The Battle of Chickamauga took place on September 19 and 20 in 1863. The loss by the North heralded the end of a Union’s “The Chickamauga Campaign” offensive in southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia. The battle was the single most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater of the American Civil War and involved the second highest number of casualties in the war following the Battle of Gettysburg.
The battle was fought between the Union Army of the Cumberland under Major General William Rosecrans and the Confederate Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg. It was named for West Chickamauga Creek, which meanders near the battle area in northwest Georgia and eventually feed into the Tennessee River near Chattanooga).
From the Richmond Enquirer
A special correspondent of the Atlanta Confederacy, writing from the battle-field of Chickamauga, says:
There has been no harder contest on the American continent than the battle of Chickamauga, and as it had to come somewhere, we are glad that it happened upon Georgia soil; for the proud old State can now boast of one of the grandest battle fields and one of the most glorious victories that will be recorded in the histories of this Revolution.
On Thursday, the 17th, the contest opened with a sharp cavalry skirmish at Ringgold, which lasted through Friday, during which time our forces had driven the enemy back to Alexandercrossing on the Chickamauga.
On Saturday morning, at 9 1/2 o’clock, about a mile beyond the crossing, the general engagement commenced. Our right wing resting on the Chickamauga, opened the battle and soon the roar of musketry ran along our entire line, which extended five miles to the left. Such was the determination of our boys that the enemy could not stand before them, and they gave ground slowly, but stubbornly along their whole front. The battle raged all day, and at night we had only driven them between two and three miles and the stubbornness with which they yielded left us no grounds upon which to claim a victory.
On Sunday morning at the same hour, 9 1/2 o, Gen. Breckinridge opened the scene again on the right, and our whole line soon became engaged, and history will never record in any age or country a fiercer struggle than was witnessed on these hills on Sabbath morning, the 20th of September, 1863. The enemy gave way on their two wings, but the centre stood; and the Yankees have fought nowhere as they did just here; for they charged our position three distinct times, and at one time things looked a little gloomy, but the keen eyes and ears of our General soon discovered it and ordered Bucknerwhole corps to that point which forced the Yankee columns back in confusion.
About 2 p.m., they gave up the job and a terrible panic ensued. They retreated pell mell, running wildly through the woods, leaving everything behind, and if they could have found any one to whom they could have surrendered, thousands of them would have given themselves up as prisoners. Five hundred tried to surrender to a woman, but our boys were pressing on and firing at every blue coat they could see, and hence they had to continue their stampede. Owing to the thickness of the woods and undergrowth, artillery could not be used to much advantage, and hence this was a musketry battle.
To visit the field and see what strong positions the Yankees had, and what obstacles our boys had to encounter – what hills they charged, and the terrible fire to which they were subjected, will impress every one with the fact that Southern heroism is without a parallel in all the records of human achievements.
The field was won, the enemy vanquished and fleeing and here the army bivouacked for the night.
I visited the point where all the trophies of the conflict were collected, and was kindly furnished with the estimate by the officers in charge of them.
We captured 24,000 small arms; 50 pieces of artillery; 270,000 rounds of ammunition; 93 wagons; 30 ambulances; 30 caissons, and 30 stands of colors. In prisoners we got over 6,000; killed dead on the field, 3,000; and wounded at least 12,000.
Our loss is 1,200 killed on the field; 6,000 wounded, most of them slight, and 500 prisoners.
A great and glorious victory! Let God be praised! And let every Georgian thank Heaven that the invaders have been driven away from our homes, and that no Yankee army now treads upon the soil of our State.
I will send you soon a short letter from the army around Chattanooga.
THE BATTLE FIELD
The same correspondent, after describing the action of Friday, says:
We turn now from this exciting and glorious spectacle to one more sad. On Monday I took a tour over the battle field. Where is the man who can describe, or the pen to picture that scene! I involuntarily asked, “Can such things always be? Will our enemy learn wisdom and leave us to ourselves, or will he demand repetition after repetition of such carnage?”
Over 25,000 men were either killed or wounded in this battle on both sides, and could their agony and pain be properly appreciated at Washington, this contest would cease. Could Lincoln have passed over that field, and have seen the victims of this fanatical Union folly, and then hear the cry of the mother for her boy, the father for his son, the sister for her brother, he would say that the subjugation of this people was a hopeless task. And as I looked at the bleeding remains of my comrades, I felt for the dear ones at home, and can only offer them my sympathy and the gratitude of a nation.
Noble fellows! I shall remember how ardent you were to drive the foe, and how patriotic your heart beat for your country; and I am confident that as each drop of you lifeblood flowed away, it was a willing, an accepted sacrifice upon the altar of liberty. We have placed you in a soldiergrave, and time can never efface the memory of your devotion to freedom. Vale! Vale! Vale!
Public Domain Images
Collection: The Civil War
Publication: Richmond Enquirer
Date: October 9, 1863
Title: The Battle of Chickamauga