On September 13, Union troops under Horatio Van Cleve moved south from Lee and Gordon’s Mills, conducting a reconnaissance towards Rock Spring. They soon collided with Confederates belonging to Stahl’s Brigade, Cheatham’s Division, of Polk’s Corps; engaged in a similar effort. This skirmish did not escalate into a full scale battle, but clearly, both sides were present in force.
Private William Sylvester Dillon was a member of Company E, the 4th Tennessee Infantry, one of those engaged that morning:
We marched about two miles towards the enemy again formed in line of battle – when my company and B was thrown out as skirmishers we had only to advance about 200 yards when we were ordered to halt and wait the advance of the enemy. Almost immediately our cavalry videttes were engaged with their advancing skirmishers, but only exchanged a few shot with them [before] falling back – when close behind their skirmishers on the brow of the hill appeared their main line of battle in beautiful array, but a battery of ours just behind us quickly opened upon them and after two or three well directed shots they broke and fled and quickly in turn brought a battery to bear upon our battery. [T]hen our battery was withdrawn and our entire line fell back.
This maneuver convinced me that a report I heard this morning was true – that we was going to try and draw them on to some chosen ground – but the General failed in this for after following us very cautiously for about 1 1/2 miles they withdrew at night to the same ground they [held] last night. This ended a very hard days duty.
That same day, Union Lieutenant Alfred L. Hough, staff officer to General Negley, expressed similar frustrations about the Confederates:
Sept 13, 1863, at Stevens Gap on top of Lookout Mountain,
My dearest Mary,
I find the Generals of Divisions and Genl Thomas in consultation. They don’t know whether to advance or not and are I believe waiting for information. If we could get Bragg’s army in a position where our whole army could concentrate we would fight him, but he will not fight. I was in hopes Chattanooga would end our campaign, but am now afraid we will have to go to Atlanta. I cannot begin to tell you of our work, but if I live it will be long a subject of conversation. From all accounts it is decidedly the hardest campaign of the war.
I suppose you will be glad to hear of the occupation of Knoxville and Chattanooga, thereby giving us East Tennessee, but their army is still in existence, and it is our duty to follow it until it is destroyed, and that may yet be through a deal of hard work.