… ALL HELL WON’T STOP ‘EM
The Army of the Cumberland at Missionary Ridge
Now here’s a remarkable story,
Of an army emerging from shame,
They strode in one moment to glory,
Restoring the glow of their name–
For, once, they were soundly defeated,
“Chickamauga” that terrible day,
All troops but “Pap” Thomas’ retreated
From a wave of invincible gray,
Till, holed up in old Chattanooga,
Their battle-wounds aching to nurse,
The Yankees were caged like a cougar,
Now facing starvation, or worse.
(Yet help was not long in arriving–
Along with a new commandant,
A general used to hard driving,
A brown-bearded soldier named Grant.)
Meantime, the steep mountains and ridges
Were fortified up to the teeth,
Rebel cannon commanded the bridges,
The city close-huddled beneath,
Which viewing, with grim satisfaction,
“A Little More Grape” Braxton Bragg
Awaited some Federal action,
Unfurled his Confederate flag.
First off, on the Union agenda
Was a route to bring needed supplies.
Unwilling to starve or surrender,
The Yankees cooked up a surprise–
They pounced on the road to Brown’s Ferry,
A floating bridge quickly was done,
Whence wagons of Grant’s commissary
Poured fresh rations in, by the ton.
Then Sherman moves in with more forces,
His Army from west Tennessee,
Improving the choice of Grant’s courses,
With tall Lookout Mountain the key–
Which Hooker’s Corps, quickly securing
That gray crag enfolded in shrouds,
Engenders a legend enduring,
The “Battle Above the Clouds”.
Next morning, with three fresh divisions,
“Cump” Sherman attacks Tunnel Hill,
A series of brutal collisions–
Defending with valor and skill
From rifle-pits, bunkers and trenches,
The Rebels repel each assault,
And Sherman’s fist slowly unclenches,
His hammer is brought to a halt.
Not good–and Grant turns to George Thomas,
“Bring pressure,” says he, “on that spine.”
An army commander of promise,
“Pap’s Cumberlands” wheel into line–
The force he employs seems excessive,
He even puts in his reserve,
But that mass is extremely impressive,
Doubt gnaws the Confederate nerve.
The Blue wave rolls onward, unbreaking,
Gray rifle-pits swamped in a trice,
Then upward, the crest is for taking–
Despite of all cautious advice,
The regiments follow their banners
As Rebels, astounded, aghast,
Skedaddle, forgetting their manners,
Bragg’s army is broken at last!
“I’ve seldom seen valor to match it,”
Growls Grant, with his jaw firmly set,
“But if they should fail, you will catch it,
On that you can certainly bet!”
“All Hell wouldn’t stop them, once started,”
“Pap” Thomas, in candor, replied,
Gazed fondly and fatherly-hearted
At that great irresistible tide.
On the ridge, men are capering, cheering,
And waving of colors and caps,
Their enemies swift disappearing
In Bragg’s unexpected collapse,
Yet Grant, unperturbed, always thinking,
Unwraps and lights up a cigar–
Another month, summoned by Lincoln,
Goes east, to collect his third star.
And Sherman is quickly promoted,
While Bragg totters off, in disgrace,
Joe Johnston, the skilled and devoted,
Is promptly installed in his place,
But, snug in their comforting quarters,
Good folks in Atlanta shall learn
How houses, bombarded by mortars,
Can fiercely and rapidly burn!
Poem Courtesy of Richard Raymond, III, Roanoke, VA.
He is a member of Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War,
And has a book of CW poetry coming out soon.