Battle of Chickamauga (September 19 - 20, 1863)

Updated: June 24, 2013

Fought from September 19 to September 20, 1863, the Battle of Chickamauga produced the highest casualty totals for any battle in the western theater of the American Civil War and second only to the Battle of Gettysburg for the entire war.

Following the Battle of Perrysville (October 8, 1862), Confederate General Braxton Bragg ended his Heartland Offensive and withdrew his forces from Kentucky to Tennessee. There, Bragg's command was reorganized, consolidating with General Kirby Smith's Army of Kentucky, to form the Army of Tennessee. In November, Bragg established a defensive position along the West Fork of the Stones River, near Murfreesboro, intent on preventing a Union advance on Chattanooga.

Frustrated because the Union forces did not immediately pursue Bragg during his retreat from Kentucky, President Abraham Lincoln relieved Major General Don Carlos Buell of his command and placed Major General William Rosecrans in charge of the newly formed Army of the Cumberland on October 24, 1862. Upon Rosecrans's promotion, Union General-In-Chief Henry Halleck made it clear that "… the Government demands action, and if you cannot respond to that demand some one else will be tried." Rosecrans quickly established headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee and prepared his army for battle. On December 26, Rosecrans left Nashville with approximately 44,000 men prepared to engage Bragg's army of 38,000 soldiers encamped at Murfreesboro. Between December 31 and January 2, the two armies clashed at the Battle of Stones River, near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The Union army suffered higher casualties than the Rebels, but Bragg was forced to retreat when Federal reinforcements began arriving on the site. On January 3, the Army of Tennessee withdrew to Tullahoma, Tennessee, thirty-six miles to the south, yielding Murfreesboro to Rosecrans.

The two armies did not confront each other again until June, when Rosecrans moved on Tullahoma. There, Rosecrans cleverly outmaneuvered Bragg, forcing the Confederate army to retreat to the relative safety afforded by the mountainous terrain and Tennessee River at Chattanooga. Rosecrans followed, and by mid-August, the Army of the Cumberland was on the outskirts of Chattanooga. Once again, Rosecrans outmaneuvered Bragg. By sending a column of Federals upriver, a few miles north of Chattanooga, Rosecrans convinced Bragg that he intended to cross the river and attack from that direction. Meanwhile, the bulk of the Union army was crossing the Tennessee River below the city. By September 1, the Army of the Cumberland had crossed the Tennessee River without any resistance. Realizing that his army was once again in peril, Bragg abandoned Chattanooga on September 9, 1863, marching his army into northern Georgia.

Rosecrans had achieved his goal of capturing Chattanooga, but rather than regrouping and securing the city as he had done at Murfreesboro, he decided to pursue Bragg's army into Georgia. Initially, Rosecrans deployed his army as three isolated corps. During the second week of September, Bragg mishandled several opportunities to inflict damage on the isolated units. Rosecrans eventually recognized that his army was endangered and moved to reunite it. Intent on recapturing Chattanooga, Bragg decided to attack the one corps of Rosecrans's army that had yet to be reunited.

On September 18, the Confederates assaulted several crossing points on Chickamauga Creek that were held by Federal troops, with the intention of assaulting the isolated left wing of Rosecrans's army. Union resistance was fierce, and although the Rebels eventually crossed the creek, they did not do so in time to launch a full-scale attack that day.

The main battle began on September 19, when Bragg ordered a major assault on the Union left. Despite repeated attacks from the Confederates, the Federals held their lines throughout the day. That night, they pulled back and constructed log breastworks along a new line.

On September 20, Bragg renewed the attack. During the late morning, Rosecrans was mistakenly informed that the Rebels had created a gap on his left flank. He responded by sending reinforcements from his center, inadvertently creating a real gap there. General James Longstreet immediately exploited the new gap and drove one-third of the Union army, including Rosecrans, from the field. General George H. Thomas took command of the remaining army and withstood Rebel assaults until nightfall. The remaining Union forces then retreated to the safety of the mountains. 

On September 21, the Army of the Cumberland withdrew to Chattanooga and took up positions in the defensive works previously constructed by Bragg's army. Bragg responded by seizing the high ground overlooking Chattanooga (Lookout Mountain, Seminary Ridge, and Raccoon Mountain) and laid siege to the city.

Among the Ohio units that participated in the Battle of Chickamauga were:

Infantry units:

1st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

2nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

6th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

9th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

10th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

11th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

13th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

14th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

15th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

17th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

18th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

19th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

21st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

24th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

26th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

31st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

33rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

35th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

36th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

38th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

40th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

41st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

49th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

51st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

52nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

59th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

64th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

65th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

69th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

74th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

89th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

90th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

92nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

93rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

94th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

97th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

98th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

99th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

101st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

105th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

113th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

121st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

124th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

125th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

1st Battalion Ohio Sharpshooters

Cavalry units:

1st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

3rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

4th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

Artillery units:

Battery A, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Battery B, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Battery C, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Battery D, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Battery F, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Battery G, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Battery M, 1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

6th Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

18th Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

20th Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

The Battle of Chickamauga was costly for both sides. The Union army suffered over 16,000 casualties (killed, wounded, and captured or missing). The Confederates suffered over 18,000 casualties. The combined losses were the highest total for any battle in the western theater of the American Civil War and second only to Gettysburg for the entire war. In the end, Bragg achieved a tactical victory by forcing Rosecrans to retreat, but he did not achieve his strategic goal of recapturing Chattanooga.


Cite this Entry

MLA Style

"Battle of Chickamauga," Ohio Civil War Central, 2014, Ohio Civil War Central. 29 Jul 2014 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=6>

APA Style

"Battle of Chickamauga." (2014) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved July 29, 2014, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=6

Comments powered by Disqus
Battle of Chickamauga

Battle of Chickamauga

Related Entries

Categories

Topics

Time Periods

Regions

Help support the ongoing development of Ohio Civil War Central by clicking the banner and then purchasing products from Amazon.com.

Ohio Civil War Central: An Encyclopedia of the American Civil War