The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – September 9-15, 1863

Chattanooga, in Harper's Weekly, September 12, 1863.  (Source)

Chattanooga, in Harper’s Weekly, September 12, 1863. (Source)

Here is a look at events in the Civil War, 150 years ago this week. It was a tad busy in the hills and valleys just south and southeast of Chattanooga.

September 9

Battles: South Carolina operations/Siege of Charleston: A US attempt to take Fort Sumter by landing soldiers in small boats fails. (14)

Military events/Battles: Chickamauga Campaign: Skirmishes at Friar’s Island, Tennessee, and Lookout Mountain, Georgia.

From the east, General Lee and CS President Davis send General Longstreet, who roomed with US General Rosecrans at West Point, with his corps to reinforce General Bragg.

General Thomas Leonidas Crittenden (Wikipedia)

General Thomas Leonidas Crittenden (Wikipedia)

In the north, US General Crittenden and the left wing of Rosecrans’ army are atop Lookout Mountain. US General Thomas is at McLemore with the center wing, and Bragg is still trying to get information about the US right wing from CS General Wheeler’s cavalry in the south.

General Forrest and his cavalry (including some of John Hunt Morgan’s men who Forrest – risking a courtmartial – has refused to dismount as Bragg had ordered) are guarding Rome, Georgia, and this day are ordered to headquarter at Dalton, junction of the George & Tennessee rail line to Knoxville and the Western & Atlantic to Chattanooga.

With the right wing’s location still unknown and with the Yankees on the move, Bragg decides to fight Rosecrans’ two divided wings separately, starting first on the center wing.

As Crittenden comes down Lookout Mountain, a regiment is sent to occupy Chattanooga. A division under US General James Negley, reinforced by some of General Thomas’s men, pours into McLemore’s Cove. CS General D. H. Hill’s division is called back from Lafayette to hold the passes of Pigeon Mountain against Negley, with orders to ultimately join Hindman’s Division of General Polk’s corps in an operation against the Federals at McLemore’s Cove.

Meanwhile, unknown to General Wheeler and therefore to General Bragg, US General McCook has assembled his corps near Alpine, Georgia, near Winston’s Gap, 42 miles from Chattanooga, and now receives orders to diverge further from the line by pushing on to Alpine, then east toward Summerville to intercept Bragg, who Rosecrans believes is retreating. (4, 6, 10, 16, 17)

Map of the Bayou Fourche battle.  (Wikipedia)

Map of the Bayou Fourche battle. (Wikipedia)

September 10

Battles: Arkansas operations/Little Rock Campaign. Bayou Fourche/Little Rock. (6)

Military events/Battles: Chickamauga Campaign: Reconnaissance from Alpine toward Rome, Lafayette, and Summerville. Skirmishes at Summerville, Pea Vine Creek and near Graysville, Georgia.

At Summerville, General McCook realizes that Bragg is not retreating and he himself is in a very isolated position. Unable to attempt to meet up with General Thomas because of Confederate forces, McCook sits there through the 13th. “Fortunately for the Federal commander, the Confederate General [Bragg] was neither able to take in the true situation, nor gather its advantages.” (4, quote)

Circumstances have prevented General D. H. Hill from moving up, so Bragg orders General Simon Buckner in with two divisions. Meanwhile, General Negley, convinced that no Confederates are in the area, crosses Chickamauga Creek, planning to cross Pigeon Mountain and capture Lafayette. They camp for the night at Davis Crossroads, having put the creek, which is really more of a river at this point, between themselves and help.

Buckner joins Hindman around 4 in the afternoon. Hindman delays action. Bragg, hearing that Negley has crossed the Chickamauga, now decides to destroy Thomas’s vanguard with a double envelopement.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest, wounded on September 11 at Tunnel Hill.

Meanwhile, General Forrest is ordered north again to find Crittenden’s forces and see where they are heading. In the afternoon, Forrest finds the US troops [I’m not sure if this was Negley’s group or another of Crittenden’s units, but think it was the latter] across the Chickamauga. He sends couriers to Generals Bragg and Polk (both of them about six miles away). He readies his troopers to get to the rear of the US forces and seize the bridge they crossed over, trapping them. After getting no reply from his generals, Forrest rides off to urge and attack and finds that Bragg has gone to Lafayette. The opportunity has been lost. (4, 10, 16, 17)

Other: Military and civilian riots against two newspapers in Raleigh, North Carolina: the Standard, which has been advocating peace and rejoining the Union; and the Journal, apparently because the citizens didn’t like the editor. (9)

September 11

Military events/Battles: Chickamauga Campaign: Reconnaissance toward Rome, Georgia. Skirmishes in Georgia near Blue Bird Gap and at Davis Cross Roads/Dug Gap, Rossville, Ringgold and Lee and Gordon’s Mills.

General Forrest conducts a fighting retreat, reinforced by various units along the way. These Confederate cavalrymen are forced to dismount and fight as infantry to take advantage of cover, and they do stop Crittenden’s advance. The Federals fall back to Ringgold and then the head of the column attacks Lee and Gordon’s Mills.

During the day’s fighting, at Tunnel Hill, “Forrest sustained an unspecified wound serious enough for him to violate his teetotalism and take a drink of whisky. But he did not quit the field.” (10, quote)

The fighting at Davis Cross Roads has made Rosecrans aware of the Army of Tennessee but assumes incorrectly that they are behind Pigeon Mountain. (4, 10, 16, 17)

Military events: Arkansas operations/Little Rock Campaign. “A desultory and ineffective pursuit of the fugitive Confederates on September 11 ended the Little Rock Campaign.”

Western Gulf blockade: The captain of the blockade-running steamer Fanny, bound for Mobile, burns his ship to water level rather than let it be captured by US ships. (8)

Other: US President Lincoln turns down General Ambrose Burnside’s resignation, asks Governor Andrew Johnson of Tennessee to inaugurate a state government at once, and confers with Secretary of War Stanton and General-in-Chief Halleck about the situation in Charleston. (13)

Lee and Gordon's Mills (Source)

Lee and Gordon’s Mills (Source)

September 12

Battles: Western Gulf blockade. Second sortie against Fort Powell in Mobile Bay.

Skirmishing and minor fighting in Rheatown, East Tennessee; South Mills, North Carolina; White Plains and Bristoe Station, Virginia; Roane County, West Virginia; Houston, Missouri; Brownsville, Arkansas; and Stirling’s Plantation near Morganza, Louisiana. (13)

Military events/Battles: Chickamauga Campaign: Skirmishes near Lee and Gordon’s Mills (ongoing), and Leet’s Tan-Yard/Rock Spring (PDF file) where US Colonel Wilder’s Lightning Brigade of mounted infantry give Confederates a desperate fight. There is also fighting on the Lafayette Road near Chattooga River, and at Alpine and Dirt Town.

The Ringgold depot today (Kevin Trotman)

The Ringgold depot today (Kevin Trotman)

General Crittenden is in Ringgold, well north of Generals Negley and Thomas, and even further north of McCook.

General Rosecrans orders Crittenden to advance towards McElmore Cove (General Granger‘s reserve corps will cross the Tennessee and move toward Ringgold in Crittenden’s stead), while two of generals, Rosecrans’s chief of staff James Garfield and General Thomas, begin extended efforts to reach McCook.

Rosecrans also asks General-in-Chief Halleck in Washington to send General Burnside to Chattanooga for support, and he asks for additional men from General Grant.

General Bragg is in Lafayette. “Each day opened with plans of operations, promising decisive results, that at sunset were invariably left unperformed; and in the interim his adversary was leisurely repairing those previous errors…and massing his forces for a counter attack.” (4, including quote; 10; 16; 17)

September 13

Military events/Battles: Chickamauga Campaign: Reconnaissance from Lee and Gordon’s Mills toward Lafayette and skirmish. Reconnaissance from Henderson’s Gap, Alabama, to Lafayette, Ga., and skirmish. Skirmishes in Georgia at Summerville and Lafayette.

At dawn, McCook’s 14,000-plus men are at Alpine, Georgia; late today, they will be ordered north to support Thomas. Thomas’s 24,000 men are at Pond Springs and on hills in front of Stevens’s Gap, and rearward. Crittenden’s 14,000 men are at and west of Lee and Gordon’s Mills. US forces are spread out across some 50 miles of enemy territory. Bragg orders Polk to attack Crittenden. Polk ignores the order. (4, 10, 16, 17)

US Horse Artillery posing near Culpepper.  (Library of Congress)

US Horse Artillery posing near Culpepper. (Library of Congress)

Military events: Virginia operations: General Lee, weakened by the loss of Longstreet’s corps withdraws and US General Meade occupies Culpepper Court House. Some fighting breaks out there and at Brandy Station, Muddy Run, Pony Mountain and Stevensburg. (6, 13)

Mississippi operations: “Rodney, Mississippi, would have seemed to have been one of the safer places in the Deep South for a group of Union men to be. In fact, it seemed so safe and secure that Acting Master Walter E. H. Fentress was agreeable when a group of his crewmen came to him with a request. The USS Rattler, on which they served, was not so large and impressive a vessel as to carry a clergyman, and they felt themselves in need of spiritual guidance. Fentress therefore granted permission for such men who wished to go ashore and attend services this Sabbath at the local church. Alas, whatever prayers they made went unanswered. A group of Confederate cavalry interrupted the service, captured the seamen, and hustled them off for a restful stay in prisoner-of-war camp.” (9, including quote)

September 14

Battles: Virginia operations: Skirmishing continues between the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers as Federal forces push against the Army of Northern Virginia. There is fighting at Somerville, Raccoon and Robertson’s fords and Rapidan Station. (13)

Military events/Battles: Chickamauga Campaign: Skirmish near Lafayette.


General Bragg holds an unproductive meeting with his generals. General Polk lines his men up to await and attack but does not make one. “Bragg was like a man with no control over his arms or legs. His subordinates, cowed by his irresolution and continual blaming of others when things went wrong, were as useless as he was. More depressed than usual, he temporarily abandoned attempts to exploit Rosecrans’s rashness. Rosecrans meanwhile became more guarded, realizing the error in scattering his men across a fifty-mile front against an enemy not in retreat. Bragg’s lassitude gave Rosecrans two days – September 14 and 15 – to regather his army.” (4; 10, including quote; 16; 17)

Other: President Lincoln calls a special cabinet meeting for 11 A.M. to discuss the decisions of some judges that have released drafted men by writ of habeas corpus. Lincoln agrees to prepare an opinion for another cabinet meeting the next morning. (5)

September 15

Military events/Battles: Chickamauga Campaign: Skirmishes in Georgia at Trion Factory, Summerville and at Catlett’s Gap on Pigeon Mountain. (16)

President Lincoln tells General Halleck that General Meade seeks guidance as to what he should do. (5)

Other: In the morning, Lincoln gives his cabinet his opinion on military draft. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase thinks it a better way to prevent courts from interfering with the draft is with a presidential proclamation suspending the privilege of writ of habeas corpus in military or naval cases. Chase’s proposal is approved. Secretary of State William Seward prepares this proclamation and presents it when the cabinet reconvenes in the afternoon. It is accepted and Lincoln issues the proclamation suspending the writ of habeas corpus. (5, 6)



(1)  The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

(2)  Morgan’s Raiders.

(3)  Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (2003 – see side bar for link).

(4) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor (1868).

(5) The Lincoln Log timeline.

(6) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(7)  Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(8) The Western Gulf Blockade.

(9) Civil War Interactive.

(10) Born to Battle: Grant and Forrest: Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga: The Campaigns That Doomed the Confederacy, Jack Hurst (2012).

(11) Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by John A. Wyeth (1908/2011).

(12) Captain Raphael Semmes and the CSS Alabama, US Naval Historical Center.

(13) This Week in the Civil War.

(14) The Siege of Charleston, “The State.” (South Carolina)

(15) Friends of the Hunley.

(16) The Chickamauga Campaign, Civil War Home.

(17) The Chickamauga Campaign, About North Georgia

Categories: American Civil War

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