The American Civil War: Battles--Chickamauga (September 18-20, 1863)

Figure 1.--We do not know who the illustrator was here or have the caption, but this surely depicts drummer boy Johnny Clem at the battle of Chickamagua. Federal General William Rosecrans ruined his reputation there, but Johnny only added to his. The illustration here is undated, but as it was done in color, we suspect it was not done in the early-20th century.

Federal General William Rosecrans after the successful Tullahoma Campaign, renewed his attacks to force the Confederates out of Chattanooga, a rail junction of considerable importance and the doorway to Georgia and the prise of Atlanta. Rosecrans split his three army corps and drove toward Chattanooga by three different routes. Rosecrans managed to consolidated his forces which for a time were dangerously scattered throughout eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia (early September). Confederate General Braxton Bragg was forced to evacuate Chattanooga cutoff there and surrounded. Rosecrans pursued Bragg and there was a skirmish at Davisí Cross Roads. Bragg had not yet given up on Chattanooga. He did not have a large enough force to defeat Rosecrans's entire army, but he sought to do battle with a part of it in an effort to defeat the Federals in detail. Bragg then stopped his retreat and turned on the Federal XXI Corps (September 17). The resulting engagement was the first major battle fought in Georgia. Bragg encountered Federal cavalry and mounted infantry armed with Spencer repeating rifles (September 18). Heavy fighting commenced (September 19). The Confederates pounded, but did not break the Federal line. Bragg continued his attacks (September 19). He struck the Federal left. Rosecrans received an erroneous report that a gap was opening in his line. In moving troops to fill the supposed gap, he created a very real gap. Confederate James Longstreet seeing the gap open, ordered a major advance into that gap. The impact was to drive one-third of the Federal forces including Rosecrans himself from the field. Gen. George H. Thomas took over command of the remaining Federal forces. He consolidated the Federal forces on Horseshoe Ridge and Snodgrass Hill. Bragg launched assaults on these positions, but they held until after dark averting a disaster. Many men of the 22nd Michigan were captured in the fighting. Drummer boy Johnny Clem managed to escape after shooting a Confederate officer who tried to capture him. A Confederate colonel shouted for Johnny to stop. Johnny, who only weighed 60 pounds, had no intention of being a prisoner. He rode an artillery caisson to the front and wielded a musket trimmed to his size. In one of the many Union retreats at Chickamauga, the Confederate colonel ran after the cannon Clem rode on, shouting "Surrender you damned little Yankee!" Johnny fired his musket and killed the colonel. Later in the battle he was captured with other members of the 22nd, but managed to escape in the confusion of battle. Federal Gen. George H. Thomas promoted Johnny to lance corporal. The battle was a rate Confederate victory in the West despite loosing more men than the Federals. The Confederates, however, by this stage of the War could not afford many such victories. Thomas then led his men from the field back toward Chattanooga leaving Chickamauga to the Confederates. Thomas made his name at Chickamauga, his dogged defense of the Union left averted a military disaster and earned him the title of "The Rock of Chickamauga". Rosecrans retired to Chattanooga and was soon after reassigned to less important area. Bragg advanced in Chattanooga and occupied the commanding heights over the city--Look Out Mountain and Seminary Ridge.


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Created: 5:03 AM 9/9/2012
Spell checked: 6:37 PM 9/9/2012
Last updated: 6:37 PM 9/9/2012