In the meantime Davis's and Johnson's divisions of McCook's corps, crossing the river at Caperton's Ferry, moved over Sand Mountain into Will's Valley, and thence--Davis being in the advance--moved into and seized Winston's Gap, some twenty-five miles from Caperton's Ferry, and about forty-two from Chattanooga.Sheridan's division crossed the river at the railroad bridge, moved through Trenton, and on the 6th encamped twelve miles from Winston's Gap.McCook sent several detachments on the 8th and 9th to different points, reconnoitering the enemy.One went to Alpine and two into Broomtown Valley, but nothing was discovered of Bragg's whereabouts.On the evening of the 9th Rosecrans sent orders to McCook, stating that the enemy had evacuated Chattanooga and were retreating southward, and directing him to move rapidly upon Alpine and Summerville in pursuit, to intercept his line of retreat, and to attack on his flank.The day following McCook reached Alpine, where he discovered the situation.The enemy had not retreated very far from Chattanooga, the exact location as yet unknown.McCook learned that he could not communicate with Thomas, as his couriers could not pass through the valley, occupied as it was by the enemy in force, and that his corps was entirely isolated at Alpine.That, had he gone to Summerville, he would have been exposed to an attack from the entire rebel army, which his reconnoissance later determined was concentrated in force near La Fayette.On the following day McCook remained in camp waiting for Thomas to move up on him.He, however, sent his wagon-train back to the summit of Lookout Mountain.On the 12th McCook waited in camp for reports from the cavalry as to the position and movements of the enemy.
Crittenden's corps had during the time moved down the Sequatchie Valley, in readiness for an active campaign.He then crossed the river at Bridgeport, Shell Mound, and Battle Creek, and on September 4th his entire corps was across the river.He was ordered to move up the valley of Running Water Creek and Whiteside, leaving one division on the line of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, and to push forward as near as possible to Chattanooga, threatening the enemy in that direction.At 6 A.M.on the 9th Crittenden was informed by a despatch from Rosecrans that Chattanooga had been abandoned by the enemy, and that he was to push forward at once with five day's rations and make a vigorous pursuit.During the morning Crittenden with Wood's division occupied the town, and Wood was placed in command.Palmer's and Van Cleve's were turned off south after they passed the spur of Lookout Mountain, and encamped at Rossville, five miles south of Chattanooga.In the afternoon of the same day Crittenden was ordered to leave a brigade at Chattanooga, and with the balance of his command to pursue the enemy with the utmost vigor, the line of march to be through Ringgold and on to Dalton.The next day Crittenden left Wagner--who had crossed the river from the front of the town during the night--in command, and ordered forward Palmer's, Van Cleve's, and the two brigades of Wood's division in pursuit, marching on the Rossville and Riggold road.During the afternoon Palmer reported the enemy's cavalry strong on his front, that he had only been able to march six miles, had encamped at Chickamauga Creek, and that his advance had been checked by a charge of the rebel cavalry.That night Crittenden received several reports from his front that the enemy was in force near La Fayette, and threatening to retake Chattanooga.
During the 11th, Wood, with his two brigades, was on a reconnoissance at Gordon's Mills, and Crittenden was ordered to occupy Ringgold and report.These movements determined to Rosecrans's satisfaction the position of the enemy in force in the vicinity of La Fayette.
He immediately ordered Crittenden to close his entire command upon Wood, crossing as quickly as possible to the Rossville and La Fayette road, to some point near Lee and Gordon's Mills.Early on the morning of the 12th, Wilder was ordered back to Ringgold and directed to follow on the line of march of the infantry, covering the left flank.Crittenden succeeded during the day in effecting a concentration of his command at Lee and Gordon's Mills, which point Wilder's brigade reached after a severe skirmish during the day near Leet's tanyard, where he lost thirty men killed and wounded.
With the knowledge that Bragg was concentrating his forces awaiting reinforcements behind Pigeon Mountain, in the vicinity of La Fayette, and that his own army was scattered a distance of thirty miles from flank to flank--from Lee and Gordon's Mills to Alpine--Rosecrans felt that it was a matter of life and death to effect the concentration of his army in the shortest possible space of time.
Henry M Cist