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Lee & Gordon's mills on the Chickamauga, September, 1863: the bloodiest battle-field of the war Dozing in the autumn sunlight of 1863, this obscure building, bearing by chance the patronymics of two great Southern generals, was suddenly to mark a strategic point in the most sanguinary of the battles of the West. It stood on the west branch of Chickamauga Creek, which flowed through the fertile valley between Missionary Ridge and Pigeon Mountain. Through the passes of the one the Federals under Rosecrans were advancing on September 12th, while the Confederates under Bragg held the approaches at the other. Between them flowed the little stream, undoubtedly the scene of some prehistoric conflict, for the Indians had named it Chickamauga, “River of death.” In 1863 the word was about to be written into American history to designate a two-days' battle in which the South lost more in killed and wounded than at Gettysburg and the North almost the same number as at Chancellorsville. The storm center of the mighty conflict had shifted to the West. After Gettysburg the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac lay warily watching each other, each disinclined to become the aggressor. Lincoln had been urging Rosecrans to move his Army of the Cumberland on from Murfreesboro and attack Bragg's entrenched position in south central Tennessee so as to prevent Bragg from detaching troops to raise the siege of Vicksburg. At last, on June 24, 1863, he took the initiative, and then, with what is considered by some military writers the war's masterpiece of strategy, he drove Bragg out of Tennessee into Georgia. Rosecrans' advance was in Bragg's abandoned works around Tullahoma on July 3d and in Chattanooga on September 9th, all without a battle. Burnside, with the Army of the Ohio, captured Knoxville on September 3d. But Tennessee was not to be abandoned by the Confederates without a fight.

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