Battle of Chickamauga
Chickamauga Georgia / Rock of Chickamauga
The Battle of Chickamauga was the second-bloodiest battle of the Civil War next to the Battle of Gettysburg. It effectively ended the Union offensive named the Chickamauga campaign and was the most costly defeat for the Union army in the western theater over the course of the war.
The Union Army of the Cumberland was led by Major General Richard S. Rosecrans who faced the Confederate Army of the Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg. The Battle of Chickamauga took place September 19-20, 1863 in Chickamauga Georgia. It is named for West Chickamauga creek which meanders through the battlefield.
In essence, the key to the battle was Chatanooga Tennessee. Bragg’s Army of the Cumberland had earlier occupied Chatanooga, and now made a concerted attempted to reoccupy the city.Rosecrans wanted to prevent this and put his army in position to defend the strategic city.
Battle - September 19
On a night march before the battle, General Rosecrans had positioned his army between the advancing Confederate army and Chatanooga. The first shots were fired around Jay’s Mill and the Battle of Chickamauga was underway. The inital assault was led by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Hand-to-hand fighting ensued before Forest and his men were pushed back.
The thick forests of the battlefield made troop positioning a nightmare for commanders on both sides. They couldn’t see the full battlefield and the shifting nature on both sides had the commanders guessing whether they had made correct moves or not. It was a back-and-forth battle all day and finally night fell on the battlefield and silenced the guns.
* All maps by Hal Jespersen, www.posix.com/CW
Battle - September 20
The Confederates resumed their attack at 9am the next morning and although they were repulsed with each attack, they were slowly pushing the Union army back. A miscommunication on the Union side saw Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood pull his troops off the front line.
This created a huge gap in the lines with no troops and Confederate General James Longstreet sent 3 divisions forward to exploit the gap. The Confederate divisions were led by General John Bell Hood and they were ordered forward at 11:10am.
This advance broke the center of the Union army and there advance crumbled under the weight of the Confederate surge forward. Union troops were sent into retreat back toward Chatanooga. Union General George Thomas rallied the Union troops at Snodgrass Hill and they wre readied to take a stand. Thomas was given the nickname the “Rock of Chickamauga”.
As Confederate troops attacked Thomas they took heavy losses and were pushed back. Not only did Thomas inflict heavy casualties on the Army of the Cumberland, but he also covered the retreat of the rest of the Union army back to Chatanooga. Shortly after his stand, Thomas too ordered his men back and they made their way back to the city.
Confederate General Braxton Bragg then made a controversial decision that stayed with him for the rest of his career. Despite the urging of his commanders, he refused to pursue the fleeing Union army when they were at their weakest. General Forrest was beside himself and refused to ever take an order from Bragg again.
The casualties of the 2-day Battle of Chickamauga were staggering. Union casualties stood at 16,170 and the Confederates at 18,454. It was a tough battle for both armies and would spell the end of command for Rosecrans as he would be replaced by President Abraham Lincoln on October 19 by General Thomas who had stood tall like “a rock” at the Battle of Chickamauga.
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