The Battle of Chickamauga

William G. Whitney of Allen was a Medal of Honor winner for valor during the Battle of Chickamauga. Here is an account of that battle, lost by the Union, and the Battle of Chattanooga, which signalled the beginning of the end for the hopes of independence by the Confederacy.


September 19–20, 1863


Catoosa County and Walker County, Georgia


Confederate victory


United States (Union)

 Confederate States

Commanders and leaders

William Rosecrans

Braxton Bragg

Units involved

Army of the Cumberland

Army of Tennessee


approx. 60,000

approx. 65,000

Casualties and losses


(1,657 killed

 9,756 wounded

 4,757 captured/missing)


(2,312 killed

 14,674 wounded

 1,468 captured/missing)


The Battle of Chickamauga, fought September 19–20, 1863, marked the end of a Union offensive in southeasternTennessee and northwestern Georgia called the Chickamauga Campaign. The battle was the 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. It was the first major battle of the war that was fought in Georgia.

The battle was fought between the Army of the Cumberland under Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans and the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Gen. Braxton Bragg and was named for Chickamauga Creek, which meanders near the battle area in northwest Georgia (and ultimately flows into the Tennessee River about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) northeast of downtown Chattanooga).

After his successful Tullahoma Campaign, Rosecrans renewed the offensive, aiming to force the Confederates out of Chattanooga. In early September, Rosecrans consolidated his forces scattered in Tennessee and Georgia and forced Bragg's army out of Chattanooga, heading south. The Union troops followed it and brushed with it at Davis's Cross Roads. Bragg was determined to reoccupy Chattanooga and decided to meet a part of Rosecrans's army, defeat it, and then move back into the city. On September 17 he headed north, intending to attack the isolated XXI Corps. As Bragg marched north on September 18, his cavalry and infantry fought with Union cavalry and mounted infantry, which were armed with Spencer repeating rifles. Fighting began in earnest on the morning of September 19. Bragg's men strongly assaulted but could not break the Union line. The next day, Bragg resumed his assault. In late morning, Rosecrans was misinformed that he had a gap in his line. In moving units to shore up the supposed gap, Rosecrans accidentally created an actual gap, directly in the path of an eight-brigade assault on a narrow front by Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet. Longstreet's attack drove one-third of the Union army, including Rosecrans himself, from the field. Union units spontaneously rallied to create a defensive line on Horseshoe Ridge, forming a new right wing for the line of Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, who assumed overall command of remaining forces. Although the Confederates launched costly and determined assaults, Thomas and his men held until twilight. Union forces then retired to Chattanooga while the Confederates occupied the surrounding heights, besieging the city


Chattanooga Campaign


Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. Braxton Bragg, commanding generals of the Chattanooga Campaign

The Chattanooga Campaign was a series of maneuvers and battles in October and November 1863. Following the defeat of Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans's Union Army of the Cumberland at the Battle of Chickmauga in September, the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Gen. Braxton Bragg besieged Rosecrans and his men by occupying key high terrain around Chattanooga, Tennessee. Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was given command of Union forces in the West and significant reinforcements began to arrive with him in Chattanooga from Mississippi and the Eastern Theater.

After opening a supply line (the "Cracker Line") to feed his starving men and animals, Grant's army fought off a Confederate counterattack at the Battle of Wauhatchie on October 28–29, 1863. On November 23, the Army of the Cumberland under Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas advanced from the fortifications around Chattanooga to seize the minor high ground at Orchard Knob while elements of the Union Army of the Tennessee under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman maneuvered to launch a surprise attack against Bragg's right flank on Missionary Ridge. On November 24, Eastern Theater troops under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker defeated the Confederates in the Battle of Lookout Mountain and began a movement toward Bragg's left flank at Rossville.

On November 25, Sherman's attack on Bragg's right flank made little progress. Hoping to distract Bragg's attention, Grant authorized Thomas's army to advance in the center of his line to the base of Missionary Ridge. A combination of misunderstood orders and the pressure of the tactical situation caused Thomas's men to surge to the top of Missionary Ridge, routing the Army of Tennessee, which retreated to Dalton, Georgia, fighting off the Union pursuit successfully at the Battle of Ringgold Gap. Bragg's defeat eliminated the last Confederate control of Tennessee and opened the door to an invasion of the Deep South, leading to Sherman's Atlanta Campaign of 1864.  Portions of the Chattanooga battlefields, including 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) at Lookout Mountain, are preserved by the National Park Service as part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.