previous next

[245] day's delay in the concentration of the army, instead of attempting to come down on the east side of Lookout.

The movement of the army from the Tennessee River seems to have proceeded upon the supposition that the enemy was unable to make a stand against a single corps, and without a suspicion that he was only retiring to meet his reenforcements, as proved to be the case. It was a matter of remark at the time, that the abundant supplies left at various points, and the neglect to destroy bridges or obstruct roads, indicated the enemy's confidence in his ability to repossess the country quickly.

When the battle commenced on Saturday, the nineteenth, there was probably no great disparity of numbers in the two armies. But one of Longstreet's divisions (Hood's) was present, and but three brigades of that. Statements of prisoners, and previous information of the rebel organization, fail to give more than thirty-four brigades; and this, at the fair allowance of one thousand five hundred to a brigade, would make the rebel strength between fifty thousand and fifty-five thousand, exclusive of cavalry. General Rosecrans had very nearly the same number of men in his army. This, it will be remembered, is the estimate for the Saturday's battle; the enemy had reenforcements on the march, including the Georgia militia, some part of Longstreet's corps, and others, which arrived before the close of Sunday's fight. Rosecrans got into that fight only the two brigades of Steedman's division, in addition to what he had on Saturday. Probably it will be found necessary to look farther than the assertion of “overwhelming numbers,” for an explanation of the disaster to the Union arms. At all events, it is certain that seven divisions, after losing heavily on Saturday, were able, with all the disadvantages of a divided line and open position, and after the disastrous retreat of four divisions, with the loss of twenty pieces of artillery, ammunition, etc., to hold the battle-ground against the entire Southern army during Sunday afternoon, and then at night retreat, not at all as if they felt themselves whipped by the enemy. To indicate, in this connection, the spirit of the rebels, it may be stated that in an attempt to feel the Federal position on Missionary Ridge, on the afternoon of the twenty-first, although they vigorously engaged and drove back the skirmishers, they could not be made to follow far enough to discover the Federal line, despite the liberal curses of their officers within hearing of the Federals.

Finally, credit for saving the army from the most disastrous defeat, if not practical annihilation, is due to no corps alone, not to any General exclusively; but more than to any other cause to the sturdy fighting qualities of the army, which, properly controlled, was able to have whipped “the whole Southern Confederacy,” if (as has been asserted) that was the force in front of it on September nineteenth and twentieth, 1863.

Since the battle, the General commanding the army, two corps commanders, McCook and Crittenden, and two division commanders, Negley and Van Cleve, have been relieved from their commands.


It has often been asserted, and the opinion is evidently gaining ground, that the advance from Chattanooga to the Chickamauga was necessary to the possession of the former place. In other words, that General Rosecrans, having compelled the evacuation of Chattanooga by throwing McCook's and Thomas's corps up Lookout Valley, was obliged to concentrate his army at Chickamauga to get it safely back to Chattanooga. This is said to relieve the responsible party of blame for not resting at Chattanooga until the reenforcements, etc., came up, and if it be true, it is of course conclusive on that point. The facts are these: As early as September sixth, indications of a purpose to evacuate Chattanooga were observed, and the event was confidently looked for every day thereafter. On the ninth, the order to advance beyond Chattanooga had reached the extreme detached command, thirty miles from Chattanooga by the ordinary means of couriers. It would appear then that the enemy's movement from Chattanooga was known at headquarters at least as early as the night of the eighth, and it remains to note the position of the army at that date. Crittenden's corps was principally in Lookout Valley, and could march into Chattanooga in two hours. Thomas's corps was near Stephens's Gap, some twenty miles southward in Lookout Valley, and McCook in the same valley, a little more than twenty miles further south. Between the army thus situated and the enemy's line of retreat was Lookout Mountain, “a perpendicular wall of limestone over which no wheel could pass.” It is very evident that on the ninth, while Crittenden marched into Chattanooga, and commenced the work of strengthening the place, Thomas could have marched back down Lookout Valley without molestation; but McCook would have been endangered, without some further provision. Thomas was on the ninth in Stephens's Gap, the only point at which the enemy could pass Lookout between McCook and Chattanooga to cut him off. A division would have been ample to secure this Gap until McCook, marching down the valley for Chattanooga, should have passed it. By night of the tenth, Crittenden's corps and at least two divisions of Thomas's would have been fortifying Chattanooga, while McCook's and Thomas's other divisions, separated and protected from the enemy by the “perpendicular wall” of Lookout Mountain, and holding its only pass, would have been marching with what speed was possible to join them.

Instead of this, Crittenden was sent south-easterly to Ringgold, a point further from Thomas than Chattanooga was, leaving the Chickamauga River, Missionary Ridge, and Lookout Mountain, between Crittenden and the rest of the army. To effect the concentration on the Chickamauga the left corps marched thirty miles, the centre corps sixteen miles, and the right corps twenty-seven miles, the two latter corps crossing a difficult

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
George H. Thomas (7)
Dan McCook (7)
T. L. Crittenden (6)
W. S. Rosecrans (3)
Longstreet (2)
James B. Steedman (1)
Negley (1)
John Hood (1)
Cleve (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
9th (2)
September 20th, 1863 AD (1)
September 19th, 1863 AD (1)
September 6th (1)
21st (1)
19th (1)
10th (1)
8th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: