Monday, November 23, 2009

Orchard Knob

Today marks the 146th anniversary of the Battle of Orchard Knob. It is a relatively overlooked phase of the struggle for Chattanooga, but one that set the stage for the Union victory at Missionary Ridge, two days later. The Battle occured just before sunset on November 23rd, 1863 and was a rather one sided affair between two regiments of Arthur Manigault's Brigade (28th Alabama and 24th Alabamas), the 28th losing one of its colors, and Thomas J. Wood's Division. Manigault would later remember:

"About 4:30 o'clock the enemy formed two lines of battle with a skirmish line in front, and began to move forward. About five o'clock, their skirmishers came within range of ours, and the fight commenced. Out advanced troops were soon driven in by their line of battle, who moved steadily to the attack. Their first line was checked by our fire, but the second line coming to their assistance, together they moved forward in spite of our fire, which was not heavy enough to deter them, and came in contact wuth the reserve line of skirmishers. Both regiments behaved gallantly, many of them fighting hand to hand; but the odds against them were irresistible, and Lieut. Col. Butler, 28th Ala., Commanding, in order to save his regiment, was forced to give the order to retire. The other regiment, 24th Alabama, had already given way. Had they contended much longer, they would have been killed or captured to a man, as the lines to their right and left had broken, and the enemy were getting to their rear. The 28th lost a good many, the 24th fewer-in all about 175 men. Having obtained possession of our picket line and the hill mentioned, the enemy seemed satisfied, and pushed forward no further. Our skirmishers retired about 350 or 400 yards and halted. Whilst the enemy advanced large numbers immediately in front of the hill to protect and hold it, he set large parties to work upon it, building breastworks and batteries for their artillery. In rear also was a large reserve force, and for the security of this point to which they seemed to attach much importance they must have held in front at least 6,000 men, exclusive of the two lines in front."

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