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    Chapter 25

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    Chapter 26
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    The first great movement of the Confederate commander having failed of success, he now tried another, which was to hurl his united forces upon Crittenden, who was approaching him from the direction of Chattanooga. He knew Crittenden's troops were divided by woods and mountains, and wrote to one of his generals, Polk: "This presents a fine opportunity of striking Crittenden in detail, and I hope you will avail yourself of it to-morrow. This division crushed, and the others are yours." He referred to the first division sent in the direction of Ringgold, not knowing that other troops had been sent after it. Wheeler's cavalry--or a large portion of it--was sent to cover Polk's right. But again there was a delay, Polk stating the enemy was too strong for him. Bragg, much put out, took Buckner's command and went to the front, only to learn a few hours later that Crittenden had reunited his forces and taken a stand on the other side of Chickamauga Creek.

    So far there had been many movements and many forced marches, but no battle had resulted. There were still many changes, but in a work of this sort, written primarily to show the movements of the Riverlawn Cavalry, the details of these movements can hardly find a place. A battle seemed "in the air," and as day after day went by, both sides grew more anxious to fight, and each waited only for some slight advantage over the other.

    General Rosecrans now made preparations to hold all the roads leading to Chattanooga east of the mountains. Van Cleve went to Crawfish Springs, Palmer to Gowan's Ford, McCook with several divisions took a mountain road to Stevens' Gap, to join Thomas, Sheridan marched down Lookout Valley to Johnson's Creek, and the cavalry went to Dougherty's Gap and McLemore's Cove. Thus were the three columns, right, centre, and left, once more within supporting distance of each other, "a matter of life and death," as General Rosecrans states in a report on the subject.

    General Bragg now felt that he must do something. Two splendid chances for striking the Union forces had been allowed to slip by through the failure of his officers to carry out his instructions on time; he felt there must be no further failure. He would concentrate his whole army into one grand effort to crush General Rosecrans and all under him. His efforts were spirited and daring, and worthy of a far better cause than that of trying to split our glorious Union into fragments.

    The first movement was to concentrate his army along the east bank of Chickamauga Creek, and here he awaited reënforcements under Longstreet from Virginia, in the meantime sending out orders as to how each division of his command should take part when the general movement began. All was in readiness by the 17th of September, and the order was given to move across the stream at six o'clock the next morning; a portion of his command to go across at Alexandria Bridge, another at Reed's Bridge, a third at Ledford's Ford, and others to try what could be done at Lee and Gordon's Mill, or Dalton's Ford. The plan looked to the destruction of the left wing of our army and the retaking of the roads leading to Chattanooga. It brought on the battle of Chickamauga, which lasted for two days, Saturday and Sunday, September 19th and 20th,--a nerve-trying contest neither the wearers of the blue nor the wearers of the gray were ever liable to forget.

    While the Army of the Cumberland was concentrating on one side of the Chickamauga and the Army of Tennessee on the other, with several outside forces to aid, if possible, on one side or the other, the cavalry was employed along the river banks to report all movements of the enemy,--Minty being on the Union side and Forrest on the Confederate side. To the Union forces were added the Riverlawns, although they operated largely as an independent body.

    The cavalry were stationed at both Reed's and the Alexandria Bridges, and beyond them, and in the afternoon of the day before the great battle, Colonel Lyon received hurried orders to proceed across Reed's Bridge in the direction of Pea Vine Creek, three miles eastward, to support some of Minty's cavalry who had encountered the Confederate forces under General Johnson. The colonel lost no time in obeying this command, and in less than three minutes after it was delivered the Riverlawns were galloping along the uneven pike, every company with full ranks and every man ready to do his duty.

    Johnson had left Ringgold early in the morning, his instructions being to cross the Chickamauga at Reed's Bridge, and then to sweep onward toward Lee and Gordon's Mill. The way was hard, the roads covered with dust, and by two o'clock it was reported to him that the Union cavalry under Minty was in front, at Pea Vine Creek, ready to dispute his passage to the Chickamauga. His column consisted of four divisions of infantry, a portion of Forrest's cavalry, several batteries and eight pieces of reserve artillery.

    "If Minty's cavalry is in front, so much the worse for Minty," were the Confederate's words. "Forward, and let every man do his best for the gallant stars and bars!"

    The wearers of the gray responded with that battle-cry which has since become so well known; and the first division was hurled at Minty just as he appeared at a turn in the road not far from the little creek.

    The shock was heavy but the cavalry stood up to it, and a rapid fire on both sides resulted. Seeing there were more Union cavalrymen in reserve, Johnson sent additional troops to the front, and Minty was gradually forced backward. It was then that the Riverlawns were called into action.

    "You are wanted, Colonel Lyon!" cried the dashing Union commander, who sat astride of a steed covered with foam. "They are on us in overwhelming numbers, yet my orders are to hold this road and the bridge."

    "I will help you all I can, Colonel," answered Colonel Lyon. "I'll go wherever you think is best."

    "Then take that road to our right. I have sent some of my own troops to the left. Johnson may have so many men with him that he will try to cut off my rear."

    "I will follow your directions, Colonel," said the commander of the Riverlawns; and, turning in the saddle, he issued the necessary orders; and away went the twelve companies across a small open field a short distance above Pea Vine Creek.

    Minty had guessed correctly; Johnson was calculating to surround him, and a division of his troops was already hurrying to the right of the Union cavalry. There was a slight rise of ground, and it was the intention of the Confederate commander to have his left wing sneak around this. Once in the rear of Minty, the Union cavalry would be caught in a trap and either wiped out or compelled to surrender.

    The Riverlawns were sweeping directly up the hill at full speed, with Deck in advance of the first battalion. His father was beside him, and both reached the top together, field-glasses in hand.

    "There they are!" cried Deck, pointing with his hand. "We are none too soon!"

    "You are right, my son," answered the colonel; and he motioned Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon to his side.

    A plan of action was soon established; and by the time the Confederate force was within firing distance, the Riverlawns were drawn up along the brow of the hill in battalion ranks, each battalion resting within two hundred feet of that next to it.

    "First company take aim--fire!" came the command; and the first blazed away, followed by the fifth, and the ninth,--the leaders of the second and third battalions. The smoke had not yet cleared away when the second, sixth, and tenth companies came to the front and discharged their carbines, and the companies behind these soon after followed suit.

    The first volley did not halt the Confederates, but the second did, while the third and fourth rounds caused the leading companies to fall back, a score of men having been killed and wounded. But their leader urged them on, and they left the road and charged straight up the little hill.

    Before the charge was made, Colonel Lyon saw that to combat with such a force with a single regiment of cavalry would be folly. Accordingly he despatched his orderly post-haste to Colonel Minty, with the following message:--

    "Force operating on the right too heavy for me. Think it is half a division, or more. Will hold the top of the hill as long as I can."

    The messenger had scarcely gone when the fight on the hillside began. The Confederates crowded forward in large numbers, and it looked as if the Riverlawns would be completely engulfed. But Colonel Lyon kept the whole three battalions up to the firing line, with the exception of the twelfth company, which was sent to the rear, to watch that they should not be cut off from concentration with Minty.

    Two charges had been made, when the orderly came back.

    "Hold the hill for ten minutes, at any cost!" was the message sent back. Minty was retreating, there being nothing else to do, and if the hill was lost, the Confederates would surround him before Alexandria Bridge could be gained.

    "I will hold the hill," said Colonel Lyon, and waving his sabre, he came up directly to the front. "Men, we are asked to hold this hill for ten minutes. It means life or death to the cavalry on the Pea Vine Creek road. Will you help me to hold it?"

    "We will!" came in a stirring cry. "We will!"

    "I knew you would do it! This is our stand, and here we must remain! Do not budge an inch!"

    "We'll stand like rocks!" shouted a heavy-set Kentuckian. "Hurrah for Colonel Lyon!"

    There was a cheer, and a volley from the companies at the front. The smoke was now becoming thick, and in the midst of this the enemy swarmed up the hillside.

    "First battalion--charge!" came the order, and away went the four companies, with Deck in the lead, to break down a column which was advancing on the left, the most vulnerable point on the rise of ground. There was a crash of musketry and a cracking of pistols, and then the clash of sabres, striking fire, as the two forces closed in.

    The young major found himself in a trying position. The enemy counted three times more men than were in his own ranks, consisting of a battalion and a half of cavalry and an equal number of infantry. On the moment, he planned to charge the cavalry first and draw them away from the foot-soldiers. The plan succeeded, and then the contest became a little more equal.

    Colonel Lyon watched the scene with bated breath, for Deck was far too daring, to his mind; but the moment the enemy's cavalry and infantry separated, he smiled to himself. Calling Major Belthorpe, he ordered him forward to engage the separated infantry, and in a minute more two battles were on instead of one on the hillside.

    In the meantime Minty was falling back, slowly, but surely, doing all the damage possible as he retreated. It had not been presumed by General Rosecrans that Minty could overcome the forces under Johnson, but the Union commander wished to subject Bragg to delays in concentrating his troops, knowing that such delays usually worked to the Confederate's ultimate defeat.

    Fearing that Minty could not hold the force against him back long enough, the general in command sent Wilder after him, to operate as the Riverlawns were operating. They came up in the midst of the contest, and aided materially in the retreat; but of their coming Colonel Lyon knew nothing.

    Five minutes had gone by, and the Riverlawns were being pressed back. One company had been disorganized,--the fifth, Captain Gadbury being wounded, and the first lieutenant, Grand, being shot dead. Under these conditions, Second Lieutenant Sandy Lyon assumed command. The fifth company was the first of the second battalion, and Sandy now found himself charging the Confederate infantry just mentioned. He went in with vigor, and no one acted with greater heroism that day than did this young Kentuckian who had once marched under the stars and bars, but who had recognized the error of his ways, and was now fighting under the glorious stars and stripes.

    "He's all there--Sandy is!" murmured old Titus Lyon, and there was something like a tear in his eye. "God bless him and preserve him for his mother's sake and for mine!" It did the old man's heart good to see his boy at the head of that dashing company of cavalrymen.

    Exasperated at the stubborn resistance on the hill, Johnson sent forward another regiment of infantry to support the infantry and cavalry already in the field. What to do was now a question to Colonel Lyon. He looked at his watch. The Riverlawns had held the hill for exactly sixteen minutes. Should he fall back? If he remained he might be annihilated; if he fell back Minty might be lost.

    A shout from the rear reached his ear. A staff-officer was riding toward him at breakneck speed. "Fall back--the retreat has been sufficiently covered!" came the order, and much relieved, Colonel Lyon ordered his battalions to retreat to the creek road, where they came up side by side with the front of the regular cavalry column. Minty had met Johnson at noon. It was now after three o'clock, and the Confederate advance had been delayed three hours. It could not be delayed longer, however, and Minty, Wilder, and the Riverlawns continued to fall back. Johnson reached Reed's Bridge shortly after three o'clock, and marched for Jay's Mill, arriving there an hour later. The Riverlawns went into camp not far from the Chickamauga, and awaited further orders.
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