Battle of Chickamauga
The Battle of Chickamauga, the
Bragg subsequently deployed most of his troops at crossings of the Tennessee River northeast of Chattanooga, where he expected Rosecrans to attack.
As his army passed through LaFayette, Georgia, Bragg learned of the widely scattered condition of the Union army and planned an offensive movement against portions of the Union force. During the second week of September, he had several chances to destroy isolated portions of the Union army, but command dissension resulted in several bungled attempts to punish the enemy. At the same time, Rosecrans began ordering a concentration of his troops, realizing that the three isolated corps of his army were in danger.
By September 17, two of Rosecrans's corps were reunited and were moving north toward Lee and Gordon's Mill on Chickamauga Creek to join the third Union corps. Bragg believed that the Union troops at Lee and Gordon's Mill constituted the northernmost elements of Rosecrans's force. Thus he developed a battle plan to cross Chickamauga Creek north of the mill and drive the Union troops southwestward back against the mountains and away from Chattanooga.
September 18: The First Day of Fighting
The first day's fighting at the Battle of Chickamauga consisted of several Confederate attempts to seize crossing points on Chickamauga Creek. Union cavalrymen delayed the Confederates at Reed's Bridge, but eventually Southern forces seized the span and advanced southwestward toward Lee and Gordon's Mill. Union mounted infantrymen at Alexander's Bridge also fought a successful delaying action before being forced back. Southerners did get across the Chickamauga on September 18, but the delays prevented them from reaching the left flank of the main Union force.
September 19: The Second Day of Fighting
The actions on
September 20: The Third Day of Fighting
During the night and early morning of September 19 and 20, Bragg divided his army into two wings, the right (or northern) wing under Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk and the left (or southern) wing under Lieutenant General James Longstreet, who had arrived from Virginia with additional Confederate reinforcements. Bragg's plans for September 20 called for an attack to begin at dawn on the Confederate right and continue southward, driving the Union troops away from Chattanooga. Ineptitude on the part of Polk and one of his subordinates caused the attacks to begin several hours late. Although a small force of Confederates briefly turned the enemy troops left, Union reinforcements drove back the Southerners. Union soldiers protected by breastworks bloodily repulsed the rest of the attacks launched by Polk's troops.
Shortly after 11 a.m. Rosecrans came to believe that a Union division in the center of his line had created a gap by moving out of position. In order to rectify the situation, Rosecrans ordered another division under Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood northward to fill the supposed hole. But a massive Confederate attack led by Longstreet
By noon, disaster had engulfed the center and right wings of the Union army, sending Rosecrans, several of his principal subordinates, and many of their men into a retreat northward to Chattanooga. Some Northern soldiers eventually formed a line on a series of steep, wooded knolls known as Snodgrass Hill or Horseshoe Ridge. Although the Confederates continued to attack Snodgrass throughout the afternoon, they were unable to capture the position. Late in the afternoon, Union general Thomas, who earned the name the "Rock of Chickamauga" for his outstanding performance that day, withdrew his forces from the battlefield back toward Chickamauga to the safety of a gap in Missionary Ridge.
Chickamauga was an extremely costly battle for both armies. Rosecrans lost more than 16,000 men killed, wounded, and missing, while Bragg's army of roughly 68,000
Peter Cozzens, This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992).
Jerry Korn, The Fight for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge (Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1985).
Roger C. Linton, Chickamauga: A Battlefield History in Images (Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 2004).
William Glenn Robertson, The Battle of Chickamauga: Civil War Series (Conshohocken, Pa.: Eastern National Park and Monument Association, 1995).
Steven E. Woodworth, Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998).
Keith S. Bohannon, University of West Georgia
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