Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tullahoma and Chattanooga

Dates: 24 June to 9 September, 1863


Union: Major General William Rosecrans, commanding the Army of the Cumberland.

Confederate: General Braxton Bragg

Prelude; there has not been much movement since the Union victory at Murfreesboro at the beginning of 1863. As a matter of fact, they have been sitting there for half the year. Meanwhile, Bragg has been sitting at Tullahoma waiting for Rosecrans to move.

Rosecrans had two good reasons to stay; first, his army denied Bragg access to the central Tennessee farmland, which could feed his army, and second, the time was necessary for rest and refit if the Federals were going to achieve the next goal, the city of Chattanooga.

If the Union can seize Chattanooga, it would give them not only a river and rail center, but a springboard to push the war into Georgia. Rosecrans had the mandate to do this, but he was waiting for the right time to do this.

Rosecrans has 40,000 infantry and 7000 cavalry. Bragg has 30,000 infantry and 13,000 cavalry.

The Confederates have part of their force at Shelbyville, while the rest manned defenses at Tullahoma.

23 June, 1863: Rosecrans orders his army on the road. He sends his cavalry south to Shelbyville while two Union corps head directly for Tullahoma. Another corps swings east to McMinnville. They are moving despite torrential rain storms.

The cavalry feint towards Shelbyville worked, the Confederates there do not move.

Within days, the Federals were through Hoover’s Gap, flanking the Southerners and forcing Bragg to fall back on Tullahoma.

29 June, 1863: As Rosecrans forces approach Tullahoma, he orders another feint towards the town.

30 June, 1863: Bragg, seeing his right flank was about to get hit, orders a withdrawal, all the way to Chattanooga.

The practically bloodless victory was overshadowed by events in Pennsylvania and Mississippi, but it was a Union victory nonetheless. Rosecrans devoted some time to consolidating his gains, which placed another chunk of Tennessee under Federal control.
After filing his reports with the War Department, Rosecrans was prodded to continue his advance. Plans are made for a two-pronged attack using the corps commanded by Major General Ambrose Burnside, presently at Lexington, KY.

16 August, 1863: Rosecrans leaves Tullahoma. He sends one corps to the east in a wide arc. The rest head straight for the Tennessee River.

21 August, 1863: Rosecrans’ army reaches the Tennessee River.

29 August, 1863: Rosecrans sends his Cavalry and XX Corps (Major General Alexander McCook) into Alabama, and then into Georgia, making a feint forwards Atlanta.

1 September, 1863, The main body of the Army of the Cumberland crosses the Tennessee River with XXI Corps (Major General Thomas Crittenden) heading for Chattanooga and XIV Corps (Major General George Thomas) taking the center between Crittenden and McCook.

2 September, 1863: Burnside’s corps capture Knoxville, TN, severing the rail line to Virginia from Chattanooga.

Bragg knows he is being outflanked, but is counting on the mountainous terrain to slow the Federals down.

Rosecrans convinced Bragg that the attack would come from upstream, instead, it is coming from downstream.

5 September, 1863: Rosecrans decides to send his army in three columns through gaps in the mountains in order to his Chattanooga.

6 September, 1863: Bragg orders Chattanooga evacuated, effectively leaving it open for Federal occupation.

9 September, 1863: As Rosecrans captures Chattanooga, he orders a pursuit of Bragg, believing that the Confederates were easy pickings. Bragg has other ideas. Meanwhile, seeing the situation in the southeast Confederacy deteriorating, CS President Jefferson Davis, a friend of Bragg’s, orders General Robert E. Lee to detach one corps from his Army of Northern Virginia and send them to reinforce Bragg. The corps of Lieutenant General James Longstreet is sent.

The stage is now set for another titanic battle. The trap that Bragg is planning will result in the Battle of Chickamauga.

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