Tuesday, November 24, 1863

Chattanooga, Tennessee

The bridge across the Tennessee River at Brown’s Ferry broke leaving Osterhaus in the Valley by Lookout Mountain. There is no time to wait. We must act now to take the pressure off Burnside at Knoxville. Thomas has ordered Jefferson C Davis’ division to consolidate near the mouth of North Chickamauga Creek. There Dan McCook’s brigade has organized the 116 pontoon boats we will use in the attack. Davis’ Division will cross the Tennessee River after my Divisions and kept as reserves.

General Giles Smith loaded two regiments into the boats at midnight. The boats floated 3 miles down river without detection. The Eighth Missouri captured the rebel pickets and sent them across the Tennessee in empty pontoons. These ferried LIghtburn’s brigade across to entrench on the North side of South Chickamauga Creek. By 2:30 am, the Fourth Minnesota had established on the South bank of the creek. I stood by the boats as the flatboats ferried men across, 30 at a time. Baldy Smith and his corp went to work building a pontoon bridge. In 7 hours, they had one span across the Tennessee and another across the mouth of South Chickamauga Creek.

By 6:30 am, I had 2 divisions across the river, with the engineers working on bridging the river. Never have I seen a bridge constructed so rapidly and quietly. General Ewing’s brigade was beginning to cross the river when a paddle wheel boat became available to ferry his troops across. The crossing was behind schedule by over an hour when all the divisions were finally across. My men had dug in and fortified their position so that we could not be thrown back into the river. A rain was falling and a heavy mist made it difficult to see. By 1:30 all was ready and we moved forward to Missionary Ridge.

My skirmishers and the Fourth Minnesota had just reached the top of the hill when they were charged by the enemy coming up the slope on the other side. They repulsed the enemy who formed a defense in front of a battery on the hill to the south. My men then tried to charge the battery but were repulsed. By this time it was almost dark and I ordered the men to dig in and fortify their positions against attack. The hill we now commanded is separated from the main Missionary Ridge by a deep ravine that is heavily defended. We will need daylight and some reconnaissance to learn the ground in our front.

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