A Battleline is Drawn

By Randy Golden and Col. Samuel Taylor,
Exclusively for Our Georgia History

Situation overview: 19 September 1863 4:00pm: Fighting had begun to spread south with the southwestern movement of Bragg's main body of troops. Heavy fighting more typical of Civil War battles had broken out in Brock Field about 1:00pm and Winfrey Field at about 3:00pm. Both these actions were on the right flank of the Army of Tennessee, which continued to advance towards what was now Rosecrans left flank on LaFayette Road.

From the sound of battle the Yankees marching north towards Chattanooga (History of Chattanooga, Tennessee) now knew a large body of enemy troops were approaching the LaFayette Road. While the Rebels in Brock Field had been effectively halted, to the south they were still advancing towards a hodge-podge line thrown together by Brigadier General Horatio P. Van Cleve [US, Crittenden] a few feet east of Lafayette Road.

Twice Major General A. P. Stewart's [CS, Buckner] division had been bloodily repulsed by the Union line backed by a significant amount of artillery. Then Brigadier General William B. Bate's [CS, Buckner] men entered the foray. Their drive pierced Lafayette Road. Suddenly, Col. John Fulton [CS, Stewart] appeared on Van Cleve's right flank At 4:00pm on September 19, 1863, Rebel soldiers finally gained their first ground west of the road that divided the battlefield.

General John Bell Hood had been waiting all day to get the order to advance. The Confederates to the north were trying to, but could not, break the Union line. Finally, Hood ordered an advance without receiving orders from Bragg. Brigadier Generals Evander McIver Law [CS, Hood] and Bushrod Johnson [CS, Hood] pushed their men forward towards the Union line at Lafayette Road. Directly in front of Hood was a brigade under the command Colonel Hans Christian Heg [US, Davis], a Norwegian-born Wisconsin farmer. The Colonel was moving his men north not only as part of Rosecrans' strategic plan, but also in support of Van Cleve. They were in an exposed position when Hood unexpectedly came across Lafayette Road. In a matter of minutes Heg's Brigade ceased to exist.

With the destruction of Heg's Brigade there was no defense against Hood's onslaught. To the north, A. P. Stewart's afternoon of hard work continued to pay off. Men were also pouring through the breach in the line there. Once the Confederate soldiers succeeded in breaking the line in more than one place large numbers of Union soldiers began to pull back.. Major General John M. Palmer [US, Crittenden] took a minnie-ball in the shoulder. It began to look as if Rosecrans' right flank was about to give way.

William Hazen [US, Palmer] had been in the Brock Field at the height of the struggle there. When Stewart's men broke through Lafayette Road, Hazen was behind Van Cleve's line in the vicinity of the 30 piece artillery line that had been established to ward off the Confederate offense. His advance during the Rebel onslaught successfully blunted the attack, turning some Southerners back. Then Col. Charles G. Harker [US, Wood] caught the Rebel left by surprise, outflanking Brigadier General John Gregg [CS, Johnson] and coming up to Col John Fulton [CS, Stewart] from behind.

Coming to the rescue of Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis [US, McCook], who was suffering under Hood's broad attack were were Brigadier General Thomas Wood [US, Crittenden] and Colonel John Wilder [US, Reynolds]. A Union artillery battery commanded by Eli Lilly played a pivotal role in driving back Hood's advance. The tide of battle was once again turning. From the south Major General Phillip Sheridan [US, McCook] advanced with a division, from the west came Major General James Negley [US, Thomas] with a division more, driving Stewart's Rebels back into the woods east of Lafayette Road. The infusion of these two divisions stabilized the Union line, at least for the time being.

With nightfall approaching, General Patrick Cleburne entered the battlefield by crossing Thedford's Ford near Bragg's headquarters at Leet's Tanyard. His men deployed in support of the weak Confederate line to the north. In an unusual nighttime attack Cleburne's Rebels advanced, once again, into Winfrey Field. The attack was meaningless, only increasing the number of dead on both sides. Colonel Grenville Dodge found himself behind enemy lines, captured by two Confederates who thought he was wounded. At an opportune moment he pulled his gun and forced the unsuspecting Rebels to escort him through their lines.

As night fell on the battlefield, the Union Army began building entrenchments to protect their position. Throughout the night the noise continued. A tree would fall, then be dragged into position. Hatchet blades would ring with each stroke on the trees. By daylight the enforced line became visible to the rested Rebels.

Prelude (December, 1862 - September, 1863)
The Day Before (September 18, 1863)
First Contact
Early Fighting
The Conflict Widens
A Battleline is Drawn
A Bad Start
Rosecrans Moves North
Breakthrough at the Brotherton Cabin
Granger Reinforces Thomas

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