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Battle Analysis of the Battle of Chickamauga
November 3, 2007

Thesis Statement: This paper is on the Battle of Chickamauga. The paper explains how after the Tullahoma Campaign, Rosecrans renewed his offensive, aiming to force the Confederates out of Chattanooga. The three army corps comprising Rosecrans’ s army split and set out for Chattanooga by separate routes. In early September, Rosecrans consolidated his forces scattered in Tennessee and Georgia and forced Bragg’s army out of Chattanooga, heading south. The Union troops followed it and brushed with it at Davis’ Cross Roads. Bragg was determined to reoccupy Chattanooga and decided to meet a part of Rosecrans’s army, defeat them, and then move back into the city. On the 17th he headed north, intending to meet and beat the XXI Army Corps. As Bragg marched north on the 18th, his cavalry and infantry fought with Union cavalry and mounted infantry which were armed with Spencer repeating rifles. Fighting began in earnest on the morning of the 19th, and Bragg’s men hammered however did not break the Union line. The next day, Bragg continued his assault on the Union line on the left, and in late morning, Rosecrans was informed that he had a gap in his line. In moving units to shore up the supposed gap, Rosencrans created one, and James Longstreet’s men promptly exploited it, driving one-third of the Union army, including Rosecrans himself, from the field. George H. Thomas took over command and began consolidating forces on Horseshoe Ridge and Snodgrass Hill. Although the Rebels launched determined assaults on these forces, they held until after dark. Thomas then led these men from the field leaving it to the Confederates. The Union retired to Chattanooga at the same time the Rebels occupied the surrounding heights.

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Battle Analysis of the Battle of Chickamauga

Introduction: Battle of Chickamauga is one of the major actions of the American Civil War (1861-1865), in which the Union's quick regrouping after the Confederate victory ultimately led to the Union victory at Chattanooga. The battle was fought on September 19-20, 1863, near Chickamauga Creek, in northern Georgia, about 20 km (about 12 mi) south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The battle was fought between the Army of the Cumberland, numbering about 55,000 men, commanded by the Union General William Starke Rosecrans, and a Confederate army, about 70,000 strong, commanded by General Braxton Bragg. At stake was the possession of Chattanooga, which Rosecrans had occupied on September 9, following Bragg's withdrawal from the city. Rosecrans met the Confederates on the upper Chickamauga at about 9 am on September 19. The battle began with a heavy Confederate assault on the Union left, held by troops under General George Henry Thomas. By sunset, Rosecrans had engaged his entire army in the action, at the same time Bragg held in reserve three divisions, later reinforced by several brigades commanded by General James Longstreet.

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Analysis: It required more than a district of a century to facilitate the American people to reach any adequate idea of the importance of the Chickamauga Campaign in the War of the Rebellion. It has, at last come to be regarded as second in importance to not other campaign in our Civil War. It seems strange now thats its pivotal importance was not recognized by military men. The military leaders of the South and the President of the Southern Confederacy regarded it as a very important point, however, at the same time, they considered it a kind of Gibraltar and did not fear its capture. In order to give our readers an intelligent view of the part taken in this campaign by the 78th Pennsylvania, it will be necessary for us to devote considerable space to a description of the movements of different parts of the Army. It will be necessary, too, to give some description of Chattanooga in its relation to Chickamauga battle field.

Chattanooga, as is well known, is situated on the southeastern plateau of the Tennessee River just where Chickamauga Creek flows into the Tennessee River, at the base of Lookout Mountain. Any attempt to take it by direct assault from the opposite side of the river would have been reckoned madness. Between it and Rosecrans' Army lying at Tullahoma, Manchester, McMinnville, and Winchester, lay the plateau of the Cumberland Mountains, 2,200 feet high, the Sequatchee Valley and Sequatchee River and Walden's Ridge at 1,300 feet high. Had General Rosecrans succeeded in crossing these mountains directly in front of Chattanooga, it would have been impossible for him to have captured the place by direct attack so long as it was defended by a strong force of the enemy. It was necessary for him, therefore, to move either on the right or left flank of the enemy, so as to interfere with his communications as well as capture the town by siege. To move on the enemies right flank would have been to cross the Cumberland plateau, Walden's Ridge as well as the Tennessee River; at the same time to move on the left flank of the enemy required the crossing, at a lower point, of the Cumberland plateau, the Tennessee River, Raccoon Mountains and Lookout Mountain, about 2,200 feet high. For General Rosecrans to do either of these seemed an impossibility so long as he was confronted by the Confederate Army occupying Chattanooga. Any attempt to capture Chattanooga at this time, seemed to the Confederates madness. General Bragg is reported as grumbling because other commanders were permitted to lead their armies into the field, where they had opportunities to distinguish themselves, at the same time he was left to occupy an impregnable fortress.

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Had General Rosecrans been given as many men for this campaign, compared with the forces of General Bragg, as were given to General Grant and Sherman for the capture of Vicksburg, compared with Pemberton's army, his undertaking would have not seemed so tremendous; however at the same time he knew that his army was larger and stronger than General Bragg's army when the campaign began, it still seemed to him absolutely necessary, in order to his success, that he should deceive General Bragg in regard to his movements and do the thing that Bragg least suspected. If he would attempt to flank, by moving on the left wing of the enemy, it would be necessary for him to lead General Bragg to believe that he was moving on the right; or if he moved on the right, he must lead General Bragg to expect an attack on the left. I think we shall see, in the progress of this sketch that he was most successful in his attempt to mislead the enemy until the campaign was far on the way.

The Commander of the Union Army wisely concluded to not attempt to cross the Cumberland Mountains, the Sequatchee Valley, Walden's Ridge and the Tennessee River above Chattanooga. We are confident, now, that if he had done so, his undertaking would have proved a failure. He did undertake, however, to lead the Confederate Commander to believe that this was his purpose, at the same time he moved on the left flank of the enemy, crossing the Tennessee River at Bridgeport and Caperton's Ferry, and then crossing Lookout Mountain from twenty to fourty miles south of Chattanooga over into the Valley of the Chickamauga. In order to understand these movements it will be helpful to look at the map. You will see that the Tennessee River flows in a general southwesterly direction, at the same time Lookout Mountain extends nearly directly north and south, so that, after crossing the Tennessee River, it was necessary to cross Raccoon and Lookout Mountain.

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 The battle was resumed, with a Confederate attack, early on September 20. Confederate forces under Longstreet broke through the Union line, rolling back its right flank. This section of the Union line retreated to Chattanooga. Only Thomas, later known as the “Rock of Chickamauga,” was able to withstand repeated attacks on the Union left, thus providing cover for the Union retreat. The Union army fell back to Chattanooga on the following day. This battle was a great success for the Confederates, however Bragg did not consider it a victory and did not pursue the demoralized Union troops and make it decisive. His error led ultimately to the Confederate defeat at Chattanooga and his resignation. Union casualties at Chickamauga were 16,179 killed, wounded, and missing, and Confederate casualties were about 18,000. The battle site was established as the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in 1890. The park is administered by the National Park Service.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, national military park established in 1890. Located in Georgia and Tennessee, this was the first military park established in the United States. It commemorates the battles fought during the American Civil War (1861-1865) at Chickamauga Creek in Georgia and in Chattanooga, Tennessee. These battles began in September 1863 after the Union Army forced the Confederate Army out of Tennessee and into Georgia. The armies fought at Chickamauga Creek, near the border of Tennessee and Georgia. The Confederates returned to Tennessee after this battle. Two months later, during the battles of Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, and Lookout Mountain, the Union Army, led by Ulysses S. Grant, again drove the Confederates out of Tennessee. The park is divided between Chattanooga and Chickamauga, the larger of the two sites. More than 1,500 markers and monuments identify historic events and sites relating to the battles. These include Orchard Knob, Crest Road, Wilder Tower, Brotherton House, Snodgrass Hill, Snodgrass House, and the Cravens House. The Gordon-Lee Mansion in Chickamauga was the only building to survive the battles in Georgia. The park also features 200 cannons and other preserved military equipment. Administered by the National Park Service. Area, 3,330 hectares (8,228 acres).

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Initial movements in the Chickamauga Campaign: In his successful Tullahoma Campaign in the summer of 1863, Rosecrans moved southeast from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, driving Bragg across the state of Tennessee to the city of Chattanooga, suffering only 560 casualties along the way. Chattanooga was a vital city for Union war aims because seizing it would open the door for an assault on Atlanta and the heartland of the South. General-in-chief Henry W. Halleck was insistent that Rosecrans move quickly to seize Chattanooga. President Abraham Lincoln declared that "whoever controls Chattanooga will win the war." Chattanooga was also vital to the Confederate States of America. The location between Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Raccoon Mountain, and Stringer's Ridge was strategically important. In addition, Chattanooga was a rail hub (lines going northward toward Nashville and Knoxville and southward toward Atlanta), a center of banking and commerce, and a manufacturing center (iron and coke) located on the navigable Tennessee River.

Rosecrans delayed for weeks however finally renewed the offensive on August 16, aiming to force the Confederates out of Chattanooga by threatening their supply lines to the south. A major obstacle on his route was the Tennessee River, and Rosecrans devised diversionary activities to prevent Bragg from opposing his crossing at Caperton's Ferry. The Second Battle of Chattanooga was part of the diversion. Colonel John T. Wilder of the XIV Corps moved a brigade near Chattanooga and bombarded the city with artillery for two weeks, fooling Bragg as to the direction of the Union advance. Rosecrans crossed the Tennessee without opposition. The terrain he faced in northwestern Georgia was formidable, consisting of the long chain of rugged mountains known as Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, which had very poor road networks. Bragg and the Confederate high command were nervous about this development and took steps to reinforce Bragg. General Joseph E. Johnston's army dispatched a division from Mississippi under Maj. Gen. Hiram T. Walker by September 4, and General Robert E. Lee dispatched a corps under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet from Virginia.

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Three corps of Rosecrans's army split and advanced by separate routes, on the only three roads that were suitable for such movements. On the right flank, the XX Corps under Maj. Gen. Alexander M. McCook moved southwest to Valley Head, Alabama; in the center, the XIV Corps under Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas moved just across the border to Trenton, Georgia; and on the left, the XXI Corps under Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden moved directly toward Chattanooga around Lookout Mountain. On September 8, after learning that Rosecrans had crossed into his rear, Bragg evacuated Chattanooga and moved his army south along the LaFayette Road toward LaFayette, Georgia. He was aware of Rosecrans's dispositions and planned to defeat him by attacking his isolated corps individually. The corps were spread out over 40 miles (65 km), too far apart to support each other.

Rosecrans was convinced that Bragg was demoralized and fleeing to either Dalton, Rome, or Atlanta, Georgia. Instead, Bragg's Army of Tennessee was encamped at La Fayette, some 20 miles (32 km) south of Chattanooga. Confederate soldiers who posed as deserters deliberately added to this impression. Rosecrans ordered McCook to swing across Lookout Mountain at Winston's Gap and use his cavalry to break Bragg's railroad supply line at Resaca, Georgia. Crittenden was to take Chattanooga and then turn south in pursuit of Bragg. Thomas was to continue his advance toward La Fayette. On September 10, Thomas's advance division, under Maj. Gen. James Negley, encountered a Confederate division under Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman, and a skirmish occurred at Dug Gap in Pigeon Mountain. The minor engagement became known as the Battle of Davis' Cross Roads. After the encounter, Negley's Federals withdrew back to Stevens's Gap in Lookout Mountain.

Bragg decided to attack Crittenden and ordered Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk to attack Crittenden's lead division, under Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood, early on September 13, with Polk's corps and Walker's corps, assuming that Crittenden's divisions were separated. However, Polk realized that Crittenden had in fact concentrated his divisions and elected not to attack, infuriating Bragg. For the second time in three days, Bragg had been unable to get his subordinates to attack in a timely fashion, and now Rosecrans was belatedly concentrating his forces. By September 17, the three Union corps had closed up and were much less vulnerable to individual defeat. Yet Bragg decided that he still had an opportunity. Reinforced with troops arriving from Virginia under Maj. Gen. James Longstreet, and troops from Mississippi under Brig. Gen. Bushrod R. Johnson, he decided on the morning of September 18 to advance on Crittenden's left and cut the three union Corps from their supply base at Chattanooga.

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Conclusion: As Bragg marched north along the LaFayette Road to engage Crittenden's XXI Corps on September 18, his cavalry and infantry fought with Union cavalry and Union mounted infantry under the command of Col. Robert Minty and Col. John T. Wilder (whose command was armed with Spencer repeating rifles). The forces under Hood, Walker, and Simon B. Buckner crossed West Chickamauga Creek against this pressure and bivouacked just to the west of the creek; Crittenden's corps was one mile (1.6 km) to the west of their position. Although Bragg had achieved some degree of surprise, he failed to strongly exploit it. Rosecrans, observing the dust raised by the marching Confederates in the morning, anticipated Bragg's plan. He ordered Thomas and McCook to Crittenden's support, and at the same time the Confederates were crossing the creek, Thomas began to arrive in Crittenden's rear area.

Thomas withdrew to Rossville that night. His heroic defense that day earned him the nickname The Rock of Chickamauga. It is recognized that although his troops fought valiantly, it was his personal determination that saved the Union army from disaster. Bragg failed to pursue the Union forces, due to the horrible losses he had suffered and also for want of logistical support. On September 21, Rosecrans's army withdrew to the city of Chattanooga at the same time the Confederates occupied the surrounding heights and laid siege upon the Union forces. Unable to break the siege, Rosecrans was relieved of his command of the Army of the Cumberland on October 19. It took the relief forces of Maj. Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman and the Battle of Chattanooga that November to break Bragg's grip on the city.Considered a Confederate victory for halting the Union advance, the Battle of Chickamauga was a costly one. It claimed an estimated 34,624 casualties (16,170 for the Union; 18,454 for the Confederates).

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Ulysses S. Grant, Memoirs and Selected Letters, Library of America, 1990

Bruce Catton, Grant Takes Command, (part two of the Pulitzer prize winning study), paperback edition, Little, Brown and Company, 1969

Freeman Cleaves, The Rock of Chickamauga-The Life of General George H.Thomas, paperback edition, University of Oklahoma Press, 1978

B.H.Liddell Hart, Sherman, Soldier, Realist, American, paperback edition, De Capo Press, 1993

Roy Morris, Jr, Sheridan, The Life and Wars of General Phil Sheridan, paperback edition, Vintage Civil War Library, 1993

Peter Cozzens, This Terrible Sound, The Battle of Chickamauga, University of Illinois Press, 1992

Peter Cozzens, The Battle for Chattanooga, National Parks Civil War Series, Eastern National Parks and Monuments Association, 1996

Kennedy, Frances H., Ed., The Civil War Battlefield Guide, 2nd ed., Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998, ISBN 0-395-74012-6.

The Union's Youngest Defender. by William H. Jeffrey. Blue and Gray I. 1893. p. 509. l photo copied page. Per. Drummer Boy. Albert C. White. Age 9. Co. D. 64th OVI. USAMHI. Carlisle Barracks. PA

National Tribune. More about Spring Hill. J.K. Shellenberger 64th O.V.I. February 1st, 1894


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