HEADQUARTERS AND REGIMENTAL STAFF.
Twenty-first Michigan Infantry, Volunteers, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee – Taken
MARCUS W. BATES.
In the advance of General Rosencrans .from Murfreesboro to Chattanooga in the fall
of 1863, General McCook’s corps was given
the right of the army and General Sheridan’s division the right of McCook’s corps.
This position gave Sheridan’s division the longest swing, like the
last man on the end of the line in the old school boy game of “crack
After crossing the Tennessee river
at Bridgeport about September, McCook was directed to support the cavalry
division in an advance on the right across Lookout mountain to Summerville,
Ga. General Sheridan’s division was assigned to that task and took
up the line of march across Sand Mountain, by way of Valley Head and Winston’s
Gap, reaching Alpine, on the eastern slope of Lookout Mountain in Broomtown valley,
September 9. Thomas had crossed Lookout Mountain at Cooper’s and Steven’s
gaps and taken possession of McLemore’s cove. General Crittenden had
moved straight on Chattanooga from Bridgeport.
General Bragg and his Confederate army held Chattanooga and
the northern end of Lookout mountain until driver
out by General Crittenden, but the concentration of the armies for the battle of Chickamauga
prevented the Union forces from occupying the ridge. After the battle of
Chickamauga, General Bragg again occupied that commanding position and planted
a battery of siege guns on the extreme northern peak, overlooking Chattanooga
and the Union armies encamped there. General Sheridan’s division still
held the extreme right of the line, and the Twenty-first Michigan Infantry
regiment was posted at the river on the extreme right, directly beneath the
battery of Bragg on top of the mountain.
During all the weeks the Union armies
were besieged in Chattanooga, that battery maintained a continual fusillade
on the Union lines, but only one man was killed—Private Peck, of Co.
F, Twenty-first Michigan.
The view from Chattanooga as the soldiers
took position in and about the place was grand and inspiring, varied by valleys
coves, ridges, knobs and mountains. To the east the line of Missionary ridge,
running almost due north and south, along whose crests and sides the tents
of the enemy gleamed In the sunlight and camp fires sparkled like thousands
of flaming stars at night: To the westward, Racoon Mountain
and Walden’s Ridge, with abrupt sides towering against the skies, shut
off the valleys from the west and north.
Is a Famous Peak.
Southward is Lookout Mountain, 1,600
feet above the valleys on either side , running southeasterly until it closes
the valley in countless coves and pockets guarded by mountain sentries, the
last, or, in soldier’s phrase, “the out-post,” being Round
To, or Bald Knob, just opposite Trention, Georgia,
eighteen miles away. The soldier pausing from his labors on that miniature
mountain, Cameron Hill, with field glass on clear days, could see down the
Chattanooga Valley seventy miles to where the palisades of Lookout Mountain
disappear and the mountain descends into the valleys of Alabama.
The southern front of Walden’s
Ridge was in full view in the evening sunlight, savagely grand, yet charming
the soul with thrills of inspiration, The bold outlines of Racoon could
be seen with dense forests of pine and oak and the rapid rushing Tennessee
river, like a haunted dream, wandering through the valley, dashing through
giant rifts, now sparkling in sunlight, then dashing in foam and fury in
shadows deep a mountain base, until phantom-like, it is lost beyond sight
nearly a hundred miles away.
Again glancing eastward along the
crest of Missionary ridge, to where McFarland’s
cap cuts through it, far beyond in the dim distance you see the peaks of
Kennesaw. Slowly moving your glass along the crest and beyond, you trace
the Blue Mountain range of North Georgia, on and up into North Carolina,
until you get a clear view of the Big Smokey towering fully 3,000 feet above
the Blue range, the highest peak of which is not less than 120 miles from
where you stand.
Made Ready for Battle.
From Cameron hill one could see off to
the south the confederate army, as it swarmed through Rossville gap and the
greatest comfort to the troops spread along the crest of Missionary ridge. Across the valley in great clouds of dust batteries
of artillery galloped in the direction of Lookout mountain.
Other clouds of dust marked the advance of unseen forces seeking positions
of advantage. The confederate army was on its feet again and another battle
loomed in the near distance.
In November, followed the battle of
Lookout mountain, fought by General Hooker above the clouds; then that the
grand victory of Missionary ridge, when the army of the Cumberland, notwithstanding
the assertion of General Grant that it had been so badly whipped It would
not fight, carried the ridge 800 feet above It In one grand rush without
orders, sweeping the confederates from the crest like chaff.
I have never witnessed a more inspiring
sight than the advance of the army up Missionary ridge on
that occasion, and can never forget the appearance of the line mounting up,
up, on and on, until the gleaming bayonets of our men swarming over the confederate
lines on its top, could be seen. In this victory Sheridan still held the
extreme right of the line and faced one of the most difficult positions in
the line. But with the old enthusiasm that bright morning, his legions faced
the foe and again won a grand victory.
Pen and poet will record the story
of that engagement as long as the ages roll, and inspiration will enthuse
the youth of the republic for all time.
Following the battles around Chattanooga
the army was encumbered with a great host of wounded and sick soldiers and
the coming campaign southward from Chattanooga would add thousands to that
number. The hospital service was entirely inadequate for the great press
put upon it. New buildings had to be built to take care of the brave wounded
and sick men.
The high plateau of Lookout mountain
was selected as the position best fitted for the location of the new hospital
buildings, and early in 1864 the Twenty-first Michigan Infantry was detailed
from the Engineers’ brigade, of which it was then a part, for
the work of erecting the structure. Their camp was on a spur of the mountain
on its eastern slope, jutting out like a thumb along the face of the palisade.
On the western side of this thumb-like
projection was a ravine, beginning just below the headquarters of the regiment
shown in the cut accompanying this article. This ravine fell rapidly until
it reached a deep indentation from the east side of the mountain, like a
deep day in form of the letter U The southern slope of this U-shaped gorge,
where the view was toward Chattanooga, and from where the view was toward
Chattanooga, and from where that city could be plainly seen, was selected
as the best spot for the hospitals. High above the valleys, where the battles
had been fought, overlooking the battle fields, with a clear, cool atmosphere,
it was well calculated to give the rest and inspiration needed by the soldiers
for the most rapid recovery from wounds and disease.
Thousands Gave Up Lives.
Twenty thousand men, more or less,
had given their lives, were torn with shot or shell, or lingered with disease
contracted in the service of the arduous campaigns which gave to the Union
forever that stronghold of the Confederacy in the West, Chattanooga.
Below our camp several hundred feet,
deep under the overhanging cliffs of the mountain, was Lulu lake, a pellucid
pool of sparkling water, refreshingly cool and sweet, a. source of the greatest
comfort to the troops through the hot summer months. The spot chosen was,
indeed, an ideal place for hospitals for wounded and sick soldiers; there
could have been no better in that region. Often, with the sun shining brightly
on us, the valleys below us would fill with clouds, we witnessed the vivid
lightning’s and flash and heard the rolling thunder as the valley was
deluged with rain.
It was, indeed, inspiring, and well
calculated to bring hope and cheer to the sick and wounded. Some of officers
sent home and brought their wives for a visit in camp, and that summer was
one of the most happy in all the three years of our service. That fall came
all too soon, when, the work on the mountains finished, we again took our
place in the lines for the march to the sea.
I visited Lookout mountain again
at the time of the dedication of the monuments on the battle field of Chickamauga,
33 years after the fight. I traced out the old camp ground, looked again
on the scenes of the stirring times of ‘63, visited the spot where
stood the battery that kept up such a constant fusillade on our lines when
besieged in Chattanooga, recalled the duty of picket far down the mountain,
when with no foe within miles, we maintained the same strict watch as if
they were close at hand
How vividly came back to me all those
scenes, and how thankful I was that the result was such as it was, a united
country, no more fratricidal strife marring the peace of the nation, no more
bitterness, but a reunited people.
I visited the national cemetery where
are buried over 13,000 brave men, among them our own beloved Colonel Wells
and Captain Edgar Smith, killed at Chickamauga on that eventful Sunday, Sept.
20, 1863. I went again on to Missionary ridge and
wondered how it was possible for our soldiers to scale Its seemingly impassable
cliffs in the face of a determined and, well armed foe.
Chattanooga had grown from a little
straggling village into a great city, with business of magnitude and beautiful
dwellings for a prosperous and happy people. I saw again the place where
we encamped at the river, under the frowning battery on Lookout’s top,
the spot where our regiment built the military bridge across the river, with
out a nail or spike.
I recalled the joy with which I received,
while passing over that bridge one day in the fall of ‘63, an order
from our Major Fox to return to camp at once, and prepare to take a detail
from our regiment to Michigan on recruiting service and that happy winter
with my family at home.
And above and overshadowing all the
place was the lofty brow of Old Lookout, sleeping as peacefully as if war
had never with its horrors swept all around its base and over its mountain
top and engulfed all the plains below. Pease had brought its blessing and,
in the providence of God, will never again give way to civil war and all
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