Monday, July 8, 2013
150th of the Tullahoma Campaign
Left: US General William Rosecrans; Right CS General Braxton Bragg.
With the decisive Union victories at Gettysburg by the Union Army of the Potomac, and at Vicksburg by the Union Army of the Tennessee, the activity of the third great Northern field army, the Union Army of the Cumberland, during that summer of 1863 is usually forgotten.
US General William S. Rosecrans and his Union Army of the Cumberland (now 50,000 to 60,000 men) had managed to survive the three days at the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro), Tennessee at the turn of the New Year, and spent some months preparing to move once again against their old foes, CS General Braxton Bragg and the Confederate Army of Tennessee (now 45,000). This new campaign to drive the Confederate army out of Middle Tennessee would be known as the Tullahoma Campaign.
Map of the Tullahoma Campaign. Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen, www.posix.com/CW
This was a campaign of maneuver, rather than direct attack. Rosecrans began his movements of the campaign on 23 June 1863, sending the Reserve Corps of Granger to the West, threatening the Confederate left, all while intending to strike the right. On 24 June 1863, the Brigade of US Colonel John Wilder dashed forward and seized Hoover's Gap -- its movements earning it the nickname "Lightening Brigade." His brigade was the spearhead of the Union XIV Corps of George Thomas. Confederate counterattacks failed to dislodge Wilder.
Here is the NPS description of the Battle of Hoover's Gap:
Six miles away, Union advance troops had seized Liberty Gap.
On 27 June 1863, owing to his difficult position, CS General Bragg ordered his army to fall back and consolidate at Tullahoma, Tennessee. That same day, the Union Brigade of Wilder seized Manchester, TN.
Rosecrans planned a frontal assault on the Confederate Army at Tullahoma on 1 July, but on 30 June, Bragg ordered a withdrawal south beyond the Elk River. The positions on the south of that river were not to be held long: on 3 July Bragg ordered a retreat to Chattanooga, and by 7 July 1863, the Confederate Army of Tennessee was encamped around Lookout Mountain.
Rosecrans and the Union Army of the Cumberland had pushed Bragg and the Army of Tennessee from near Murfreesboro to Chattanooga at a loss of under 600 Union soldiers.
In the words of US Major General William Rosecrans:
"Thus ended a nine days' campaign, which drove the enemy from two fortified positions and gave us possession of Middle Tennessee, conducted in one of the most extraordinary rains ever known in Tennessee at that period of the year."
Both Richmond and Washington had concerns, however, in the weeks that followed -- Richmond worried as Bragg had lost Middle Tennessee and would soon fall back from Chattanooga (in August), and Washington pressed Rosecrans to step up and press the pursuit. His Army of the Cumberland would not move against Bragg at Chattanooga until mid-August.
That September of 1863, however, Bragg would turn and fight, but it would be in North Georgia along a stream known as Chickamauga...