Robbins: Remembering the siege of Chattanooga

Robbins: Remembering the siege of Chattanooga

October 6th, 2013 Mickey Robbins in Opinion Columns

Following their defeat at Chickamauga, Union troops retreated into Chattanooga. Several individuals had vivid recollections of the ensuing hardships as Confederate units encircled the town and sought to starve it into surrender.

Here are some of their words:

• "By this time great clouds of dust were rising from the Rossville road, and there came thousands upon thousands of stragglers rushing toward Chattanooga - wagons, mules, horses, artillery limbers and caissons, without the cannon - some riding horses with the traces cut, the wounded and the well, all in one conglomerate mass, all hurrying as fast as their legs could carry them toward Chattanooga. They say that Gen. Rosecrans never stopped until he got clear across the Tennessee River." - Marcus Long, age 10

• "There was commotion in the army and among the camp followers, almost bordering on panic." - Thomas McCallie, pastor, First Presbyterian Church

• "[We] huddled together on the front porch, watching the marching and counter-marching of troops and batteries of artillery as they galloped to positions in the line of defense, expecting every moment an attack from Bragg's advancing army. A colonel (Col. Berry of the Fifth Kentucky) rode up and saluting, said to my mother: 'Madam, we are expecting an engagement here at any moment, and your house will perhaps be in the midst of a bloody battle before the day is over. It would be absolute destruction to yourself and children to remain in this house. I will send an ambulance and have you removed to a safe position.

"In 30 minutes a tall, well-built, magnificent specimen of manhood in blue uniform, with gun, knapsack and haversack with two day rations in it appeared at the door and said he had been ordered by his colonel to report for guard duty. That was one Yankee we were glad to welcome to our home.

"After setting his gun aside and relieving himself of his traps, he asked if we had been to dinner. Not today we told him, because the soldiers took everything we had yesterday. They robbed our smokehouse, killed our cows and chickens and dug all our potatoes. 'All right,' he said. 'I've got some bacon and hardtack here I'll divide up with you.'" - Sam Divine, age 13

• "That night Monday, the axes rang all night long on the great fine oaks and hickories that grew around the city. The next morning I walked out on McCallie Avenue as far as Douglas Street and did not know the country. Hundreds of acres of fine timbered land lay naked, denuded of its fine forests in one night - the trees lying with their tops toward the foe. Trenches were being dug in which the Federals could fight, and by Tuesday night the morale of the army was restored, the town was fortified, the Confederates could not overthrow it. Bragg had lost his great opportunity, had won a bootless battle at a tremendous loss." - McCallie

• "The rations I drew today were one cracker and a half, one half spoonful of coffee, and a little piece of meat for two days. I cannot do my duty on such rations." - George Kirkpatrick, 42d Indiana Volunteer Infantry

• "As the siege grew worse and the supplies shorter, the teamsters in order to save the lives of their animals, cut down all our peach, pear, apple and plum trees and fed their stock on the twigs and bark. Dead mules and horses were in sight everywhere. One rainy night we heard a horse stagger up to our back door. We rushed out to drive him away lest we should find him dead the next morning, but he fell dead at once.

"The churches and large warehouses and old stores were filled with sick and wounded men. One morning at the Baptist church I saw a pile of legs and arms lying on the porch the very sight of which was appalling. Going inside I saw a surgeon take off a man's leg so quickly that it amazed me." - McCallie

• "My companionship during all that time was with Union soldiers. The soldiers encamped around us were very kind and considerate, and were really a protection to us against molestation from disreputable characters. We fared better than some families who took refuge in flight.

"We were under constant fire from the day after the battle of Chickamauga until the day Hooker captured Lookout Mountain, and got so accustomed to the whistling of shells that we felt disappointed when the fire ceased." - Divine

Frank (Mickey) Robbins, investment adviser, Patten and Patten, is a CAHA board member. For more, visit chattahistoricalassoc.org or call LaVonne Jolley 423-886-2090.