On these fields and hills, Union and Confederate armies clashed during the fall of 1863 in some of the hardest fighting of the Civil War. The prize was Chattanooga, key rail center and gateway to the heart of the Confederacy. The campaign that brought the armies here began late in June 1863 when General William S. Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland, almost 60,000 strong, moved from Murfreesboro, Tennessee against General Braxton Bragg's 43,000 Confederates dug in 20 miles to the southwest defending the road to Chattanooga.
Months earlier, these same armies had clashed at Stone River where, after a 3-day struggle, the Confederates had retreated. Now, once more, through a series of skillful marches, Rosecrans forced the Southerns to withdraw into Chattanooga. There Bragg dug in again, guarding the Tennessee River crossings northeast of the city, where he expected Rosecrans to attack. But early in September the Federals crossed the Tennessee well below Chattanooga and again Bragg had to withdraw southward.
Eluding his Federal pursuers, Bragg concentrated his forces at LaFayette, Georgia (26 miles) south of Chattanooga. Here reinforcements from East Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi swelled his ranks to more than 66,000 men. Twice he tried unsuccessfully to destroy isolated segments of Rosecrans' army. Then, on September 18, hoping to wedge his troops between the Federals and Chattanooga, Bragg posted his army on the west bank of Chickamauga Creek along a line from Reed's Bridge to just opposite Lee and Gordon's Mill.
Fighting began shortly after dawn on September 19 when Union infantry encountered Confederate cavalry at Jay's Mill. This brought on a general battle that spread south for nearly 4 miles. The armies fought desperately all day, often hand-to-hand, and gradually the Confederates pushed the Federals back to LaFayatte Road. On September 20, Bragg again tried to drive between the Union force and Chattanooga, but failed to dislodge Rosecrans' line. Then a gap opened in the Federal ranks, and General James Longstreet's Confederates smashed through the hole, routing Rosecrans and half his army. General George H. Thomas took command of the remaining Federals and formed a new battleline on Snodgrass Hill. Here his men held their ground against repeated assaults, earning for Thomas the nickname "Rock of Chickamauga." After dark, Thomas withdrew his men from the field. The defeat forced the Union troops to retreat into Chattanooga. The Confederates pursued, occupying Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain, and Chattanooga Valley. By placing artillery on the heights overlooking the river and blocking the roads and rail lines, the Southerners prevented Federal supplies from entering the city. Unless something was done to break the Confederate stranglehold, Rosecrans' army must surrender or starve.
Aware of Rosecrans' plight, Union authorities in Washington ordered reinforcements to his relief. General Joseph Hooker came from Virginia late in October with 20,000 men and General William T. Sherman brought in 16,000 more from Mississippi in mid-November. Thomas replaced Rosecrans as head of Army of the Cumberland and General Ulysses S. Grant assumed overall command.
Within days of Grant's arrival at Chattanooga in October, the situation began to change dramatically. On October 28 Federal troops opened a short supply route (called the "Cracker Line") from Bridgeport, Alabama. On November 23 Thomas' men attacked and routed the Confederates from Orchard Knob. On the 24th, aided by a heavy fog that enshrouded the slopes of Lookout Mountain during most of the day, Hooker's soldiers pushed the Confederates out of their defenses around the Cravens House. On November 25, with most of Bragg's army now concentrated on Missionary Ridge, Grant launched Sherman's troops against the Confederate right flank, and sent Hooker's men from Lookout Mountain to attack the Confederate left. Thomas soldiers, in the center at Orchard Knob, were held in reserve.
Hooker was delayed crossing Chattanooga Creek and the Confederates halted Sherman's attack. To relieve the pressure on Sherman, Grant ordered Thomas' Army of the Cumberland to assault the rifle pits at the base of Missionary Ridge. This was quickly accomplished. Then, without orders, Thomas' men scaled the heights in one of the great charges of the war. The Confederates line collapsed and Bragg's troops fled to the rear. During the night they retreated into Georgia. The siege and battle of Chattanooga were over and Union armies now controlled the city and nearly all of Tennessee. The next spring, Sherman used Chattanooga for his base as he started his march to Atlanta and the sea.
This Terrible Sound
The Battle of Chickamauga
Study of the great bloody battle of Chickamauga that was the last great offensive, although costsly, victory by the Confederates. This is a detailed account of the movements of regiments, brigades, divisions.
From Manassas to Appomattox: General James Longstreet
According to some, he was partially to blame for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg; according to others, if Lee had followed Longstreet's advice, they would have won that battle. He has been called stubborn and vain; and he has been lauded as one of the greatest tacticians of the Civil War
Standard Catalog of
Civil War Firearms
Over 700 photographs and a rarity scale for each gun, this comprehensive guide to the thousands of weapons used by Billy Yank and Johnny Reb will be indispensable for historians and collectors.
Rebel Boast: First at Bethel,
Last at Appomattox
Based on the stories of 5 men who enlisted in the Confederate Army to fight for what they believed. Where did they go? How did they feel? What did they do day to day? What did they see? How did they live and die? Nominated for a Pulitzer in 1956
Fighting Joe Hooker
Union general Joseph Hooker assumed command of an army demoralized by defeat and diminished by desertion. Acting swiftly, the general reorganized his army, routed corruption among quartermasters, improved food and sanitation, and boosted morale by granting furloughs and amnesties. The test of his military skill came in the battle of Chancellorsville. It was one of the Union Army's worst defeats
Grant's Lieutenants: From Chattanooga to Appomattox
This new volume assesses Union generalship during the final two years of the Civil War. Steven Woodworth, one of the war's premier historians, is joined by a team of scholars-- Grimsley, Marszalek, and Hess, among others--who critique Ulysses S. Grant's commanders
Wings to the Kingdom
The fields at Chickamauga claimed 35,000 casualties during the Civil War. Any guide will tell you that the grounds are haunted. The battlefield even has its own resident haunt, called Old Green Eyes for his tell-tale luminous gaze.
Guide to the Atlanta Campaign: Rocky Face Ridge to Kennesaw Mountain
Following the capture of Chattanooga, the Union initiated battles and operations that took it from the Tennessee border to the outskirts of Atlanta. Bloody confrontations at places such as Resaca and New Hope Church. Grant had ordered Sherman to penetrate the enemy's interior and inflict "all the damage you can against their War resources,"
A large Union army led by Sherman leaves Chattanooga and northern Georgia camps and marches south to Atlanta and ultimately arrives at the coastal city of Savannah, laying waste to the territory through which it passes
The Battle of Resaca:
Atlanta Campaign, 1864
Ideal book for a Civil War buff. Take it with you if you visit the site. Written accounts from the soldiers that stormed across the hills put you in the moment. Several good maps and even pictures taken a few days after the battle help take you out of your living room and into the past
From Kirkus Reviews
A narrative history of crucial Civil War operations in the West after Grant's great victories at Vicksburg and Fort Donaldson in July 1863. Woodworth (History/Texas Christian Univ.) traces how several bloody campaigns, marked by serious blunders on both sides, helped seal the Confederacy's fate. The Union Army of the Cumberland, under the command of General William S. Rosecrans, a neurotic, slow-moving perfectionist, were under orders to seize Chattanooga, a city important both because it served as a Confederate rail center (and the area around it was a breadbasket for Confederate forces) and because it guarded the path to Atlanta and the deep South. Opposing Rosecrans was Braxton Bragg, in charge of the Army of Tennessee. Bragg was particularly unpopular, and his command was frequently hamstrung by dissension. The opposing armies, maneuvering in an immense mountainous and forested area, were intermittently crippled by a lack of intelligence and by the difficulty of moving large numbers of troops over inhospitable terrain. Woodworth offers some convincing portraits of Rosecrans, Bragg, and their officers, and catches with great clarity the nature of the deadly chess game the armies were engaged in. Rosecrans's errors led to a Union defeat at Chickamauga, costly for both sides, after which both armies were reinforced. General Longstreet joined Bragg, bringing elements of the Army of Northern Virginia, and deepening the professional jealousy that kept threatening to dissipate Confederate successes. Union forces were bolstered by the arrival of the armies of Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan, all talented, aggressive fighters. Pressured by Lincoln, the Union forces finally captured Chattanooga, inflicting another humiliating setback on the Confederates and opening up the path for Sherman's march to Atlanta and the sea. A fine analysis of strategic and tactical operations, stressing the influence of commanders on the success, or failure, of their armies, while not losing sight of the grim experience of war for frontline troops
Source: U.S. National Park Service
U.S. Library of Congress