The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – September 16-22, 1863

Things start out today with a bit of a movie review for Chickamauga! High Tide in the West!, which is excellent. (Disclosure: I’m not associated with the film in any way, though I reviewed it on Amazon, where I first rented and then bought it.)

A few of the scenes I liked in this movie.

A few of my favorite scenes in this movie. (Click image to enlarge)

They have a trailer, but it’s pretty bad, focusing on closeups of dreadful stuff with very dreary background music, none of which is present in the actual 52-minute movie.

It’s not upbeat, of course. There’s violence and actors are shown as dead bodies and occasionally in closeups as wounded soldiers, but there are no historic photographs of corpses, as in the trailer, and there is little to no gore. I’d rate it as PG-13.

There are two excellent things about “High Tide”: the reenacting and the film styles, which give a very realistic presentation.

Sometimes too realistic - this was the best screen capture I could get of a shaky-cam view of the battle.

Sometimes too realistic – this was the best screen capture I could get of a shaky-cam view of the battle.

I’ll be using a few screen caps here and perhaps also in the Thursday Lit post (which will of course be by Ambrose Bierce), to stir you to at least rent this film on Amazon (it’s not on Netflix, unfortunately) and check it out. It’s really good.

The battle of Chickamauga was not the only thing happening this week in the Civil War, 150 years ago today, but it was the big event. Here is an interactive map of the battlefield from Baylor University that will also help you locate some of the places nearby where there were skirmishes and other events mentioned below.

September 16

Battles and Military Events: Chickamauga Campaign: Skirmishes near Lee and Gordon’s Mills, Georgia. General Bragg has his first move against Rosecrans planned, and this night orders General Nathan Bedford Forrest to seize two bridges and some fords on Chickamauga Creek. It’s unclear, though, if Forrest gets the order. (10, 16) CS President Davis write to General Lee expressing concern over Bragg’s withdrawal from Chattanooga and the “inexplicable” loss of the Cumberland Gap and hoping that Bragg will soon recover the lost ground. ((6)

Other: General Grant, who had been badly injured in a horse fall in New Orleans, returns to Vicksburg. (7)

US President Lincoln issues instructions to tax commissioners in South Carolina. (5)

US signal station on Hilton Head Island ca. 1863.  (Library of Congress)

US signal station on Hilton Head Island ca. 1863. (Library of Congress)



September 17

Battles and Military Events: Chickamauga Campaign: Skirmishes at Lee and Gordon’s Mills ongoing. General Forrest leaves Dalton and heads for Ringgold, where one of his units under Colonel John Scott is holding off US General Crittenden’s forces. Five Confederate brigades (Gregg’s and McNair’s brigades from Mississippi and three brigades of Hood‘s Division, Longstreet’s Corps, from Virginia) are due in at Ringgold today, having had to take a 900-mile rail journey thanks to US occupation of rail centers like Knoxville.

Another of Forrest’s units, a brigade under Colonel George B. Hodge, is up the Tennessee-Georgia tracks, watching for an advance by US General Burnside from Athens (Burnside however plans to go to Jonesborough, putting him farther away from Rosecrans than ever).

Burnside, who started out in Knoxville, needed a map.

Burnside, who started out in Knoxville, needed a map. (Click to enlarge)

General John Pegram is north of Dalton with his brigade, screening General Bragg’s headquarters at Leet’s Mill and Tanyard, while General Frank Armstrong’s cavalry is in front of Confederate infantry due west of Dalton and also west of Lafayette.

Today there is also skirmishing at Neal’s Gap, Alabama (PDF), and Owing’s Ford (PDF), West Chickamauga Creek. Federal forces conduct reconnaissance from Rossville (PDF). (4, 5, 10, 11, 16)

Andrew Johnson, before or during the war years.  (Library of Congress)

Andrew Johnson, before or during the war years. (Library of Congress)

September 18

Battles and Military Events: Chickamauga Campaign: Skirmishes in Georgia at Peavine Ridge, Alexander’s and Reed’s bridges, Dyer’s Ford, Spring Creek, and near Stevens’ Gap.

President Lincoln urges Tennessee’s military governor, Andrew Johnson, to “do your utmost to get every man you can, black and white, under arms at the very earliest moment, to guard roads, bridges and trains, allowing all the better trained soldiers to go forward to Rosecrans. Of course I mean for you to act in co-operation with, and not independently of, the military authorities.” (5)

An extended excerpt from source 17 is necessary, as the two major armies are getting into position for the big fight:

Bragg Advances

As Rosecrans issued hundreds of individual orders during the day on September 17, Bragg issued a single “circular” early on September 18th from his new position at Leet’s Tanyard, pressing forward elements of Longstreet’s Corps to move west from Ringgold, Georgia across Peavine Ridge to Chickamauga Creek at Reed’s Bridge while most of Bragg’s Army of Tennessee were to concentrate at Lee and Gordon Mill.

The 34 regiments that Robert Minty saw approaching his position on Peavine Creek at 11:00am on the morning of the 18th were the vanguard of Longstreet’s Corps, disembarking at Ringgold and Catoosa Station, then riding west. Leading Longstreet’s Corps was Johnson’s Brigade under Colonel John S. Fulton. Brigadier General Bushrod Johnson, from whom the brigade took its name, had been made provisional commander of the division.

Aware of the Yankees in front of him, Johhson regrouped at Peeler’s Mill before continuing his advance. Fulton’s men quickly ran into Minty’s skirmish line in front of the position on Peavine Ridge. After a brief exchange, the skirmish line withdrew to safer harbor, behind the Chicago Board of Trade battery. Minty sent the battery forward to buy time as he tried to get support from any number of people including John Wilder guarding Alexander Bridge.

Wilder, however, had his own problems. Brigadier General Robert Waltham and his Mississippians began an attack about 1:00pm, striking Alexander Bridge from the south. Using their famous Spencer Rifles, Wilder’s men inflicted heavy causualties on the Mississipians.

When Bushrod Johnson claimed the top of Peavine Ridge he realized that he had been fighting less than a thousand Yankees with more than 5,000 Rebels. He ordered a general advance, nearly catching Minty on the business side of Reed’s Bridge. His men were only a few yards from the bridge as the last of Minty’s men crossed Chickamauga Creek.

John Bell Hood, who had earlier arrived at Ringgold, reached the vanguard of his division shortly after Bushrod Johnson completed a crossing using the bridge for his cannon and stores while pushing the majority of his infantry across Fowler’s Ford just south of the bridge. Once across Chickamauga Creek Hood tried to sweep to the south as Bragg had instructed, but it was clear from the obstacles delaying Hood’s movement that Bragg had not scouted the land.

Hood’s movement south almost immediately endangered Wilder’s position at Alexander Bridge. Wilder ordered a retreat and after a final volley from Eli Lilly’s battery Wilder’s brigade headed off to the safety of Lee and Gordon Mill, while Alexander Bridge burned in the background.

Controversy on the starting date

Some historians believe the starting date of the battle of Chickamauga should be September 18. The dates of battle have traditionally been given as September 19 – September 20, 1863. We agree with the starting date of Septembeer 19 because there was no continuity between the skirmishes for Reed’s Bridge and Alexander’s Bridge and the main action at Chickamauga. These fights were over at 4:00pm, while the heavy fighting of the next day did not begin until 11:am and was further west of the bridges.

General Forrest was in the thick of things, but he seems to have been scrubbed out of many online historical accounts (and not just those dealing with Chickamauga). I’m not interested one way or the other in political correctness. Yes, we will hear about Fort Pillow next year. I don’t yet know much about it yet, other than that a massacre may have happened, but I know a lot about this year’s massacre at Jackson, Louisiana, which is more than many of those concerned about Fort Pillow in 1864 may be aware of.

And what Forrest did after the war is as irrelevant to me in this context (and only this context) as is Lincoln’s assassination.

Let’s wait until next year. The basic point in 1863 is that everybody on the Union side up to and including Lincoln is worried about Nathan Bedford Forrest at this point in the war. One can’t just ignore him if only for that reason. He was a major military asset to the Confederacy/threat to US forces.

I also follow him – indeed, start every week’s timeline with a checkup on his activities – because he usually is up to lots of stuff in a theater of the war that is less generally known than the east or west. It’s a good backbone on which to build a thorough post.

Anyway, things were getting quite intricate on the 18th, and your best bet if you want to follow Forrest is to read the latter part of Chapter 26 (it’s a long chapter) in source 10.

General John B. Hood (Wikipedia)

General John B. Hood. (Wikipedia)

I think today is the day that both Generals Longstreet and Hood arrive on the scene, probably after the same sort of railroad trip their troops have just completed.

By the way, Gettysburg is a little misleading: General Hood lost the use of his left arm at that battle, but it wasn’t amputated and he did recover enough to be at his post during Chickamauga (where he sustained another serious wound). (10, 11, 16, 17)

September 19

Battles: Chickamauga, day 1.

Military Events: Virginia operations: “In view of Gen. Meade’s dispatch to Gen. Halleck, Lincoln writes Halleck that he would not order, or even advise, Gen. Meade to advance. He points out, however, that Gen. R. E. Lee has only 60,000 men to keep Meade out of Richmond, while Meade has 90,000 to keep Lee out of Washington. Lincoln is opposed to any ‘attempt to fight the enemy slowly back into his intrenchments at Richmond, and there to capture him … I have constantly desired the Army of the Potomac, to make Lee’s army, and not Richmond, it’s objective point.'” (5, including entire quote)

September 20

Battles: Chickamauga, day 2. Lincoln shows his secretary a dispatch from General Rosecrans and expresses anxiety. (5)

There just was no cover for either side on that battlefield.

There just was no cover for either side on that battlefield.

September 21

Battles and Military Events: Chickamauga Campaign: General Rosecrans and the Army of the Cumberland fall back to Chattanooga today and tomorrow. Skirmishes at Rossville, Lookout Church, and Dry Valley, Georgia. (16) Today is reportedly the only time President Lincoln is ever heard to curse (upon learning General Burnside is in Jonesborough).

The president’s brother-in-law, CS General Benjamin Hardin Helm, dies today of wounds sustained at Chickamauga, but it’s unclear to me whether Lincoln learns this today or tomorrow. Mary is visiting New York City and he does telegraph her to come home and bring Tad, just telling her it is “nothing particular” – given the sort of pressure he’s under this day, that seems a little too nonchalant. Then again, maybe the weather was nice in Washington and he just wanted a break from the bad news and his problematic generals.

September 22

Battles and Military Events: Chickamauga Campaign: Skirmishes at Missionary Ridge and Shallow Ford Gap (PDF), near Chattanooga. (16) General Grant begins to send reinforcements to Rosecrans. (7)

Missouri operations/Shelby’s Raid begins, as CS Colonel Joseph O. “Jo” Shelby’s command sets out from Arkadelphia, Arkansas. (6, 18, 19)

Gulf operations: “LEVIATHAN a new, fast steamer belonging to the U.S. Army Quartermaster Department, became the shortest-lived Confederate privateer on record when she was captured by Acting Master David Nicols, CSN, an engineer and 18 men in TEASER during a daring raid off the mouths of the Mississippi but recaptured a few hours later by DE SOTO.” (8, including quote)

Nowadays a different, happier form of physical exertion happens at Chickamauga Battlefield.  (Charlene N. Simmons)

Nowadays a different, happier form of physical exertion happens at Chickamauga Battlefield. (Charlene N. Simmons)

Sources:

(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.  BrownWaterNavy.org.

(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

(18) Timeline of the Civil War in Newton County, Missouri (Shelby’s Raid).

(19) Shelby’s Raid (Official Records)



Categories: American Civil War

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