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OVER THE MOUNTAINS.
NOR East Tennessee at last! The raid of General Morgan had somewhat disturbed the plans of General Burnside, but immediately upon its defeat and conclusion, the campaign against the enemy in Knoxville was commenced. General Burnside had hoped that, upon the fall of Vicksburg, the Ninth Corps would be ordered back to the Department of the Ohio. Such had been the repeated promise of the authorities at Washington. But, as has already been perceived, the promise could not well be fulfilled, while General Grant needed the services of the corps to operate against the forces of General Johnston. It is true that the movement upon Jackson resulted in little except to inflict great losses upon our troops in the diseases which were caused by the rapid marches of the campaign. But, as it was thought necessary to place the safety of Vicksburg beyond even the shadow of a doubt, our officers and men acquiesced in the operations with a steadfast loyalty, and endured the terrible hardships of the campaign with a heroic patience. Before the arrival of the Ninth Corps in Kentucky, the movement over the mountains had been arranged, and actually commenced. But even if this had not been the case, the troops were in no suitable condition to join the advancing columns. They required rest and recuperation. General Burnside must accomplish his great task without the aid, at first, of the tried and bronzed veterans who had proved their valor, devotion and patriotism on so many ensanguined fields. It was with the troops of the twenty-third corps, reënforced by some fresh levies made in Kentucky, East Tennessee itself,
and the States North of the Ohio, that the advance was to be made. The troops of the Ninth, as fast as they arrived, were brought down towards the frontier and distributed at the proper points, that they might be sent forward as reënforcements when their presence was required.
From the commencement of the war, East Tennessee had been a prominent point in the calculations and plans of both the contending parties. Its occupation was a matter of prime importance. Lying in the valley of the Tennessee and Holston rivers, between the lofty and difficult range of the Cumberland mountains on the north and west, and the Blue Ridge, with its outlying spurs and ranges composed of the Stone, Bald, Smoky and Iron mountains on the south and east, it was easily defensible by the rebels, while it contained the great line of communication between their left and right flanks-the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. While this road remained intact, there was an unbroken and continuous connection between the two grand armies of the enemy, under General Bragg in the West and General Lee in the East. In the rear of the railroad lay the comparatively prosperous communities of the interior of the Gulf States and the Carolinas, as yet unvisited by the devastations of the war.
East Tennessee was also the home of a most loyal community. All the best and leading men in the district were firm supporters of the Federal Government, and a large majority of the people were prompt to follow their guidance. But the peculiar position of the country, isolated as it was from the North, and held by the large armies of the rebel "Confederacy," placed these loyal men at the mercy of their inveterate foes. Some were driven off, and compelled as refugees to procure a precarious subsistence from their Northern allies. Some were imprisoned and maltreated in the most barbarous and cruel manner. Some were tortured, others murdered, and others. hung by the rebel authorities and their cruel subordinates. The history of this unfortunate war contains no sadder chapters than those which narrate the atrocities that were inflicted upon
the loyal people of East Tennessee. Whether the authorities at Richmond were responsible for these dreadful wrongs, or the officers in immediate command, acting under the influence of their brief authority, were disposed to allow their personal hatreds full exercise, the fact remains clear and indisputable. No people were so mercilessly treated as these. No region became the scene of so much horror. Yet, amidst all their calamities and wrongs, the East Tennesseeans preserved their loyalty unshaken, and looked eagerly forward to the time when the advancing armies of the Union should give them their deliverance, and their opportunity for revenge.
The succor of these unfortunate victims of rebel rage, no less than the rupture of the rebel lines, had long engaged the attention of the government. The occupation of East Tennessee by the Union armies would at once deliver the loyalists there, and would deal a staggering blow to the insurgent power. It would in effect become a bisection of the "Confederacy," and would be a necessary preliminary to the triumphant advance of the national flag through all parts of the South. Were East Tennessee regained and permanently held, the result of the war would be no longer doubtful. The success of the Union would be placed beyond a question. The work of opening this region devolved upon General Burnside and General Rosecrans. To the former was given the task of proceeding directly into East Tennessee; to the latter that of marching on to Chatanooga, demonstrating towards Atlanta. General Rosecrans, during the summer, had pushed his lines forward as far as Winchester and the banks of the Elk river, and there made further preparations for prosecuting his campaign. On the 16th of August, he advanced across the Cumberland mountains, reached the Tennessee river on the 20th, established his headquarters at Stevenson, Alabama, and prepared for a further advance. On the 9th of September, General Crittenden's corps of his army occupied Chatanooga, and pressed forward in pursuit of the retreating enemy.
Meanwhile, General Burnside had rapidly performed his por
tion of the work. On the 16th of August, the very day of the departure of General Rosecrans from Winchester, General Burnside started from Lexington. The route which he had chosen for his own march lay through Crab Orchard, Mount Vernon, London and Williamsburg, with other columns, under command of General Hartsuff, moving on his right flank by way of Tompkinsville, Albany and Somerset, and a column of cavalry under Colonel Foster upon the left, to march directly upon Knoxville by way of Jacksboro'. The design was to cross the mountains by unfrequented roads, and even by those hitherto deemed impassable by a large army, and therefore left undefended by the rebel forces. This would introduce an army into East Tennessee to the surprise of the commanding general there, force his surrender or the evacuation of the position, and give our own forces an undisturbed possession of the entire region. The design was admirably carried out. Sending a force, under Colonel De Courcy, to take position in front of Cumberland Gap and occupy the attention of the enemy, General Burnside crossed the Cumberland mountains at the more westerly gaps. It was a work of extreme difficulty and was performed with great rapidity, considering the obstacles which were overcome. Preparations had been made for forced marching and ready fighting. The troops were in light marching order. All unnecessary impediments were cast aside. Pack mules were procured for the transportation of supplies. A part of the army was mounted. Wagon trains were to follow on the more accessible roads, while the troops on foot and on horseback clambered the heights.
On the 21st of August, General Burnside left Crab Orchard, and then followed fourteen days of as hard marching as was done by any army in the course of the war. The soldiers climbed the rugged ways with indomitable persistence and courage. The horses and mules connected with the army were tasked to their utmost, and many of them gave out exhausted by the severities of the march. In several instances, the animals utterly failed to drag the artillery up the acclivities, and
their places were filled by men, who, with hands upon the drag ropes and shoulders to the wheels, dragged or lifted guns, caissons and wagons from height to height. The road was in some places strewn with the fragments of the broken vehicles and harness. But the soldiers were in good heart and cheerful spirits. Their commander knew not what it was to yield, and together they surmounted every difficulty. Crossing the summit, they easily descended into the plain below, and stood at last the conquerors of East Tennessee without a battle. A little skirmishing upon the road was all that betokened the nearness of an enemy. The rebel General Buckner, surprised by the suddenness of the advance, bewildered by the strange appearance of a large army, as though it had dropped from the clouds into the midst of his lines, and exaggerating the forces as they approached by different roads, immediately evacuated the region, retreated and joined General Bragg, actually leaving the garrison at Cumberland Gap without orders or even information of his movement. A portion of the rear guard was encountered by our cavalry, under General Shackleford, near Loudon, but succeeded in escaping, after burning an important bridge at that point. General Burnside, after a march of two hundred and fifty miles in fourteen days, found himself completely master of the situation.
Perhaps it may be well to place this march across the Cumberland mountains more in detail before the mind of the reader. The army of General Burnside, at the time, was composed of about eighteen thousand men. These were divided into five columns. The first marched from Glasgow, by way of Tompkinsville, Ky., to Livingston and Jamestown, Tenn.; the second from Columbia, by way of Creelsboro' and Albany, Ky., to Jamestown, Tenn., there joining the first; the third from Somerset, Ky., to Chitwoods, Huntsville and Montgomery, Tenn., where it was joined by the first and second; the fourth, which the commanding general accompanied, from Mount Vernon, by way of London and Williamsburg, Ky., over the Jellico mountains to Chitwoods, Huntsville - demonstrating