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The Battle of Chickamauga

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.

Battle of Chickamauga

Battle of Chickamauga

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 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


Our Orphans in the Richmond Enquirer, 1864

This essay pleading for the care and education of the sons and daughters of the fallen soldiers of the Confederate Army was published, unattributed, in the October 21, 1864 edition of the Semi-Weekly Richmond Enquirer.

Founded in 1804 by Thomas Ritchie, the Enquirer was the oldest newspaper in Virginia. Guided by Ritchie, a key figure in the group of elite Democrats known as the “Richmond Junta,” the Enquirer had championed Jeffersonian Republicanism and Jacksonian Democracy.

“Father” Ritchie died in 1854, and by 1860 the paper had been taken over by a small group of Richmond businessmen; its chief editor was O. Jennings Wise, son of former Democratic governor Henry A. Wise.

Modeled after the London Times, the Enquirer was among the most read and most admired newspapers in the South at the outbreak of the war. Its editorials, writes historian Harrison A. Trexler, “were restrained and balanced and had real literary merit.”

Our Orphans

The children of soldiers fallen in glorious battle or stricken down by fell disease, are not the orphans of a homestead only, they are sacred relics, bequeathed by self devoted heroes to a grateful country. All history cannot present us with a more sublime spectacle than that of the unbounded and yet almost unconscious readiness with which our people have offered their all upon the country altars. Taxes unheard of in other lands are cheerfully borne and readily paid. Tithes are delivered even before they are due. Companies are clothed and whole regiments fed by the benevolence of individuals.

As the troops march by, the merchant brings his tobacco and the farmer offers his produce, and the hungry, weary soldier is heartily welcome to all he needs. Mothers knit and weave and spin for their darling boys in the field, and include his mess in their well-filled boxes. Sisters work and manage for cousin and kinsman, and add sweet words of hope and affection to the substantial gifts. From town and country, from mountain side and hill and dale, from far and near, come help and comfort to the weary camp.

Around every hearth, in church and chapel, in every closet and every silent heart, rise prayers innumerable for the beloved ones who have gone out to face death and conquer for us the blessings of peace. – And, when they are wounded or sick, there is no lack of skillful aid to heal and cure, no want of light hands to smooth the crumpled pillow and set the long-tossed bed aright; sweet, soothing words fall upon the sufferer, and the grand comfort of God holy word brings peace and hope and strength to his fainting heart. (more…)


Virginia Arms – In the Rural Districts

In the rural districts every house possesses arms enough for its own defence – a gun for every third male, or about 950,000 rifles and shotguns, the private property of the Southern population.

Knowing this to be the case, we are disposed to be a little incredulous when we hear it said, that certain localities could send additional companies into the field, if it were not for the impossibility of obtaining suitable arms. No doubt every company organized would like to have the best arms in use; but when this is unattainable, it ought not to follow that the country should be left undefended.

It is true that the rifled musket can do execution, with some precision, at the distance of five hundred yards, and that the shot-gun, at the same distance, would do none. But, then, is it to be supposed that Virginians are going to stand still and be shot down, at their own doors, by Yankee invaders? There is a very simple mode of shortening the distance. At fifty yards, each barrel loaded with fifteen buckshot, the gun, which was harmless at a long distance, fires a whole broadside at every discharge. Any one of the thirty buckshot will disable a man; and if aimed low, a little above the knee, the double-barrel piece may knock down a half-dozen Yankees at every tire, while the Minnie ball can only hit one, and even that is improbable at a short distance.

So much for the heavy double-barrel shot gun. – Then there is the hunter rifle, which will do execution, in the hands of a Southern marksman, one hundred and fifty yards. There will do for the fences, rocks, and trees, Daniel Boone, or Indian fashion, until the shot-gun can get within killing range.

Collection: Civil War Part I: A Newspaper Perspective
Source: Richmond Enquirer – June 13, 1861
Title: Arms

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The Duty which the Soldier owes to his Country

The enemy is upon the soil of Virginia, and thousands of troops are flocking from nearly every State to maintain the honor of our flag. In view of the troubles and trials of the soldier, but recently a citizen and unused to the strict subordination which must necessarily exist in all successful armies, we shall say a few words.

Major Edmonds

Major Edmonds

When we turn to our past wars, the mind pauses to admire the noble deeds, either of daring courage, patriotic ardor, or entire self-denial. These virtues are always typical of the true soldier. Frequently, in those wars, the commissary stores have been exhausted, and, in depth of winter, the soldiers of the Revolution have suffered for want of clothing, of shoes, and of food. Arms, too, were deficient. On the other hand, our army beheld the British regulars well supplied with every thing that could contribute to their efficiency on the battle-field, or their comfort in quarters. The contrast was an unequal and a painful one. Often our soldiers either did
not receive their pay, or, when they did, the funds were worthless.

Again, the war of 1812, at the outset, we were badly equipped, both on land and sea. – We had an insignificant navy, and an army meagerly furnished with weapons. At the battle of New Orleans, a large body of Tennesseans were without any arms. On all occasions of this kind there were murmurs. – Sometimes they were loud, and threatening tumult; but still there were others, the large body of the army, who, true to the instincts of patriotism, forbore complaint. These men received the plaudits of their fellow-citizens when they were honorably discharged from the service. And now, at this late day, it is only the memories of those patriots, who passed thus unscathed through the fiery ordeal itself, that are remembered. The rest are forgotten, or if recalled, it is only to pass once more a judgment against them. They have left to their posterity no bright spot for the regard of mankind.

Calvary at Sudly Ford

Calvary at Sudly Ford

This is an impressive lesson, and must not be forgotten. We refer to it not because of a want of confidence in the patriotism of any part of our army; but that we may curb the ignoble desire which would seek the gratification of our own ends regardless of the necessities of our country. We well recollect how an officer in high position, at the opening of the Mexican war, abandoned his post form motives of pique or disappointment and set out for his home; how the storm of battle broke forth in his absence, and how, although desiring to return back again, the whole country resounded with the withering censures of the people. In moments like this, when the flag of our country is at stake, they only who in storm and sunshine uphold it, can expect to receive the meed of patriotism.

The duty of the soldier is to adapt himself to the emergencies of the day, and the commands of his superior officer. In the organization of our army, we have had but a few months preparation. We have had no machinery, no factories, no means for military supplies. We have had to begin by borrowing money, and to equip all the Departments of the Government. Fortunately, ours is a reading people, and the necessities of the Confederacy are known and appreciated by all our citizens – by our noble women as well as men, from the Potomac to the Rio Grande. The latter have delivered public addresses at the heads of our companies, in every section of the land; they have presented banners to be preserved sacredly from violation by the enemy; they have furnished, with their own hands, the clothing of the soldier; and many a sister and mother have kissed the cheek of a brother or a son at parting, and in their hearts have felt that they could see them die in their country-cause rather than suffer a disgraceful defeat from any absence of soldierly conduct on their part.

General Lee

General Lee

There cannot be at the disposal of the Confederate Government, at this time, every particular arm of defence. The volunteer must accept any arm which may be placed in his hands, and do with it, the best execution he can. If he gets a pike, instead of a gun, a bayonet, instead of a rifle, or even a shot gun, let him uncomplainingly receive it, and take his place in the position assigned to him. At the proper time, the Confederate Government will place the desired arm at his service, or perhaps, better still, he may win it form the enemy on the battle field. Never let a murmur of complaint go back to our homes to chill the fond hopes of our family and friends.

The confidence in the ability and in the patriotism of President Davis to carry out this war successfully pervades the whole land, and no soldier will ever be able to satisfy his people of the merit of refusing to comply with his demands.

It is fortunate for the Confederacy, that such a feeling exists, and so wide spread is it that thousands more than his requisition on every State are now ready to enter the battlefield. Our young sister Texas is chafing the bit to be called into service on the battle field of Virginia. All the States of the Confederacy are ready to carry out any demand President Davis may make upon them as far as in their power, either for men or for the sinews of war.

We have abundant testimony of this fact, and let it never be forgotten by our soldiers, in the troubles that may beset them, or the exposures to which they may be subject, we are fighting a foe which aims at our subjugation. The last man would perish before such a contest could be successful. – This is the sentiment which animates our whole people, and never let it be forgotten by the soldier in the performance of duty.

Source: Richmond Enquirer – June 4, 1861
Collection: The Civil War Collection
Title: The Duty which the Soldier owes to his Country

Start of the Civil War

The Civil War started at Ft. Sumter, Charleston, SC.  Here is how one southern paper, The Richmond Inquirer, reported the event.  You can find this and similar articles in the Accessible Archives database.

Collection: The Civil War
Publication: Richmond Enquirer
Date: April 20, 1861
Title: Incidents of the Battle at Fort Sumter .
Incidents of the Battle at Fort Sumter .

Although during the thirty four consecutive hours through which the bombardment lasted, not a man was in any way injured upon our side, it cannot be said that our men altogether escaped Major Andersonballs. As Captain Jones was standing on the Point battery a spent ball, which had struck the sand bags above, rolled over, striking him upon the back of the neck, but not with sufficient force to hurt him. The ball – a 32 pounder – was preserved as a memento of the occasion.

Four hundred and seven shots were fired from the floating battery, and one hundred from the Dahlgren battery. The former received 163 shot from Sumter on each side; the men, seeing a discharge in their direction, learned to dodge the balls and throw themselves under cover. An incident of this kind occurred on SullivanIsland. A number of men were stretched out on the beach and Anderson threw a shell at them, but seeing it coming they scattered and ran behind the houses. The shell exploded, harming no one. A horse on this same island was the only living creature deprived of life during the bombardment. (more…)