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Battle of Chickamauga, 19-20 September 1863

Battle of Chickamauga, 19-20 September 1863



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Map - Battle of Chickamauga, 19 September 1863

Map showing the position of the Confederate and Union positions on 19 September 1863, the first day of the Battle of Chickamauga

Go to Map 2: Battle of Chickamauga on the morning of 20 September
Return To: American Civil War Subject Index



Battle of Chickamauga (September 19 - 20, 1863)

Following the Battle of Perryville (October 8, 1862), Confederate General Braxton Bragg ended his Heartland Offensive and withdrew his forces from Kentucky to Tennessee. There, Bragg's command was reorganized, consolidating with General Kirby Smith's Army of Kentucky, to form the Army of Tennessee. In November, Bragg established a defensive position along the West Fork of the Stones River, near Murfreesboro, intent on preventing a Union advance on Chattanooga.

Frustrated because the Union forces did not immediately pursue Bragg during his retreat from Kentucky, President Abraham Lincoln relieved Major General Don Carlos Buell of his command and placed Major General William Rosecrans in charge of the newly formed Army of the Cumberland on October 24, 1862. Upon Rosecrans's promotion, Union General-In-Chief Henry Halleck made it clear that "… the Government demands action, and if you cannot respond to that demand some one else will be tried." Rosecrans quickly established headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee and prepared his army for battle. On December 26, Rosecrans left Nashville with approximately 44,000 men prepared to engage Bragg's army of 38,000 soldiers encamped at Murfreesboro. Between December 31 and January 2, the two armies clashed at the Battle of Stones River, near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The Union army suffered higher casualties than the Rebels, but Bragg was forced to retreat when Federal reinforcements began arriving on the site. On January 3, the Army of Tennessee withdrew to Tullahoma, Tennessee, thirty-six miles to the south, yielding Murfreesboro to Rosecrans.

The two armies did not confront each other again until June, when Rosecrans moved on Tullahoma. There, Rosecrans cleverly outmaneuvered Bragg, forcing the Confederate army to retreat to the relative safety afforded by the mountainous terrain and Tennessee River at Chattanooga. Rosecrans followed, and by mid-August, the Army of the Cumberland was on the outskirts of Chattanooga. Once again, Rosecrans outmaneuvered Bragg. By sending a column of Federals upriver, a few miles north of Chattanooga, Rosecrans convinced Bragg that he intended to cross the river and attack from that direction. Meanwhile, the bulk of the Union army was crossing the Tennessee River below the city. By September 1, the Army of the Cumberland had crossed the Tennessee River without any resistance. Realizing that his army was once again in peril, Bragg abandoned Chattanooga on September 9, 1863, marching his army into northern Georgia.

Rosecrans had achieved his goal of capturing Chattanooga, but rather than regrouping and securing the city as he had done at Murfreesboro, he decided to pursue Bragg's army into Georgia. Initially, Rosecrans deployed his army as three isolated corps. During the second week of September, Bragg mishandled several opportunities to inflict damage on the isolated units. Rosecrans eventually recognized that his army was endangered and moved to reunite it. Intent on recapturing Chattanooga, Bragg decided to attack the one corps of Rosecrans's army that had yet to be reunited.

On September 18, the Confederates assaulted several crossing points on Chickamauga Creek that were held by Federal troops, with the intention of assaulting the isolated left wing of Rosecrans's army. Union resistance was fierce, and although the Rebels eventually crossed the creek, they did not do so in time to launch a full-scale attack that day.

The main battle began on September 19, when Bragg ordered a major assault on the Union left. Despite repeated attacks from the Confederates, the Federals held their lines throughout the day. That night, they pulled back and constructed log breastworks along a new line.

On September 20, Bragg renewed the attack. During the late morning, Rosecrans was mistakenly informed that the Rebels had created a gap on his left flank. He responded by sending reinforcements from his center, inadvertently creating a real gap there. General James Longstreet immediately exploited the new gap and drove one-third of the Union army, including Rosecrans, from the field. General George H. Thomas took command of the remaining army and withstood Rebel assaults until nightfall. The remaining Union forces then retreated to the safety of the mountains.

On September 21, the Army of the Cumberland withdrew to Chattanooga and took up positions in the defensive works previously constructed by Bragg's army. Bragg responded by seizing the high ground overlooking Chattanooga (Lookout Mountain, Seminary Ridge, and Raccoon Mountain) and laid siege to the city.

Among the Ohio units that participated in the Battle of Chickamauga were:

Infantry units:

1st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

2nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

6th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

9th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

10th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

11th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

13th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

14th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

15th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

17th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

18th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

19th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

21st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

24th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

26th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

31st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

33rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

35th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

36th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

38th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

40th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

41st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

49th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

51st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

52nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

59th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

64th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

65th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

69th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

74th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

89th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

90th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

92nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

93rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

94th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

97th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

98th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

99th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

101st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

105th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

113th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

121st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

124th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

125th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

1st Battalion Ohio Sharpshooters

Cavalry units:

1st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

3rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

4th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

Artillery units:

Battery A, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Battery B, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Battery C, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Battery D, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Battery F, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Battery G, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Battery M, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

6th Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

18th Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

20th Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

The Battle of Chickamauga was costly for both sides. The Union army suffered over 16,000 casualties (killed, wounded, and captured or missing). The Confederates suffered over 18,000 casualties. The combined losses were the highest total for any battle in the western theater of the American Civil War and second only to Gettysburg for the entire war. In the end, Bragg achieved a tactical victory by forcing Rosecrans to retreat, but he did not achieve his strategic goal of recapturing Chattanooga.


Chickamauga, Battle of

Chickamauga, Battle of (1863).After maneuvering Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee from its namesake state in midsummer 1863, U.S. Gen. William S. Rosecrans and the Army of the Cumberland paused only briefly before resuming their drive upon Chattanooga, Tennessee. In late August, Rosecrans feinted upstream while crossing the Tennessee River unopposed in four places below Chattanooga subsequently he began an advance south and east of the city to threaten Bragg's line of communication to Atlanta. In response, Bragg on 8 September evacuated Chattanooga and concentrated his army, now reinforced by James Longstreet's corps from the Army of Northern Virginia, around LaFayette, Georgia. Supremely overconfident, Rosecrans imprudently ordered a general pursuit by his widely separated forces. Only after the XIV Corps barely escaped a trap in McLemore's Cove on 11 September did Rosecrans order a consolidation of his army near Chattanooga.

For the next week, Rosecrans scrambled to gather his command while Bragg struggled to defeat the Federals in detail. Late on 18 September, when the two armies stumbled together by accident along Chickamauga Creek, Rosecrans had almost completed his concentration. In heavy but confused fighting the following day, neither side gained any significant advantage. A coordinated Confederate attack on 20 September made little progress until an exhausted Rosecrans mistakenly ordered a Federal division out of line, permitting a massive Confederate column to rush through the gap. In the resulting debacle, Rosecrans and one‐third of his army fled ignominiously. However, Gen. George H. Thomas rallied the remaining Federals around Snodgrass Hill. After nightfall, Thomas withdrew safely without Confederate pursuit. In this, the largest Civil War battle in the western theater, the opposing forces were nearly equal: approximately 62,000 Federals to 65,000 Confederates. Over 16,000 Federals and 18,000 Confederates became casualties. Although a major Confederate success, Chickamauga was a barren victory because the Union Army of the Cumberland was neither destroyed nor forced to relinquish Chattanooga.

Peter Cozzens , This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga , 1992.
William Glenn Robertson , The Battle of Chickamauga , 1995.

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Battle of Chickamauga Creek

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Battle of Chickamauga Creek, (September 19–20, 1863), in the American Civil War, a vital part of the maneuvering and fighting to control the railroad centre at nearby Chattanooga, Tennessee. Union General William S. Rosecrans had established his army at Chickamauga, Georgia, 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Chattanooga. Confederate General Braxton Bragg collected reinforcements and prepared to do battle, assisted by General James Longstreet. For two days the conflict raged in a tangled forest along Chickamauga Creek. Dazed by the ferocious Confederate assault, the main body of the Union army gave way and retreated in disorder. Union General George H. Thomas, the “Rock of Chickamauga,” skillfully organized the defenses and withstood the attack until the assistance of a reserve corps made possible an orderly withdrawal to Chattanooga. Of 120,000 troops participating, casualties numbered 16,000 Union troops and 18,000 Confederate troops, making this one of the bloodiest engagements of the Civil War.

Chickamauga was considered a decisive victory for the South, but General Bragg did not choose to follow it up, and two months later the results were completely nullified at the Battle of Chattanooga. In 1890 an Act of Congress created a national military park at the two battlegrounds.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.


Almost Chosen People

An intelligent observer of the American Civil War in early September of 1863 would have reached certain conclusions about the War thus far:

1. The Union was losing the War in the East. After many spectacular battles and huge casualties, the battle lines in Virginia remained much the same as they had early in the War: the Union controlled the northern third of the Old Dominion state and the South controlled the Southern two-thirds. A stalemate of more than two years duration favored the Confederacy.

2. The War in the trans-Mississippi was a side show that could be ignored.

3. In the West, between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, the Union was clearly winning, with control of the Mississippi wrested from the Confederacy, with New Orleans and large sections of Louisiana controlled by the Union, and with Tennessee largely under Union control.

4. The northern Presidential election in 1864 would probably prove decisive. If Lincoln could make progress in the East and continue to win in the West he would likely be re-elected. If the Confederacy could maintain the stalemate in the East and reverse the Union momentum in the West, or at least slow it to a crawl, Lincoln would be defeated and the Confederacy would win its independence.

General Braxton Bragg, the irascible commander of the Army of Tennessee, clearly understood that the Confederacy could not continue losing in the West, and that is why he rolled the iron dice of war at Chickamauga in a desperate attempt to stop the offensive of Major General William Rosecrans and his Union Army of the Cumberland. Bragg proved fortunate, and his hard luck army gave the Confederacy one of its great victories, and the chance to change the whole course of the War.

Below is the passage on Chickamauga from the memoir of John B. Gordon, who during the war rose from Captain to Major General in the Army of Northern Virginia. Gordon did not fight at Chickamauga, but his wonderfully colorful account of the battle, ground he was familiar with from being reared there in his childhood, written with his usual entertaining purple prose, captures well the facts of the battle, and how this victory was treasured by the South, even as its benefits to the Confederacy were ultimately thrown away due to a lack of pursuit and the desultory, and unsuccessful, siege of Chattanooga.


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Battle of Chickamauga, 19-20 September 1863 - History

Chickamauga Battlefield, ca. 1861-65, was considered the bloodiest battle in the West - Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Brady-Handy Collection

Within the halls of the Connecticut State Capitol is the remnant of an oak tree containing pieces of artillery fire that were supposedly from the Civil War battle of Chickamauga. There is evidence, however, that suggests it was not from Chickamauga but, instead, may have been fabricated to “fool” viewers. Is the relic the result of deception? If the tree is authentic, then it is an impressive artifact from a bloody Civil War battle. If forged, then what is its story?

This tree with the embedded artillery shell is believed to have been from the Battle of Chickamauga – Courtesy of Stacey Renee

The Battle of Chickamauga: September 19–20, 1863

The Battle of Chickamauga was fought in September of 1863 and pitted the Union Army of the Cumberland under William Rosecrans against Braxton Bragg and the Confederate Army of the Tennessee. Braggs’s aim was to maneuver Rosecrans out of the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, which was a vital transport and communication center for the Confederacy. Author James McPherson claimed, “Chattanooga had great strategic value, for the only railroads linking the eastern and western parts of the Confederacy converged there in the gap carved through the Cumberland by the Tennessee River. Having already cut the Confederacy in two by the capture of Vicksburg, Union forces could slice up the eastern portion by penetrating into Georgia via Chattanooga.” Bragg decided to face the Union army on the banks of Chickamauga Creek.

Bragg had only a little over 45,000 men, but he was reinforced by other Confederate forces. The Union Army of the Cumberland had roughly 85,000 troops. The terrain around the area of Chickamauga Creek was not conducive to traditional linear tactics. It was surrounded by miles of scattered farms, brush, and patches of dense forests. The ability to deploy artillery was limited and both forces had difficulty maintaining coordination. One officer described the conflict as “a mad, irregular battle, very much resembling guerrilla warfare on a vast scale, in which one army was bushwhacking the other, and wherein all the science and the art of war went for nothing.”

The attack began on the 19th with a powerful assault against the left side of the Union line. There, commanded by General George H. Thomas, the Union army faced harsh opposition as Confederate troops poured in on them. Multiple Union regiments were sent north to help Thomas because if the line was flanked, Northern resistance in Tennessee would be eradicated. Ultimately, the first day ended in a standstill and Bragg did not break the Union line as he intended.

On the morning of the 20th, Bragg orchestrated another attempt to break the Union left. Again, the Union troops held on. At midday, however, the unthinkable happened. Believing that General Thomas needed more reinforcements, division commander Wood prematurely dropped out of his position and a major hole opened up in the Union battle line. The Confederacy decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Union regiments soon broke away and retreated north towards the safety of Chattanooga. Even Rosecrans realized that it was impossible to have any success and he decided to retreat towards Chattanooga as well.

General Thomas chose to make a stand, however. He retreated to the southern slopes of Missionary Ridge to an area called Horseshoe Ridge. The area consisted of medium-sized hills and thick forests. The most important of these hills was Snodgrass Hill. Thomas established a series of breastworks along that ridge in order fight off the Confederate assaults and give the rest of the Army of the Cumberland time to retreat. This phase of the battle was the bloodiest. It also provided the location from where the mysterious Chickamauga tree allegedly came. Thomas and his men valiantly fought on Snodgrass Hill through the afternoon. They repulsed multiple waves of Confederate charges. There were brief points of breakthrough but the Confederates were quickly driven back. In the evening, Thomas was forced to call a retreat to Chattanooga. Chickamauga was a Confederate tactical victory but in some ways it was also a loss. The Union army retreated back into the very city from which the Confederates had hoped to drive them away. On May 4, 1913, the Tulsa Daily World published an article comparing the percentage of men killed at Gettysburg and the Chattonooga-Chickamgua front. It noted, “The percent of casualties at Gettysburg was 20 at Chickamauga it was 33.”

A Case For its Authenticity

George E. Lounsbury was Governor of Connecticut from 1899–1901 – Museum of Connecticut History, Connecticut State Library

According to a May 26, 1899, Hartford Courant article, Edgar Smith Yergason gave the Connecticut State Capitol a Chickamauga tree placed in the North corridor of the building under the care of Governor George E. Lounsbury. Mr. Yergason wrote a letter explaining, “It is my desire that this war relic be placed where it may be seen by the public, and I take great pleasure in tendering it to the state of Connecticut. To be placed with other elements in the state capitol.” This seemingly special oak tree was roughly seven feet tall. According to this same article, the tree had multiple cannon balls in its trunk. The tree stayed where it was for many decades. However, in the 1960s it was removed for fear that the cannon balls contained live gunpowder residue. The tree was declared a hazard to the public and taken to Ft. Devins, Massachusetts. According to a 1969 article in the Hartford Courant, the tree was then cleared of gunpowder and returned to its original place in the capitol.

That the tree had gunpowder residue might confirm its presence at the battlefield of Chickamauga: In fact, there was an article in the New York Times dated June 14, 1898, that wrote of thunderstorms in the Chickamauga battlefield and the fear that many of the remaining trees could explode. The possible danger surrounding other trees that were laying around the Chickamauga battlefield and the fact the Mr. Yergason stated that the tree was “Alive” (with cannonballs) are strong points for its authenticity. Can one conclude that this mystery tree is indeed a powerful reminder of the blood that was spilled at Chickamauga? Is this the end of the story?

The Chickamauga Lie?

Additional aspects to the mystery suggest that the tree is not as authentic as it appears. The first clue is the time at which Yergason and other people purchased Civil War trunks. The tree that was in Yergason’s possession was not the only specimen that existed. In fact, Yergason had a few more tree trunks that were allegedly from an area of the Chickamauga battlefield called “Bloody Pond.” He claimed that the trunk he gave away was in his possession for an extended period of time, indicating that he might have had it between the middle of the 1880s to the early 1890s. There were also reports of a pair of Chickamauga trunks in Kingston, New York, that were used as decorations for a local Grand Army of the Republic Hall. These particular trees were recounted in an article from the New York Times on May 10, 1892. Furthermore, there was another prominent Connecticut citizen that was also an avid Civil War collector. A. E. Brooks also owned a pair of Chickamauga tree trunks. In the cases of both Mr. Yergason and Mr. Brooks, the trees were shipped to them. The years in which the men acquired the trees are important because there was yet another significant article, this one from the Providence Journal and published in the New York Times on May 5, 1895, that reported the existence of a hoax surrounding Civil War tree trunks. The hoax, discovered by Walter H. Durfee, purported that a pair of farmers in Chattanooga admitted to faking Chickamauga trees. Essentially, they put cannon balls in the trees to create the appearance that the trees were in a Civil War battle. The farmers also claimed that they had a “prosperous business” and had many trees in their possession. The timing of the Chickamauga tree hoax fits within the timeline of other Chickamauga trees, except for the relic of Mr. Brooks. So, it is probable that E. S. Yergason’s tree could have been manufactured.

It is not just the timeline, however, but other elements that are important pieces to this puzzle. One of these elements is a tool called an auger. The American Heritage dictionary defined an auger as “a tool for boring holes into wood.” This was an item that the men in Chattanooga admitted using. They drilled holes, stuck the cannon balls in and made it appear that the wood had grown over the piece. Dean Nelson, director of The Museum of Connecticut History in Hartford believes that the tree in the capitol showed evidence of the use of that tool. Nelson also believes that there were other trees formerly in The Museum of Connecticut History that also had evidence of auger use. Walter H. Durfee, the man who was responsible for the discovery of the hoax, believed he saw a drilled hole after one of the cannon balls fell out of his tree.

Yet another issue regarding the Chickamauga tree’s authenticity is the subject of converging fire, or fire from all different directions. That suggests that the trajectory of artillery and musket fire could come to a single point from all different angles. As stated previously, the fighting at Snodgrass Hill was linear. It was one line continually facing another and it was also in an area where artillery was practically useless. The Chickamauga tree of A. E. Brooks showed evidence of converging fire. However, Dean Nelson believes that there was no converging fire at the Battle of Chickamauga. Therefore, this means that the trees of Mr. Yergason and Mr. Brooks do not show evidence of being at Snodgrass Hill and the only conclusion is that the tree trunks were produced.

In another interesting twist, it is probable that the cannon balls in the tree now are not even the same balls from when Yergason donated the item. In an article from the Hartford Courant dated August 5, 1969, the paper claimed that “the state’s carpenter will be called on to replace the evidence of the devastating battle. The tree trunk will take some direct hits, but this time from a carpenters hammer instead of a Union or Rebel cannon.” The article established that the cannon balls at the time of the tree’s donation were not put back. Ultimately, the relic may have been manufactured when it was initially donated and then the original cannon balls also replaced.

The Chickamauga Tree, Connecticut State Capitol – Courtesy of Stacey Renee

Real or Fake? We May Never Know

There are many clues that indicate the Chickamauga tree at the Connecticut State Capitol is not quite what it appears. Continuing research into the trunk might shed additional light as to whether it is really from Chickamauga or a fake. Either way, we can appreciate it for its interesting history. After all, how many capitol buildings can claim evidence of an historical conspiracy?

Christopher Frank lives in Northford, Connecticut, graduated from North Branford High School in 2009, Holy Apostles College and Seminary in 2013 with a bachelor of arts in the social sciences, and is currently pursuing a master of arts in history at Central Connecticut State University. His interest in history is the Napoleonic Era and he is a major fan of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien.

This article was published as part of a semester-long graduate student project at Central Connecticut State University that examined Civil War monuments and their histories in and around the State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut.


Battle of Chickamauga, 19-20 September 1863 - History

After the battle of Stones River in December of 1862 and January 1863, Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland gained ground in Tennessee in the nearly bloodless Tullahoma campaign in the summer of 1863. In September Rosecrans' army advanced further, taking Chattanooga without a fight. Chattanooga was a vital to the Confederate war effort, and Confederate troops were rushed to the area, including nine brigades from the Army of Northern Virginia under Gen. Longstreet. The Confederate Army of Tennessee under Gen. Braxton Bragg increased from 35,000 men to 71,000 men.

Rosecrans' army was widely dispersed, so Bragg decided to strike the center column at McLemore's Cove. The operation failed and only alerted Rosecrans to his dangerous predicament. Bragg then failed to attack the northernmost Union column, and Rosecrans began to concentrate near Chickamauga Creek. Instead of waiting for all of Longstreet's men to arrive, Bragg chose to attack on September 19, 1863, believing he had the opportunity to strike before the Federals were completely concentrated. The Confederates forced crossings of Chickamauga Creek in order to move against the Union northern flank.


Contents

In his successful Tullahoma campaign in the summer of 1863, William S. Rosecrans moved southeast from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, outmaneuvering Braxton Bragg and forcing him to abandon Middle Tennessee and withdraw to the city of Chattanooga, suffering only 569 Union casualties along the way. [1] Union general-in-chief Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck and President Abraham Lincoln were insistent that Rosecrans move quickly to take Chattanooga. Seizing the city would open the door for the Union to advance toward Atlanta and the heartland of the South. Chattanooga was a vital rail hub (with lines going north toward Nashville and Knoxville and south toward Atlanta), and an important manufacturing center for the production of iron and coke, located on the navigable Tennessee River. Situated between Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Raccoon Mountain, and Stringer's Ridge, Chattanooga occupied an important, defensible position. [2]


Collection Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints

In an effort to placate the slave-holding border states, Lincoln resisted the demands of radical Republicans for complete abolition. Yet some Union generals, such as General B. F. Butler, declared slaves escaping to their lines "contraband of war," not to be returned to their masters. Other generals decreed that the slaves of men rebelling against the Union were to be considered free. Congress, too, had been moving toward abolition. In 1861, Congress had passed an act stating that all slaves employed against the Union were to be considered free. In 1862, another act stated that all slaves of men who supported the Confederacy were to be considered free. Lincoln, aware of the public's growing support of abolition, issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring that all slaves in areas still in rebellion were, in the eyes of the federal government, free.

March 1863

The First Conscription Act

Because of recruiting difficulties, an act was passed making all men between the ages of 20 and 45 liable to be called for military service. Service could be avoided by paying a fee or finding a substitute. The act was seen as unfair to the poor, and riots in working-class sections of New York City broke out in protest. A similar conscription act in the South provoked a similar reaction.

May 1863

The Battle of Chancellorsville

On April 27, Union General Hooker crossed the Rappahannock River to attack General Lee's forces. Lee split his army, attacking a surprised Union army in three places and almost completely defeating them. Hooker withdrew across the Rappahannock River, giving the South a victory, but it was the Confederates' most costly victory in terms of casualties.

May 1863

The Vicksburg Campaign

Union General Grant won several victories around Vicksburg, Mississippi, the fortified city considered essential to the Union's plans to regain control of the Mississippi River. On May 22, Grant began a siege of the city. After six weeks, Confederate General John Pemberton surrendered, giving up the city and 30,000 men. The capture of Port Hudson, Louisiana, shortly thereafter placed the entire Mississippi River in Union hands. The Confederacy was split in two.

Through the Fall of Vicksburg&mdashJuly 1863

These photographs include three which William R. Pywell took in February 1864, referring back to Grant's brilliant campaign of the previous summer.

June-July 1863

The Gettysburg Campaign

Confederate General Lee decided to take the war to the enemy. On June 13, he defeated Union forces at Winchester, Virginia, and continued north to Pennsylvania. General Hooker, who had been planning to attack Richmond, was instead forced to follow Lee. Hooker, never comfortable with his commander, General Halleck, resigned on June 28, and General George Meade replaced him as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

On July 1, a chance encounter between Union and Confederate forces began the Battle of Gettysburg. In the fighting that followed, Meade had greater numbers and better defensive positions. He won the battle, but failed to follow Lee as he retreated back to Virginia. Militarily, the Battle of Gettysburg was the high-water mark of the Confederacy it is also significant because it ended Confederate hopes of formal recognition by foreign governments. On November 19, President Lincoln dedicated a portion of the Gettysburg battlefield as a national cemetery, and delivered his memorable "Gettysburg Address."

Photographs of the battleground began immediately after the battle of July 1-3. This group of photographs also includes a scene of Hooker's troops in Virginia on route to Gettysburg.

September 1863

The Battle of Chickamauga

On September 19, Union and Confederate forces met on the Tennessee-Georgia border, near Chickamauga Creek. After the battle, Union forces retreated to Chattanooga, and the Confederacy maintained control of the battlefield.

Meade in Virginia&mdashAugust-November 1863

After the Battle of Gettysburg, General Meade engaged in some cautious and inconclusive operations, but the heavy activity of the photographers was confined to the intervals between them&mdashat Bealeton, southwest of Warrenton, in August, and at Culpeper, before the Mine Run Campaign.

November 1863

The Battle of Chattanooga

On November 23-25, Union forces pushed Confederate troops away from Chattanooga. The victory set the stage for General Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.

Chattanooga&mdashSeptember-November 1863

After Rosecrans's debacle at Chickamauga, September 19-20, 1863, Confederate General Braxton Bragg's army occupied the mountains that ring the vital railroad center of Chattanooga. Grant, brought in to save the situation, steadily built up offensive strength, and on November 23- 25 burst the blockade in a series of brilliantly executed attacks. The photographs, probably all taken the following year when Chattanooga was the base for Sherman's Atlanta campaign, include scenes on Lookout Mountain, stormed by Hooker on November 24.

The Siege of Knoxville&mdashNovember-December 1863

The difficult strategic situation of the federal armies after Chickamauga enabled Bragg to detach a force under Longstreet to drive Burnside out of eastern Tennessee. Burnside sought refuge in Knoxville, which he successfully defended from Confederate assaults. These views, taken after Longstreet's withdrawal on December 3, include one of Strawberry Plains, on his line of retreat. Here we have part of an army record: Barnard was photographer of the Chief Engineer's Office, Military Division of the Mississippi, and his views were transmitted with the report of the chief engineer of Burnside's army, April 11, 1864.

This time line was compiled by Joanne Freeman and owes a special debt to the Encyclopedia of American History by Richard B. Morris.


Aftermath [ edit | edit source ]

While Rosecrans went to Chattanooga, Thomas and two thirds of the Union army were making a desperate yet magnificent stand that has become a proud part of the military epic of America. Thomas, Rosecrans' firm friend and loyal lieutenant, would thereafter justly be known as the Rock of Chickamauga.

Thomas withdrew the remainder of his units to positions around Rossville Gap after darkness fell. His personal determination to maintain the Union position until ordered to withdraw, while his commander and peers fled, earned him the nickname Rock of Chickamauga, derived from a portion of a message that Garfield sent to Rosecrans, "Thomas is standing like a rock." ⏥] Garfield met Thomas in Rossville that night and wired to Rosecrans that "our men not only held their ground, but in many points drove the enemy splendidly. Longstreet's Virginians have got their bellies full." Although he admitted that the troops were tired and hungry, and nearly out of ammunition, he added "I believe we can whip them tomorrow. I believe we can now crown the whole battle with victory." He urged Rosecrans to rejoin the army and lead it, but Rosecrans, physically exhausted and psychologically a beaten man, remained in Chattanooga. President Lincoln attempted to prop up the morale of his general, telegraphing "Be of good cheer. . We have unabated confidence in you and your soldiers and officers. In the main, you must be the judge as to what is to be done. If I was to suggest, I would say save your army by taking strong positions until Burnside joins you." Privately, Lincoln told John Hay that Rosecrans seemed "confused and stunned like a duck hit on the head." ⏦]

The Army of Tennessee camped for the night, unaware that the Union army had slipped from their grasp. Bragg was not able to mount the kind of pursuit that would have been necessary to cause Rosecrans significant further damage. Many of his troops had arrived hurriedly at Chickamauga by rail, without wagons to transport them and many of the artillery horses had been injured or killed during the battle. Furthermore, the Tennessee River was now an obstacle to the Confederates and Bragg had no pontoon bridges to effect a crossing. Bragg's army paused at Chickamauga to reorganize and gather equipment lost by the Union army. Although Rosecrans had been able to save most of his trains, large quantities of ammunition and arms had been left behind. Army of Tennessee historian Thomas L. Connelly has criticized Bragg's performance, claiming that for over four hours on the afternoon of September 20, he missed several good opportunities to prevent the Federal escape, such as by a pursuit up the Dry Valley Road to McFarland's Gap, or by moving a division (such as Cheatham's) around Polk to the north to seize the Rossville Gap or McFarland's Gap via the Reed's Bridge Road. ⏧]

The battle was damaging to both sides in proportions roughly equal to the size of the armies: Union losses were 16,170 (1,657 killed, 9,756 wounded, and 4,757 captured or missing), Confederate 18,454 (2,312 killed, 14,674 wounded, and 1,468 captured or missing). Β] These were the highest losses of any battle in the Western Theater during the war and, after Gettysburg, the second-highest of the war overall. ⏨] Among the dead were Confederate generals Benjamin Hardin Helm (husband of Abraham Lincoln's wife's sister), James Deshler, and Preston Smith, and Union general William H. Lytle. ⏩] Although the Confederates were technically the victors, driving Rosecrans from the field, Bragg had not achieved his objective of destroying Rosecrans, nor of restoring Confederate control of East Tennessee. ⏪]

It seems to me that the elan of the Southern soldier was never seen after Chickamauga. . He fought stoutly to the last, but, after Chickamauga, with the sullenness of despair and without the enthusiasm of hope. That 'barren victory' sealed the fate of the Confederacy.

On September 21, Rosecrans's army withdrew to the city of Chattanooga and took advantage of previous Confederate works to erect strong defensive positions. However, the supply lines into Chattanooga were at risk and the Confederates soon occupied the surrounding heights and laid siege upon the Union forces. Unable to break the siege, Rosecrans was relieved of his command of the Army of the Cumberland on October 19, replaced by Thomas. McCook and Crittenden lost their commands on September 28 as the XX Corps and the XXI Corps were consolidated into a new IV Corps commanded by Granger neither officer would ever command in the field again. On the Confederate side, Bragg began to wage a battle against the subordinates he resented for failing him in the campaign—Hindman for his lack of action in McLemore's Cove, and Polk for his late attack on September 20. On September 29, Bragg suspended both officers from their commands. In early October, an attempted mutiny of Bragg's subordinates resulted in D.H. Hill being relieved from his command. Longstreet was dispatched with his corps to the Knoxville Campaign against Ambrose Burnside, seriously weakening Bragg's army at Chattanooga. ⏬]

Harold Knudsen contends that Chickamauga was the first major Confederate effort to use the "interior lines of the nation" to transport troops between theaters with the aim of achieving a period of numerical superiority and taking the initiative in the hope of gaining decisive results in the West. He states: "The concentration the Confederates achieved at Chickamauga was an opportunity to work within the strategic parameters of Longstreet's Defensive-Offensive theory." In Knudsen's estimation, it was the Confederates' last realistic chance to take the tactical offense within the context of a strategic defense, and destroy the Union Army of the Cumberland. If a major victory erasing the Union gains of the Tullahoma Campaign and a winning of the strategic initiative could be achieved in late 1863, any threat to Atlanta would be eliminated for the near future. Even more significantly, a major military reversal going into the election year of 1864 could have severely harmed President Lincoln's re-election chances, caused the possible election of Peace Democrat nominee George McClellan as president, and the cessation of the Union war effort to subdue the South. ⏭]

The Chickamauga Campaign was followed by the Battles for Chattanooga, sometimes called the Chattanooga Campaign, including the reopening of supply lines and the Battles of Lookout Mountain (November 23) and Missionary Ridge, (November 25). Relief forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant broke Bragg's grip on the city, sent the Army of Tennessee into retreat, and opened the gateway to the Deep South for Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's 1864 Atlanta Campaign. ⏮]

Much of the central Chickamauga battlefield is preserved by the National Park Service as part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.


Watch the video: Franklin: Animated Battle Map (August 2022).