ON the last day of June, 1863, Rosecrans began to advance on Bragg. That was the signal for our leaving Shelbyville. On the 3rd of July the Union army entered Tullahoma.
On the morning of the 2nd, as I left the headquarters of General Bragg, I met my friend Governor Isham G. Harris. He looked very bright and cheerful and said to me: "To-morrow morning you will be roused up by the thunder of our artillery." But instead of being thus aroused I found myself in full retreat toward Winchester. Thence I rode to Cowan, where I found General Bragg and his staff, and General Polk with his staff. I rode up to them and said to General Bragg: "My dear General, I am afraid you are thoroughly outdone."
"Yes," he said, "I am utterly broken down." And then leaning over his saddle he spoke of the loss of Middle Tennessee and whispered: "This is a great disaster."
I said to him: "General, don't be disheartened, our turn will come next."
I found Colonel Walters, his Adjutant-General, lying in the corner of a rail fence, with his hands under his head, looking the very picture of despair. I said to him; "My dear Colonel, what is the matter with you?" His reply was: "How can you ask such a question, when you know as well as I do what has happened?"
Our troops were at this time moving rapidly across the Sewanee Mountain, over country which subsequently became very familiar to me in times of peace. I said to him; "My dear Colonel, I am afraid you've not read the Psalms for the day." "No," he answered. "What do they say?"
I replied in the words of the first verse of the Eleventh Psalm: "In the Lord put I my trust; how say ye then to my soul, that she should flee as a bird unto the hill?"
I gave my horse to one of "the boys," and at the request of General Bragg, I accompanied him by rail to Chattanooga. On the 21st of August, a day appointed by the President of the Confederate States for fasting, humiliation and prayer, while I was preaching in a church, the Union army appeared opposite Chattanooga and began shelling the town. I think my sermon on that occasion was not long. Early in September, General McCook and General Thomas moved in such a way as to completely flank the Confederate position. General Bragg immediately began his retreat southward, and having been joined by General Longstreet and his forces, attacked General Thomas at Lee and Gordon's Mills, twelve miles south of Chattanooga, on the 19th of September. It was a bitter fight, but the day closed without any decisive results to either side.
After this the great battle of Chickamauga was fought. Undoubtedly General Thomas saved the Union army from utter ruin, but Longstreet, by his prompt action in seizing an opportunity, won the victory for the Confederate army.
The troops led by Brigadier-General Archibald Gracie fired the last gun and stormed the last strong position held by the enemy at the battle of Chickamauga, and so memorable was his conduct on that day, that the people in that vicinity have given the hill the name of Gracie Hill. It was a great privilege to know General Gracie as I did. He was a character that old Froissart would have delighted to paint. Chivalrous as a Bayard, he had all the tenderness of a woman. A warrior by nature as well as a soldier by education, (he graduated at West Point in 1852,) and profession, he had a horror of shedding blood and would almost shed tears in the hour of victory over the thin ranks of his brigade. A few months before his death he became a communicant of the Church.
One great personal loss I sustained in the battle of Chickamauga was that of my dear friend, Colonel W. B. Richmond, a member of General Polk's staff. He was a true friend, a thoroughly well rounded character and a most gallant soldier. He was the Treasurer of the Diocese of Tennessee, before the war.
Brigadier-General Helm of Kentucky was killed at Chickamauga, as was also Brigadier-General Preston Smith. Among the dead was my cousin, Captain Thomas E. King, of Roswell, Georgia, who had sufficiently recovered from his fearful wounds at the first battle of Manassas, to act as honorary aid-de-camp to General Smith. Here also General Hood lost a leg.
The day after the battle I was sent to the field with one hundred and fifty ambulances to gather up the wounded. It was a sad duty. I saw many distressing sights. I was directed to convey the Federal wounded to the Field Hospitals fitted up by the Federal surgeons that had been captured to the number of not less than fifty, I think. I labored all the day and at nightfall I came upon a wretched hut into which a half dozen wounded men had dragged themselves. I found there among them, a young fellow about seventeen years of age. He had a severe wound in his leg and a small bone had been torn away. I chatted with him pleasantly for a while and promised to take him to the hospital early the next morning.
Early the next day when I went to fulfill my promise, I saw a surgeon's amputating knife on the head of a barrel by the door of the hut, and found that my young friend had been weeping bitterly. When I asked him what was the matter, he replied: "The surgeon has been examining my wound and says that my leg must be amputated. I would not care for myself, but my poor mother - " and then he burst into an agony of tears.
"Nonsense!" I said to him. "They shall not take off your leg." And lifting him up bodily, I placed him in an ambulance and took him to the Hospital, where the next day I found him bright and cheerful. I learned subsequently that the "surgeon" who was about to amputate his leg unnecessarily, was a doctor who had come up from Georgia to get a little practice in that line. The boy subsequently became a railway conductor and used to say many years later, "You know I belong to Bishop Quintard. He saved my leg and perhaps my life at Chickamauga. The leg young Saw-bones was going to amputate is now as good as the other."
Another warm friend of mine, John Marsh, was horribly wounded at the battle of Chickamauga; so sorely wounded that he could not be removed from the field. A tent was erected over him and I nursed him until he was in a condition to be taken to the hospital. On the 1st of October, I obtained leave of absence from my duties as Chaplain of Polk's corps, volunteered my services as an Assistant Surgeon, was assigned to duty as such at Marietta, Georgia, and reported as promptly as possible to Surgeon D. D. Saunders, who was in charge of the hospitals at that post.
I took Marsh with me and there he slowly recovered his health. I prepared him for baptism and it was my great pleasure to baptize him and present him to Bishop Elliott for confirmation. When he was to be baptized, knowing that it would be painful for him to kneel because of his recent and scarcely healed wounds, I told him that he might sit in his chair. "No," he said. "Let me kneel; let me kneel." And so he knelt, as I placed upon his brow the sign of the cross.
Our victory was complete at Chickamauga and Rosecrans' army threw down their arms and retreated pell-mell in the direction of Chattanooga. The Confederates followed on the 21st of September and took possession of Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. For two months the two armies confronted each other at Chattanooga.
Matters remained quiet in both armies until November, when the Confederate lines extended around Chattanooga from the mouth of Chattanooga Creek above, to Moccasin Point below the town. To my great regret, General Polk was relieved of his command on the 29th of September, in consequence of a misunderstanding with General Bragg, the Commanding General. His application for a Court of Inquiry was dismissed and a month later he was assigned to a new field of duty, alike important and difficult - the best evidence that President Davis could offer of his appreciation of the Bishop-General's past services and of his expectations of his future career.
It was while we were in Chattanooga, before the battle of Chickamauga, that the "Order of the Southern Cross" was organized. There came to General Polk's headquarters, (on whose staff I was serving,) several officers, who stated that they had been considering the propriety if not the necessity of instituting an organization within the army, both social and charitable in its character, whose aim would be as a military brotherhood, to foster patriotic sentiment, to strengthen the ties of army fellowship and at the same time to provide a fund, not only for the mutual benefit of its members, but for the relief of disabled soldiers and the widows and orphans of such as might perish in the Confederate service.
They requested Bishop Polk to attend a meeting that evening to consider the subject further, and he finding it inconvenient to attend, asked me to go as his representative. So I went. Some six or eight of us met at Tyne's Station, about nine miles northwest of Chattanooga. After sufficient discussion and explanation to bring us to a common understanding of the purposes of the proposed order, General Pat Cleburne, General John C. Brown, General Liddell and myself were appointed a committee to draft a constitution and plan of organization. We met every day, I think, for a week or ten days, and the outcome of our labors was a little pamphlet, in appearance similar to the catechisms of our Sunday School days. It was in fact three by five inches in size, contained twenty-five pages and was from the press of Burke, Boykin & Co., Macon, Georgia. It was entitled "Constitution of the Comrades of the Southern Cross, adopted August 28, 1863."
Several "companies" were at once organized and but for the unfavorable course of events, I do not doubt that the order would have rapidly extended throughout the armies of the Confederacy. But active military operations were very soon afterward begun, and the army was kept constantly on the move until the "bottom dropped out," and the "Order of the Southern Cross" - like the Southern Confederacy - went to pieces. The Confederate Veterans' Organization subsequently embodied some of the features which it was intended that the Comrades of the Southern Cross should possess.