The Battle of Chickamauga


Who: William Rosecrans (Union) vs Braxton Bragg (Confederacy)

What: Confederate victory

Where: Catoosa and Walker Counties, Georgia

Why: Rosecrans was attempting to force the Confederates out of Tennessee and seize Chattanooga

When: September 19-20, 1863

“It seems to me that the elan of the Southern soldier was never seen after Chickamauga… that ‘barren victory’ sealed the fate of the Confederacy” – Confederate Lt. General D.H. Hill

By late 1863 most of Tennessee had fallen to the Union. General Braxton Bragg had withdrawn to the city of Chattanooga on the Tennessee-Georgia border, a thorn in the gateway to the Eastern Confederacy. Lincoln urged Rosecrans to be more proactive, and he consolidated his troops and forced Bragg out of Chattanooga in early September. Bragg withdrew to a small creek called Chickamauga, supposedly translated as ‘river of death’. The arrival of reinforcements with James Longstreet, transferred west after the Battle of Gettysburg, bolstered Confederate morale. Bragg decided to go on the offensive. On the morning of the 18th, Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry encountered a Union brigade attempting to cross the creek. Bragg attacked the Union left, with heavy losses on both sides. By the 20th, Bragg had split his army, Longstreet commanding the Confederate left and Leonidas Polk on the right. Rosecrans made a fatal mistake: in ordering his troops to close a gap that wasn’t there, he created one, and the rebels broke the Union lines, routing the Federals. As the Union army began to flee towards Chattanooga, Maj. Gen. George Thomas organized what remained and held firm, earning him the nickname ‘the Rock of Chickamauga’, until an orderly retreat could be administered. Longstreet and Forrest urged Bragg to pursue the enemy, but Confederate losses had been high, with over 18,000 casualties. Ten Confederate generals had been killed or wounded, including John Bell Hood, whose mangled leg had to be amputated. Rosecrans withdrew to Chattanooga, where the Confederates moved in and besieged the city, bringing about the Chattanooga Campaign, and Union reinforcement from one Ulysses S Grant.

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