The Chickamauga Campaign
The successful Tullahoma Campaign in June 1863 firmly established Union control of middle Tennessee. It left only eastern Tennessee and the area around Chattanooga under Confederate control. Chattanooga was strategically located along the Tennessee River, and was the center of railroad traffic between Georgia, Alabama, and eastern Tennessee. Its capture would open the way for Union armies to invade Georgia and the heart of the Confederacy.
Major General William Rosecrans and the Union Army of the Cumberland were determined to capture it. There were several avenues of approach, but in the end, Rosecrans determined to cross the Tennessee River, feign to the north with one corps, but cross the mountains south of the city with his other two corps and outflank the city. The bid was a success. General Braxton Bragg and the Confederate Army of Tennessee abandoned Chattanooga on September 7th and retreated into Georgia.
Bragg, however, was not prepared to give up the fight. Having received reinforcements from Mississippi as well as eastern Tennessee (where Knoxville had fallen to a Union advance under Major General Ambrose Burnside), and expecting more from Virginia, he decided to stand and fight. Rosecrans was slow to realize the threat, and narrowly escaped the destruction of portions of his army piecemeal on several occasions. By September 17th the two armies were facing each other along the banks of Chickamauga Creek, and Longstreet’s First Corps from Virginia was beginning to arrive by rail.
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