After his defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg, Gen. Robert E. Lee rode out to the returning troops and took full responsibility saying “It is all my fault”.
Using Lee as a role model I mount my metaphorical horse and ride out to the readers of the Times News to take responsibility for my mistakes in the recent “Marching with the 19th”.
In the December 4th edition of the Times News a letter to the editor from Kingsport’s Jud Barry pointed out some mistakes and made observations on the recent "Marching with the 19th" story about Missionary Ridge. 1) There is no “Chattanooga River“. 2)The troops of George Thomas advanced out of Chattanooga itself, Orchard Knob, there was no river to ford between them and the ridge and 3) John Wilder was not scouting fords during this part of the war. He was convalescing at home in Indiana.
First, Mr. Barry is correct, it was not Chattanooga River. The story started out as two parts but was merged into one story because of space and the difficulty in running two parts on consecutive days. While cutting, pasting and editing Tennessee River became Chattanooga River. This is a glaring error that I should have caught in the finial draft. It is my fault and I apologize.
Second, Mr. Barry is correct, the bulk of the Army of the Cumberland (AoC) advanced out of Orchard Knob and there were no river fords to contend with. However, part of the 14th corps and the First Division of the 15th corps of the AoC were detached to join Hooker’s attack on the Confederate left. The earlier scouting missions had not only searched the Tennessee River but also Chattanooga Creek for fords and it was across Chattanooga Creek that the forces moving towards Missionary Ridge made use of fords in places while repairing bridges damaged by Confederates in other places. These forces attacking the flank and rear were instrumental in collapsing the Confederate left.
In writing that part of the story I left out far too many details and took too many short-cuts in an effort to save space. It is my fault and I apologize.
On the third point, that John Wilder was not scouting fords during this part of the war, I make a stand. John Wilder is identified by name as the officer wading across the Tennessee River to trade with the Confederates. Wilder played a key role, along with Gen. Thomas, in saving the Union Army during the Battle of Chickamauga and continued to play a key role while Chattanooga was besieged.
No offensive actions were being planned by the Union Army until Gen. Thomas replaced Gen. Rosecrans, Oct. 20, and Thomas shared ideas with Grant for plans of action when Grant arrived at his Headquarters on Oct. 23.
In giving Mr. Barry the benefit of doubt on this, Wilder could have done his scouting in late October, left Chattanooga when Grant and Hooker begin lifting the siege and been convalescing at home while the battle was in progress in November. Who knows, maybe all that wading in the water during cold weather is what did in his health.
I appreciate Mr. Barry and others that write, or e-mail, to keep me sharp and on my toes. The story of the men of the 19th TN and their bravery is too important and every effort must be made to keep the record straight. I thank you all.