Tag Archives: Simon B. Buckner

Chattanooga: Confederate Dissension Continues

October 9, 1863 – President Jefferson Davis held meetings with the top officers in the Army of Tennessee to try resolving the deep dissension among them.

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate army, despite laying siege to the Federals in Chattanooga, was vastly demoralized. Davis had sent Colonel James Chesnut to assess the army’s condition, and when the officers presented Chesnut with a petition asking for Davis to remove Bragg as commander, Chesnut recommended that Davis come to Chattanooga and deal with the problem in person.

Davis left Richmond on the 6th with hopes “to be serviceable in harmonizing some of the difficulties” within the army. He traveled aboard a special train with his secretary Burton Harrison, Colonels William P. Johnston and Custis Lee (sons of Albert Sidney Johnston and Robert E. Lee), and Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, who had not been reassigned since surrendering Vicksburg in July.

The travelers arrived in Atlanta on the 8th. The next morning, Davis delivered a speech that was very well received, in which he urged the people to continue the fight for independence. The train continued to Marietta, where Davis was greeted by more cheers as he briefly praised Georgia’s role in the war.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Soldiers cheered and bands played as the train pulled in to Chickamauga Station. Davis mounted a horse as the crowd hollered, “Speech!” Davis responded, “Man never spoke as you did on the field of Chickamauga, and in your presence I dare not speak. Yours is the voice that will win the independence of your country and strike terror to the heart of a ruthless foe.”

Davis and his group rode into Bragg’s headquarters on Missionary Ridge on the night of the 9th and had a private conversation with him. Bragg blamed his subordinates for the army’s troubles and declined Davis’s request to replace Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk with Pemberton. He then refused to reinstate Polk and offered to resign. Davis would not accept Bragg’s resignation, mainly because Bragg was the only Confederate general to have won a major victory since Chancellorsville, five months ago.

Davis and Bragg then held a council of war with Bragg’s corps commanders: James Longstreet, D.H. Hill, Simon B. Buckner, and Benjamin F. Cheatham (replacing Polk). They discussed the current military situation, and then Davis asked the men to assess Bragg’s performance. When no one spoke up, Davis insisted on a response. Longstreet finally said “that our commander could be of greater service elsewhere than at the head of the Army of Tennessee.” Davis asked the others if they agreed, and they did. The meeting ended awkwardly.

Confederate Lt Gen James Longstreet | Image Credit: BlogSpot.com

The next day, Davis met with Bragg again and inspected the army. Davis then met with Longstreet and asked if he would be willing to replace Bragg as army commander. Longstreet replied, “In my judgment, our last opportunity was gone when we failed to follow the success at Chickamauga, and capture or disperse the Union army, and it could not be just to the service or myself to call me to a position of such responsibility.”

Longstreet suggested that General Joseph E. Johnston take command of the army, but Davis did not get along with Johnston and blamed him for losing Vicksburg. Moreover, Johnston had twice declined to take command because he believed Bragg was the better choice. Davis also did not want to consider General P.G.T. Beauregard, whom he also disliked. Longstreet offered to resign, but Davis refused.

Besides Longstreet, Johnston, or Beauregard, Davis did not have many more options. Lieutenant General William Hardee, currently commanding in Alabama, was the other most qualified man to replace Bragg, but he also turned down the job. Davis even considered General Robert E. Lee, but Lee expressed a desire to stay with his army in Virginia. This left Davis with Bragg’s corps commanders, all of whom lacked qualifications.

After considering the matter for three days, Davis approved a major organizational shift in the Army of Tennessee. He wrote Bragg, “Regretting that the expectations which induced the assignment of that gallant officer to this army have not been realized, you are authorized to relieve Lieutenant General D.H. Hill from further duty with your command.”

Bragg suspended Hill, once a good friend but now a bitter adversary, and replaced him with Major General John C. Breckinridge. Hill demanded a written explanation why he was being removed, but Bragg simply told him that Davis made the decision, not him. Hill later demanded a court of inquiry to investigate his conduct, but Davis refused.

Davis later authorized Bragg and Johnston to trade the commands of Hardee and Polk. Polk would assume Hardee’s mostly administrative role as camp recruiter and instructor at Demopolis, Alabama; Hardee would assume command of Polk’s corps in Bragg’s army. Thus, another of Bragg’s antagonists was removed from his army. The War Department later dropped Bragg’s charges of disobedience and dereliction of duty against Polk.

Next, Davis met with Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who had threatened to kill Bragg and asked Davis to give him an independent command. Davis granted Forrest’s request, giving him a cavalry force in northern Mississippi, where he would have authority “to raise and organize as many troops for the Confederate service as he finds practicable.” Davis recommended that Congress promote Forrest to major general and instructed Bragg to send him two cavalry battalions and a battery.

Bragg dispatched another adversary by relieving Buckner of corps command. The men had exchanged hostile words before Bragg removed him. Although Buckner had commanded the separate Department of East Tennessee, Bragg argued that he had the authority to remove him because that department had been absorbed by the Army of Tennessee and converted into “Buckner’s Corps.” The corps was disbanded upon Buckner’s removal.

Davis addressed the Army of Tennessee as his inspection ended. He applauded the troops for “the glorious victory on the field of Chickamauga,” and noted the importance of–

“… devotion, sacrifice, and harmony… Though you have done much, very much yet remains to be done. Behind you is a people providing for your support and depending on you for protection. Before you is a country devastated by your ruthless invader…”

Davis admonished the troops for criticizing Bragg, warning, “He who sows the seeds of discontent and distrust prepares for a harvest of slaughter and defeat.” He declared, “To zeal you have added gallantry; to gallantry energy; to energy, fortitude. Crown these with harmony, due subordination, and cheerful support of lawful authority that the measure of your duty may be full.” He ended by praying “that our Heavenly Father may cover you with the shield of his protection in the hours of battle, and endow you with the virtues which will close your trials in victory complete.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 332-33, 336-37; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 815-20; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 358-60, 363, 366; Korn, Jerry, The Fight for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 83-85; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 418-22, 425, 427; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 676; Rutherford, Phillip R., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 170; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q463

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The Armies Concentrate in Northern Georgia

September 18, 1863 – Major General William S. Rosecrans began concentrating his Federal Army of the Cumberland, and General Braxton Bragg continued looking for any opportunity to attack.

Generals Bragg and Rosecrans | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

From his La Fayette headquarters, Bragg did not know the exact location of the Federal army, but he did know that Federal forces were on his right (north), front (west), and left (southwest). Bragg and Lieutenant General D.H. Hill expected the Federals to attack from the southwest, but Rosecrans was instead starting to pull his dangerously spread-out army together.

Major General Alexander McCook’s XX Corps held the Federal right (southwestern) flank at Alpine. Unaware that Major General George H. Thomas’s XIV Corps held McLemore’s Cove in the center, McCook directed his men on a 57-mile countermarch back over Lookout Mountain to join Thomas.

Rosecrans ordered Thomas to close within five miles of Major General Thomas L. Crittenden’s XXI Corps, which held the left (northern) flank near Lee and Gordon’s Mill. From Washington, General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck ordered Major General Ulysses S. Grant to send all available troops in his department from Corinth, Mississippi, to Tuscumbia, Alabama, so they could be ready to reinforce Rosecrans if needed.

Meanwhile, Bragg had been reinforced by troops from General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Mississippi, led by Major General William H.T. Walker. Bragg also had the former Army of East Tennessee, led by Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner. Bragg designated the commands of Walker and Buckner as corps within the Army of Tennessee.

In addition, Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s two Confederate divisions under Major Generals John Bell Hood and Lafayette McLaws continued moving via railroad to reinforce Bragg’s army. One of Hood’s brigades reached Atlanta, about 100 miles south of Bragg, on the 12th. But the remaining troops were strung out across the Carolinas and Georgia, and would not be available to Bragg for several more days.

On the 15th, Halleck informed Rosecrans that Longstreet would be reinforcing Bragg. He also told Rosecrans that he was pulling troops from Grant to reinforce the Army of the Cumberland. Rosecrans notified Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, commanding the Federal Army of the Ohio at Knoxville, that “the enemy, reinforced by Johnston and Longstreet from Virginia, doubtless intend us all the mischief in their power.”

Bragg held a council of war with his corps commanders (Buckner, Walker, and Lieutenant Generals Leonidas Polk and D.H. Hill), where it was decided to cross Chickamauga Creek and move around Rosecrans’s left. This would cut the Federals off from their supply base at Chattanooga and force them to either fight or flee.

However, Bragg did not issue orders to move until a day later, and the orders only involved moving some units while keeping others on the defensive. No crossing of the Chickamauga was mentioned, nor were Longstreet’s reinforcements, which were now on their way to Ringgold.

Major General Gordon Granger, commanding the Federal reserve corps at Chattanooga, reported that at least two Confederate divisions had moved through Ringgold. Rosecrans set up headquarters at Lee and Gordon’s Mill, which became the new Federal left flank under Crittenden. He hurriedly began concentrating his forces along Chickamauga Creek, about 12 miles south of Chattanooga, to meet the threat. However, McCook was still trying to cross Lookout Mountain, and Thomas refused to close with Crittenden until McCook arrived to link with him.

McCook finally arrived at McLemore’s Cove on the 17th, after a grueling four-day march. He had been isolated from the rest of the Federal army during that time, but Bragg failed to capitalize on it. Thomas moved up to link with Crittenden’s right, and the Federal army was no longer in danger of being destroyed piecemeal. Rosecrans directed Granger to guard the road to Chattanooga at Rossville. That night, Rosecrans extended Crittenden’s left flank to guard against the flank attack that Bragg had planned.

Bragg’s army held a line running north (right) near Ringgold to south (left) near La Fayette. Most of the forces were south, under Hill. Polk held the north, with Buckner and Walker in between. Bragg ordered Buckner and Walker to shift right and reinforce Polk, and then he ordered this new force to cross Chickamauga Creek the next day.

Trains conveying Longstreet’s Confederates began arriving at Catoosa Station, near Ringgold. When Colonel Robert Minty of the Federal cavalry reported this to Crittenden, the general insisted, “Longstreet is in Virginia. The Rebel army is retreating, and are trying to get away some of their abandoned stores; they have nothing but dismounted cavalry in your front.” Unbeknownst to Crittenden, Federal troopers briefly skirmished with some of Hood’s Confederates in Ringgold.

By the 18th, Walker and Buckner were crossing the West Chickamauga Creek. The division of Brigadier General Bushrod R. Johnson, reinforced by Longstreet and Walker, was ordered to “sweep up the Chickamauga, toward Lee and Gordon’s Mills.” Federal cavalry challenged Johnson’s crossing at Reed’s Bridge, using their repeating carbines to hold the Confederates at bay.

Brigadier General John T. Wilder’s Federals crossed Alexander’s Bridge, upstream from Reed’s, and clashed with Walker’s vanguard. Wilder fell back across the bridge and destroyed it; the Federal actions at Reed’s and Alexander’s bridges delayed the advance of over 20,000 Confederates for several hours. Meanwhile, Buckner crossed and waited for Walker and Johnson to come up on his right.

Confederates under Hood and Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest arrived and pushed across the Chickamauga to join the others as the sun set. That night, Bragg ordered Polk’s corps to cross, with Hill’s corps shifting right to take Polk’s place. Just 9,000 Confederates were across the Chickamauga by sundown, but they continued crossing through the night until just three divisions remained at Ringgold. Bragg directed, “The movement will be executed with the utmost promptness, vigor and persistence.”

The steady arrival of Longstreet’s men would eventually give Bragg about 66,000 troops, and he would outnumber Rosecrans’s 58,000 Federals. Bragg ordered Major General Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry to hold Dug Gap in Pigeon Mountain against a possible flank attack on the Confederates’ extreme left. By day’s end, all the Federals had concentrated to the north, and Wheeler was called up to take Hill’s place on the line near La Fayette.

Meanwhile, Rosecrans could see the dust clouds formed by marching Confederates to his left. He responded by moving Thomas around Crittenden to the north to extend the left flank. Thomas took up a line directly in the path of Bragg’s intended march the next day. The armies formed along the creek the local Cherokee called Chickamauga, which loosely translated to “River of Death.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 78-79; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 18864; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 325-26; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 350-51; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 556-57; Korn, Jerry, The Fight for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 42-45; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 67-69, 220-21; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 408-10; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 671; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 136-38

The Fall of Knoxville

September 2, 1863 – Leading elements of the Federal Army of the Ohio entered Knoxville, the key city of eastern Tennessee. This cut Virginia’s direct railroad line to the west.

Maj Gen A.E. Burnside | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s 24,000 Federals had been moving through the rugged country of eastern Tennessee since late August. Their mission was to drive the Confederates out and secure Knoxville; this would protect the right flank of Major General William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland as it tried to capture Chattanooga, about 100 miles southwest.

The 5,000-man Confederate Army of East Tennessee, led by Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner, defended the region. Most of Buckner’s troops were stationed at Knoxville, while another force of 2,500 Confederates under Brigadier General John W. Frazier guarded Cumberland Gap. Eastern Tennessee was predominantly Unionist, with voters having opposed secession in 1861 by a margin of two-to-one. As such, many saw Burnside’s approaching Federals as liberators.

The Federals used pack mules to traverse the mountains west of Cumberland Gap, and they arrived at Kingston unopposed on the 1st. Hopelessly outnumbered and without hope of reinforcement, Buckner abandoned Knoxville and fell back to Loudon. This isolated Frazier’s Confederates at Cumberland Gap, but Frazier “boasted that he could hold the gap for at least a month under siege.”

A Federal cavalry brigade moved through Winter’s Gap and entered Knoxville on the 2nd. Residents lined the streets and cheered the Federals’ arrival. Burnside triumphantly led two divisions into the city the next day. The people hailed the Federal heroes and celebrated their freedom from Confederate occupation. This was Burnside’s first military victory since his capture of Roanoke Island in February 1862.

The fall of Knoxville cut the last direct railroad connection between Virginia and Tennessee. The only link between them now involved a roundabout path through the Carolinas and Georgia. Buckner withdrew with all the supplies his men could take, leaving the Federals to control everything east of Loudon and west of Morrisville.

Burnside sent detachments to secure the region all the way to the Virginia and North Carolina borders. He also directed a force to capture the Confederates clinging to Cumberland Gap. This Federal detachment covered 60 miles in just two days, as Brigadier General James M. Shackelford’s Federal cavalry closed the Gap from the south.

Frazier, confident he could withstand any attack, refused Shackelford’s demand to surrender on the 7th. Another Federal force under Colonel John F. DeCourcy approached the northern end of the Gap the next day, and Frazier refused DeCourcy’s demand to surrender as well.

The situation changed on the 9th, when Frazier either considered his force abandoned by Buckner or he realized the Federals were too strong to resist. He surrendered unconditionally and gave the Federals control of Cumberland Gap once again. Frazier was shipped to Fort Warren in Boston Harbor as a prisoner of war. Confederate politicians condemned him for surrendering, and the Confederate Senate rejected his officer’s commission.

As Burnside continued securing the area around Knoxville, General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck urged him to “move down your infantry as rapidly as possible toward Chattanooga to connect with Rosecrans.” Halleck then sent a second message: “It is believed that the enemy will concentrate to give him (Rosecrans) battle. You must be there to help him.” Rosecrans asked Halleck to “At least, push Burnside down” toward Chattanooga.

Burnside replied that Halleck’s orders “will be obeyed as soon as possible.” However, he continued clearing Confederates out of the region, with Federals skirmishing near the Virginia-Tennessee border at Calhoun, Cleveland, Kingsport, and Bristol. Halleck again pleaded, “You must give him (Rosecrans) all the aid in your power.” But to the administration’s dismay, Burnside decided to stay in eastern Tennessee.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 18794-802; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 322, 326; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 683-85; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 346, 348, 350; Korn, Jerry, The Fight for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 43, 101-04; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 403-04; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 670; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 287

Federals Close in on Chattanooga

August 21, 1863 – Federal artillery opened fire on Chattanooga, as Major General William S. Rosecrans tried enveloping the vital railroad city.

Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland closed in on General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee inside Chattanooga from two directions. Rosecrans planned to feint from the north while attacking from the southwest, thus pushing Bragg northeast toward Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s Federal Army of the Ohio in eastern Tennessee.

Generals Bragg and Rosecrans | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Confederate scouts finally spotted the Federal approach on the 20th, but Bragg still could not identify from which direction the Federals were approaching. Bragg called for reinforcements; he had just two army corps under Lieutenant Generals Leonidas Polk and D.H. Hill. His third corps, under Lieutenant General William Hardee, had been sent to reinforce General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Mississippi.

The next morning, Colonel John T. Wilder led his Federal mounted infantry brigade and a section of guns up Stringer’s Ridge, across the Tennessee River from Chattanooga to the north. Wilder began firing on the town at 9 a.m., just as unsuspecting residents gathered in churches to observe President Jefferson Davis’s proclaimed day of fasting and prayer. The Federal guns sunk a steamboat on the unguarded south riverbank and disabled another. Other shells hit nearby Confederate fortifications.

Bragg, at a hospital in northern Georgia, hurried back to Chattanooga to find out what was happening. Reports indicated that Federal forces were along the Tennessee on either side of Chattanooga. Bragg could not determine from which direction the main Federal attack might come. Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner, whose Confederates held Knoxville, reported that Burnside was approaching that city in eastern Tennessee.

That night, Bragg notified Johnston that he needed reinforcements. Johnston agreed to send 9,000 men in two divisions immediately. Buckner initially planned to hold eastern Tennessee “to the last,” but by the 23rd he conceded to Bragg:

“Alone I can do little against him (Burnside). By co-operating with you we may effect something against Rosecrans before junction of their armies. I will endeavor to hold my troops in a position to do this, and if facts develop as I now believe I will constitute the right of your army.”

Neither Bragg nor Buckner knew that the cannon fire north of Chattanooga was part of an elaborate ruse to fool them into thinking that Rosecrans and Burnside would join forces and descend on Bragg from the north. The real threat would come from the southwest, as Rosecrans used Burnside to protect his northern flank.

Bragg moved to meet the false northern threat by shifting the Confederates at Bridgeport, Alabama, to the north. This left Bridgeport, the destination for Rosecrans’s real threat, undefended. Bragg also dispatched a division to reinforce Buckner while he awaited what he thought would be a major Federal attack from the north.

The Federals spent the next few days scouting the Confederate defenses and moving closer to Chattanooga. Confederate deserters alleged that D.H. Hill’s corps consisted of just one brigade occupying Chattanooga, two brigades holding Bridgeport, about 35 miles downriver to the southwest, and two divisions guarding the various river fords.

Another deserter reported that Polk’s corps was positioned “in the rear of Chattanooga and along the base of Lookout Mountains.” When asked why they opted to leave the Confederate army, the deserters said “because they became satisfied that Bragg was making preparations to retreat.” This indicated to Rosecrans that his ruse was working. Colonel Wilder reported from north of Chattanooga:

“We have made them believe that our force is at least 10,000 strong. They evidently believe we will try to cross the river in the vicinity of Harrison’s Landing. I think they will try to defend the line of the river above here, making Lookout Mountain their line on the left, being at the same time prepared to run if outflanked.”

However, Bragg would soon be reinforced by Johnston’s 9,000 men, making his army roughly the same size as Rosecrans’s, even though he still did not know Rosecrans’s grand plan. The deserters reported that there were two brigades at Bridgeport, but Bragg had already pulled them out to meet the northern threat. Had Bragg left them there, they might have discovered that Rosecrans’s primary drive would come from that direction.

Rosecrans’s army was now firmly in position north and southwest of Chattanooga. The two corps southwest near Bridgeport were poised to cross the Tennessee and launch their main attack. However, bridge crossings and nearby railroads needed to transport supplies had been destroyed. The Federals labored to repair these while trying to cope with the rugged, mountainous area.

Major General Jefferson C. Davis, commanding a division in Major General Alexander McCook’s XX Corps, secured a crossing at Caperton’s Ferry, about 15 miles upriver (i.e., below) Bridgeport. Major General Philip Sheridan, also heading a division under McCook, secured a “middle crossing” closer to Bridgeport, with Federals replacing the wrecked railroad trestle with a makeshift bridge made of nearby trees, barns, and houses.

Major General Joseph J. Reynolds, commanding a division in Major General George H. Thomas’s XIV Corps, secured an “upper crossing” at Shellmound by making a pontoon bridge from nearby flatboats. The Federals began crossing on the 29th, headed by Davis’s men at Caperton’s Ferry. The crossing continued into September and included skirmishing with nearby Confederate pickets.

On the 31st, a Confederate sympathizer reported that a large Federal force was crossing the Tennessee southwest of Chattanooga at Carpenter’s Ferry, near Stevenson. Confederate cavalry reported that Federals were moving on Bragg’s left and rear, toward Dalton and Rome in Georgia, with Lookout Mountain screening them.

Bragg, unsure what to do, remained stationary and ordered Hill to continue scouting Federal movements, “keeping in view a concentration at the earliest moment at such point the enemy may cross.” Hill was to cover the area northeast of Chattanooga, where the Federals would not be. Bragg also asked Hill, “If you have any influence in Richmond, beg for arms.”

Johnston’s reinforcements, led by Major General William H.T. Walker, arrived and Bragg dispersed them along the defense line facing northeast, still unaware that the main threat was to the southwest. A civilian notified Bragg that two Federal corps had crossed the Tennessee at Caperton’s Ferry, but Bragg was reluctant to believe a random person’s story.

Major General Joseph Wheeler, commanding Bragg’s cavalry, then confirmed the civilian’s claim, reporting that “the enemy moved into the valley this evening with a very heavy force of cavalry.” The Federals still had not crossed in force by the end of August, so Bragg had a chance to catch them halfway across the river if he hurried. Bragg thought it over as the month ended.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 18802; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 318; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 686; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 342, 344; Korn, Jerry, The Fight for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 33-34; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 400, 402

The Knoxville Campaign Begins

August 20, 1863 – Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s Federal Army of the Ohio finally began moving to occupy eastern Tennessee and protect the left flank of the Federals advancing on Chattanooga.

Maj Gen A.E. Burnside | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

The Lincoln administration had urged Burnside to advance out of Kentucky in coordination with Major General William S. Rosecrans’s Chattanooga campaign. But Burnside’s cavalry had been busy dealing with Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raid, and Burnside awaited the return of his prized IX Corps from Vicksburg to join his newly formed XXIII Corps.

Major General Ulysses S. Grant had released IX Corps in late July, along with his thanks for their effort in taking Vicksburg: “The endurance, valor, and general good conduct of the Ninth Corps are admired by all, and its valuable co-operation in achieving the final triumph of the campaign is gratefully acknowledged by the Army of the Tennessee.” However, due to limited transportation, it would take a while for the corps to return to Burnside.

In early August, General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck directed Burnside to report his progress to Washington. Burnside stated that his cavalry was too scattered from contesting Morgan’s raid to advance. Moreover, until IX Corps returned, Burnside could not move without pulling troops from the various garrisons in Kentucky, which would leave that state vulnerable to another Confederate invasion. Burnside asserted that had he stripped these garrisons before Morgan’s raid, Morgan “would have broken them.”

Halleck ordered on the 5th: “You will immediately move with a column of 12,000 men by the most practicable roads on East Tennessee, making Knoxville or its vicinity your objective point.” Halleck informed Burnside that when IX Corps arrived, it would act as a reserve to this advancing force. Halleck further ordered him to “connect with the forces of General Rosecrans, who has peremptory orders to move forward.”

Under this order, Burnside was to leave his Cincinnati headquarters and personally command the troops in the field. Burnside, believing the administration implied that he disobeyed orders by not leading the army forward yet, defensively reiterated his reasons for not moving. He added, “I have never willfully disobeyed an order, but have given the Government an honest and unselfish support.” He had not questioned the “uniform refusal of my requests,” but he would not “let the imputation that I have disobeyed orders go unnoticed.” Halleck, dealing with a similar personal issue with Rosecrans, did not respond.

Another week passed, and Burnside still had not begun moving yet. One of IX Corps’ two divisions finally began arriving at Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, on the 12th. Burnside then began arranging for trains to convey his army to eastern Tennessee. Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner had just 5,000 Confederates at Knoxville to defend the region against Burnside, who was believed to have 30,000 men.

Burnside’s army advanced to Camp Nelson, south of Lexington, where he waited for the second division of IX Corps to arrive. Burnside issued General Field Orders No. 2, which announced that the offensive would soon begin and, noting that most eastern Tennesseans were Unionists, reminded the troops “that the present campaign takes them through a friendly territory, and that humanity and the best interests of the service require that the peaceable inhabitants be treated with kindness, and that every protection be given by the soldiers to them and to their property.”

By the 19th, Burnside’s army was still at Camp Nelson awaiting the rest of IX Corps. Burnside notified Rosecrans, who thought he was moving already, “We have had a serious delay in mounting the cavalry and accumulating forage and subsistence, but all the columns are in motion.” However, Burnside did not receive word that the rest of IX Corps was ready to join him until the 20th, and only then did he begin his advance on Knoxville in earnest.

Buckner scrambled to defend against Burnside’s approach. He requested reinforcements from General Braxton Bragg, but Bragg could not spare any men because he was being confronted by Rosecrans at Chattanooga. Bragg instead ordered Buckner to withdraw toward Chattanooga. Buckner endured heavy criticism because he fell back so fast that he left enormous amounts of supplies behind.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 316; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 677; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 340-41; Korn, Jerry, The Fight for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 31-34, 101; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 397-98; Rutherford, Phillip R., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 170

Chattanooga: The Federals Advance

August 16, 1863 – Major General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland finally began moving out of Tullahoma to capture the vital railroad city of Chattanooga.

Maj Gen William S. Rosecrans | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

By the 11th, Rosecrans was still at Tullahoma, over two weeks after being ordered by General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck to confront General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Capturing this “Gateway City” would give the Federals control of southern railroads moving to and from Nashville, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama. It would also give the Federals a vital base on the Tennessee River from which to invade the Deep South. Rosecrans had cited numerous reasons for the delay, including harvesting crops, establishing supply lines, repairing railroads, and having adequate protection on his flanks.

Rosecrans had begun moving some infantry and cavalry, but then he informed Washington that he needed more time to collect railroad cars for his supplies. Also, he insisted that he needed Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s Federal Army of the Ohio to move into eastern Tennessee to guard his left flank, and he received word that Burnside needed two more days to get going. Rosecrans wrote, “His movement should be felt before ours on the left.”

Rosecrans assured Burnside on the 12th, “We will be at the Tennessee River by the time you reach Kingston. Do you want the excess of rations we have there?” But Rosecrans soon had to change his plans because the railroad bringing men and supplies from Tracy City, “built for bringing coal down the mountains, has such high grades and sharp curves as to require a peculiar engine.” The only train available was “broken on its way from Nashville,” thus the advance was suspended “until that road was completely available for transporting stores to Tracy City.” This took four more days.

The Army of the Cumberland finally began moving on Sunday the 16th, heading out of Tullahoma toward Chattanooga, 65 miles southeast. The army consisted of 50,000 infantry in three corps, screened by 9,000 cavalry and bearing 200 heavy guns. Rosecrans planned to trap Bragg between his army and Burnside’s by feinting north of Chattanooga while attacking south and west of the city.

The Federals moved with extreme precision, as Rosecrans spread his three corps across a 50-mile front to cover the three main Cumberland Mountain passes. This was a risky move because Bragg could have isolated and destroyed any of the three corps in detail. However, Bragg was unaware of Rosecrans’s approach. The Cumberland Mountains were formidable obstacles to bypass, but they also screened the Federal advance from Bragg, whose Confederates could not see them approaching on the other side of the range.

Major General Thomas L. Crittenden’s XXI Corps was to feint north of Chattanooga by crossing the Tennessee at Blythe’s Ferry, about 45 miles upriver. Major General George H. Thomas’s XIV Corps in the center and Major General Alexander McCook’s XX Corps on the right would comprise the main threat, moving southwest and threatening Chattanooga downstream.

On the 16th, Crittenden crossed Walden’s Ridge, while Thomas and McCook crossed the Tennessee about 50 miles downriver from Chattanooga. Rosecrans informed Washington at 9:35 that night:

“All three corps are crossing the mountains. It will take till Wednesday night to reach their respective positions. I think we shall deceive the enemy as to our point of crossing. It is a stupendous undertaking. The Alps, with a broad river at the foot, and not fertile plains, but 70 miles of difficult and mostly sterile mountains beyond, before reaching a point of secondary importance to the enemy, in reference to his vital one, Atlanta.”

Colonel John T. Wilder, who commanded the “Lightening Brigade” of mounted infantry under Thomas, screened the Federal center while the official Federal cavalry screened the left and right. Wilder’s horsemen advanced on terrible roads, covering just 20 miles on the 18th before entering the Sequatchie Valley the next day.

The Federals captured a few Confederate scouts, and after interrogating them, Wilder reported, “I do not think there are any forces of consequence this side of Tennessee River.” Wilder’s Federals then turned to help screen Crittenden as he feinted to Bragg’s north. By the 19th, Thomas and McCook were at Bridgeport, Alabama, about 35 miles downriver from Chattanooga.

Rosecrans awaited Burnside’s advance, writing him, “The head of your column ought to appear soon if you are in time.” Rosecrans explained that he intended to attack Chattanooga from the south, between Bridgeport and Rome, and concluded, “Let us have full co-operation. Telegraph me position, progress, and plan.”

Burnside reported, “We have had a serious delay in mounting the cavalry and accumulating forage and subsistence, but all the columns are in motion.” However, he moved slowly while awaiting the return of his beloved IX Corps from Vicksburg, and his army was still 130 miles from Knoxville.

At Chattanooga, Bragg remained unaware that Rosecrans’s Federals were closing in on him, though he continued scrambling to get reinforcements from General Joseph E. Johnston in Mississippi and Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner in eastern Tennessee. On the 20th, Confederates learned that Rosecrans’s army had crossed the mountains and reached the Tennessee at Stevenson and Bridgeport, southwest of Chattanooga. They learned that Burnside’s 30,000-man army was advancing from Kentucky as well.

Bragg, with just 40,000 men at Chattanooga, hesitated to assume the offensive in the face of such superior numbers. President Jefferson Davis declined a suggestion from Adjutant General Samuel Cooper to order Bragg to attack.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 18794; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 317; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), p. 677; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 340; Korn, Jerry, The Fight for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 32-33; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 397-98; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 670; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 137-38

Chattanooga: Bragg Looks to Counterattack

August 2, 1863 – Confederate General Braxton Bragg looked to take back Middle Tennessee, while the Lincoln administration continued pressuring Federal Major General William S. Rosecrans to advance.

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Bragg’s Army of Tennessee was stationed around Chattanooga after being maneuvered out of Tullahoma in July. Bragg had sent one of his corps commanders, Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, to urge President Jefferson Davis to authorize a concentration of Bragg’s army with Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner’s at Knoxville and General Joseph E. Johnston’s in Mississippi.

Three major Federal armies operated in the Western Theater:

  • Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland held Middle Tennessee from Tullahoma
  • Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee held western Tennessee and most of Mississippi from Vicksburg
  • Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s Army of the Ohio held Kentucky and threatened eastern Tennessee

Davis, fearful that Grant might either attack Mobile, Alabama, or join with Rosecrans, sent Bragg a message through Adjutant General Samuel Cooper: “If we can spare most of Johnston’s army temporarily to re-enforce you, can you fight the enemy?” Bragg replied on the 2nd, “With the most of his forces, if I correctly estimate them, I should look for success if a fight can be had on equal terms. I have invited a conference with General Johnston, and will write in full. My present inclination is for a flank movement.”

As Bragg prepared to meet with Johnston, he learned that Johnston’s force did not consist of 23,000 well-equipped veterans as supposed, but rather 18,000 ill-clad, demoralized troops. Bragg canceled the meeting because Johnston’s force, though only 5,000 men less than Bragg believed, was “entirely inadequate to enable me to see the enemy beyond the mountains.”

Bragg notified Richmond on the 5th that combining the two forces would give the army just 50,000 men, as the remainder would have to guard depots and supply lines. Rosecrans had 60,000 men, and he could be easily reinforced with another 30,000 from Burnside. Bragg wrote:

“After fully examining all resources, I deem them insufficient to justify a movement across the mountains. It would be rashness to place ourselves on the farther side of a country rugged and sterile, with a few mountain roads only by which to reach a river difficult of passage. Thus situated, the enemy need only avoid battle for a short time to starve us out…”

Bragg also noted that Rosecrans was using the Cumberland Plateau to screen his preparations for an advance. If Rosecrans or Burnside would just confront him “on this side of the mountains, the problem will be changed.”

Although a junction between Bragg and Johnston may not have been practical, Bragg was officially given command of the Department of Tennessee on the 6th, which included Buckner’s Department of East Tennessee. Buckner would continue operating independently in the Knoxville area, but his army would become a corps in Bragg’s larger Army of Tennessee.

On the Federal side, Rosecrans remained at Tullahoma, which he had captured nearly a month ago. From there, he and Halleck had exchanged tense messages about getting the army moving again. Rosecrans responded to Halleck’s latest message explaining that President Abraham Lincoln, not Halleck, was prodding him to move faster.

Rosecrans expressed relief “that the injustice which I have experienced from the War Department” did not come from Halleck. But then he added, “I say to you frankly that whenever the Government can replace me by a commander in whom they have more confidence, they ought to do so, and take the responsibility of the result.”

Rosecrans repeated previous reasons for the delay in advancing from Tullahoma, including the need to establish communication and supply lines. He explained that “these things would have to be done by any commander, and I think we are doing them as rapidly as our men will admit.” But this only caused more impatience in Washington.

Halleck angrily responded to Rosecrans’s message on the 3rd: “Your forces must move forward without further delay. You will daily report the movement of each corps till you cross the Tennessee River.” Rosecrans wrote later that day:

“As I have been determined to cross the river as soon as practicable, and have been making all preparations, and getting such information as may enable me to do so without being driven back, like (General Joseph) Hooker (at Chancellorsville), I wish to know if your order is intended to take away my discretion as to the time and manner of moving my troops?”

Halleck answered, “The orders for the advance of your army, and that its movements be reported daily, are peremptory.” Rosecrans notified his superiors on the 6th: “My arrangements for beginning a continuous movement will be completed and the execution begun by Monday next (August 10).” He once again listed reasons for the delay and requested that Halleck either rescind his peremptory orders of the 4th or remove Rosecrans from army command. Halleck responded the next day:

“I have communicated to you the wishes of the Government in plain and unequivocal terms. The object has been stated, and you have been directed to lose no time in reaching it. The means you are to employ, and the roads you are to follow, are left to your own discretion. If you wish to promptly carry out the wishes of the Government, you will not stop to discuss mere details.”

Rosecrans then accused Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton of having a personal vendetta against him. To this, Halleck replied:

“I do not think he would willingly do you any injustice, but, as I have before written, neither the President nor the Secretary have been satisfied with your long delays… In my communications I have in no case exaggerated the feeling of disappointment and dissatisfaction which has been manifested to me. I know of no one here who has not the kindest and most friendly feelings for you. Nevertheless, many of your dispatches have been exceedingly annoying to the War Department.”

Lincoln personally wrote Rosecrans on the 10th, beginning, “I am sure you, as a reasonable man, would not have been wounded, could you have heard all my words and seen all my thoughts, in regard to you. I have not abated in my kind feeling for and confidence in you.” Then he noted that Rosecrans had refused to attack Bragg before he joined forces with Johnston, and that “impressed me very strangely.”

The president continued, “Since Grant has been entirely relieved by the fall of Vicksburg, by which Johnston is also relieved, it has seemed to me that your chance for a stroke, has been considerably diminished, and I have not been pressing you directly or indirectly. The question occurs, Can the thing be done at all?” Lincoln believed that “by great exertions, you can get to East Tennessee. But a very important question is, ‘Can you stay there?’”

Lincoln concluded by stating, “I make no order in the case–that I leave to General Halleck and yourself. And now, be assured once more, that I think of you in all kindness and confidence; and that I am not watching you with an evil eye.” Rosecrans soon began arranging to advance on Chattanooga.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 676, 689-90; Korn, Jerry, The Fight for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 32; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 396; Rutherford, Phillip R., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 170