Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Missionary Ridge: A South Carolina View

To continue our observance of the 146th Anniversary of the Battles for Chattanooga, today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Missionary Ridge. The following is a letter from Captain C. Irvine Walker of Arthur Manigault's staff, which I have edited and published earlier this year in GREAT THINGS ARE EXPECTED OF US. Walker calls them like he sees them and the following is no exception, it is his letter of December 1st, 1863 to his beloved Orie Sinclair describing the disaster at Missionary Ridge.

"After another battle I am permitted by Providence to write you announcing
my safety. I would have written sooner but the movements – backwards, I am sorry
to say, prevented. We have met with one of the most severe and unaccountable
defeats of the whole war. There are only two reasons I can assign.

1st. the necessarily great lengths of our lines, and the scarcity of troops, the
number being entirely inadequate to its defence.

2nd. An unaccountable panic seizing the whole left of the army.

As far as the results are concerned other than the loss in the battle, I can't think they are other then would have been yielded without a struggle. There is no doubt that Genl. Bragg intended to have fallen back on the night of the 25th. Nov. if he had not been attacked and forced to yield the position.

I will write you a full account of the battle as soon as I have time, I saw most of it with my own eyes, and can speak from knowledge.

It has been reported and I hear circulated as far as Mobile that our Brigade was the first to give way. If you hear any one say so, contradict it at once. Breckenridge's troops ( a little more than his Division) gave way fully 15 minutes before our Division did. And our Brigade did not give way until both of the Brigades on our right and left had gone, and the enemy not only firing upon our left flank with small arms, but had already turned our own guns upon us, and fired several rounds enfilading our line. The enemy was driven back every time in our front with severe loss and did not reach our line until they formed a line on the hill on our left (which they had taken)
perpendicular to ours, and marched down on our left flank. The loss in the army
will amount to about 5,000 – principally prisoners. The right of the army
repulsed the army very handsomely. I was proud to have been in the left at
Chickamauga, but I am extremely mortified to have been there at Chattanooga.

I feel very much mortified at the result of the battle. We ought never
to have been driven away by a front attack.

The Yankees moved up to the attack in most gallant style. I don't think any feat of the war can equal their attack on Missionary Ridge. If our men had only held their ground it would have been but child's play, however to have whipped them, so strong was our position naturally. But instead of this, they fled panic stricken before the enemy. If any one deserved any credit, I believe our Brigade does, but the whole army deserves censure. They ignominiously left a field which could have been theirs
had they but nerved their hearts to take it.

When I saw the men running I could not believe that they were the heroes of Shiloh, Perryville, Belmont, Oak Hills, Murfreesboro and Chickamauga. Can our past virtues and successes cover our present defeat? The Banner of the proud army of Tenn. is trailing in the dust. I am perfectly willing to trust to them to raise it again triumphantly in the face of a now victorious foe. Our men feel their disgrace and are
determined to wipe it out in blood. Our next battle will be a glorious victory
to our now dishonored arms.

I can account for our defeat only as a judgment of God. I can see no other cause. God only could have given our foes victory when such great advantages of human intellect and position were given us.

I am glad to say that our army is not all demoralized, and as soon as
we can supply our losses in material and collect our stragglers we will be
ready to face the foe and pay him dearly for his temerity. "

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