The American Civil War, day by day - Page 73 - Politics | PoFo

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September 14, Monday

Still the skirmishing continues between the Rappahannock and Rapidan as Federal forces push toward the Rapidan against Lee. Fighting is at Somerville, Robertson’s Fords and Rapidan Station. On the Chattanooga front there is a skirmish near La Fayette, Georgia. Other action is a Federal reconnaissance on the Blackwater River, North Carolina; a Confederate attack on Vidalia, Louisiana; at Smyth County, Virginia; and Cheat Mountain Pass, West Virginia.
September 15, Tuesday

Meade’s advance to the Rapidan has been largely completed. He has been prodded, since his recrossing of the Potomac, more by the superiors in his rear than by the rebels in his front. Lincoln has been giving Halleck strategy lectures, and Old Brains has been passing them along with interlinear comments which, to Meade at least, are about as exasperating as they are banal. As a result he has become more snappish than ever. Staff officers quail nowadays at his glance. When he asks what the government wants him to do—he could drive Lee back on Richmond, he says, but he fails to see the advantage in this, since he lacks the strength to mount a siege—Halleck refers the question to the President, who replies that Meade “should move upon Lee at once in the manner of a general attack, leaving to developments whether he will make it a real attack.” The general-in-chief rephrases and expands on the President’s statement, then he, like Lincoln, stresses that these are suggestions, not orders. Meade replies that this last is precisely the trouble, so far as he is concerned. He sees no profit to be gained from the proposed endeavor, whereas he discerns in it the possibility of a good deal of profitless bloodshed, and he is therefore “reluctant to run the risks involved without the positive sanction of the government.” Lincoln remains unwilling to accept the responsibility it seems to him the general is trying to unload. But he sees in the present impasse “matter for very serious consideration in another aspect.” If Lee’s 60,000 can neutralize Meade’s 90,000, why cannot Meade, at the same three-to-two ratio, detach 50,000 men to be used elsewhere to advantage while he neutralizes Lee’s 60,000 with his remaining 40,000? “Having practically come to the mere defensive,” Lincoln writes, “it seems to be no economy at all to employ twice as many men for that object as are needed.” And having come so far in the way of obversation, he goes further. “To avoid misunderstanding, let me say that to attempt to fight the enemy slowly back into his entrenchments at Richmond, and there to capture him, is an idea I have been trying to repudiate for quite a year. My judgment is so clear against it that I would scarcely allow the attempt to be made if the general in command should desire to make it. My last attempt upon Richmond was to get McClellan, when he was nearer there than the enemy was, to run ahead of him. Since then I have constantly desired the Army of the Potomac to make Lee’s army, and not Richmond, its objective point. If our army cannot fall upon the enemy and hurt him where he is, it is plain to me it can gain nothing by attempting to follow him over a succession of intrenched lines into a fortified city.”

As a result of the existing “state of rebellion” Lincoln suspends the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus throughout the nation in cases where military or civil authorities of the United States hold persons under their command or in custody.

In Georgia below Chattanooga skirmishing occurs at Trion Factory and Summerville, Georgia, as well as at Catlett’s Gap on Pigeon Mountain, as both Bragg and Rosecrans are concentrating their forces: Rosecrans drawing in his scattered corps; Bragg gathering in all he can preparatory to taking action against Rosecrans. For days there have been rumors that Bragg is being reinforced, now it is all coming true. Halleck informs Roseceans that the corps of Lieutenant General Longstreet—General Lee’s best commander—is headed for Chattanooga. Halleck begins at once to shift troops to Rosecrans from Grant and other commands. At the same time, Rosecrans also presses for reinforcements; “At least, push Burnside down,” he urges Halleck. But Rosecrans will not soon see help from Burnside, and it is his own fault. Back on the 10th he sent word to Burnside that Bragg was fleeing deep into Georgia; he asked Burnside for cavalry only. Burnside sent the cavalry and then made plans to push eastward into Virginia, where the Confederates have valuable salt works. Thus as Longstreet comes to join Bragg’s confrontation of Rosecrans south of Chattanooga, Burnside has informed President Lincoln that he is proceeding eastward toward the little town of Jonesboro, Tennessee—whereupon the exasperated President, deeply concerned about the fate of the Army of the Cumberland, explodes with a rare bit of profanity. “Damn Jonesboro!” he cries, and wires Burnside to hurry southward.

For Bragg, besides Buckner’s men, troops from Johnston have arrived; but Longstreet’s 12,000-man force, the cream of Lee’s army—already in Georgia, steaming toward Chattanooga as fast as the battered Confederate rail netword can take them—will be a few days more arriving. Originally the corps would have traveled straight across Virginia to Knoxville and then to Chattanooga, a trip that might have been managed in two days. But with Burnside capturing Knoxville, Longstreet’s men have to make their way down through the Carolinas and across Georgia, a distance of more than 900 miles. They will use no fewer than 16 railroads—and railroads of differing gauges, so that the soldiers frequently have to change trains when they come to a new line. They are traveling light but do, however, have something rare in the Confederacy: new uniforms, supplied by Governor Zebulon Vance from North Carolina mills. Curiously, the new clothes are blue and, except for the tight cut, resemble the standard Union uniforms.

Other action is near Kempsville, Virginia, and in Jackson County and at Enterprise, Missouri. Union expeditions in Missouri, New Mexico, and one from Great Bridge, Virginia, to Indiantown, North Carolina, all last several days.

On James Island near Charleston, South Carolina, a magazine at Confederate Battery Cheves explodes, killing six men.
September 16, Wednesday

Rosecrans is concentrating his Army of the Cumberland in the area of Lee and Gordon’s Mills on Chickamauga Creek, Georgia, about twelve miles south of Chattanooga, and there are several days of skirmishing in the vicinity. The Reserve Corps Rosecrans holds near Chattanooga, Crittenden is at the Mill, Thomas to the south, and Alexander McDowell McCook far to the south near Alpine. Otherwise fighting is limited to affairs at Brownsville, Arkansas, and Smithfield, West Virginia.

President Davis writes General Lee of his concern over the withdrawal from Chattanooga and the “inexplicable” loss of Cumberland Gap. He hopes Bragg will soon recover the lost ground.
September 17, Thursday

Action increases as the armies below Chattanooga draw closer together. By nightfall Rosecrans can breathe easily again—the Army of the Cumberland’s three corps are within supporting distance of each other, closing up near Lee & Gordon’s Mills. The risk of being defeated one corps at a time is past. Bragg has failed to prevent such concentration or to mount an attack against isolated Federal elements on at least three occasions. He blames his officers and they blame him. But the threat of attack is far from ended, Bragg now plans to turn the Union left north of Lee & Gordon’s Mills, force Rosecrans back into the mountains, and get between him and Chattanooga. Part of Longstreet’s corps is arriving from Virginia and plans are ready. However, Rosecrans understands Bragg’s moves and hurries to protect the roads to Chattanooga. This night, he orders Crittenden to extend his left to prevent just the kind of attack Bragg is planning.

In Virginia there is yet another skirmish at Racoon Ford on the Rapidan. In Missouri troops skirmish on Horse Creek.
September 18, Friday

Braxton Bragg, his fighting blood still aroused, again orders a Confederate attack, this time against General Crittenden’s XXI Corps at Lee & Gordon’s Mills. Bragg hopes to move his troops quickly, turn Crittenden’s left, and then attack him frontally, driving the Federal corps into McLemore’s Cove, penning the force in and destroying it. In doing so, he would also cut Rosecrans’ line of retreat to Chattanooga. This time Bragg’s orders are unmistakably preemptory, closing with the words: “The movement will be executed with the uptmost promptness, vigor and persistence.”

For all Bragg’s determination, everything goes wrong today. Before the Confederates can attack, they have to get across Chickamauga Creek. Despite Bragg’s demand for speed, all three of the units he has chosen to lead the turning movement are late getting to their crossing points. Bushrod Johnson’s division is to attack across Reed’s Bridge on the Confederate right; he will be joined later by Major General John B. Hood, commanding the first of Longstreet’s units to arrive from Virginia. But Johnson, following orders he received earlier, is heading in the wrong direction when his new instructions come and has to countermarch several miles. Walker’s corps is to take the center, with Buckner’s to the left. They are also a long way from their crossing points, and they have both been routed for a time over the same narrow dirt road. Buckner reaches Thedford’s Ford at 2 pm, brushing aside the Federal pickets; but he receives no word form Walker, to his right. Uneasy, he waits awhile. Then he bivouacks for the night, after having crossed only a part of his force to the west bank of Chickamauga Creek. The other two generals find the bridges by which they are to cross defended by Federal horsemen. When Johnson’s division reaches Reed’s Brigde, it is stopped there by a Federal cavalry brigade commanded by Irish-born Colonel Robert H.G. Minty. And Walker’s men find themselves in a vicious fight at Alexander’s Bridge with John Wilder’s ubiquitous Lightning Brigade. the Federal troopers inflict 105 casualties among Walker’s Confederates with the loss of only one man; but the Lightning Brigade is outnumbered and eventually has to retire. Before they withdraw, Wilder’s men remove the decking from the bridge; Walker’s force has to wade the creek at Lambert’s Ford more than a mile to the north. Late in the afternoon General Hood and his three brigades join Johnson’s division at Reed’s Bridge. Many of Hood’s soldiers have come on a different train than his and have not seen their general since Gettysburg. There is a brief, joyous reunion—Hood is one of the Confederacy’s most popular commanders—and then he leads his men in a triumphant attack across the bridge that drives back Minty’s Federal troopers. By the end of the day Bragg has only a small part of his force—fewer than 9,000 men—across the Chickamauga. But the Confederates continue to cross all night, and by morning almost three quarters of the army will be aligned on the thickly forested west bank, ready at last to attack.

Rosecrans continues to worry about his left through the day as he watches the dust clouds raised by the Confederate movements, and come night he orders General Thomas to march XIV Corps around Crittenden to the north. By dawn, two of Thomas’s divisions—those under Brigadier Generals John M. Brannan and Absalom Baird—will be in position while those of Reynolds and Negley will still be on the march northward.

In the East Tennessee Campaign skirmishing flares at Calhoun, Cleveland, Kingsport, and Bristol, Tennessee. Other action is at Crooked Run, Virginia, and near Fort Donelson, Tennessee.

President Lincoln himself honorably discharges William “Duff” Armstrong from army service. As an attorney Lincoln had defended Armstrong in a famous murder case in 1858.
September 19, Saturday

The sun rises at Chickimauga Creek, and General Bragg thinks the Federal left is still around Lee & Gordon’s Mills. In fact, by now it has moved three and a half miles to the north, and Bragg’s flanking movement is itself overlapped by the new Federal line. Rosecrans, just as uninformed, doesn’t know that most of Bragg’s army is on his side of the creek. Despite all of Bragg’s efforts to be the aggressor, the opening shots are fired by Federal troops. After fighting at Reed’s Bridge yesterday, Colonel Dan McCook, the 29-year-old brother of the Federal XX Corps commander, told General Thomas that an enemy brigade had crossed the creek. Early today, Thomas ordered General Brannan, on the extreme left of the XIV Corps line, to attack the lone Confederate unit.

Brannan sends the brigade of Colonel John T. Croxton in the direction of the bridge. On the way, about 8 am, Croxton’s men encounter Forrest’s Confederate cavalry and open fire. Croxton is driving Forrest back toward the creek when a division of Walker’s corps, under Brigadier General States Rights Gist—a 32-year-old South Carolinian whose name reflects his father’s secessionist ideology—smashes into the astonished Federals with terrific force. Despite his mortal peril, Croxton retains his sense of humor and sends a wry message back to Thomas: Which Rebel brigade is he supposed to capture? Brannan hurries the rest of his division to the assistance of Croxton and is soon heavily engaged with Gist’s Confederates. It quickly becomes apparent that there are more Confederates than a Federal division, let alone a single brigade, can handle. Thomas rushes up Baird’s division, and the Federal line steadies. Walker thereupon counters with another Confederate division, led by Brigadier General St. John Liddell. Again the Confederates drive the Federals from their lines, pushing Brannan and Baird all the way back to their starting point. Among Liddell’s trophies are five of the six guns in Lieutenant George Van Pelt’s Michigan battery. When his infantry support gave way Van Pelt stood fast, pouring 64 rounds of canister into the charging ranks of an Arkansas regiment. But the onslaught is overwhelming; Van Pelt is killed and his battery captured.

As the Federal troops give ground, Thomas calls on Rosecrans for help. Negley and Reynolds haven’t yet arrived, and Thomas misses them sorely. Rosecrans immediately sends General Richard Johnson’s division from Alexander McCook’s corps. As these fresh troops advance they meet a large body of Federal soldiers falling back. The newcomers coolly break formation by companies “to let the retreating crowds pass through,” then re-form and continue their march. In a moment they are in the midst of the seesaw melee. Now it is the Confederates’ turn to retreat. Walker calls for help, and soon Major General Benjamin F. Cheatham’s division is marching to his support. The battle, stoked steadily by reinforcements, increases in fury, and the din becomes unearthly.

Shortly after 1 pm, Rosecrans decides to move his headquarters from Crawfish Springs, southwest of Lee & Gordon’s Mills, to be nearer the fighting. He chooses the house of a young widow named Eliza Glenn, just behind Thomas’ right. Charles A. Dana, a noted journalist who has been appointed Assistant Secretary of War, goes with him. “Although closer to the battle,” Dana will write later, “we could see no more of it here than at Crawfish Springs, the conflict being fought altogether in a thick forest, and being invisible to outsiders. The nature of the firing and the reports from the commanders alone enabled us to follow its progress.” Rosecrans tries in vain to find out what is happening—his maps are poor and Thomas is too busy to explain very much, even though they are linked by telegraph. The conflagration is spreading steadily southward and approaching General Rosecrans’ headquarters.

Meanwhile Cheatham’s troops, who have halted the Union advance near Reed’s Bridge, are counterattacked by General Richard Johnson’s division. Johnson’s attack threatens to pierce the Confederate line, and Bragg sends Major General Alexander P. Stewart’s division to Cheatham’s support. As Stewart’s men march up from the south they begin to meet wounded Confederates on their way back from the battlefield. One soldier being carried on a litter, his intestines exposed by a terrible wound, waves his hat at the fresh troops and cries, “Boys, when I left we were drivin’ ‘em!” At 2:30 pm Stewart comes into line on Cheatham’s left and plunges into the fight. His assault strikes the division of Brigadier General Horatio P. Van Cleve and sends it reeling back past the Brotherton farmhouse. The exchange of gunfire is murderous. One of Stewart’s brigades loses 604 men—nearly a third of its strength—in minutes. Thomas’ two other divisions under Reynolds and Nelgey, hurrying northward to his assistance, are marching past the rear of Van Cleve’s division when Stewart attacks. Reynolds immediately joins the fight in support of Van Cleve; Negley stands by in reserve. They are just in time: Stewart has broken the Federal line and has seized the La Fayette road, which links Thomas’ corps with Crittenden’s farther to the right, then pushes on to the Glenn-Kelly road. The Confederates now threaten to cut the Dry Valley road, the route between Rosecrans’ field headquarters and Chattanooga. The Federal commander, watching from the Glenn house, is only three quarters of a mile from the action. Desperately, Van Cleve’s troops reform alongside Reynolds’ division in front of the Dry Valley road. There is a momentary respite and then, as Stewart drives forward again, down the blueclad line comes the command to fire and the ranks pour in bullets and canister until the entire ridge becomes “almost one continuous volley.”

General Bragg has been caught off guard by the unexpected beginning of the battle and has not yet ordered a full-scale assault. He is making the mistake of committing his troops piecemeal. D.H. Hill will later compare Bragg’s tactics today to “the sparring of the amateur boxer” as opposed to “the crushing blows of the trained pugilist.” All day General Hood has waited for orders, listening impatiently to the sounds of battle around him. At last, shortly after 4 pm, he takes matters into his own hands. He aligns a division under Brigadier General Evander Law beside that of Brigadier General Bushrod Johnson and launches both divisions in an attack against the Federal right. Hood’s attack strikes the division of Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis. In all the shifting of Federal units, Davis’ two brigades have been left with both flanks unprotected; and as the Confederates descend on his division with blood-curdling yells, the regiments give way from left to right. Last to collapse is the brigade commanded by Norwegian-born Colonel Hans Christian Heg. Heg is fatally wounded, and 696 of his men are killed, wounded, or captured before the embattled brigade falls back. Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood rushes his Federal division into the gap on Davis’ right—and now Hood’s flank is threatened in its turn. Wilder’s Lightning Brigade, deployed on Thomas’ right, is in the thick of things as usual. Eli Lilly’s artillery gallops forward, sets up its guns in a cornfield, and lets fly at Johnson’s left flank. Many of the Confederates have taken shelter in a ditch along the La Fayette road, and the Federal guns enfilated the position. Within minutes, the ditch is literally full of dead and wounded. The carnage is so great that Wilder quails. “At that moment,” he says later, “it actually seemed a pity to kill men so. They fell in heaps, and I had it in my heart to order the firing to cease, to end the awful sight.”

By late afternoon every Federal division but two has been engaged in the battle. One is Brigadier General James B. Steedman’s division of Granger’s Reserve Corps, which has been stationed all day far to the north near Rossville, guarding the approaches to Chattanooga. The other, commanded by General Philip Sheridan, now makes a timely entry, filing into position next to Wilder to attack. As Sheridan rides up to Wilder, he is preceded by a cluster of pompous staff officers crying out, “Make way for Sheridan! Make way for Sheridan!” Almost immediately, Sheridan launches a fresh assault. Minutes later, repelled in sharp fighting, his men come running back across the road. Whereupon Wilder’s troops, in high amusement, call out, “Make way for Sheridan!”

During the fighting Wilder’s men capture a teenage soldier of Hood’s command. Up to that time the Federals have not been certain that any of Longstreet’s men are on the scene, and the prisoner is hurried to the commanding general by Colonel Smith D. Atkins, commander of the Illinois regiment that captured him. Rosecrans, who hates to hear bad news—and is especially dreading to hear this particular bad news—is incredulous when the prisoner tells him that Longstreet’s troops are on the field. He is also furious, flying into a passion and accusing the prisoner of lying. The youth is so terrified that he can’t utter a sound. Atkins hastily withdraws, taking the prisoner with him. When Rosecrans cools down, he is compelled to admit that the soldier was telling the truth.

It is growing late. The day has been a long, arduous, confused, and bloody one for both armies. As the sun sets, George Thomas begins making new dispositions in preparation for tomorrow morning. Most of his men think the fighting is finished for awhile: Darkness is beginning to fall, and night attacks are rare. But Thomas warns his division commanders to stay alert. In fact, on the other side of the creek, General Partick Cleburne’s Confederate division is toiling northward, having started opposite Lee & Gordon’s Mills in midafternoon. As twilight approaches, Cleburne’s men ford the icy stream in water armpit-deep and, having passed through Walker’s lines after sunset, suddenly descend on Thomas. The day ends as it began, in a horrible cacophony. Cleburne has drilled his men relentlessly, and his division lives up to its reputation as the fastest-firing in Bragg’s army. Screaming the Rebel yell, Cleburne’s men roll irresistibly forward. In hand-to-hand fighting they take three guns, capture nearly 300 prisoners, and gain a mile of ground. They don’t stop until it becomes too dark to see what they are doing. Then at last the firing dies away. Cleburne and his soldiers lie down for the night where they are, among the dead and wounded.

It is a night that no one there will forget. The weather has turned bitter cold, and the soldiers of both sides have to sleep on the ground. Most of the troopers have no warm clothing or blankets, Cleburne’s men are still wet from their immersion in the creek—and all go without fires, which would make for tempting targets. The steady roar of musketry has ended, but no silence descends over the field as all through the night a sharp fire is kept up between the pickets, and, every so often, the booming of cannon startles soldiers from their troubled slumber, reminding them of the carnage of the previous day and the horrors coming tomorrow. What everyone will remember most vividly is the groaning of the wounded. Litter-bearers work through the night, but there are many badly wounded soldiers between the lines that they can’t reach. In the woods in front of Cleburne’s 6th Texas, a Union officer lies groaning so piteously that the Texans finally can stand it no longer. Risking their own lives, some of them slip out into the danger zone between the armies and bring the enemy officer back in a blanket. They carry him behind a nearby house and—out of sight of the enemy, but in clear violation of orders—they start up a small fire to keep him warm.

From every direction can be heard the rumbling of wheels as ambulances pick up the wounded and artillery pieces are moved into position. Both sides are preparing feverishly for tomorrow’s fighting. “The work now begins of throwing up breatworks,” writes one Confederate officer; “at the same time the sound of the ax indicates that the enemy is doing likewise.” The Federal commanders also shift units around to meet the morning’s anticipated assault. There is little sleep for the soldiers. Much of the night time is taken up with slow and tiresome marching in the darkness. On top of everything else, the Federals suffer from thirst. The area is still parched by the summerlong drought, and water is scarce. The Rebels have possession of the Chickamauga, and the Federals have to do without.

Rosecrans calls a council of war at the Glenn house. It has been a rough day; although the Confederates have not broken the Federal line, they have repeatedly come close—and they will be back tomorrow. Too, they are obviously being reinforced and it is assumed that they now outnumber the Union forces—as indeed they do, about 67,000 to about 57,000. In the discussion among the Federal commanders, it is agreed that the Army of the Cimberland will take a defensive stance tomorrow. Thomas will hold fast where he is, Alexander McCook will close up to his left, and Crittenden will stand in reserve. During the meeting the exhausted General Thomas snoozes in his chair; whenever his opinion is sought he momentarily arouses himself and says, “I would strengthen the left” and then goes back to sleep. Rosecrans agrees to send Negley’s division to strengthen Thomas’s left flank. The meeting adjourns after midnight. The Confederate council tonight is less formal. Bragg meets with Leonidas Polk and some others and announces with no forewarning that he is reorganizing his army yet again. There will now be two wings: The right, consisting of Polk’s, Hill’s, and Walker’s corps, is to be commanded by Polk; the left, including Hood, Buckner, and Longstreet’s arriving forces, will be led by General Longstreet—who is rumored to be in the area but has not yet made it to headquarters. Hood finds little enthusiasm among Bragg’s officers for tomorrow’s work.

Longstreet has indeed arrived. He stepped off his train at the depot in Ringgold at 2 pm and was astonished and exasperated to discover that Bragg sent no one to brief him—or even to tell him where to find the army commander. For two hours Longstreet paced the platform of the little station, until his horse and his staff arrived on another train. Then, accompanied by two aides, he went off to look for Bragg, who was a good twenty miles away. The men had no idea where to go; they “wandered by various roads and across small streams in the growing darkness of the Georgia forest,” following the racket of gunfire ahead. They traveled along the narrow roads amid ambulances, stragglers, and the walking wounded coming in the opposite direction. At one point they almost blundered into the Federal lines and certain capture. Not until 11 pm does Longstreet finally track down Bragg. Bragg has gone to bed, but he quickly gets up, and for an hour the two men talk.

Bragg’s strategy is exactly the same as before: smash the Federal left and drive Rosecrans into the trap of McLemore’s Cove. Polk’s right wing will attack at daybreak; Longstreet will then follow suit. The attack is to be in echelon, with the division on the extreme right leading off, each unit thereafter following the unit on its right into battle. The orders for the complicated reorganization and attack deploys the corp commanded by D.H. Hill—General John Breckinridge’s and Cleburne’s divisions—on Polk’s far right. Polk notifies the two division commanders of the new plans, which require Breckinridge to march from his position on the left flank all the way to the lead-off position on the extreme right. But Hill never gets a copy of the orders. Polk assumes that Bragg will pass it along.

Elsewhere, cavalry fights at Culpeper, Virginia. Skirmishes break out at Racoon Ford, Virginia; Como, Tennessee; and Greenwell Springs Road near Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and a Federal expedition from Fort Pillow to Jackson, Tennessee, lasts six days. John Y. Beall and fellow Southerners capture a schooner in Chesapeake Bay, the first of several daring operations against Yankee shipping.

President Lincoln writes General Halleck, “I have constantly desired the Army of the Potomac, to make Lee’s army, and not Richmond it’s [sic] objective point.”
September 20, Sunday

As the morning nears dawn, about the time Bragg’s attack south of Chattanooga should be starting, General Hill finally learns from his division commanders of Bragg’s orders for the assault. He then decides that his men must eat breakfast before they fight. He notifies Polk, saying his forces will not be ready to attack for “an hour or more.” Hour after hour passes. In the meantime, Bragg is fuming as his disbelief mounts. At last he sends a staff officer to find out what is wrong. The officer returns to report that he found Polk reading a newspaper and waiting for his breakfast. Bragg, according to one account, thereupon “uttered a terrible exclamation, in which Polk, Hill and all his generals were included.” Then he personally orders the battle to begin. It is 9:45 am.

Breckinridge’s three brigades lead the assault on the Federal left; two of them drive around the end of Thomas’ position and smash into Negley’s regiments, which are just arriving from farther south. Negley’s lead brigade, commanded by Brigadier General John Beatty, is forced back until it is behind the Federal left flank. One of Beatty’s regiments, from Indiana, has to change front from north to south as the Confederates storm in behind it. One of Breckinridge’s brigades is led by Brigadier General Benjamin Hardin Helm, a brother-in-law of Mary Lincoln, a graduate of West Point and Harvard, and a man much admired by the President. Most of Helm’s troops are Kentuckians. while the war lasts these soldiers can never return to their Union-held state; they are therefore known as the Orphan Brigade. the Orphans manage to advance to within thirty yards of Thomas’ lines, but the fighting is murderous. General Helm is mortally wounded by a bullet fired from the ranks of a Federal Kentucky regiment. For a brief moment, Breckinridge’s division actually seizes the road to Chattanooga, but it can’t hold on. Beatty is meanwhile desperately calling for help. The other two brigades of Negley’s division never arrive, partly because Negley’s replacement in McCook’s front line, General Thomas J. Wood’s division, hasn’t appeared. When Rosecrans discovers that Wood has failed to march his men forward from their position in reserve, he rushes to confront the division commander and loses his temper, delivering a blistering rebuke accusing Woods of endangering the safety of the entire army and ordering him to move at once. Although this blistering public rebuke must be profoundly resented by Wood, he says nothing and quickly moves his division into position, freeing Negley’s remaining troops.

The attack by Breckinridge is followed by that of the next Confederate division in line, under General Cleburne. As Cleburne’s men forge ahead through a pine forest they are suddenly confronted by a line of Federals sheltered behind a formidable log breastwork. The Confederate line is staggered by volleys of musketry and deadly salvos of canister. One of Cleburne’s brigade commanders, General James Deshler, is struck in the chest by a shell and his heart is torn from his body. Unable to break the Federal line, the Confederates take shelter behind the trees and blaze away at the defenders. As Cleburne’s assault grinds to a stop, General Polk commits Walker’s and Cheatham’s divisions. Once again the Confederate troops charge toward those forbidding log breastworks. Once again they are thrown back with heavy losses.

Thomas’ messages asking for reinforcement are practically continuous now, and Rosecrans is pulling units away from the right flank of his line and sending them to Thomas as fast as he can free them. Then, about 10:30 am, one of Thomas’ staff officers, Captain Sanford Kellogg, returns from Rosecrans’ headquarters with alarming news: Passing along the Federal lines, he has noted a gap near the center, presumably at a point where a division has been pulled out to help Thomas. Whatever the reason, there is a hole, he tells Thomas, between the division of General Wood and the division to the north under Reynolds. Thomas immediately notifies Rosecrans—and Rosecrans reacts instantly with an urgent message to Wood: “The general commanding directs that you close up on Reynolds as fast as possible, and support him.” Wood is puzzled. He knows that there is no gap. The division of General Brannan is between Wood and Reynolds, although drawn back into the forest, where it apparently had been invisible to Captain Kellog. Nevertheless, Wood is reluctant to invite another dressing down for not obeying Rosecrans’ commands. He begins to move his division behind Brannan to join Reynolds. Around 11:30 am Rosecrans orders Davis forward from his position in reserve to the south to take Wood’s place. At the same time two of Sheridan’s brigades, in the line to the right of Wood, are sent north to support Thomas. Now two Federal divisions and part of a third are in sidelong motion, and there is a quarter-mile gap in the center of the line where Wood had been.

At this moment, entirely by chance, James Longstreet unleashes three divisions—Hood’s and Johnson’s abreast, Brigadier General Joseph B. Kershaw’s behind—directly into the Federal gap. As the juggernaught of 23,000 troops storm across the La Fayette road and through the fields of the Brotherton farm, stark panic strikes the Federal right. Despite heavy losses, Johnson’s right-flank brigade under General Evander McNair surges toward two batteries of Federal artillery. The gunners fire round after round into the gray tide and, as the Confederates swarm over their cannon, fight hand to hand. In desperation some artillerymen hurl grapeshot and shells with their bare hands. Just as Johnson’s men pause in a clearing near the Dyer farm to catch their breath, Hood rides up, his left arm still in a sling from the wounding at Gettysburg, and orders them to resume their advance. Johnson gets his troops to their feet once again. With a shout along their entire front, the Confederates rush forward and penetrate into the woods, over and beyond the enemy’s breastworks. Suddenly a brigade of Federals counterattack, and Hood himself is shot—pierced by a Minié ball in the right leg. He topples off his horse and is caught by Texans of his old brigade. As Confederate reserves come into action, Hood is tenderly borne to the rear, where the broken leg is amputated.

On Hood’s left, Major General Thomas C. Hindman’s division is likewise gaining ground. In minutes the first Federal line, Jefferson Davis’ division, is shattered and fleeing in panic. The fugitives plow into the ranks of the second line, Sheridan’s division, throwing those troops into disorder. Soon the better part of McCook’s corps is streaming rearward, toward Rosecrans’ headquarters at the Glenn house. The only one of McCook’s units to offer resistance is a brigade commanded by Brigadier General William H. Lytle, a popular author and poet who has become a hard-fighting and capable commander. Lytle halts on a hill just north of the Glenn house, telling his officers that the brigade will die in their tracks, with their harness on. Then, as Hindman’s Confederates surge toward the front and both flanks, Lytle decides on a desparate stratagem. Spurring his horse to the front of the Federal line, he shouts to his outnumbered command, “All right, men, we can die but once. This is the time and place. Let us charge.” The hopeless attack is shattered almost immediately. Lytle is shot in the spine but continues to ride among his men until three more bullets knock his to the ground. With their commander dying, the survivors join the stampede for the rear. At Rosecrans’ headquarters, Charles Dana, who has been awake for much of the previous two nights, is stretched out on the grass sleeping. At the onset of Longstreet’s attack he is awakened by the most infernal noise he has ever heard. He sits up on the grass, and the first thing he sees is Rosecrans crossing himself—the general is a very devout Catholic, and if he’s crossing himself they are in a desparate situation. Dana leaps on his horse, and no sooner collects his thoughts and looks around toward the front, where all the din is coming from, when he sees the Federal lines break and melt away “like leaves before the wind.” Rosecrans calmly tells his staff that if they care to live any longer to get away from there as the “graybacks” come on with a rush. The whole right of the Federal army has apparently been routed. A mile or so to the northeast, Longstreet is jubilant. “They have fought their last man,” an artilleryman hears him say, “and he is running.” Bragg’s instructions were to exert pressure on the left, to drive Rosecrans’ army toward McLemore’s Cove. But, except for Wilder’s brigade, which has been harassing the flank of Hindman’s division, the Federal right has disintegrated. Bushrod Johnson has begun to wheel toward his right, and Longstreet urges him on. If he can destroy Thomas, Rosecrans’ entire army will be a shambles.

The Federals have been fighting with their backs to Missionary Ridge; with heavy fighting continuing across the Rossville road to the north, the only avenue of retreat left to the soldiers fleeing before Longstreet is McFarland’s Gap, leading through the ridge to the west. Toward this narrow opening now pour the disorganized units from the army’s shattered right wing—the better part of five Federal divisions. A reporter from the Cincinnati Gazette watches from the crest of the ridge: “Men, animals, vehicles, became a mass of struggling, shouting, frightened life. Everything and everybody appeared to dash headlong for the narrow gap, and men, horses, mules, ambulances, wagons, artillery carriages and caissons were rolled and tumbled together in a confused, inextricable, and finally motionless mass, completely blocking up the mouth of the gap.” Rosecrans tries to reach Sheridan for help; the commander is repulsed by “a storm of canister and musketry.” All becomes confusion, no order can be heard above the battle. The Confederates sweep on far to the left, and Rosecrans is borne back in the retreat. At the mouth of McFarland’s Gap, Rosecrans and his chief of staff, Brigadier General James A. Garfield, try to take a side road back toward the left wing and George Thomas, but enemy forces block their way; instead they push on through the gap five miles farther to Rossville.

There, amid what an eyewitness describes as “driving masses of teamsters, stragglers and fugitives,” the two men pause to consider—and to rest their horses, blown by the swift ride. There is another crossroad at Rossville, and therefore another opportunity to join Thomas. But the sounds of battle are now barely audible; is he still fighting? Rosecrans and Garfield dismount and put their ears to the ground. They can hear little except occasional distant musketry. They seek information from some disheveled soldiers around them—and are told that “the entire army is defeated and in retreat to Chattanooga.” The same soldiers say they are from Negley’s division; that unit, they declare, has been “knocked all to pieces.” Here is dismaying news. When Rosecrans had last seen Negley, the division commander was on his way to join Thomas with two brigades; if Negley’s command is shattered, the entire left wing is doubtless defeated and in disarray. Rosecrans is upset and distracted. Nevertheless, he is determined to try to join Thomas and save what he can of the wrecked army. He orders Garfield to proceed to Chattanooga and prepare the defenses there. The Confederates are sure to attack the town and much needs to be done; he issues a long list of instructions. At this, Garfield demurs. Rosecrans, he says, must go to Chattanooga himself to lay out a new defensive line and position the returning units along it. The orders will be complicated, and Rosecrans can spell them out more effectively than anyone else. “I can go to General Thomas and report the situation to you,” Garfield says, “much better than I can give those orders.” Rosecrans agrees and makes his way north.Severely shaken, he arrives at the headquarters building in Chattanooga at 4 pm. He is by then unable to dismount or to walk unassisted. His aides help the distraught general into the house. Once inside, Rosecrans slumps in a chair, his head in his hands, the picture of despair. Charles Dana arrives in Chattanooga soon afterward and sends a grim telegram to Washington. “My report today is of deplorable importance,” it begins. “Chichamauga is as fatal a day in our history as Bull Run.”

The battle is, in fact, far from over. George Thomas, still only vaguely aware of what has occurred to the rest of Rosecrans’ army, is engaged in the fight of his life. The right of his line, Brannan’s division and part of Wood’s, faces south from the crest of an elevation that projects from Missionary Ridge. A part of this rise is known as Snodgrass Hill, after a family that lives nearby; the whole of the eminence may not have had a name, but it quickly acquires one—Horseshoe Ridge. The main line, held by Baird’s, Johnston’s, Reynolds’, and Major General John Palmer’s divisions, faces east from their original positions near the La Fayette road. To the rear of the position are the roads leading west to McFarland’s Gap, and north to Rossville and Chattanooga. As a result of Thomas’ repeated calls for reinforcements, he now has under him units from three of Rosecrans’ corps—perhaps half of the Army of the Cumberland. And he is also collecting a ragtag-and-bobtail assortment of units from company to brigade strength, plus a number of soldiers of all ranks who have become separated from the rest of the army during the hard fighting on the right. Many officers are behind the breastworks fighting as enlisted men. The stolid Thomas isn’t given to dramatics, but as he rides along the lines his very presence bolsters the morale of his battered, powder-stained soldiers. Among all his other worries, Thomas is concerned about the location of Sheridan’s division. He had asked this morning to have Sheridan sent up from the Federal right but has heard nothing since. At last, around 2 pm, he sends a messenger to find out what is wrong. The courier quickly returns to report that a large forces is approaching from the right rear, behind Reynolds. From the crest of Snodgrass Hill, Thomas peers out over the field. He can see troops coming through the dust—and they are wearing blue. Can that be Sheridan at last? But Thomas is a careful man, and there have been reports that some Confederates in this battle have blue uniforms. He instructs an officer nearby to have his men wave Union flags. The flags quickly draw fire. These are hostile forces—Longstreet’s men, and they are renewing the attack.

Thomas orders a brigade under Brigadier General William B. Hazen into the line on Snodgrass Hill. The new arrivals are scarcely in position behind some low breastworks, when the Confederate storm bursts. The slope in front of the brigade is open ground, and in a moment it is covered with heavy masses of the enemy making for the top. Hazen’s regiments are lying flat. The foremost springs to its feet, delivers its volley, and goes down again to reload, and the next regiment behind rises to fire and falls flat while the third puts in its work, and so on. The attacking Confederates, several brigades under the overall direction of General Kershaw, push to within forty paces of the Federal line. There they meet such heavy and sustained fire that Kershaw orders them back. He strikes again and again, one ferocious assault after another. He finally stops because his troops are out of breath. Next Bushrod Johnson’s and Thomas Hindman’s divisions launch another series of charges, aimed like a battering ram at Thomas’ right at rear. It is evident to Thomas that the crisis is at hand; if he cannot push Johnson and Hindman back, his escape route will soon be cut off. Worse, his soldiers are running out of ammunition. The men on Horseshoe Ridge are desperately snatching cartridges from the dead and wounded. For a time it looks as if the Federal line will break. The Confederates even succeed in driving the Federals from the crest, until General John Beatty rallies his brigade and leads it back up the hill. The crest is retaken, but Thomas and his troops are in dire straits and there is no solution in sight. Then, suddenly help is at hand.

All during the fighting yesterday and for most of the morning today, Major General Gordon Granger and his Reserve Corps—consisting in its entirety of three inexperienced brigades—have stood guard with increasing impatience over the Rossville road three miles north of the fighting, as ordered by Rosecrans. At 11 am, while Polk’s divisions march to attack Thomas, Granger—a short pugnacious West Pointer—watches the dust rising in the distance. As the sounds of battle come rumbling over the fields and more dust and battle smoke rises into the air, Granger almost explodes with pent-up frustration. He climbs up on a haystack and stares into the distance through his field glasses, and at last he can stand it no longer. He utters an oath and declares, “I am going to Thomas, orders or no orders!” he commands Colonel Dan McCook to guard the road with his brigade and within minutes is marching off to join Thomas with the remainder of his corps: a single division under General Steedman. At Snodgrass Hill, with Hindman, Johnson, and Kershaw pounding him from the south, General Thomas stares through his field glasses at the enormous column of dust approaching from the north. Once again he and his officers wonder who is coming. The usually imperturbable Thomas is so jumpy that his horse begins fidgeting, making it impossible for him to use his field glasses. A few minutes later Granger and Steedman are on the scene, and the defenders feel “a throb of exultation.” The newcomers have brought not only fresh soldiers, but also fresh supplies of ammunition.

The burly Steedman gallops into action at the head of his division. When an Illinois regiment wavers in the face of Confederate fire, Steedman snatches up its flag and turns to face the enemy alone. “Go back, boys, go back,” he roars, “but the flag can’t go with you!” The men rally and charge once again. Steedman’s horse is shot out from under him, and the general is badly bruised by the fall, but he continues to lead his men on foot, flag in hand. Steedman’s troops extend the line on Brannan’s right, where Hindman’s Confederates are threatening to flank the Federals. In the twenty minutes that follow, Steedman’s green soldiers smash Hindman’s attack—but at a terrible cost. Of Steedman’s 3,500 Federals, twenty percent are killed or wounded in those few minutes; among the casualties are six regimental commanders.

By now all of Thomas’ units have taken heavy casualties. The total number of men who serve under him during the day will be estimated at 25,000; by one account only a quarter of these troops are still in action when Granger shows up. Since morning, Thomas has fought virtually every brigade in Bragg’s army, and toward the end he is fighting them all—Polk’s troops as well as Longstreet’s. and still Thomas holds. As the shadows deepen, Longstreet redoubles his effort. He commits his single remaining division, Brigadier General William Preston’s, and by early evening he is hitting the Federal line at every point. By Longstreet’s own estimate he sends a total of twenty-five attacks against the Federals. One of the last, and perhaps the fiercest, is the charge of a newly enlisted brigade led by Brigadier General Archibald Gracie Jr. Leaping over the bodies of the dead and dying from earlier assaults, Gracie’s troops claw their way to within feet of the Federal breastworks. In places, the opposing soldiers grapple hand to hand before Gracie’s decimated regiments fall back.

Around 4 pm James Garfield shows up, having made a perilous trip down the Rossville road accompanied by two orderlies and a captain acting as a guide. They have come under sharp fire; both of the orderlies have been killed and the captain injured. Garfield’s horse, badly hurt, manages to get him to Thomas before it collapses. At last Thomas learns what has happened to the rest of Rosecrans’ army and receives instructions from Rosecrans to withdraw immediately. That is manifestly impossible. “It will ruin the army to withdraw it now,” Thomas tells Garfield. “This position must be held until night.” Garfield accordingly dispatches a message informing Rosecrans in Chattanooga that Thomas is fighting off the Confederates and is “Standing like a rock.” Reprinted in newspapers all over the country, the message will make a hero of the doughty XIV Corps commander, who will be known for the rest of his life as the “Rock of Chickamauga.”

As twilight descends over the battlefield, Thomas goes to work to get his men safely away. The Confederate attacks are continuing with undiminished intensity, and Thomas is once again running low on ammunition as he begins his withdrawal. His plan is to withdraw his divisions in sequence, starting with the southernmost, under Reynolds. Each division is to march behind those still in line toward the safety of McFarland’s Gap. But at 5:30 pm, as Reynolds is leaving, St. John Liddell’s Confederates suddenly launch a savage blow straight toward him, endangering the entire Federal position. General Thomas, who is on the scene, commandeers the brigade led by General John Turchin and wheels the troops around, ording them to clear out the oncoming Confederates. Turchin launches a furious attack and sends the Confederates reeling back, in the process capturing 200 prisoners. Then Turchin rejoins Reynolds’ retreating division. One by one, the hard-pressed units leave the field and hurry toward safety. In the end only three regiments remain on Snodgrass Hill, two from Ohio and one from Michigan. They are still fighting off attacks, and as the rest of the Federals begin their movement toward McFarland’s Gap the three regiments are threatened anew. Out of ammunition and with another another attack forming, they fix bayonets and meet the the oncoming charge with one of their own. So impetuous is this countercharge that one regiment, with empty muskets and cartridge-boxes, breaks through the enemy’s line, which, closing in its rear, carries it off in the undertow. The countercharge is gallant but ineffective. There is little the Federals can do without ammunition, and within minutes the bloodied defenders are surrounded and overwhelmed by General Preston’s Confederates. In the three regiments, 322 soldiers are killed or wounded and 563 captured. Only one of the six regimental flags is saved.

The last Federal survivors slip away after darkness falls, when the Confederate fire is diminishing. Without light, Bragg’s troops are beginning to fire into one another from the opposite sides of the salient. It has been a brilliant withdrawal under the nose of the enemy. The Federal escape chafes Longstreet, but his troops are only too pleased to discover that their enemy has retreated. When the Confederates realize what has happened, they produce a loud and prolonged din of Rebel yells to celebrate their victory. The sound seems to envelop the fleeing Federals. For the soldiers in blue, the march to Rossville is grim. All along the road, for miles, wounded men are lying. They have crawled or hobbled slowly away from the fury of battle, become exhausted, and lain down by the roadside to die. Some are calling the names and numbers of their regiments, but many have become too weak to do this; by midnight the column has passed by.

General Thomas collects his battered forces at Rossville and forms new lines in expectation of further fighting. The Confederates, as well, make preparations for more action. Longstreet orders his line to remain as it is with ammunition boxes to be filled, stragglers to be collected, and everything in readiness for pursuit in the morning. Polk gets Bragg out of bed to report that the Federal army is in full flight and can be destroyed before Rosecrans has a chance to throw up adequate defenses. But Bragg cannot be induced to look at it in that light, and refuses to believe that they have won a victory. Bragg’s generals produce a Confederate soldier who had been captured and then escaped. He had seen the Federal disarray himself and is brought before Bragg to testify that the enemy is indeed in full retreat. Bragg will not accept the man’s story. “Do you know what a retreat looks like?” he asks, acidly. The soldier stares back and says, “I ought to, General; I’ve been with you during your whole campaign.”

Other fighting includes skirmishes at Hornersville, Missouri; and Carter’s Depot and Zollicoffer in eastern Tennessee; an affair on Shaver Mountain, West Virginia; and a ten-day Federal expedition from Paducah, Kentucky, to McLemoresville, Tennessee.
September 21, Monday

At Rossville General Thomas, with the remnant of the defeated Army of the Cumberland, stands his ground all day. However, due to the danger of being flanked, Thomas retires to Chattanooga. By tomorrow morning the Federal army will occupy a good defensive position in and around Chattanooga. General Bragg orders a pursuit and then cancels it, giving up possible greater fruits of victory. Bragg has his reasons for not wanting to continue the fight. His men are exhausted. Losses on both sides have been enormous, and although no one yet knows the totals, Confederate casualties have been greater than those suffered by the Federals: 2,312 killed, 14,674 wounded, and 1,468 missing for 18,454 out of 66,000 Confederates versus 1,657 killed, 9,756 wounded, and 4,757 missing for 16,170 casualties out of 58,000 Federals. The Confederates have lost nine brigade and two division commanders, the Federals seven brigade commanders. These have been the bloodiest two days of the war. The Confederate losses in draft animals have been, from a military point of view, every bit as devastating. General Bragg estimates that he has lost about one third of his artillery horses. When someone presses him to pursue Thomas, he replies testily: “How can I? Here is two fifths of my army left on the field, and my artillery without horses.” He wagon trains don’t have sufficient horses, either, and supplies are short. None of this makes sense to Nathan Bedford Forrest. He confronts Bragg this night and urges an advance northward; it still isn’t too late. “We can get all the supplies our army needs in Chattanooga,” he argues. When Bragg is adamant, Forrest can scarcely contain his fury. “What does he fight battles for?” he later snarls to his officers.

Fighting is listed as skirmishing at Rossville, Lookout Church, and Dry Valley, Georgia.

President Lincoln, who thinks the Chickamauga defeat extremely serious, wires Burnside in east Tennessee: “Go to Rosecrans with your force, without a moment’s delay.” To Rosecrans he wires, “Be of good cheer. We have unabated confidence in you, and in your soldiers and officers ... save your army, by taking strong positions....”

Other action flares at Jonesborough, Tennessee, and at Moorefield, West Virginia. A Federal scout until the 26th from Harpers Ferry into Loudoun Valley, Virginia, includes sporadic fighting. In Virginia a Federal reconnaissance crosses the Rapidan, skirmishing at White’s Ford and Madison Court House. Operations about Princess Anne Court House last five days.
September 22, Tuesday

Black plume on hat, Joseph O. “Jo” Shelby leads his band of 600 Confederate light-horse troops known as the Iron Brigade—soon to be joined by another 600 men from various guerrilla bands—on a fast-paced raid through Arkansas and Mississippi which lasts until late October. Approved by Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith, the commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, the command sets out from Arkadelphia, Arkansas, headquarters of Confederate activity since the fall of Little Rock. Intended as a means to recruit Southern sympathizers and tie up Federal troops who might otherwise be sent East, the raid will serve more as a Confederate morale booster.

In the windup of the Chickamauga Campaign, skirmishing occurs at Missionary Ridge and Shallow Ford Gap near Chattanooga. Although Federal troops are all now safely in a strong position at Chattanooga, they are hemmed in by the mountains, the Tennessee River, and the Confederates who hold Missionary Ridge overlooking the city. Washington has long realized that Rosecrans needs reinforcements; they now become imperative. Three divisions of the XV Corps of Grant’s army leave Vicksburg for Chattanooga. The advisability of an even more massive concentration is discussed in Washington.

In the East Tennessee Campaign skirmishing breaks out at Carter’s Depot, and Blountsville, Tennessee, and Marrow Bone Creek, Kentucky. Burnside is hard put to control the rugged, mountainous area from his Knoxville headquarters. In Virginia, skirmishing continues between Centreville and Warrenton. At Rockville, Maryland, Confederates raid far behind the lines of the Army of the Potomac. On the main lines there is fighting at Orange Court House and Raccoon Ford. At Darien, Georgia, Federals destroy the Confederate salt works. A four-day Union scout in La Fayetteville County, Missouri, involves skirmishes.

In Washington President Lincoln, distraught over Rosecrans’ situation, also mourns the death of his Confederate brother-in-law Brigadier General Ben Hardin Helm, killed at Chickamauga.
September 23, Wednesday

President Lincoln, Secretary of War Stanton, and other Cabinet and military officers meet in the evening to discuss relieving Rosecrans at Chattanooga. After considerable debate, they agree to send the XI and XII Corps of the Army of the Potomac, under Hooker’s command, west to Rosecrans. Some think this will take a month or more; Stanton and others believe it can be done in an incredible seven days. Immediately telegrams are dispatched to railroads and to the Army, rail lines are commandeered, red tape broken, and it is done. Troops are moving in two days and by October 2nd the last of the XI Corps arrives in Alabama, shut off from Chattanooga by the mountains. The XII Corps is passing through Nashville. General Hooker commands the troops, but Stanton, the War Department, and the railroads make it possible. The brilliant logistical operation will stand as a superlative feat of ground transportation of troops. Meanwhile, at Chattanooga skirmishing at Summertown and Lookout Mountain lasts several days. In the East Tennessee Campaign skirmishing flares at Federal-held Cumberland Gap.

On the Rapidan in Virginia skirmishing occurs at Liberty Mills and Robertson’s Ford. Major General George E. Picket, who has taken one division of Longstreet’s corps with him, is assigned to command the Confederate Department of North Carolina. Other fighting breaks out near Bayou Meto Bridge, Arkansas, and opposite Donaldsonville, Louisiana.

Two vessels of the Imperial Russian Navy’s Atlantic Fleet arrive in New York. Four other ships follow shortly, and on October 12th six vessels enter San Francisco Bay. The Russians receive an extremely friendly welcome. Parades, dinners, a visit to the Washington area early in December, and special programs mark their seven months in American waters. The main purpose of their presence is to avoid being tied up for the winter in Baltic ice; Russia fears a European war after her brutal suppression of a Polish revolt.
September 24, Thursday

For the three days following the Battle of Chickamauga a Federal brigade has remained on Lookout Mountain, which commands the main rail and wagon routes to Chattanooga from the west. Today, over the strong objections of some of his subordinates, a badly shaken Rosecrans decides that the present position is untenable and withdraws the brigade. General Bragg immediately seizes the advantage; he occupies Lookout Mountain and posts artillery and sharpshooters along the Tennessee River valley below the ridge, placing Chattanooga under a virtual state of siege—Bragg now intends to starve Rosecrans into submission. “The two armies are lying face to face,” writes Union Brigadier General John Beatty. “The Federal and Confederate sentinels walk their beats in sight of each other. The tents of the troops dot the hillsides. We see their signal lights on the summit of Lookout Mountain and on the knobs of Mission Ridge.”

The overwhelming presence of the Confederates on the height compels the Federals to devise an alternate supply route into Chattanooga. The Tennessee River is useless. Northwest of the town, in a section of the waterway local residents call The Suck, the stream bed narrows, creating a current so fierce that no unaided steamer can breast it. The Federal army has been getting its supplies by rail from Nashville. The trains have run southeast to the settlement of Stevenson, Alabama, and thence northeast for a distance of 35 miles along the river to Chattanooga, passing beneath the eminence of Lookout Mountain just before entering the town. Now that the Confederates occupy the mountain, supplies can be taken by rail only as far as Bridgeport, 27 miles west of Chattanooga. At this junction the Confederates burn the railroad bridge across the Tennessee River; the route eastward is dominated by their artillery. From Bridgeport, the Federals are forced to take a poor road leading northeast up the valley of the Sequatchie River to Anderson’s Crossroads. The wagons then turn southeast—following a steep, winding, rocky trail that is scarcely more than a footpath—over the heights of Walden’s Ridge and then down to the north bank of the Tennessee opposite Chattanooga. From that place the wagons move across the river and into the town over a pontoon bridge. The 27-mile trip from Bridgeport to Chattanooga by the original rail route takes perhaps an hour. The new route, a 60-mile journey, takes from eight to twenty days. The trip is endless in bad weather. Heavy rains fall soon after the battle along the Chickamauga; mules pulling the supply wagons have to struggle up the Sequatchie Valley through stretches of belly-deep mud. On the steep mountain trail as many as sixteen animals have to be harnessed to each wagon; a soldier bearing a whip is assigned to each mule, and more soldiers are put to work pushing. Without a question, the route is “the muddiest and the steepest of ascent and descent ever crossed by army wagons and mules.” As time passes, the overworked animals weaken until they can barely drag their loads into Chattanooga. Many die en route, mule carcasses litter the trail all the way from Bridgeport to Chattanooga.

The great rail transfer of the two Federal corps from the Army of the Potomac gets underway with the organization of rolling stock. Skirmishes occur at Zollicoffer, Tennessee; Bristoe Station, Virginia; and Greenbrier Bridge, West Virginia. There are six days of Union expeditions from Carrollton and Baton Rouge to the New and Amite rivers, Louisiana.

The Confederate government appoints A. Dudley Mann as special agent to the Holy See in Rome.

President Lincoln writes his wife, visiting in New York, of Chickamauga and say, “the result is that we are worsted.” To Rosecrans he writes that forty to sixty thousand men are on the way.
September 25, Friday

Military action declines as the Federal government concentrates on relieving Rosecrans. Lincoln does what he can to shore up the unsteady Chattanooga commander and assures him of Washington’s continued support. And General in Chief Henry W. Halleck continues to rush reinforcements into the area. Major General Joseph Hooker, who has been inactive since his shattering defeat at Chancellorsville five months ago, is sent west with Major General Henry W. Slocum’s XII Corps and Major General Oliver O. Howard’s XI Corps—a unit whose poor performance at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg has earned it the worst reputation in the army. Dispatched by train from Virginia today, Hooker will get the lead elements of his 20,000-man command to Bridgeport in only six days—a considerable achievement of logistics.

The Confederate government focuses on how best to exploit the victory of Chickamauga. In east Tennessee there are skirmishes at Athens, Calhoun, and Charleston. General Bragg sends General Forrest with four brigades to engage Burnside’s vanguard near Cleveland, Tennessee, just north of Chattanooga. However, before midnight Bragg sends orders to Forrest “to turn over his command, except two Brigades, to Maj Gen Wheeler.”

An annoyed Lincoln writes, but does not send, a letter to Burnside saying that he has been “struggling ... to get you to go assist Gen. Rosecrans in an extremity, and you have repeatedly declared you would do it, and yet you steadily move the contrary way.”

Other fighting occurs in the vicinity of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Seneca Trace Crossing on the Cheat River, West Virginia.
September 26, Saturday

As Rosecrans entrenches in Chattanooga and troops hurry to his aid, lesser action flares at Richard’s Ford, Virginia; Winchester and Calhoun, Tennessee; Hunt’s Mill near Larkinsville, Alabama; and Cassville, Missouri.

General Bragg’s adjutant, Colonel George L. Brent, receives a strong protest “from Genl Forrest against the order turning over his command to Wheeler. It was full of Just complaints.” By the time Bragg learns from Brent of those objections, Forrest’s troopers have already cleared the south bank of the Hiwassee River of Federals, and are in hot pursuit of Colonel Robert K. Byrd’s fleeing mounted infantry. Reinforced by Colonel Frank Wolford’s cavalry, the Yankees rally near Athens to stem Forrest’s juggernaut for at least a few hours before scurrying on to Philadelphia, Tennessee.

Confederate General W.H.C. Whiting is assigned to the separate commands of the District of Cape Fear and Defenses of Wilmington, North Carolina.

President Lincoln and the Administration are distressed that the New York Post has revealed the movement of troops west to Rosecrans.

In the Trans-Mississippi, Confederate commander E. Kirby Smith tries to arouse the citizenry by proclaiming, “Your homes are in peril. Vigorous efforts on your part can alone save portions of your State from invasion. You should contest the advance of the enemy, thicket, gully, and stream; harass his rear and cut off his supplies.”
September 27, Sunday

Forrest resumes his pursuit, driving the Federals back closer to Knoxville, Tennessee. Concerned primarily with cutting off supplies to Rosecrans, Bragg would have been content had Forrest simply halted any Federal advance at Cleveland. When Bragg learns the Federals had barely crossed the Hiwassee and Forrest is nearly in Knoxville, he becomes angry, suspecting the “Wizard” has gone off on an unnecessary raid. Bragg wanted Forrest’s troopers to team with Wheeler in disrupting Rosecrans’ supply line, and is confident he now has time to swap in infantry for Forrest’s cavalry to block Burnside. Bragg fumes, “The man ... does not know anything of cooperation. He is nothing more than a good raider.”

Jo Shelby’s Confederate raiders are active at Moffat’s Station in Franklin County, Arkansas. Skirmishing takes place at Newtonia, Missouri; and Locke’s Mill near Moscow, Tennessee. Two Federal expeditions operate until October on the Big Black to Yazoo City, Mississippi; and from Corinth, Mississippi, into west Tennessee. Federals scout in Bates County, Missouri, and on Hazel River, Virginia.

President Lincoln writes General Burnside in east Tennessee, “My order to you meant simply that you should save Rosecrans from being crushed out, believing that if he lost his position, you could not hold East Tennessee in any event.” Burnside denies any delay.
September 28, Monday

President Davis tells General Bragg of the reported Federal movement of two corps and other troops to reinforce Rosecrans. Rosecrans relieves Major Generals Alexander McDowell McCook and T.L. Crittenden of their corps commands for having left the field after Longstreet’s attack. Their units are combined to form a new IV Corps under the command of Major General Gordon Granger, and they are ordered to Indianapolis for a court of inquiry into the conduct of the Battle of Chickamauga. The court of inquiry will later clear both McCook and Crittenden of any responsibility for the Federal rout.

When Forrest encounters Union infantry near Loudon, he realizes the odds have shifted against him and turns back. Two mounted Federal brigades begin pursuing Forrest from Loudon but eventually call off the chase. Forrest then establishes his headquarters at Cleveland, prepared to defend the Hiwassee’s vulnerable fords. Later this day, Brent writes Forrest that Bragg desires he “without delay turn over the troops of your command previously ordered to ... Wheeler.” Where Forrest is when that order reaches him is unclear, but he does notify Wheeler that he is en route and then suggests, “Would it not be well to have the fortifications at Charleston [Tenn.] repaired and artillery placed in position there in order to defend the crossing if necessary?” Forrest believes his troopers would be of better use operating along the Hiwassee. Wheeler responds with a request for any spare ammunition for small arms and artillery, to which Forrest replies that he had none to spare. “Have ordered General [Henry B.] Davidson and General [Frank C.] Armstrong to you, and ... [have] retained Dibrell’s and [John] Pegram’s brigades,” Forrest writes. “They are all without rations [and I] am satisfied that neither men nor horses are in condition for the expedition.”

General Grant has spent a frustrating summer. Immediately after accepting the surrender of Vicksburg he proposed to Washington that his army, which had been reinforced for the Vicksburg siege, move against Mobile, Alabama, a major strategic objective. The proposal was rejected, and instead Grant spent the stifling hot summer months building new defensive works around Vicksburg while bits and pieces of his army were syphoned off for other fronts. Then early this month while he was conferring with General Banks in New Orleans his horse fell on him, and only recently had he recovered enough to leave his bed and return to Vicksburg. Three days ago he finally tried getting about on crutches and found himself very weak. Nevertheless, today he reports to Halleck that he is “ready for the field.”

A minor bombardment of Fort Sumter, with about a hundred Federal shots fired, lasts for six days.

Skirmishing develops at Buell’s Ford and Jonesborough, Tennessee.
September 29, Tuesday

Forrest’s brigades assigned to Wheeler join him this evening. Wheeler is shocked by their appearance and will report after the raid that Forrest’s brigades “were mere skeletons, scarcely averaging 500 effective men each.” All “were badly armed [and] had but a small supply of ammunition.” Moreover, “their horses were in horrible condition…[and] the men were worn out, and without rations.”

Bragg mistakenly issues an order assigning Wheeler “command of all the cavalry in the Army of Tennessee.” Wheeler, thinking he now has the authority to do so, issues a direct order to Dibrell, which quickly draws a protest from Forrest.

Military action is limited to an expedition lasting for a month from Pilot Knob to Oregon County, Missouri; and action at Stirling’s Plantation, Louisiana; and Leesburg, Tennessee.

President Lincoln tells the Sons of Temperance, “I think that the reasonable men of the world have long since agreed that intemperance is one of the greatest, if not the very greatest of all evils amongst mankind.”
Doug64 wrote:President Lincoln tells the Sons of Temperance, “I think that the reasonable men of the world have long since agreed that intemperance is one of the greatest, if not the very greatest of all evils amongst mankind.”

Interesting. The first stirrings of Prohibition....
Potemkin wrote:Interesting. The first stirrings of Prohibition....

Hardly the first stirrings, in 1835 the American Temperance Union had 1.5 million members--and they were the radicals, calling for abstinence rather than moderation. And they were hardly the first, temperance leagues had been starting up and disappearing for decades. Not so popular in the South, though, they tended to overlap with abolitionist and women's suffrage movements.
Doug64 wrote:Hardly the first stirrings, in 1835 the American Temperance Union had 1.5 million members--and they were the radicals, calling for abstinence rather than moderation. And they were hardly the first, temperance leagues had been starting up and disappearing for decades. Not so popular in the South, though, they tended to overlap with abolitionist and women's suffrage movements.

I see. This seems to be something unique to American culture. In Britain during the same period, there were people calling for temperance, but they were usually regarded as eccentric fringe figures, like the Methodists or the Salvation Army. The British attitude towards temperance, then and now, was summed up by Oscar Wilde, who quipped that "work is the curse of the drinking classes." Lol.
@Potemkin, I don't know how things went across the pond, but in the US drinking has been a major problem for families, which is where the overlap with the women's rights movement came from. While Prohibition turned out to be a flop, due to the no-compromise fanaticism of its supporters, the problem it was intended to combat was real.
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