The only stronghold now left to the Confederates in the West was Chattanooga. They had been driven from place to place by the Union army, from Kentucky, through Tennessee, until they are now on the very border of Georgia.
You remember, in the first stories of this war, you were told that there were many Unionists in Tennessee; and that it is believed that the State would never have seceded had the Unionists been allowed to speak in the convention which was held there.
You can imagine, then, the delight of these Tennessee Unionists, when Gen. Burnside marched into one of their largest cities, and planted there the Union flag.
It had been a long time since they had seen the good old Stars and Stripes, and it is said that many a one cried for joy when once more they saw the "red, white and blue." On every side, the people crowded around Burnside and his men, offering them food and drink—many of them robbing their own poor homes, that they might bring something to the Union soldiers.
Meantime, Rosecrans, our Union general, followed Bragg, the Confederate general, on to Chattanooga, a little town, lying in a sort of gateway between the mountains, and very nearly on the border line between Tennessee and Georgia.
Both Bragg and Rosecrans knew that here would be a final battle, which would decide who should hold Tennessee—the Confederates or the Unionists. Bragg, therefore, had sent for help to all the other generals round about; and now he had an army far outnumbering the Union army.
A terrible battle was fought here in this beautiful valley of Chickamauga, in which our army was sadly defeated. Rosecrans retreated, leaving 16,000 dead and wounded upon the field.
Rosecrans, although he was a brave general, and had been very successful before, was blamed for having lost this battle, and General Thomas was put in command.
Grant, the quiet general who smoked so much and talked so little, was now in command of all the Western forces. He came to Chattanooga now to see for himself how matters stood. Before he could go to Thomas, he telegraphed, "Hold Chattanooga." The reply that Thomas sent will show you somewhat of the firm character of the man. "I will hold it or starve."