Saturday, October 26, 2013

October 3, 1863

October 3, 1863

---After fighting an illness for some time, Willy Sherman, Gen. Sherman’s favorite son, dies of swamp fevers at Vicksburg.  Sherman still expedites the movement of his troops by rail, by river, and by foot towards Corinth, Mississippi. 

---Wheeler’s second column, under Gen. Henry Davidson, rides toward McMinnville, which is garrisoned by the 4th Tennessee (U.S.), under Maj. Michael Patterson---about 400 men.  After several attacks, Davidson demands Patterson’s surrender.  Afterwards, the 4th Tennessee are subject to “brutal outrages,” the taking of their personal property, coats, and boots.

---Col. James Chestnut, a personal representative from Pres. Davis, arrives at Bragg’s Missionary Ridge headquarters to investigate the bad blood amongst Bragg and his officers.  Chestnut talks with Gen. Polk and Gen. Longstreet on this date.  

October 2, 1863

October 2, 1863

---Gen. Braxton Bragg orders Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest to turn over the command of his cavalry corps to Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler.  Forrest is enraged, tells him what he thinks of Bragg, and travels to Bragg’s HQ to deliver the message.  Written down after 4 decades, this is Forrest’s best version of what he told Bragg:

I am not here to pass civilities or compliments with you, but on other business. You commenced your cowardly and contemptible persecution of me soon after the battle of Shiloh, and you have kept it up ever since. You did it because I reported to Richmond facts, while you reported damn lies. You robbed me of my command in Kentucky and gave it to one of your favorites — men that I armed and equipped from the enemies of our country.

In a spirit of revenge and spite, because I would not fawn upon you as others did, you drove me into West Tennessee in the winter of 1862, with a second brigade I had organized, with improper arms and without sufficient ammunition, although I had made repeated applications for the same. You did it to ruin me and my career.

When, in spite of all this, I returned with my command, well equipped by captures, you began again your work of spite and persecution, and have kept it up; and now this second brigade, organized and equipped without thanks to you or the government, a brigade which has won a reputation for successful fighting second to none in the army, taking advantage of your position as the commanding general in order to further humiliate me, you have taken these brave men from me.

I have stood your meanness as long as I intend to. You have played the part of a damn scoundrel, and are a coward; and if you were any part of a man, I would slap your jaws and force you to resent it. You may as well not issue any more orders to me, for I will not obey them, and I will hold you personally responsible for any further indignities you endeavor to inflict upon me. You have threatened to arrest me for not obeying your orders promptly. I dare you to do it, and I say to you that if you ever again try to interfere with me or cross my path it will be at the peril of your life.

---Col. Edward McCook, in command of the 1st Missouri and 2nd Indiana Cavalry regiments, attacks Wheeler’s force and drives them for a time. 

---Wheeler’s force divides, and Wheeler takes a division south along with Sequatchie Valley, surprising a miles-long wagon train of nearly 800 wagons.  After a stiff battle, wherein Wheeler’s troopers put to flight two Federal regiments, many of whom escape by climbing up the steep walls of the narrow valley to escape the Rebels.  Wheeler and his men spend over 8 hours trying to destroy all of the wagons. 

---George Templeton Strong considers the dominant racial bias against blacks, and offers some mocking satire against its unreasonableness: 

“Modern physiology, my dear sir, has, as you must be aware, demonstrated the essential inferiority of the black race and proved it to be anthropoid rather than human.” Certainly.  Why not?  The Negro can be taught reading and writing and the first four rules of arithmetic, to be sure, and he is capable of keeping a hotel.  He can fight like a hero and live and die like a Christian.  But look at his facial angle, sir, and at the peculiarities of his skeleton, and you will at once perceive that his place is with the chimpanzees and the gorilla, not with man.  Physical science is absolutely infallible, you know.  No matter what the Church, or the Bible, or human instincts, or common sense may seem to say on the subject, physical science is always entitled to overrule them.  It’s very true that the science of 1863 has reversed or modified about 250,000 of the decisions it gave twenty years ago, but that makes no difference.

October 1, 1863

October 1, 1863

---Gen. Joseph E. Johnston sends a dispatch to Bragg that Federal troops are on the move to Chattanooga.  Johnston’s scouts in Memphis report four major generals there, and of a very number of transport steamers tied up at the city docks.

---Wheeler’s Raid:  Gen. Joseph Wheeler, commanding two divisions of Confederate cavalry, crosses the Tennessee River upstream, and begins a series of raids behind (west of) Chattanooga.  Moving down the Sequatchie Valley, he captures 50 wagons belonging to Rosecrans, and destroys them.

---John Beauchamp Jones records a letter from a Virginia lady who had traveled up to Pennsylvania to help care for the Confederate wounded about two weeks after the battle:

July 18th—We have been visiting the battle-field, and have done all we can for the wounded there. Since then we have sent another party, who came upon a camp of wounded Confederates in a wood between the hills. Through this wood quite a large creek runs. This camp contained between 200 and 300 wounded men, in every stage of suffering; two well men among them as nurses. Most of them had frightful wounds. A few evenings ago the rain, sudden and violent, swelled the creek, and 35 of the unfortunates were swept away; 35 died of starvation. No one had been to visit them since they were carried off the battle-field; they had no food of any kind; they were crying all the time “bread, bread! water, water!” One boy without beard was stretched out dead, quite naked, a piece of blanket thrown over his emaciated form, a rag over his face, and his small, thin hands laid over his breast. Of the dead none knew their names, and it breaks my heart to think of the mothers waiting and watching for the sons laid in the lonely grave on that fearful battle-field. All of those men in the woods were nearly naked, and when ladies approached they tried to cover themselves with the filthy rags they had cast aside. The wounds themselves, unwashed and untouched, were full of worms. God only knows what they suffered.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

September 30, 1863

September 30, 1863

---Chickamauga Campaign:  Trouble between commanders and their generals are not limited to the hapless Army of the Cumberland, but also in their opponents, the C.S. Army of Tennessee.  Gen. Bragg, dissatisfied with the way some of his subordinates conducted the Battle of Chickamauga, demands explanations from Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk and Maj. Gen. Thomas Hindman---but the government in Richmond reminds him that he cannot remove general officers from command, but only arrest them.  Pres. Davis hopes that will resolve the quarreling---but is shocked then Gen. Bragg does, in fact, the unthinkable: he prefers charges against both generals.  Ironically enough, Gen. James Longstreet (on loan from the Army of Northern Virginia) heads up a small group (himself, D.H. Hill, Simon B. Buckner, Leonidas Polk) of general officers who petition to Richmond for Bragg to be relieved and Lee sent west to deal with the Union forces there.  Trouble with dissatisfied officers and his inability to confide in them will plague Bragg through the entire coming campaign. 

---Brig. Gen. George Crook reports a massive incursion of Rebel cavalry at several points on the Tennessee River, both below and above his position, near Smith’s Cross Roads.  Crook’s men fight the dismounted Southern troopers for about an hour, and then withdraws farther west.  

Wheeler's Raid

September 29, 1863

September 29, 1863

---By this point in time, Bragg has decided upon a siege of Chattanooga, by default, knowing how low Rosecrans’ men are in rations.  His troops begin to install gun positions on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, overlooking the city of Chattanooga.

---Gen. Halleck sends a dispatch to Gen. Grant, directing him to send troops from the Army of the Tennessee to help Rosecrans---and that he should put a good officer in command of those troops (either Sherman or McPherson), and that Grant should himself go to Tennessee to personally see that things run smoothly. 

---Captain George Lewis, of the 124th Ohio Infantry Regiment, writes in his memoirs of this time in Chattanooga:

Never in the history of the Army of the Cumberland had the spirit of its officers and men been more depressed. The battle of Chickamauga had not only been fought and lost, but we also lost what was more than losing the battle. We had lost confidence in our commander.

September 28, 1863

Maj. Gen. Alexander McD. McCook, USA
September 28, 1863

---On this date, in the aftermath of the Battle of Chickamauga, orders from the War Department relieve Gen. Alexander McCook and Gen. Crittenden of their commands, and consolidate their two depleted corps into one.  This is done over the protests of Gen. Rosecrans, who has resisted Washington’s requests to fire the two generals.  Rosecrans is also order to convene courts martial for McCook’s and Crittenden’s role in the Chickamauga disaster:


Numbers 322.
Washington, September 28, 1863.*

I. The President of the United States directs that the Twentieth and Twenty-first Army Corps be consolidated and called the Fourth Army Corps, and that Major General Gordon Granger be the commander of this consolidated corps.

II. It is also directed that a court of inquiry be convened, the detail to be hereafter made, to inquire and report upon the conduct of Major-General McCook and Crittenden, in the battles of the 19th and 20th instant. These officers are relieved from duty in the Department of the Cumberland, and will repair to Indianapolis, Ind., reporting their arrival, by letter, to the Adjutant-General of the Army.

By order of the Secretary of War:


Assistant Adjutant-General.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Crittenden, USA

September 27, 1863

September 27, 1863

---Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman finally receives orders to march with most of the Army of the Tennessee to the aid of Rosecrans in Chattanooga.  Sherman puts his troops on the road immediately---two corps, about 20,000 men.  Gen. Stephen Hurlbut, in western Tennessee, begins to ready his troops also.

---Gen. Halleck is becoming impatient with Gen. Burnside in Knoxville who, by any account, has not made even a gesture toward relieving what is now clearly a siege of Chattanooga.  Halleck is uncharacteristically blunt:

Your orders before leaving Kentucky, and frequently repeated since, were to connect your right with General Rosecrans’ left, so that, if the enemy concentrated on one, the other would be able to assist. General Rosecrans was attacked on Chickamauga Creek and driven back to Chattanooga, which he holds, waiting for your assistance. Telegram after telegram has been sent to you to go to his assistance with all your available force, you being the judge of what troops it was necessary, under the circumstances, to leave in East Tennessee. The route by which you were to reach General Rosecrans was also left to your discretion. . . . The substance of all telegrams from the President and from me is, you must go to General Rosecrans’ assistance, with all your available force, by such route as, under the advices given you from here and such information as you can get, you may deem most practicable. The orders are very plain, and you cannot mistake their purport. It only remains for you to execute them.

September 26, 1863

September 26, 1863

---Although the move of Howard’s XI Corps and Slocum’s XII Corps from Virginia to Chattanooga is to be done with absolute secrecy, the New York Evening Post publishes, in complete detail, all the particulars of the movement of these troops to Chattanooga, even though neither corps had yet moved.  A friend of Lincoln’s reports that the President “was exceedingly angry.”

September 25, 1863

September 25, 1863

---On this date, President Lincoln sends a dispatch to Gen. Rosecrans advising him that two corps (the XI under Howard and the XII under Slocum) are being sent from the Army of the Potomac to Chattanooga, under the joint command of recalled Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker---a little more thn 15,000 men.  Notice the comical note that Lincoln expects Rosecrans to do something about the near blood-feud between Hooker and Slocum:

September 25, 1863.


We are sending you two small corps, one under General Howard and one under General Slocum, and the whole under General Hooker.

Unfortunately the relations between Generals Hooker and Slocum are not such as to promise good, if their present relative positions remain. Therefore, let me beg--almost enjoin upon you--that on their reaching you, you will make a transposition by which General Slocum with his Corps, may pass from under the command of General Hooker, and General Hooker, in turn receive some other equal force. It is important for this to be done, though we could not well arrange it here. Please do it.

Yours very truly,


Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, USA

---As a result of these orders, Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum attempts to resign his commission.  He writes to Pres. Lincoln, reminding him that “my opinion of General Hooker both as an officer and a gentleman is too well known to make it necessary for me to refer to it in this communication” and that it should be clear that “the public service cannot be promoted by placing under his command an officer who has so little confidence in his ability as I have.”  He would consider it “degrading” to accept command under Hooker.  But Lincoln does not accept Slocum’s resignation, and promises to keep him and Hooker from having to work together.

Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum, USA

September 23, 1863

September 23, 1863

---Gideon Welles muses on the current situation---that is, how Rosecrans is getting bottled up in Chattanooga, and Meade is not moving forward in Virginia, even though everyone knows that Lee is weakened to the tune of at least two of his best divisions---and how the General-in-Chief, Henry W. Halleck, appears to be doing nothing:

No offensive movements here; no assistance has been rendered Rosecrans. For four weeks the Rebels have been operating to overwhelm him, but not a move has been made, a step taken, or an order given, that I can learn. Halleck has done nothing, proposed nothing, and is now just beginning to take measures to reinforce Rosecrans. Has he the mind, energy, or any of the qualities or capabilities for the important position assigned him?

---In New York City, George Templeton Strong records his reactions to the news of Chickamauga:

News Monday night that Rosecrans had been badly defeated at “Chickamauga Creek,” if that’s its name, and had fallen back on Chattanooga, after a two-days’ battle.  It looked like a grave disaster and perhaps it is, but later news looks better.  He has certainly had a severe fight, suffered heavy loss, and encountered a serious check.  But rebel dispatches speak in subdued tone.  It was probably a desperate but decisive conflict, and every battle in which the rebels come short of complete victory is equivalent to a rebel defeat just now.

September 22, 1863

September 22, 1863

---As of this date, two days after the battle, Bragg has made no serious move toward Chattanooga.  Rosecrans uses this reprieve to strengthen his positions and the earthworks surrounding the city.

---Gen. William S. Rosecrans, in command of the beaten Army of the Cumberland, sends this dispatch by telegraph to Gen. Halleck in Washington, which shows Rosecrans wildly overestimating the forces opposing him:

CHATTANOOGA, TENN., September 22, 1863-9.30 a.m. (Received 2.30 p.m.)

Major General H. W. HALLECK,
     We have fought a most sanguinary battle against vastly superior numbers. Longstreet is here, and probably Ewell, and a force is coming from Charleston. We have suffered terribly, but have inflicted equal injury upon the enemy. The mass of this army is intact and in good spirits. Disaster not as great as I anticipated. We held our position in the main up to Sunday night. Retired on Rossville, which we held yesterday; then retired on Chattanooga. Our position is a strong one. Think we can hold out right. Our transportation is mostly across the river. Have one bridge. Another will be done to-day. Our cavalry will be concentrated on the west side of the river, to guard it on our left. Telegraph communication will probably be cut off for several days, as we will be compelled to abandon south side of the Tennessee River below this point.


---News of the Battle of Chickamauga finally reaches Richmond.  War Department clerk John Beauchamp Jones records in his journal the jubilation over the news of the victory, and rather optimistically embellishes what he hopes will accrue from it:

September 22d.—Another dispatch from Bragg, received at a late hour last night, says the victory is complete. This announcement has lifted a heavy load from the spirits of our people; and as successive dispatches come from Gov. Harris and others on the battle-field to-day, there is a great change in the recent elongated faces of many we meet in the streets. So far we learn that the enemy has been beaten back and pursued some eleven miles; that we have from 5000 to 6000 prisoners, some 40 guns, besides small arms and stores in vast quantities. But Gen. Hood, whom I saw at the department but a fortnight ago, is said to be dead! and some half dozen of our brigadier-generals have been killed and wounded. The loss of the enemy, however, has been still greater than ours. . . . Yet, this is from the West.

The effects of this great victory will be electrical. The whole South will be filled again with patriotic fervor, and in the North there will be a corresponding depression. Rosecrans’s position is now one of great peril; for his army, being away from the protection of gun-boats, may be utterly destroyed, and then Tennessee and Southern Kentucky may fall into our hands again. To-morrow the papers will be filled with accounts from the field of battle, and we shall have a more distinct knowledge of the magnitude of it. There must have been at least 150,000 men engaged; and no doubt the killed and wounded on both sides amounted to tens of thousands!

Surely the Government of the United States must now see the impossibility of subjugating the Southern people, spread over such a vast extent of territory; and the European governments ought now to interpose to put an end to this cruel waste of blood and treasure. . . .

---Charles Wright Wills, a captain in the 103rd Illinois Infantry, stationed in southern Mississippi, writes in his journal :

Camp at Messenger’s Ferry, Big Black River, Miss.,
September 22, 1863.

I wrote you a few lines from Vicksburg on the 18th inst. to notify you that I had escaped the perils of navigation (sandbar and guerillas) and of my safe arrival. I had a delightful trip down the river. A splendid boat, gentlemanly officers, not too many passengers, and beautiful weather. Major General Tuttle and wife and Mrs. General Grant were of our number. I think Mrs. Grant a model lady. She has seen not over thirty years, medium size, healthy blonde complexion, brown hair, blue eyes (cross-eyed) and has a pretty hand. She dresses very plainly, and busied herself knitting during nearly the whole trip. Believe her worthy of the general. Vicksburg is a miserable hole and was never anything better. A number of houses have been burned by our artillery firing, but altogether the town has suffered less than any secesh village I have seen at the hands of our forces. . . . They call it level here when the surface presents no greater angles than 45 degrees. . . . We have lost a large number by disease since I left the regiment. Anyone who saw us in Peoria would open wide his eyes at the length of our line now, and think we’d surely passed a dozen battles. The greater part of the material this regiment is made of should never have been sent into the field. The consolation is that these folks would all have to die sometime, and they ought to be glad to get rid of their sickly lives, and get credit as patriots for the sacrifice. We are now in the 2d Brigade 4th Division 15th Army Corps, having been transferred from the 16th Army Corps. We are camped on the bluffs of Black river, which we picket. Our camp is the finest one I ever was in. There are two large magnolias, three white beeches, and a half dozen holly trees around my tent. I think the magnolia the finest looking tree I ever saw. Many of the trees are ornamented with Spanish moss, which, hanging from the branches in long and graceful rolls, adds very much to the beauty of the forest. Another little item I cannot help mentioning is the “chigger,” a little red insect much smaller than a pin-head, that buries itself in the skin and stings worse than a mosquito bite. Squirrels skip around in the trees in camp, and coons, owls, etc., make music for us nights. Capt. Gus Smith when on picket several nights, saw a bear (so he swears) and shot at it several times. . . . 

September 21, 1863

September 21, 1863

--- Chickamauga Campaign: In Northern Georgia, Bragg has his army bury the dead and take care of all the wounded, rather than pursue the fleeing Army of the Cumberland.  Gen. Thomas has stopped at Rossville, and begins digging in.  Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s mounted troopers harass the retreating Yankees, and he sends back urgent messages, insisting that “every hour is worth a thousand men,” urging Bragg to send infantry to attack Thomas, whose forces are in disarray---but Bragg ignores Forrest’s entreaties. 

Gen. Rosecrans immediately begins strengthening the city’s fortifications.  He sends messages back to Washington that Bragg is in full retreat, but that he also needs Burnside, with his small Army of the Ohio, to march to Chattanooga without delay from Knoxville, which Burnside has just captured.  But Burnside tells Washington that his forces are spread out over eastern Tennessee, and that he has little to send.

---President Lincoln writes a letter to Gen. Halleck, with the strong suggestion that Gen. Rosecrans be sure to hold on to Chattanooga:



I think it very important for General Rosecrans to hold his position at or about Chattanooga, because if held from that place to Cleveland, both inclusive, it keeps all Tennessee clear of the enemy, and also breaks one of his most important railroad lines. To prevent these consequences is so vital to his cause that he cannot give up the effort to dislodge us from the position, thus bringing him to us and saving us the labor, expense, and hazard of going farther to find him, and also giving us the advantage of choosing our own ground and preparing it to fight him upon. The details must, of course, be left to General Rosecrans, while we must furnish him the means to the utmost of our ability. If you concur, I think he would better be informed that we are not pushing him beyond this position; and that, in fact, our judgment is rather against his going beyond it. If he can only maintain this position, without more, this rebellion can only eke out a short and feeble existence, as an animal sometimes may with a thorn in its vitals.

Yours truly,


---Gideon Welles, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, writes in his journal, worried about the President and the results of the battle in Chickamauga:

The President came to me this afternoon with the latest news. He was feeling badly. Tells me a dispatch was sent to him at the Soldiers’ Home shortly after he got asleep, and so disturbed him that he had no more rest, but arose and came to the city and passed the remainder of the night awake and watchful. He has a telegram this P.M. which he brings me that is more encouraging. Our men stood well their ground and fought like Union heroes for their country and cause. We conclude the Rebels have concentrated a large force to overpower Rosecrans and recapture Chattanooga. While this has been doing, Halleck has frittered away time and dispersed our forces. Most of Grant’s effective force appears to have been sent across the Mississippi, where a large force is not needed. Burnside is in northeastern Tennessee, two hundred miles away from Chattanooga. While our men are thus scattered, a large division from Lee’s army in our front has been sent under Longstreet to Bragg. . . .

Thursday, October 17, 2013

September 20, 1863

September 20, 1863

Battle of Chickamauga

September 19-20, 1863

---Day 2: Overnight, Bragg re-organizes his army into two wings---one under Gen. Polk, and another under Gen. Longstreet, who has just arrived late last night. The orders never find Lt. Gen. D.H. Hill, however, and by morning, he learns from Gen. Polk that Hill’s troops have been made subordinate to Polk’s command, and that Breckenridge’s division in Hill’s Corps is to lead the attack: consequently, there are delays. Bragg has envisioned a series of attacks from right to left, and Breckinridge is to lead off. Hill does not learn of his role in the morning’s attacks until 7:25 AM, when he is lining up his troops and getting them fed, since most of them had not eaten for over 24 hours. Gen. Bragg is furious to find that the attacks have not started yet, and is outraged to find Gen. Polk back of the lines reading a newspaper. Overnight, Gen. Thomas has fortified Kelly’s Field with earthworks and logs, batteries of field guns, and placed eight brigades there, with several more in reserve. Out beyond his flank, he has placed Beatty’s brigade. Although Hill has placed his troops, other sections of the Rebel line are chaotic: Cheatham finds that his division is at right angles with Hill’s, and that it was also partly behind Stewart’s, making at advance moot. Cheatham is pulled out of line, at last, and precious time is lost. Muddled orders, no orders at all, and tangled battle lines plague the Rebel army in the early morning.

Early Confederate attacks on the Union left
maps by Wikipedia

Finally, Breckinridge is sent forward by Hill, followed by Walker’s Reserves and what is left of Liddell’s division. The Orphan brigade of Kentuckians, under Gen. Helm, hits the left end of the Union line, and Breckinridge pushes on with the other two of his brigades under Stovall and Adams, who sweep over Beatty’s position, and find themselves astraddle the La Fayette road, and overlapping the Union flank. Breckinridge re-aligns Adams and Stovall at right angles, now facing south, and they advance on Thomas’ flank and rear. Gen. Helm (Pres. Lincoln’s brother-in-law) is mortally wounded. Yankee reserves under Van Derveer and Stanley stop Adams and Stovall cold, driving them back to their original position. Gen. Cleburne’s division goes forward also, but their attack is partly blunted by one flank of Stewart’s Rebel division in their way, and the fact that Cleburne is attacking a line where much of four Federal divisions are dug in. Cleburne’s men suffer heavy losses. 
Chickamauga battlefield, near Kelly's Field

At Bragg’s command (without consulting Longstreet) Stewart’s gray division charges the Federal line at around 11:00 AM, badly mangles Brannan’s flank and also part of Reynolds’ division, and even captures a section of the La Fayette Road, but are finally driven back. Gen. D.H. Hill recommends to Gen. Polk that a second attack be launched, if fresh troops are applied; the brigade of State Rights Gist (yes, that is his real name) and the division of Liddell, already battle-worn, both go forward, but are finally ineffectual.

Nevertheless, Thomas is alarmed at the fury of the Southern attack, and calls for reinforcements. Rosecrans dispatches Van Cleve’s division and part of Negley's to Thomas, and intends to send more. Brannan is asked to reinforce Thomas also, but Brannan hesitates to move until the order is confirmed by Rosecrans. Rosecrans assumes that Brannan is already in motion; he therefore orders Gen. Thomas Wood to shift his division from the Union right to replace Brannan in the center. Wood marches his troops behind Brannan (who is still in line) and Reynolds.

This opens a gap in the Union line at a most opportune moment for the Confederates. Gen Longstreet, in command of the Left Wing of the army, is carefully laying out the lines of his advance. Ordered to attack by Bragg, Longstreet is reluctant to move against dug-in troops, so he lines up eight brigades in three lines in the column, preparing to strike the Union line precisely where Wood’s division has just vacated it: all three of Bushrod Johnson’s brigades (Fulton, Gregg, McNair), all three of Hood’s brigades (Sheffield, Robertson, and Benning), and two of McLaws’ brigades, commanded by Brig. Gen. Joseph Kershaw, in the third line. Altogether, Longstreet has nearly 11,000 men in column. Direct command of this column is given to Gen. John Bell Hood. This column would be attacking up the Brotherton Road, erupting into the Brotherton field so that they can deploy to bring all their strength to bear. Lined up on their left is Thomas Hindman’s division (brigades Deas, Manigault, Anderson), and behind Hindman is Preston’s division (brigades Gracie, Kelly, Trigg). Longstreet orders the attack forward at 11:10 AM, possibly intending Stewart’s premature advance to coincide with Hood’s.
Longstreet's Assault

Bushrod Johnson’s men emerge from the woods, cross the La Fayette Road, and spread out in line of battle across Brotherton Field, Fulton driving right through, after scattering a skirmish line, and McNair brushing against some of Brannan’s men on his right. 
Battlefield plaque with artist's version of what Hood's attack looked like across Brotherton Field
My photo of Brotherton Field from the same spot, from the Yankee position

A line of Federal cannon line up at Dyer Field, but Gregg (commanded by Sugg), Sheffield, and Robertson’s Texans push forward and capture most of the guns. A counterattack by Harker’s Brigade from Wood’s division disrupts the advance, but Gen. Hood sends Kershaw in to attack Harker’s Federals. He then rides to rally his Texans. As he does so, he is shot in the thigh, and is rushed to the hospital. As the ball has splintered the bone, the surgeons amputate Hood’s right leg. 
Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood, CSA

As Hindman strikes J.C. Davis’s Federals, he has initial success. Sheridan keeps his two brigades in position until Brig. Gen. Andrew Lytle is killed, and his brigade dissolves in panic toward the rear. One of Hindman’s brigades, under Manigault, is savaged by a flank attack by Wilder’s mounted infantry, armed with the repeating rifles, thus slowing Hindman’s advance. However, soon, most of Crittenden’s corps, and much of McCook’s, is fleeing up the road toward Chattanooga, in a full rout. The Federal right flank and right center, already weakened by Rosecrans’ bolstering of Thomas’s flank, dissolves and ceases to exist. Because of the topography, there is no open way to the army’s left flank, and so the Union soldier’s flee up the road to Chattanooga, carrying Rosecrans with them, who sends his Chief of Staff Gen. James Garfield, back with orders to Thomas to cover the retreat.

Longstreet’s column is basically wheeling to the right, and disrupting the Union line, one piece at a time. Some of the pieces fall back, and as Thomas rides to the right to see about reinforcements, he sees the Confederate breakthrough, and he begins to patch together a line of troops on a spur of Missionary Ridge called Snodgrass Hill and Horseshoe Ridge connected to it.

Longstreet’s advance pauses to re-organize and re-align, parts of it having stopped, and others hopelessly intermingled and confused in the tangled woods and the battle smoke, nearly beyond the effective reach of any commander’s influence. Harker’s Federal brigade, in the meantime, withdraws up Snodgrass Ridge and begins to make a stand as Perry and Robertson’s Texans attack the ridge with their brigades near 1:00 PM, but are driven off. 

From the Federal line on Horseshoe Ridge looking downslope where the Confederate attack will come

Thomas sends Brannan, parts of Negley’s division, and what is left of Wood’s to the ridge to dig in, along with Harker’s brigade, and other assorted odds and ends. Thomas’s left—the heavily-fortified crescent that curves around Kelly’s Field, and has resisted attacks all day—he leaves as it is, bolstered with a heavy concentration of infantry and artillery. He then begins to fashion a line with Wood and Hazen’s brigade along Horseshoe Ridge to link the two ends of the blue line.

Gen. Granger, commanding Rosecrans’ Reserves, is only 3 miles away, and hears the noise of battle. Although he is supposed to wait for orders, Granger sends Steedman’s two-brigade division and Col. Daniel McCook’s brigade. Steeman is eventually put on the far Union right on Snodgrass Hill. After several more uncoordinated Confederate assaults, several Rebel divisions are put together (Hindman, Kershaw, and Bushrod Johnson) to attack Snodgrass Hill in unison, and they step off around 3:30 PM. Ground is gained by the Southern attack, as the gray troops fight with bayonet and rifle stocks in a brutal hand-to-hand fight, capturing much of the hill’s slope. 

The heavily-wooded steep slopes of Snodgrass Hill, viewed from the crest

Longstreet, who was behind the lines eating lunch, is approached by Bragg about the progress of the battle, and Longstreet asks for reinforcements to pursue up the Rossville Road after the fleeing Yankees, and thus cut off Thomas’ retreat route. Bragg has his largest division (Cheatham) nearly intact, and part of another, but refuses, denying that there are any troops available. He orders Longstreet to keep attacking. Finally, D.H. Hill, commanding the Rebel right, moves forward: the Confederates on the right finally attack the Kelly Field salient, putting pressure on the whole Federal line, until finally Cleburne’s men take the breastworks and cause a breach in the Union line. At the same time, Longstreet commits his last fresh division, under Gen. Preston, who breaks his division against the impregnable Union positions. 

The defense of Snodgrass Hill

Finally, under cover of falling darkness, Thomas orders Gen. Reynolds to withdraw the troops from the broken salient on the left, followed by Palmer, Baird, and Johnson with the remainders of their divisions; the Rebels capture many from Baird’s division, however, and it is not a clean getaway. Then, unit by unit, the Yankees withdraw up the Rossville Road toward Chattanooga. Steedman, Brannan, and Wood all make a stealthy withdrawal from Snodgrass Hill. Three regiments–the 22nd Michigan, and 21st and 89th Ohio, cover the retreat, but many of them are short on ammunition, and end up as prisoners of the Confederates. 


          Killed            Wounded        Captured/Missing         Total
U.S.    1,657              9,756                     4,757                                16,170
C.S.    2,312             14,674                    1,468                                18,454

This is the second-bloodiest battle of the war, second only to Gettysburg.

Writes Gen. Daniel Harvey Hill of this battle:

There was no more splendid fighting in '61, when the flower of the Southern youth was in the field, than was displayed in those bloody days of September, '63. But it seems to me that the elan of the Southern soldier was never seen after Chickamauga - that brilliant dash which had distinguished him was gone forever. He was too intelligent not to know that the cutting in two of Georgia meant death to all his hopes. He knew that Longstreet's absence was imperiling Lee's safety, and that what had to be done must be done quickly. The delay in striking was exasperating to him; the failure to strike after the success was crushing to all his longings for an independent South. He fought stoutly to the last, but, after Chickamauga, with the sullenness of despair and without the enthusiasm of hope.

Monday, October 7, 2013

September 19, 1863

September 19, 1863

Battle of Chickamauga

September 19-20, 1863


---Day 1: The battle opens when Gen. Thomas (U.S. XIV Corps), on information that the Rebels are beginning to cross west of the Chickamauga River in force, sends Gen. Brannan with two of his brigades driving east along the road to Reed's Bridge, and another brigade down the road to Alexander's Bridge, in order to pin down the few Confederate forces that had already crossed. Croxton's brigade, with Van Derveer's brigade in support, runs into Gen. Forrest's cavalry under Davidson, and drives it back. Forrest forms a line of dismounted troopers, and calls upon Col. Wilson's small infantry brigade of Georgians from Walker's Reserve Corps to cover his left flank. Forrest posts Dibrell's cavalry brigade out to cover his right.

The Battle of Chickamauga opens
Maps by Wikipedia

Dibrell strikes Van Derveer's brigade of Federals, but is unable to drive them. Brannan has sent forward some artillery, and the Federals at first make a good stand. Forrest recruits some more infantry, Ector's brigade (made up actually mostly of Texas dismounted cavalry, and units from North Carolina and Mississippi), to advance and help Dibrell, but Van Derveer still holds. On Forrest's left, the Rebels drive Croxton back, capturing the battery with him.  The fighting is confused and mostly on the brigade level, due to low visibility in the woods heavy with summer foliage.  Black powder smoke soon obscures what little visibility there is, and the advancing Southern troops have only small trails in the forest for maneuvering.
Trail in the Chickamauga Battlefield woods

By this time, Thomas realizes that the Rebels have more force in the heavy woods near the river than he had expected, and so sends Gen. Baird's division to shore up Brannan's right. Gen. King's brigade of U.S. Regulars, supported by Scribner's brigade (3 Ohio regiments, and one each from Indiana and Wisconsin), move forward and strike Wilson's graybacks, driving them back toward the river. By this time, Bragg is aware of events west of the River, and sends forward Brig. Gen. St. John Liddell's small division (about 2,000 troops present for duty that day) of two brigades under Govan and Walthall, whose troops arrive just in time to hit Baird's right flank, driving Scribner's and Starkweather's brigades into disorderly retreat. Soon, the whole Union line begins to unravel, as King falls back, followed by Croxton. Liddell's men capture two batteries of artillery and continue up the Alexander's Bridge road until they strike Van Derveer, who responds with well-placed volleys in their front, as Croxton's Yankees rally and move forward again, striking Liddell's left.

By this time, Rosecrans has hurried a division of troops under Johnson (from McCook's Corps) north and throws them into line in time to stop Liddell. Gen. Benjamin Cheatham, with the largest division in the Army of Tennessee---five brigades, totaling over 7,000 men---arrives just then and deploys his troops in two lines, three brigades in the front and two in support. Cheatham advances at about 11:00 AM, deploying on Liddell's left flank. As he advances, Croxton's Federals break and withdraw, but two fresh brigades (Willich and Baldwin) from Johnson's division take Croxton's place and shake out into line of battle. Jackson's and Maney's brigades of Confederates both are broken before the assault of Johnson's troops. By this time, Thomas has reformed his line, and brought Palmer's Division from Crittenden's Corps and Van Cleve's from his own to put into the line. As these troops advance, Cheatham's Rebels cannot hold their position and they begin to retreat.

Confederate troops advance in the heavy woods of Chickamauga
Artist: Alfred Waud

After 2:00 PM, Another Confederate advance is underway, as Bragg begins to feed in more units. Alexander Stewart's Division advances against Van Cleve, in what appears to now be the Union center. Stewart smashes Palmer's right flank, and smashes into Van Cleve. Soon after, at 2:30 PM, Gen. John Bell Hood, of the Army of Northern Virginia, pushes forward six brigades---three from his own (Robertson, Law, and Benning), and the three brigades of Bushrod Johnson's division (McNair, Gregg, and Fulton). With four brigades in front, and two in support, Hood smashes into Van Cleve and various detached brigades from Reynolds and Baird's divisions, and drives them back. Hood and Stewart have captured a large amount of Union artillery, as well as prisoners, the La Fayette Road (the main Union escape route to Chattanooga), and are in possession of the Brock and Brotherton fields---which have become crucial points of control, being some of the few cleared lots that allow artillery to be deployed. But there is no follow-up, and soon, Rosecrans has brought up fresh troops. This is a turning point in the battle: had Bragg put more troops there, this advance could have exploited the gap now opened between Thomas and the rest of the Union army.The three Confederate divisions are soon facing six Federal divisions: in addition to Palmer and Van Cleve, Negley, Wood, Sheridan, and Jefferson C. Davis (no relation to the C.S. President) line up to close the gap. 

As Davis advances from the Union right, Bushrod Johnson counterattacks with some success, pushing into the Viniard farm, with Hood in support. Col John Wilder's Federal troops (the famous Lightning Brigade) shred Gregg's brigade as it advances, and as Robertson's and Benning's Rebels pour into the Viniard pocket, they too are savaged by Wilder's fast-firing men with their Spencer repeater rifles. But Davis is soon supplemented by the timely arrival of Sheridan with two of his brigades. The Rebel attacks grind to a halt. Meanwhile, Bragg has marched Cleburne's crack division from the extreme Confederate left six miles to the Confederate right, and as darkness is falling, Cleburne strikes Johnson's division and part of Baird's, who return fire in a furious firefight that leaves one Union and two Confederate brigade commanders dead or severely wounded.

As Gen. D.H. Hill writes, the battle was disjointed and fragmented, mostly due to the heavily wooded terrain and lack of visibility. Nor did Gen. Bragg have a clear picture of what was ahead of him, and he fed in troops piecemeal and uncoordinated: "It was desultory fighting from right to left, without concert, and at inopportune times. It was the sparring of the amateur boxer, and not the crushing blows of the trained pugilist."