On the 1st of October Hood had inaugurated a movement to our rear, designed to accomplish the same result which followed the advance of Bragg into Kentucky in 1862. But another than Buell was in command of the Union forces, and Sherman allowed his antagonist to cross the Chattahoochee unopposed, perceiving the great advantages that might be secured to our cause by permitting the enemy to uncover our front. Hood moved rapidly and struck the line of our communications at Big Shanty, on the 4th of October, destroying several miles of railroad between that point and Allatoona. On the 5th a furious assault was made upon the little garrison at the latter place by an entire Division of the enemy's forces, in which the assailants were repulsed with very heavy loss, our own loss also being severe. (p251)
In the meantime such disposition of our forces was made as to insure a two-fold object, the retention of Atlanta, and the speedy pursuit of Hood. To secure the former, Major General Slocum was instructed to contact the lines around Atlanta, and hold them, with the Twentieth Corps. The remaining Corps--excepting one Division of the Fourteenth, sent to Northern Alabama--Moved in pursuit of the enemy. The Army of the Tennessee marched from East Point, October 4th, crossing the Chattahooche at Vining's Station, and occupying the works constructed during the operations of the army in front of Kenesaw Mountain. On the 5th the forces reached Marietta, to find the enemy had abandoned his fortified position, north and west of Kenesaw, and retired toward Rome.
Our forces reached Rome on the 12th. But it was not Hood's purpose to fight, and he again moved forward, crossing the Coosa below Rome, and moving his main body up the north bank of the Oustanaula toward Resaca, while keeping up a feint in front of Rome. In this movement he was again successful, striking the railroad at Resaca and Dalton, capturing the garrison of colored troops at the latter place, and destroying the road from Resaca to Tunnel Hill.
Meanwhile Thomas had been ordered forward, with such forces as were deemed necessary, and had occupied a strong position at Tunnel Hill for (p252) the defense of Chattanooga, preventing the advance of the enemy beyond that point. Hood demanded the surrender of the garrison at Resaca, which was refused by Colonel Weaver, commanding the post, and the enemy prepared to attack. At this critical movement the advance of the Seventeenth Corps arrived, and Hood withdrew toward Snake Creek Gap, his only available route of retreat. This was on the 14th of October.
Brisk skirmishing continued during the evening of the 14th and the morning of the 15th, the enemy covering his retreat with a strong rear guard, posted in our former works at the mouth of the Gap, while the trains were passing through and the road was being thoroughly obstructed. A Division of the Fourth Corps was ordered to cross the intervening ridge from the valley of the Oustanaula; and cut off the retreat of this force, but failed to accomplish the object. The pursuit was delayed several hours by the dense network of falling timber which the enemy had formed through the entire length of the Gap. It was found more convenient to cut a new road than to clear the old one, and after almost superhuman effort the army and trains effected a passage, occupying most of the night.
The enemy retired through Villanow, crossing Taylor's Ridge into Cane Creek Valley, and reaching Lafayette on the 16th. Our pursuit was (p253) checked by a force left to hold the pass on Taylor's Ridge, which held a commanding position behind a strong barricade of rocks. A brisk skirmish occurred at this point. A flanking column was sent around and forced the enemy to retreat, capturing a number of prisoners.
The Regiment was also sent out upon the right flank, and reached the summit after a devious march, to find the position had been abandoned. In this delightful spot we camped. From our position the lovely valley presented a scene of interest to the beholder. From its treasures the soldiers collected the greatest variety of delicacies ever brought into camp. Amidst the abundance of that rich valley the soldiers reveled with delight after long confinement to the army rations. The scene presented by the various regiments, as they moved forward the next day, was amusing. Nearly every man bore with him some of the rich spoils of the previous day, and it is perfectly safe to say that each regiment carried half a ton of forage. (p254)
The troops were again in motion on the evening of the 17th, camping at Lafayette. The enemy was moving rapidly and the pursuit was renewed on the 18th. Abundance of forage was found along the route, and the people were stripped of all means of subsistence. The only sympathy they could get, when appealing to the soldiers to spare them something, was: "Mr. Hood has cut our cracker line, and you must charge all this to him. He should not have led us through your rich valleys," Of course the truth of this was manifest, and they doubtless wished "Mr. Hood" had gone some other route.
During the three days ending October 20th the army marched forty-four miles, reaching Gaylesville, Alabama, after a long and severe night march through the mountains. Here the main forces halted, a portion of the army moving forward, on the d21st, to Little River. The Fifteenth Corps advanced to that point, and sent out a detachment, on a reconnaissance, on the 24th, returning on the 26th. The enemy had crossed the south point of Lookout Mountain, and was evidently intending to invade Tennessee from Northern Alabama. His base at Blue Mountain, forty miles south of our position, could no longer be available, and he moved at once for the line of railroad south of the Tennessee, and finally established his base at Tuscumbia, for offensive operations against Nashville. There we part with our (p255) antagonist, turning him over to the tender mercies of Thomas, to whom General Sherman committed the responsibility of ending his career, in which he fulfilled the largest expectations. In view of the career of this dashing but unfortunate Confederate chieftain, we can but say, Poor Hood! what a pity he had not being fitted for service in a better cause.
The army remained in camp, on Little River and at Gaylesville, till October 29th, awaiting the arrival of supplies from Rome, whither the trains were sent on the 22d. A considerable amount of surplus baggage had been sent to Chattanooga, from Summerville, on the 19th, and the sick had been sent with these trains. Samuel McClain, of Company C, was sent to Chattanooga, where he died, October 30th.
The Army of the Tennessee and the Fourteenth Corps commenced the return march to Atlanta on the 29th, leaving the Fourth and Twenty-third Corps to confront Hood on his advance into Tennessee. The route of march from Little River ran through Cedar Bluff, Cave Spring and Cedar Town. The fertile valleys afforded the usual addition to the scanty rations, till we approached the scene of operations during the late campaign, when the most persevering effort was unrewarded. Nothing was left in the region of hostilities, and most of the inhabitants had been forced to leave to obtain supplies. (p256)
On the fifth of November the troops reached the railroad, at Smyrna Camp Ground, six miles south of Marietta, where they were supplied for the great campaign before them. Payment was made for eight months, ending with August, and everything was in readiness for the forward movement on the 10th of November.
Most of the absent officers returned to the Regiment. Colonel Williams had been detailed as a member of the Military Commission ordered to convene at Indianapolis, and Major Baldwin continued in command.
Orderly Sergeant George H. Williams, of Company C, and Sergeant John H. Rusie, of Company E, were promoted to First Lieutenants, November 9th, to fill the vacancies occasioned by the resignation of Lieutenants Mather and Shenafelt. (p257)