Chickamauga & Chattanooga - Death Knell of the
In the fall of 1863, in some of the
hardest fighting of the
forces fought for control of
Tennessee, a key rail center
known as the "Gateway to the Deep South." The Confederates
were victorious at nearby Chickamauga,
Georgia in September. However,
renewed fighting in Chattanooga in November provided
troops victory and control of the city. After the fighting, one
soldier ominously wrote, "This...is the death-knell of the
Battle of Chickamauga
Through a series of skillful marches, Union
Major General William Rosecrans forced Southerners under
General Braxton Bragg to withdraw from Middle
Bragg dug in, guarding the Tennessee River crossings
northeast of the city. However, early in September, Federals crossed
the Tennessee River well below, again forcing
Eluding his Federal pursuers,
concentrated his forces at LaFayette, Georgia, some 26 miles south of
Here, reinforcements swelled his ranks to more than 66,000 men.
Battle of Chickamauga
This image available for
photographic prints & downloads
"This...is the death-knell
of the Confederacy."
-- A Confederate soldier after
the Battles of Chickamauga
General Braxton Bragg unsuccessfully tried
to destroy segments of General Rosecrans' army. Then, on September 18, 1863,
hoping to wedge his troops between the Federals and
posted his army on the west bank of Chickamauga Creek.
On the morning of September 18, 1863, three advanced brigades of
Confederate General James Longstreet's
arrived at Ringgold, Georgia. One brigade immediately joined Brigadier
R. Johnson's division as it prepared to cross Chickamauga Creek at
Reed's Bridge. Union
cavalry under Colonel Robert H. G. Minty and mounted infantry under
command of Colonel John T. Wilder, guarding the bridges, offered stout
resistance and delayed the crossing of the southern troops for several
hours. During the skirmishing, Minty's men dismantled Alexander's
Bridge and forced Walker to proceed to Lambert's Ford, a half-mile
downstream. The Confederates
used other fords and crossings throughout the late afternoon and night
as all of
forces, except three divisions, crossed to the west
side of Chickamauga Creek.
forces were not idle, and during the night,
General Rosecrans moved Thomas'
corps northeastward above and back of Crittenden, so that
General Bragg would
not outflank the Federal line. Negley's Division remained near
Crawfish Springs (now Chickamauga), Major General Joseph J. Reynolds'
Division near Widow Glenn's, and Brigadier Generals Absalom Baird's
and John M. Brannan's Divisions covered the roads leading to Reed's
and Alexander's Bridges. General McCook's Corps moved to position in
situation at dawn on the 19th found the two armies facing each other over
a stretch of several miles along the banks of Chickamauga Creek.
had been able in a short rime to maneuver the Army of the Cumberland into
position so that it interposed between
General Bragg and Chattanooga. His Reserve
Corps under General Granger was at McAfee's Church, near Rossville,
Thomas' Fourteenth Army Corps composed the Union's
left a few miles south of Granger, and formed a southwesterly line to
Crawfish Spring where it joined McCook, forming the right in McLemore's
Cove. Crittenden's 21st Army Corps remained concentrated at Lee and
Gordon's Mills, somewhat in front of the other two corps, to protect
Re-enacters fire cannons during the 149th Anniversary
of the Battle of
Chickamauga, Georgia. Photo by Dave Alexander,
September, 2012. This image available for
photographic prints & downloads
First Day Battle
Early in the morning of September 19, Major General George H. Thomas ordered
Brigadier General John M. Brannan forward to reconnoiter the
forces which had crossed Chickamauga Creek. In this manner, Colonel John T. Croxton's brigade of infantry accidentally ran into some of
B. Forrest's cavalry, which were dismounted and serving as
infantry, at Jay's Mill near Reed's Bridge. And so the battle began.
Colonel Croxton drove
General Nathan B. Forrest
and his men back, but
reinforcements hurried in and forced Croxton to give ground.
Suddenly, the commanding generals realized that a major conflict was upon
them, and they hurriedly sent troops into the fight as first one side and
then the other gained the upper hand.
General Rosecrans by rapid and
forced marches, brought up his troops from Crawfish Springs. Confederate
General Bragg ordered his left wing
divisions to cross to the west side of Chickamauga Creek. By mid-afternoon
major fighting had spread along a jagged line some three miles in length.
All the Union
divisions, with the exception of Union Major General Gordon Granger's reserve force, became involved. The Confederate troops were also largely engaged, except Generals T.C. Hindman
and J.C. Breckinridge, who had crossed over during the late afternoon and
When the battle ended for the day, little progress could be shown by
troops had reached the LaFayette-Chattanooga Road but were not able to
hold the position. Neither side could claim a victory.
had failed to
crush the Union
remained in possession of the roads to Chattanooga.
The losses on both sides were heavy.
As night fell and darkness settled over the battlefield the fighting
stopped, but, there was little rest for the weary
brought the Army of the Cumberland into a more compact defensive line;
Thomas' Corps, heavily reinforced, formed the left in a bulge east of the
LaFayette Road at Kelly's Field.
Throughout the night the Confederates
heard the ring of axes as the
troops cut trees and logs to form breastworks. General Alexander McCook's
Corps in the center faced LaFayette Road; Major General Thomas L.
Crittenden's Corps on the right, was a little withdrawn west of the road.
During the night, Confederate
General James Longstreet arrived with two
more brigades ready for action.
General Bragg then decided to form the Army of
Tennessee into two wings for
offensive action the next day. He placed Lieutenant General Leonidas in
command of the right wing and General Longstreet, the left. The
Confederate Army, facing west between Chickamauga Creek and the LaFayette
Road formed a line more or less parallel with the road.
Battle of Chickamauga, Frank Leslie's
Illustrated Newspaper, 1963. This image available for
photographic prints & downloads
Second Day Battle
General Braxton Bragg again tried to drive between the
force and Chattanooga, but failed to dislodge
Major General William Rosecrans' line. Suddenly, a
gap opened in the Federal ranks and Confederates
smashed through, routing Rosecrans
and half his army. General George H.
Thomas took command of the remaining Federals and formed a new battle line
on Snodgrass Hill. Here, his men held their ground against repeated
assaults. After dark, Thomas' forces withdrew from the field to the
defenses of Chattanooga. The
pursued and besieged the city. By placing artillery on the heights
overlooking the river and blocking the roads and rail lines, the
Southerners prevented Federal supplies from entering the city.
Aware of General Rosecrans' plight,
authorities in Washington ordered reinforcements to his relief. General
Joseph Hooker came from Virginia late in October and
William T. Sherman brought reinforcements from
in mid-November. Thomas
Rosecrans as head of Army of the Cumberland and
General Ulysses S. Grant assumed overall command.
Within days of Grant's arrival in October, the situation began to change
dramatically. Federal troops opened a supply route, nicknamed the "Cracker
Line," from Bridgeport, Alabama. On November 23 Thomas' men attacked and
routed the Confederates
Tennessee. On the 24th, aided by a heavy fog that enshrouded the
Lookout Mountain, Hooker's
pushed the Confederates
out of their defenses. On November 25, with most of General Bragg's army now
Missionary Ridge. General Ulysses S. Grant launched
General Sherman's troops against
right flank, and sent Hooker's men from Lookout Mountain
to attack the Confederate
were sent to relieve the pressure on Sherman by
assaulting the rifle pits at the base of Missionary Ridge. This was
swiftly accomplished, but then, without orders, Thomas' men scaled the
heights in one of the great charges of the war. The
line collapsed and Bragg's
troops fled to the rear, retreating into
Georgia. The siege and battle for Chattanooga were over and
armies now controlled the city and nearly all of
The next spring,
used Chattanooga for his supply base as he
started his march to Atlanta and the sea.
Today, the Chickamauga Battlefield features a seven mile self-guiding auto
tour, monuments, historical tablets, hiking trails and horse trails. The
Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center contains exhibits and the Fuller
Gun Collection which contains over 300 examples of military long arms.
The Siege of Chattanooga
Thomas remained in position at Rossville, Georgia throughout September 21st, but, it was
evident that the
could turn his right flank and cut him off from Chattanooga, Tennessee. He suggested
Army concentrate at Chattanooga. In anticipation of receiving an order to
withdraw to the town, Thomas instructed his officers to prepare their
commands for the movement.
adopted the suggestion and that
evening Thomas withdrew the
forces to Chattanooga. All wagons, ambulances, and surplus artillery had
already departed for Chattanooga during the day. By morning of September
Union troops were in position in the town.
The situation in which the men in blue found themselves in Chattanooga was
not pleasant. The Tennessee River walled them in on the north, although a
pontoon bridge and two ferries offered escape possibilities. Lookout
Mountain blocked the way on the west, and Missionary Ridge to the east and
south, now held by the Confederates,
completed the circle.
troops began to take up siege positions around Chattanooga. In these
positions the Confederates
lines. Bragg's men controlled all the railroads leading into the town;
batteries and sharp shooters commanded the Tennessee River, and river
traffic ceased; they controlled the roads on the south side of the river
and kept under fire the one road north of the river leading to Bridgeport,
supply base. Only the road over Walden's Ridge and down through the Sequatchie
Valley to Bridgeport was open to
Reinforcements for the Besieged Army
As early as September 13, General in Chief Halleck ordered reinforcements
Rosecrans. His dispatches on September 13, 14, and 15 to Major
Generals Hurlbut at Memphis and Grant and Sherman at
the troop movements. These dispatches, however, were delayed for several
days en route from Cairo to Memphis and, in the meantime, the
Chickamauga was fought. Grant received the orders on the 22nd and
immediately instructed four divisions under
to march to
One division of the Seventeenth Corps, already in transit from
to Helena, Arkansas, was ordered to proceed on to Memphis.
quickly brought three divisions of his Fifteenth Army Corps from the
vicinity of the Big Black River into Vicksburg, where they embarked as
fast as water transportation could be provided. By October 3, all of the
movement of 17,000 men was under way.
The route of travel was by boat to Memphis, then by railroad and overland
marches to Chattanooga. From Memphis the troops followed closely the
Memphis and Charleston Railroad, which
Sherman was ordered to repair as he
advanced. By November 15, the troops were at Bridgeport, Alabama, having
traveled a distance of 675 miles.
When the War Department in Washington received word that the Army of the
Cumberland was besieged in Chattanooga, it considered the situation so critical
Lincoln was called out of bed late at night to attend a council
meeting. This meeting occurred on the night of September 23, and was described:
dispatch, Mr. Stanton sent one of the
President's secretaries who was standing by to the Soldier's Home, where
the President was sleeping. A little startled by the unwonted summons,—for
this was "the first time" he said, Stanton had ever sent for him,—the
President mounted his horse and rode in through the moonlight to the War
Department to preside over an improvised council to consider the subject
There were present General Halleck, Stanton, Seward and Chase of the
Cabinet; P. H. Watson and James A. Hardie of the War Department, and
General D. C. McCallum, Superintendent of Military Transportation. After a
brief debate, it was resolved to detach the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps
Army of the Potomac, General Hooker to be placed in command of
both . . ."
The movement of the Eleventh and Twelfth Army Corps from the
Army of the Potomac to Tennessee eclipsed all
other such troop movements by rail up to that time. It represented a high
degree of cooperation between the railroads and the government and was a
singular triumph of skill and planning. It also shows the great importance
the War Department attached to the
The troops began to entrain at Manassas Junction and Bealton Station,
on September 25, and 5 days later on September 30 the first trains arrived
at Bridgeport, Alabama The route traveled was by way of Washington, D. C.;
Baltimore, Maryland; Bellaire and Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana;
Tennessee; and Bridgeport, Alabama. Several major
railroad lines, including the Baltimore and Ohio, Central Ohio, Louisville
and Nashville, and Nashville and
Chattanooga were involved.
Not all of the troops, however, made such good time as the first trains,
and for the majority of the infantry the trip consumed about nine days.
The movement of the artillery, horses, mules, baggage, and impediments was
somewhat slower, but by the middle of October, all were in the vicinity of
Bridgeport ready to help break the siege. These two corps under Major
General Joseph Hooker, comprising 20,000 troops and more than 3,000 horses
and mules, traveled 1,157 miles. Differences in the railroad gauges
hampered the movement, but most of the changes in gauge occurred at river
crossings which had no bridges and the troops had to detrain at these
Confederate cavalry raids, bent on destroying the railroad bridges and
otherwise interfering with the reinforcing effort, imposed a more serious
difficulty, but, except for delaying the latter part of the movement a few
days, the raids were ineffective.
Continued Next Page
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