Since the release of “Spirit of the Rebellion,” I have received a lot of questions about a great many things in the story. So, today I thought I’d address one of the questions concerning the Battle of Chickamauga. Readers wanted to know if Rosecrans really received faulty information on that battlefield. Did he truly create a hole in his line that the Confederate army promptly exploited because of that information? And if so, what, if anything, happened to Rosecrans since the battle ended in a Union defeat? Although fictionalized to some extent in the book, (I am a novelist, see the disclaimer...) let me give you some of the facts.
In late 1863, President Lincoln desperately needed some good news. In fact, he was desperate for a substantial Union victory. Opposition in congress from moderates who wished to end the war, rioters in
who opposed the
draft, foreign policy breakdowns and facing the election in 1864, weighed heavy
on his mind. Needless to say, Abraham Lincoln had his worries. He wanted a win at Chickamauga. New York
|Battle of Chickamauga|
|William Rosecrans and Braxton Braggs|
Heroes rise from the ashes of defeat, and fortune smiles upon others. During the heat of the battle, Rosecrans received intelligence that a wide gap existed between General Thomas J. Wood’s division on the right and General John Reynolds’ division on the left. Without confirmation, Rosecrans ordered troops to fill a gap that didn't exist. This in turn, created an actual gap. It was a misfortune of timing. While the Union troops were dealing with the relocation of soldiers, the Confederates, under James Longstreet, used this moment to deliver a “sledgehammer blow,” 23,000 men strong, through the newly created gap. Defeat was inevitable.
George H. Thomas, a Virginian fighting for the
Union earned his name “The Rock of Chickamauga” for his
defense of Horseshoe Ridge and Snodgrass Hill. Shortly after the battle of Chickamauga, he replaced Rosecrans as the leader of the
Army of the .
The Cumberland Army then retreated to Cumberland .
The failure of Confederate General Bragg to follow-up and exploit the Union
defeat, allowed Thomas to consolidate his forces at Chattanooga .
So, how did a Confederate victory ultimately lead to the South’s defeat? Two new players walked onto the stage. Given overall command, General Ulysses S. Grant arrived with reinforcements. William Tecumseh Sherman followed with the Union Army of the
From Tennessee Chattanooga, Sherman
began his march to Atlanta, while Grant headed
out with the intention of taking .
campaign against General Robert E. Lee followed. Petersburg
As a side note, Mary Todd Lincoln's brother, the Conferate Brig. General, Benjamin Helm, died September 20, 1863, during the battle of Chickamauga. Abraham Lincoln is said to have made the following statement. "He now knew how King David felt when his army killed his rebellious son, Absolom."
Victories and action by Grant and Sherman consolidated support for President Lincoln, and helped ensure his re-election in 1864..