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germ of such a movement was contained in the less conspicuous plan of General Burnside. General Sherman proved that the "Southern Confederacy" was a hollow shell. Whether the Autumn of 1863 or that of 1864 was the proper time to break it, is of course a matter of question. The latter time had indeed a condition which the former did not possess:the fact, namely, that General Grant was then General in Chief. It had a further condition that General Grant is a thorough and accomplished soldier, and confides in the good judgment and skill of his subordinates.
General Rosecrans was disposed to favor the first of the plans submitted to General Halleck and desired that it might be adopted. But the state of affairs at Chattanooga rendered it impracticable. By some disarrangement of forces, the Quartermaster's department had been unable fully to supply the army which General Rosecrans already had under his command. The depots of provisions and supplies at Chattanooga, and along the line through Bridgeport and Stevenson, were very poorly provided, and great difficulties of transportation existed. Already the horses and other animals required for the artillery, cavalry and wagon trains were dying in large numbers for want of forage, and the army itself was on halfrations.* The addition of General Burnside's forces to those already occupying the half-starved camps around Chattanooga would have increased the complications of the case, and would have compelled the men of both armies to endure great sufferings.
There was another circumstance to be considered when speaking of such concentration. It would have been the complete loss of East Tennessee. The entire valley of the Holston would have been laid open to the inroads of the rebel troops from Virginia, the people would have been subjected to a renewal of the cruelties from which they had been happily freed, the position at Chattanooga itself would have been pres
*General Halleck's Report for 1863.
sed in front and on both flanks to an evacuation, and the Summer's operations would have been frustrated. While General Burnside held Knoxville and the upper valley, keeping free the roads through Cumberland and Big Creek Gaps, ample lines of retreat lay open in case of disaster. But, with with both armies at Chattanooga, short of supplies and confronted and flanked by a superior force of the enemy, defeat was almost certain. The reüniting of the enemy's broken line of communication would enable him to send large bodies of his troops from Virginia and give him every advantage. Only one line of retreat lay open for our forces towards Nashville, and the enemy, crossing the Cumberland Mountains, could fall upon the rear of our troops and drive them in inglorious rout to the line of the Cumberland river. Kentucky would again lie at the mercy of the rebels, and the entire North West would have been threatened. The occupation of Knoxville and the upper valley was necessary for the prevention of such calamities. While our forces were thus disposed, the further reënforcement of General Bragg from Virginia was difficult; while, on the other hand, General Rosecrans was comparatively safe from attack. What would have been the consequences, if this great avenue of communication had been given up to the enemy, it is very easy to perceive. Happily for the Federal government, General Burnside understood precisely what to do in the premises, and persisted in doing it. He securely held the railroad and the line through Cumberland Gap. He protected the left flank of General Rosecrans, and completely foiled the rebel plans in that quarter.
The month of October was not prolific of great events on either side. The rebel General Wheeler attempted a raid upon the communications of General Rosecrans, reached McMinnsville and burnt a few wagons and some stores. But the cavalry of General Rosecrans succeeded in intercepting and driving off the enemy. General Burnside's cavalry passing farther down the river, made our lines secure from subsequent interruption. On the left of the army of the Ohio, General
Jones again became active. A large force of the enemy from Virginia was threatening our communications with Cumberland Gap, and demonstrating upon the south side of the Holston and Watauga rivers. Since the concentration of our own troops at Knoxville, the enemy had assumed a decidedly hostile attitude, and it became necessary to clear our left flank from his encroachments.
The Ninth Corps, under General Potter, and a considerable body of cavalry, under General Shackleford, were sent up the valley during the first week of October, and, on the 8th, were joined by General Willcox's division, reënforced by Colonel Hoskins's brigade, at Bull's Gap. General Burnside himself left Knoxville on the 9th, and advanced from Bull's Gap on the 10th, with the entire command. The enemy was found. strongly posted at Blue Springs, and disposed to receive battle. Colonel Foster's brigade of cavalry was sent around to the rear of the enemy's position, with directions to occupy the road upon which the enemy must retreat, at a point near Rheatown. The main attack was to be made at the time when Colonel Foster was supposed to be in proper position, and meanwhile the attention of the enemy was occupied by our skirmishers. A desultory engagement was thus kept up till about half-past three o'clock in the afternoon, when General Potter was ordered to move up the Ninth Corps, attack, and, if possible, break through the enemy's lines. At five o'clock, General Ferrero's division, which had been selected for the attack, moved gallantly forward against the enemy, and by a bold push pierced his first line, and heavily pressed back his troops upon the reserves. Night coming on put an end to the conflict, and our forces were disposed to resume the battle upon the following day.
The enemy, finding his rear threatened by Colonel Foster's movement, decided to withdraw during the night, leaving his dead upon the field and many of his wounded in our hands. Colonel Foster was delayed by the roughness of the roads and other causes, and did not succeed in reaching his assigned posi
tion in season to intercept the retreating foe. The dangerous point was safely passed. But for this untoward circumstance, the entire force of the enemy, with his materiel of war, must have fallen into General Burnside's hands. But our cavalry was early in the saddle, and General Shackleford with his troops, made a rapid and energetic pursuit, pushing the enemy across the Watauga and beyond the Virginia line, and driving him onward whenever he attempted to make a stand. General Shackleford continued on the trail for several days, burning six bridges, capturing and destroying three locomotives and thirty cars, and even proceeding so far as to threaten the salt works at Abingdon and Saltville. Our loss in this engagement was about one hundred killed and wounded. The enemy suf fered more severely, and left in our hands one hundred and fifty prisoners.
On the 16th, a regiment of loyal North Carolina troops captured Warm Springs and occupied Paint Rock Gap. The remainder of General Burnside's troops were concentrated at Knoxville and Loudon, picketing down to the left of the Army of the Cumberland, pushing out scouts and outposts on the south side of the Tennessee, and clearing the country between the little Tennessee and Hiwassee rivers. General Burnside, besides these operations, was occupied during the greater part of the month in organizing his loyal East Tennessee regiments, and in preparing for the new movements inaugurated by the advent, upon this interesting scene, of the successful soldier whose name had already filled the country in connection with his grand triumph at Vicksburg.
THE SIEGE OF KNOXVILLE.
N the 18th of October, Major General Ulysses S. Grant, by order of the President, assumed command of the "Military Division of the Mississippi," composed of the three Departments of the Ohio, the Cumberland and the Tennessee. The changes that had taken place upon the military chess board required more concentration of command, especially in the West. As many as four different armies were operating upon the soil of Tennessee, and to ensure their efficient coordinate action, a single head was required. General Grant's merit and distinguished service pointed him out as the most suitable for such command.
Operations in this quarter were now almost solely occupying public attention. The Army of the Potomac, after the battle of Gettysburg, had contented itself with quietly following General Lee's retreating forces to the line of the Rapidan, where the two armies, with an occasional episode of conflict, subsided into comparative quiet. General Hooker was despatched with two corps-the eleventh and twelfth-to the aid of General Rosecrans on the one side. On the other, General Longstreet had been sent westward by General Lee with a large reënforcement, and had even joined General Bragg in season to take a prominent and active part in the battle of Chickamauga. General Grant was returning from the successful siege of Vicksburg. General Parke, with the Ninth Corps, had already reached Knoxville, and General Sherman, with the fifteenth