By September 16, the Confederate mood seems to have shifted. Talk of retreating and desertion is on the wane. The letters are more upbeat, buoyed by daily-arriving reinforcements and the fact that now the Federals seem to be falling back. Private John W. Cotton served in the Confederate 10th Cavalry, a composite unit made up of Georgians and Alabamans. Cotton hailed from Coosa County, Alabama. His unit belonged to the newly formed cavalry division of John H. Pegram, Forrest’s Corps. He was writing to his wife and seven children.
Tennessee Camps 15 miles northwest of dalton 7 miles south of ringgold, September 16, 1883,
Here we are 15 miles northwest of dalton. we stayed camped on the battlefield where they had a fight last saturday [probably Leet’s Tanyard] we lost 5 men and the yankeys 17 killed. we taken some fifty prisoners. we had only one regiment in the fite and I dont know how many yankeys. we whipt them. they are about three miles from here now. we expect to fite every day. the first georgia had a skirmich with them today. they tried to take some yankey wagons but failed. I expect we will bee into it before many days.
there will be a big fite before many days some where between here and rome and I expect it will be the worst battle that has ever been fought in this war. they say we have got the largest armey there has ever been together since this was commenced and I feel confident that we will whip the fite. if we do I think that will bring about peace.
there has been several small fites with the cavalry and we have drove them back. it was thought three days ago that they were retreating back across [the] tennessee river but they dont think so now. we keep heering that longstreet have retaken knoxville and a number of prisoners. if that is so it will help us out a heap.
Major Henry A. Potter of the 4th Michigan Cavalry (Minty’s Brigade) was one of those nearby Federals:
[Peeler’s Mill,] Wednesday, September 16th, 1863.
Disturbance last night. Report says Pegram’s forces are at Ringgold. Our pickets in that direction were fired on, or they fired on a squad of rebels – ‘to horse’ sounded and every man was in his saddle – the teams were not loosened from the wagons at all thro the night – quite an excitement this morning.
I was ordered to go to the bridge over the Chickamauga & see if it was destroyed – it was safe – our battery was planted on a hill fronting the camp & the guns masked – we are waiting – ready for anything that may turn up – Rumor that knowing individual says our forces on the right & Burnside on the left have swung around & formed a connection 7 that [the] rebels are surrounded & must fight us – we will see – In afternoon moved back 2 miles & camped for the night.