[Jonathan Beacher’s note: That Sherman was upset because Garrard didn’t arrive by May 9th is obvious in the following report that General Howard filed later in the year, blaming the battle’s outcome on lack of cavalry…]
Reports of Major General Oliver O. Howard, U. S. Army, commanding Army of the Tennessee.
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE,
East Point, Ga., September 17, 1864.
[editor’s note: some of report not printed here except for excerpts pertaining to Garrard]
May 7, General McPherson moved his column toward Villanow, and halted for the night at a point west of Gordon’s Springs Gap. may 8, Major- General Logan marched through this gap, whilst the rest of the command moved south as far as Villanow, and formed a junction with a brigade of cavalry, under General Kilpatrick; encamped with the advance within seven miles of Resaca, near Snake Creek Gap. In field orders from this camp, General McPherson uses these words: “The object being to make a bold and rapid movement on the enemy’s flank, or line of communication, all wagons and baggage of every kind will be left behind, ” &c. With such a purpose the movement of the following day was ordered, “the command to pass through Snake Creek Gap in the direction of Resaca.” May 9, the column moved, General Dodge leading, at 5 a. m., preceded by a portion of General Kilpatrick’s cavalry,* The enemy’s cavalry pickets were encountered on debouching from the gap at the eastern extremity. The command pushed on, the cavalry in advance, till within about three miles and a half of the town, when Kilpatrick encountered considerable infantry force, in charging which he was wounded and obliged to leave the field.* Up to this point, from the time of a junction with him, his conduct for boldness and activity in scouting and clearing away the enemy’s outposts is most highly commended. As will be seen subsequently, as soon as his wound was healed he returned to the field and participated with the same column in one of the most important operations of the war. Immediately upon the charge of Kilpatrick, General Dodge deployed his skirmishers, under charge of Colonel Patrick E. Burke, Sixty- sixth Illinois, who, with very little delay, gallantry drove back the rebel advance to the works around Resaca, and developed an artillery fire from his guns in position in the forts. In view of the enemy’s works at several points, General McPherson deployed the Fifteenth Corps upon the right, and the Sixteenth Corps upon the left, of the Resaca road, after which he pushed forward a division of General Dodge, with instructions to drive back the enemy ad break the railroad. The best idea of his operations may be gained from General McPherson’s letter of May 9, 10.30 p. m, to General Sherman. He says:
General Dodge’s command moved up and skirmished with the enemy at Resaca this afternoon. While that was going on one company of mounted infantry, Lieutenant- Colonel Phillips’ regiment, succeeded in reaching the railroad near Tilton Station, but was forced to leave without damaging the track. They tore down a portion of the telegraph wire. The enemy have a strong position at Resaca naturally, and, as far as we could see, have it pretty well fortified. They displayed considerable force, and opened on us with artillery. After skirmishing till nearly dark, and finding that I could not succeed in cutting the railroad before dark, or getting to it, I decided to withdraw the command and take up a position for the night between Sugar Valley and the entrance to the gap.
Here follow the reasons for retiring: first, the exposed position; second, General Dodge’s command without rations. The general thought that if he had had a division of good cavalry he could have broken the railroad at some point. General Garrard had just arrived at La Fayette, with horses fatigued and short of forage, and wished to remain there until his forage train came up from Chattanooga.
O. O. HOWARD,