South.

For reasons entirely unknown to me, that brigade never reached the little white house, thus leaving a gap open in our lines. Over against this position was placed the Washington Artillery, 5th Company, from New Orleans, Louisiana. Now Findley's Florida Brigade began at the white house, but it extended to the North so as to join up with Dea's Alabama Brigade, our battery being supported by this very Florida Brigade. In order to join these brigades of which I speak, the men were deployed in both eight feet apart. Think of it; one man to every eight feet. I speak of what I saw near our battery. Now was this not an Army to stand before the well equipped thousands of Grant's fresh troops? When the Yankees formed their lines they had troops enough to form three double lines facing Bragg's lines with some men to spare. This is fact number two that we want all to keep in mind, and that seems to be sometimes forgotten.

We feel entitled to call the attention of your Chapter to this one fact again.

On this very point it must not be forgotten, that when the Yankees charged up the ridge, they came with three lines of battle, and our Florida boys stood up to this till the host of the Yankees at the white house of which I have spoken found the gap in our line. Turning up the ridge, the gap in the lines gave them an open space, and they ran over the men placed eight feet apart, and then turned south, surrounding the Florida Brigade and our battery on three sides with this triple line of battle.

Now four men could stand in a line of eight feet space and they had three lines, three men deep. So it can be seen that they had at all points from eight to twenty-four men against our one. For some time, this triple line concentrated on one point and the firing was from everywhere upon that place. I have already hinted at a case of this very thing. I have spoken of the New Orleans, Louisiana, Washington Artillery having been placed over before the gap already mentioned. At a time when this artillery was busy firing to their front, when our battery and the Florida boys had been surrounded on the three sides with a line of battle three deep, the Yankees came in from the left flank and captured every one of the guns and part of the men of the Washington Artillery of Louisiana. We were then ordered to retreat, and we went down that ridge with no regard to order.

Just at this point there is an instance that I usually like to recite to you and the school children, because it is full of excitement, human interest, and extreme good fortune. It is an instance, too, of such a nature that it has not gotten into history as a recorded fact, doubtless.

When we had retreated to the foot of the ridge, we were stopped. General Bragg had ordered Major Robertson to take a battery up the next ridge, since he had ordered some infantry up there to make a second stand. The Major ordered our battery to go at once. We started, but we soon found it to be impossible to climb the steep, rugged ridge. We got nearly halfway up, when we found that no infantry had come. So we were ordered to turn back to the valley we had just left.

As the teams turned and started down, a wheel horse to the first gun was thrown down, on account of the steep slope, runing one of the wheels behind a tree. The driver cut loose the standing horse and left the gun and the other horse and made for the rest of the battery. A cannoneer named Bill Mitchell ran up, took the horse that was down loose and mounted him and rode him out. This was exciting because in the meantime the Yankees had found us again and were sweeping down the side of Missionary Ridge, now the ridge being clear of trees and underbrush, largely. But in the face of this Bill rode him out.

And now comes the extreme good fortune that looks like Providence. As our battery got into view, the three lines that we have just indicated were coming down the hill. The lines were placed far enough apart that they could, on the hillside, shoot with safety over each other's heads, the back line over the one in front, etc. We had to go in full view at least the distance of one hundred and twenty yards down the road to the gap where there was a road from Chattanooga to the Chickamauga Station, with the whole three lines of battle firing at us every foot of the way.

But, strange to say, they hit not a man nor a horse.

When we had gotten to this road, we soon had a ridge between us and the Yanks.

But about a mile from the Chickamauga Station, on a range of hills, Bragg rallied the infantry again and made another stand. But this is enough, just now, and we will save this for another chapter in the story."


For additional information on the Battle of Missionary Ridge check the links listed below.


Battle of Missionary Ridge


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