june 24 - september 9 1863
Following its defeat at Stones River (called Murfreesboro by the Confederacy) in January 1863, General Braxton Bragg's Confederate Army of Tennessee withdrew to a defensive line which had been established northwest of Tullahoma, Tennessee. Weak and easily turned, Bragg's position nevertheless permitted him to retain control of a rich agricultural area for the Confederacy. For six months, General Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland remained in its camps around Murfreesboro, reorganizing and refitting before resuming its advance toward Chattanooga on June 23.
Feinting toward Bragg's left at Shelby-ville, Rosecrans used the bulk of his infantry to outflank the Confederate right beyond Wartrace. Undeterred by massive rainstorms, within two days the Army of the Cumberland had broken through Confederate forward defenses at Hoover's Gap. Learning that his right was turned, Bragg fell back on his base at Tullahoma. Again Rosecrans feinted directly toward Tullahoma while simultaneously turning Bragg's right. In response, Bragg again withdrew, this time all the way to Chattanooga, while Rosecrans halted to consolidate his gains. Rosecrans's masterful campaign had secured virtually all of Tennessee's most productive region at a cost of only 560 Federal casualties. Confederate losses are unknown, but are estimated at more than 1,600.
On August 16, the Army of the Cumberland resumed its advance. Feinting north of Chattanooga to distract Bragg's attention, Rosecrans sent his army across the Tennessee River at four places. Once across, the Federals began a broad-front advance through rugged mountainous terrain toward the southeast. While XXI Corps threatened Chattanooga directly, forty miles to the south XX Corps and the Cavalry Corps drove toward Bragg's railroad lifeline to Atlanta. In the center, XIV Corps attempted to maintain a tenuous connection between Rosecrans's wings.
By September 8 much of the Federal army was crossing Lookout Mountain, outflanking Bragg, and forcing him to evacuate the city. While the Confederates withdrew southward, XXI Corps entered Chattanooga on September 9. Believing that Bragg's army was in hasty retreat toward Rome, Georgia, Rosecrans brushed aside suggestions to pause and consolidate his scattered units. Instead, he ordered a general pursuit
ile, had retreated no farther than La Georgia, where he concentrated his a possible counterstroke.
""\"\7"7hen your Dutch General
W Rosencranz [sic] commenced his forward movement for the capture of Chattanooga, we laughed him to scorn. We believed that the black brow of Lookout Mountain would frown him out of existence... and that the northern people and the goverment at Washington would perceive how hopeless were their efforts when they came to attack the real South."
A Confederate officer in communication with à Federal correspondent.
While few persons exhibited more estimable qualities, I have never seen a public man possessing talent with less administrative power less clearness and steadiness in difficulty, and greater practical incapacity than General Rosecrans."
Charles A. Dana, in a report to the War Department.
Although Rosecrans was often quick to lay the burden of his failures on the shoulders of his subordinates, he could also be unstinting with his praise. He attributed much of the success of the Union advance upon Chattanooga to his chief-of-staff, Brig. Gen. James A. Garfield (above).
Chickamauga Campaign September 10
General Rosecrans's decision to pursue the Confederate Army of Tennessee into the mountains of northern Georgia was based upon the overt testimony of deserters, and his own intuitive belief that Bragg was beaten. Even though his infantry corps were scattered widely over the rough terrain, Rosecrans believed that the risk to his army was minimal. Therefore, he ordered each corps to pursue the enemy without reference to other Federal units. Accordingly, XXI Corps headed east from Chattanooga toward Ringgold, Georgia; XIV Corps advanced across McLemore's Cove toward La Fayette; XX Corps and the Cavalry Corps moved toward Rome.
Unknown to Rosecrans, the testimony of the Confederate deserters - upon which he had relied - was intentionally deceptive. Bragg's army was neither retreating nor de moralized. Concentrated around La Fayette, the Army of Tennessee daily gained strength as reinforcements arrived from East Tennessee and Mississippi. Upon learning that the Federal corps were widely scattered, Bragg saw an opportunity to defeat them individually. When two XIV Corps divisions incautiously approached the eastern exit of McLemore's Cove at Dug Gap, Bragg ordered several Confederate divisions to converge upon them. However, the Confederates proved unable to trap the
Federals, who rapidly withdrew to safety on September 11 Two days later, a similar effort by Bragg to defeat a detached part of XXI Corps also failed near Lee and Gordon's Mill.
The near-disaster in McLemore's Cove caused Rosecrans to recognize that the Army of the Cumberland was in grave danger, and he immediately ordered it to concentrate just south of Chattanooga. Unfortunately, the XX Corps was forty miles distant at Alpine, Georgia, and did not join XIV Corps in McLemore's Cove until September 17. Only then did the two corps march north to unite with XXI Corps on Chickamauga Creek. While the Federals marched, Bragg waited briefly for the arrival of reinforcements from Virginia. Then, on September 18, he ordered an offensive movement to turn the Federal left flank north of Lee and Gordon's Mill. By the end of the day Confederate units had seized crossings of Chickamauga Creek at Reed's Bridge, Alexander's Bridge, and Thedford's Ford, driving away Federal pickets in the process. Bragg was now poised to interpose his army between Rosecrans and Chattanooga.
Confederate artillery opens fire on the Union troops holding Reed's Bridge over the Chickamauga on September IS (below). During the engagement the main body of the Confederate army crossed the river at different points.
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