An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge HTML version

A Little of Chickamauga
The history of that awful struggle is well known--I have not the intention to record it
here, but only to relate some part of what I saw of it; my purpose not instruction, but
I was an officer of the staff of a Federal brigade. Chickamauga was not my first battle by
many, for although hardly more than a boy in years, I had served at the front from the
beginning of the trouble, and had seen enough of war to give me a fair understanding of
it. We knew well enough that there was to be a fight: the fact that we did not want one
would have told us that, for Bragg always retired when we wanted to fight and fought
when we most desired peace. We had maneuvered him out of Chattanooga, but had not
maneuvered our entire army into it, and he fell back so sullenly that those of us who
followed, keeping him actually in sight, were a good deal more concerned about effecting
a junction with the rest of our army than to push the pursuit. By the time that Rosecrans
had got his three scattered corps together we were a long way from Chattanooga, with our
line of communication with it so exposed that Bragg turned to seize it. Chickamauga was
a fight for possession of a road.
Back along this road raced Crittenden's corps, with those of Thomas and McCook, which
had not before traversed it. The whole army was moving by its left.
There was sharp fighting all along and all day, for the forest was so dense that the hostile
lines came almost into contact before fighting was possible. One instance was
particularly horrible. After some hours of close engagement my brigade, with foul pieces
and exhausted cartridge boxes, was relieved and withdrawn to the road to protect several
batteries of artillery--probably two dozen pieces--which commanded an open field in the
rear of our line. Before our weary and virtually disarmed men had actually reached the
guns the line in front gave way, fell back behind the guns and went on, the Lord knows
whither. A moment later the field was gray with Confederates in pursuit. Then the guns
opened fire with grape and canister and for perhaps five minutes--it seemed an hour--
nothing could be heard but the infernal din of their discharge and nothing seen through
the smoke but a great ascension of dust from the smitten soil. When all was over, and the
dust cloud had lifted, the spectacle was too dreadful to describe. The Confederates were
still there--all of them, it seemed--some almost under the muzzles of the guns. But not a
man of all these brave fellows was on his feet, and so thickly were all covered with dust
that they looked as if they had been reclothed in yellow.
"We bury our dead," said a gunner, grimly, though doubtless all were afterward dug out,
for some were partly alive.
To a "day of danger" succeeded a "night of waking." The enemy, everywhere held back
from the road, continued to stretch his line northward in the hope to overlap us and put
himself between us and Chattanooga. We neither saw nor heard his movement, but any
man with half a head would have known that he was making it, and we met by a parallel