NPS Chickamauga and Chattanooga
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  • Transcript Stop 2

    Look west through the woods into Kelly Field, part of the Kelly farmstead.  Intense fighting on the previous day pushed the Federal battle line to this position.  The line ran from the northern portion of Kelly Field, through the woods to the north and down the road to the south.  From the east, the Confederates assaulted this Union position.

    The scene before you looks much like it did in September 1863.  Local farmers, including the Kelly family, allowed their livestock to freely forage, which cleaned out much of the forest’s under story.  Although visibility in the forest was fairly good, up to 200 yards in some spots, troops had trouble maneuvering around the trees.  The Federals build rudimentary breastworks along this line using fence rails, logs, brush, rocks and boxes.  These breastworks were around knee to waist high and extended a mile southwest from here to the Poe farmstead.

    The Confederates planned to tum the Federal left at this point and drive them southwest into the mountains, keeping them away from Chattanooga. Given the task in the sector was General Benjamin Hardin Helm's Brigade of General John C. Breckenridge's Division.  Defending the Federal line at this point was General John H. King’s Brigade of United States Army Regulars.  Due to miscommunication of orders, the Confederate attack, scheduled to begin at dawn, was delayed for nearly four hours. The delay cost the Confederates the element of surprise and also allowed the Federals to strengthen their breastworks.

    The attack by Helm’s Brigade began around 9:30a.m., and the Federal line suddenly exploded with rifle fire.  Helm's men were pushed back by this determined resistance, which ultimately forced the Confederates to attack again, and then, incredibly, a third time, but never succeeding in breaking the Federal line.

    During one of the attacks, General Helm was mortally wounded.  Helm's death was felt all the way to Washington, D.C., where his brother-in-law, President Abraham Lincoln, greatly mourned him.  Even though the two were on opposing sides, they remained close, and the President took Helm's death extremely hard.

    Looking through the woods into north Kelly Field, attacks by Breckinridge’s two other brigades were initially successful; Union brigades later entered the field and pushed Breckinridge's Confederates back with heavy losses. Firing then quieted along this line, only to resume around 12:30 p.m., when another abortive attempt was made to break the Union line.  At late evening, the Confederates broke through the Federal barricade near the Alabama monument down Battleline Road.

    Extending along Battleline road are some of the oldest monuments in the park.  Placed here around 1893, they silently reflect the valor and courage of which they symbolize. Many of the monuments feature an acorn, which was adopted by the Union XIV Corps as their symbol, because they stood sturdy as an oak tree in the fiercest st01m along this line.

    At the next location of the auto tour route, a mix-up in orders will lead to catastrophe for one of the armies.