Field trip! Today we’re taking you down South to Chattanooga, Tennessee, an important waypoint for railroads in Civil War times. From there, you could hop a train to Nashville, Knoxville, or even Atlanta. In September 1863, Chattanooga became the center of a war zone when Confederate forces, led by General Braxton Bragg, clashed with Major General William Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland.
After some initial blunders and failed traps in the maneuvering stages, both armies began to concentrate their forces. Bragg was concerned about his company’s position being vulnerable, so he decided to try and draw the Union army out before they were ready. To that end, he advanced his troops toward Chattanooga, which meant crossing the West Chickamauga Creek. There they engaged the Union line of defense, beginning what is known as the Battle of Chickamauga (“River of Death” in Cherokee).
A fateful miscommunication led Rosecrans to pull troops from one battle zone to reinforce another, which actually created an opening for Lt. Gen. Longstreet’s brigade to break through. The Union suffered heavy losses, and 1/3 of their force was scattered from the battlefield. Maj. Gen. George Thomas, later nicknamed “the Rock of Chickamauga,” bravely held ground with his men on Horseshoe Ridge and prevented a total rout of the Union Army. At the end of the day, the Northerners holed up in Chattanooga, a city under siege. They had suffered 16,170 casualties (to the Confederacy’s 18,454), making it the second bloodiest battle of the war.
Want to know which battle was bloodiest? Find out here!