NPS Chickamauga and Chattanooga
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  • Transcript Stop 4

    Like most families on the Chickamauga Battlefield, the Brothertons lived the lives of small farmers in a log cabin similar to the one your see here today.  In the field to the west, at the wood line, General Wood's Union Division was ordered at 10:45 a.m. on September 20, 1863 to move north to support General George H. Thomas.  In the forest across the Lafayette Road, 11,000 Confederate soldiers under General James Longstreet were arranged in deep formation awaiting orders to attack.

    After the failure of Confederate General John Breckinridge to tum the left flank, Bragg sent out orders for all of his other commanders to immediately attack.  Longstreet, in position across the Lafayette Road, moved forward around 11:00 a.m.  Instead of sending his command into the attack piecemeal, as in the previous attack, he summoned his trusted subordinate, General John Bell Hood, and ordered him to attack in force.

    Around 11:10 a.m., General Bushrod Johnson's Division led Longstreet's command forward, crossing the Lafayette Road and rushing through the fields surrounding the Brotherton cabin, and by sheer luck, into the gap created by Wood only moments before. The Confederates struck the rear of Wood's column, then marched northward and burst into the Dyer field beyond the line of trees behind you.  General Johnson vividly recalled, "Our lines now emerged from the forest into the open ground on the border of long open fields, over which the enemy were retreating...The scene now presented was unspeakably grand.  The resolute and impetuous charge, the rush of our heavy columns sweeping out from the shadow and gloom of the forest into open fields flooded with sunlight, the glittering of arms, and onward dash of artillery and mounted men, the retreat of the foe, the shouts of the hosts of our army, the dust, the smoke, the noise of firearms - of whishing balls and grapeshot and of burst shell- made up a battle scene of unsurpassed grandeur.  Here General Hood gave the last order I received from him on the field, 'Go ahead and keep ahead of everything."' The entire right wing of the Union army began to collapse and retreat from the battlefield.  Union army commander William S. Rosecrans was caught up in the retreat, leaving General George Thomas as the senior Union officer on the field.  A grave disaster was in the making for the Army of the Cumberland.

    The cost of battle will be evident at the next auto tour stop.