Battle of Chickamauga

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Chickamauga, Battle of (1863).After maneuvering Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee from its namesake state in midsummer 1863, U.S. Gen. William S. Rosecrans and the Army of the Cumberland paused only briefly before resuming their drive upon Chattanooga, Tennessee. In late August, Rosecrans feinted upstream while crossing the Tennessee River unopposed in four places below Chattanooga; subsequently he began an advance south and east of the city to threaten Bragg's line of communication to Atlanta. In response, Bragg on 8 September evacuated Chattanooga and concentrated his army, now reinforced by James Longstreet's corps from the Army of Northern Virginia, around LaFayette, Georgia. Supremely overconfident, Rosecrans imprudently ordered a general pursuit by his widely separated forces. Only after the XIV Corps barely escaped a trap in McLemore's Cove on 11 September did Rosecrans order a consolidation of his army near Chattanooga.

For the next week, Rosecrans scrambled to gather his command while Bragg struggled to defeat the Federals in detail. Late on 18 September, when the two armies stumbled together by accident along Chickamauga Creek, Rosecrans had almost completed his concentration. In heavy but confused fighting the following day, neither side gained any significant advantage. A coordinated Confederate attack on 20 September made little progress until an exhausted Rosecrans mistakenly ordered a Federal division out of line, permitting a massive Confederate column to rush through the gap. In the resulting debacle, Rosecrans and one‐third of his army fled ignominiously. However, Gen. George H. Thomas rallied the remaining Federals around Snodgrass Hill. After nightfall, Thomas withdrew safely without Confederate pursuit. In this, the largest Civil War battle in the western theater, the opposing forces were nearly equal: approximately 62,000 Federals to 65,000 Confederates. Over 16,000 Federals and 18,000 Confederates became casualties. Although a major Confederate success, Chickamauga was a barren victory because the Union Army of the Cumberland was neither destroyed nor forced to relinquish Chattanooga.


Peter Cozzens , This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga, 1992.
William Glenn Robertson , The Battle of Chickamauga, 1995.

William Glenn Robertson

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CHICKAMAUGA, BATTLE OF (19–20 September 1863). The Army of the Cumberland, under Union General W. S. Rosecrans, maneuvered an inferior Confederate force under General Braxton Bragg out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, an important railway center, by threatening it from the west while sending two flanking columns far to the south. When Bragg retreated to the east, Rosecrans pursued until he found that the main Confederate Army had halted directly in his front. In order to unite his scattered corps, he moved northward to concentrate in front of Chattanooga. Bragg attacked on the morning of 19 September in the valley of Chickamauga Creek, about ten miles from Chattanooga. The effective strength was Confederate, 66,000; Union, 58,000.

The fighting began with a series of poorly coordinated attacks in echelon by Confederate divisions; these were met by Union counterattacks. On the second day, the battle was resumed by the Confederate right, threatening the Union communications line with Chattanooga. A needless transfer of troops to the Union left, plus a blundering order which opened a gap in the center, so weakened the right that it was swept from the field by General James Longstreet's attack. Rosecrans and his staff were carried along by the routed soldiers. General George H. Thomas, commanding the Union left, held the army together and after nightfall withdrew into Chattanooga. Rosecrans held Chattanooga until November, when the Confederate siege was broken by reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac under General U. S. Grant.


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

Spruill, Matt, ed. Guide to the Battle of Chickamauga. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1993.

Theodora ClarkeSmith


See alsoChattanooga Campaign ; Civil War ; Tennessee, Army of .