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In Their Own Words

November 26, 1863

Letter Told of Battle Near Chattanooga

From near Chattanooga, artillery officer A. J. Neal wrote to his sister in Georgia at 2 a.m. with the bad news that Confederate forces were retreating into Georgia:

“… All day until noon, a steady stream of Yankees poured over towards our right, and we doubled our lines to meet the shock. During the day they attacked our lines and were repulsed along the different points. At 1 o’clock P.M. the grand assault commenced, and hard and terrific was the struggle. Far below us in the valley marched the invading hosts, while our guns thundered and the mountain wilds resound[ed] with their awful roar. Still the Yankees advanced and were forced on, the front ranks pressed forward by the lines advancing from the rear… . I continued firing on those at our front. Soon as I saw the stars-and-stripes flashing along the lines, I swung my guns around and brought them to bear on the flanking column… . Jackson’s brigade came rushing along through our battalion in utter panic. My men stood steady as veterans, but in vain. The infantry rushed over us pell mell, and we could do nothing.

“I am proud of the conduct of my men and believe they would have stood with me to the guns until we were bayonetted. I left only when valor was vain and, of all that wing, I brought up the rear. I lost two guns and one limber and had several men wounded and have myself a slight wound… .

“We have been overpowered in numbers and me with serious reverses. I hope, however, that out of the disaster some good may yet come. The army is retreating by way of Chickamauga and Graysville. Our loss in artillery is heavy, perhaps fifty pieces. Some of the best batteries in the army were captured. Our loss in killed and wounded is not very great, owing to the advantage we had in ground. We lost much property, &c. by this mortifying affair. Everybody thinks our infantry did not stand up squarely. This thing never happened to Confederate soldiers before. God grant that it may never be again. The enemy will follow us if he can, and we will probably have a rehearsal of Chickamauga. The foot of the invader should not be allowed to desecrate the homes of Georgians… .”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), “Dear Mother: Don’t grieve about me. If I get killed, I’ll only be dead.”: Letters from Georgia Soldiers in the Civil War (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), pp. 280-281.