Over the next few weeks as we once again commemorate the anniversary of the battle of Chickamauga, I will be posting more frequently, sharing some of the soldiers’ accounts I and others have gathered over the years. This is the first of these posts.
In August, 1863, Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee defended Chattanooga, braced for the next Union advance. Unsure of where the Federals might approach, Bragg’s infantry was spread out along the south bank of the Tennessee River for several miles, both upstream and down, alert for signs of a Federal incursion. For much of that month, the Mississippians of J. Patton Anderson’s Brigade, Hindman’s Division, picketed the downstream portion of the river, between Battle Creek and Bridgeport. It was not a relaxing time for Anderson’s men.
From the diary of John Roberts, C Company, 7th Mississippi:
All quite [quiet] this morning. No yankees in site of mi post yet. We see fine times heare only we don’t half to a nuf to eate. We started out with too days ratchens but on bread all molded and out mete all sowerd. . . .I heare a good meney of our men is deserten and going home. Some 60 diserted and left for home. Thir was a squad of calvery sent after them to fetch them back but when they over taken them and they had a fite, [the] diserters whipt the calvery and went on. I heare too  diserted from our regt last nite and went over to the yanks. Now this will never do. I am a fraid we are gone up.I heare Miss[issippi] is a going back in the union and if she dos I am a going home Shore.
Desertions would continue to plague the Mississippians. In a letter from this same time period, George Lea of the 7th noted that:
Our troops are doing very bad deserting every night almost. There has been as many as fifteen left in the last week. T[wo] from our regt. . . . I say let them go for such men are not of any benefit to us at all. If we had them back and did not kill them we would have them to watch. Let them go but if you catch them, shoot.
On August 21st, Anderson’s brigade was withdrawn from Bridgeport and marched back to Chattanooga.
The day book for Company F of the 7th Mississippi:
August 22nd [Recording the previous day’s activity]
Left and marched all night and came to Wauhatchie, distance 20 miles. Bivouacked there.
Bragg would come to regret withdrawing his infantry from their more distant picket posts.