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Micah Jenkins, Battle Report to Lt. Col. Gilbert Moxley Sorrel

Manuscript, 2 November 1863, of Confederate commander Micah Jenkins (1835-1864), Head Quarters, Hood's Division, near Chattanooga, Tenn., to Lt. Col. G[ilbert] M[oxley] Sorrell (1838-1901), battle report describing his division's participation in the ill-fated Wauhatchie night attack, 28-29 October 1863.

As part of the "Cracker Line Operation," a bridgehead at Brown's Ferry on the Tennessee River, opposite Chattanooga, had been established late in October 1863, and troops of Union commander John W. Geary's 2nd Division, 7th Corps, were stationed at Wauhatchie Station, a stop along the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. Caught off-guard by Union troop movements, Confederate commanders James Longstreet and Braxton Bragg determined to employ Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law's brigade and those of Brig. Gens. Henry L. Benning and Jerome B. Robertson and Col. John Bratton to attack Geary and cut off Union general Hooker's rear. The four brigades were from a division commanded by Micah Jenkins.

Though the assault was scheduled to begin earlier, confusion resulting from the darkness delayed it until midnight, when Bratton's brigade attacked Geary from the north and east. Jenkins' report indicates that Longstreet's orders were "to move as soon as it was sufficiently dark...for the purpose of attempting the destruction or capture of the rear-guard of the Federal Column then passing to join the forces at Browns Ferry....My instructions were to attack the detachment which had halted at dark...some two & a half...to three miles from Browns Ferry & to endeavor to capture the accompanying trains."

"To carry out these instructions," he reports, "I projected my Division between the two bodies of Federal troops." Law's brigade had been ordered by Longstreet to take possession of the commanding position just after dusk, but his Confederates did not arrive at the mile-distant point until after 10:00 p.m. According to Jenkins' plan, Law's and Robertson's brigades were to be projected between the Federals "with instructions to prevent reinforcements from Browns Ferry."

Everything, however, did not go as planned. Though Jenkins reported "the various troops were scarcely in position for the blow," he ordered an attack sometime after midnight, believing that Law's brigade was in position. Once Bratton's troops were engaged, Jenkins suggests, he received a message from Law reporting increased Federal resistance. "I replied to his message that he was put there to prevent such movement & that he must prevent it & if necessary that he must attack." Realizing that their escape route was jeopardized, Jenkins ordered Bratton to retire and sent word to Law to hold his position. Before Bratton's men could retire, Jenkins received word from Law that he had begun to fall back.

Claiming that Law had failed to support him in the action, Jenkins reported that the fellow South Carolinian's actions "greatly surprised" and "seriously embarassed" him. Although Longstreet preferred charges against Law, claiming that he showed little enthusiasm and had ordered the withdrawal, charges against him were later dropped and he was never brought to court-martial. The integrity of Jenkins' command was impugned as a result of the incident, however, for Longstreet advised War Department officials that the officers of his division seemed not to appreciate the vigor required in a night attack.

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