BC Civil War History‎ > ‎The Events‎ > ‎

Chickamauga

The Battle of Chickamauga was fought in northern Georgia about ten miles south of the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  On September 19th and 20th, 1863, the Union Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Major General William S. Rosecrans, faced off with the Confederate Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg.  The battle was the Union’s greatest defeat in the west and resulted in more casualties than any Civil War battle except Gettysburg.

 

After a day of maneuvering, fighting began in earnest on the morning of September 19. Bragg's men strongly assailed the Union line but were unable to break it. On September 20, the rebel onslaught continued. In late morning, Rosecrans moved his units to shore up a supposed gap in his line.  In the process, Rosecrans accidentally created a real gap directly in the path of an eight-brigade assault by Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet. Longstreet's attack punched an irreparable hole in the Union lines and drove General Rosecrans and one-third of the Union army from the field. Other Union units rallied and began to coalesce on Horseshoe Ridge, and as these units arrived, Major General George H. Thomas began forming them into a new defensive line.  Thomas and his men drove off several costly and determined Confederate attacks, holding the line firmly until twilight, when they retired to the city of Chattanooga. 

 

The Union army was defeated and driven from the field at Chickamauga, but the battle became the foundation of the Army of the Cumberland’s greatest victory at Missionary Ridge two months later. Thomas’ inspired defense of Horseshoe Ridge had prevented the destruction of the Army of the Cumberland, retained the fighting spirit of its soldiers, and earned Thomas everlasting fame as the “Rock of Chickamauga.”

 

Forty-one infantry regiments from Ohio participated in the Battle of Chickamauga.  In addition, three Ohio cavalry regiments, one battalion of sharpshooters from Ohio, and nine Ohio artillery batteries fought in the two day struggle.  Two of the regiments were organized in Butler County and at least six others included men from Butler County.  In some ways, September 19 and 20, 1863 were the two most significant days of the war for the people of Butler County.  More information on some of those units can be found on The Events page.

 

Many books have been written about the Battle of Chickamauga.  Two of them are This Terrible Sound by Peter Cozzens and Chickamauga, Bloody Battle in the West by Glenn Tucker.

 

For descriptions of individual Butler County regiments at Chickamauga, see the following paragraphs.

 

Chickamauga (1st Ohio Cavalry and 4th Ohio Cavalry)
 

Both the 1st Ohio Cavalry and the 4th Ohio Cavalry were assigned to the Cavalry corps of the Army of the Cumberland.  Their primary mission during the battle was to protect the army’s ammunition trains, supply trains, and hospitals.  On the 19th, both regiments were still with the trains approaching Crawfish Springs.  On the 20th, after the Union right and center had been broken by Longstreet’s charge, both regiments were involved in heavy fighting as they protected the trains during the retreat to Chattanooga.  Both the 1st Ohio Cavalry and the 4th Ohio Cavalry suffered significant losses in the second day’s fighting, including Lieutenant Colonel Valentine Cupp, commander of the 1st Ohio Cavalry.

 

Chickamauga (9th Ohio and 35th Ohio)

 
The 9th Ohio (containing one company from Hamilton) and the 35th Ohio (organized in Butler County) were together in the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, XIV Corps at Chickamauga under the command of Butler County resident Colonel Ferdinand Van Derveer (see The People page). 

 

On the morning of the 19th, the Third Brigade marched down Reed’s Bridge Road to support a Union brigade already fighting.  As the march began, the 9th Ohio remained behind guarding the wagon trains.  The 35th Ohio was marching toward its first major battle.  Coming into contact with dismounted Confederate cavalry, the 35th anchored the left of the brigade line taking heavy losses in the initial fighting.  The 9th Ohio arrived as the fighting wore on, charged the rebel lines, and recaptured artillery lost earlier in the day.  The two regiments fought together during a renewed Confederate attack as Van Derveer’s brigade once again stood firm.  After the rebel cavalry withdrew, the 3rd Brigade was put in reserve for the rest of the day.  On the morning of the 20th, the brigade moved to the area of heaviest fighting at Kelly’s Field.  About 11:00 AM the 9th Oho and the 35th Ohio charged side by side and routed Stovall’s Confederate brigade as it bore down on the Union left.  After further fighting in the woods for another hour, the brigade withdrew to the far side of Kelly’s Field to rest.  While there, Van Derveer learned of the disastrous attack by Longstreet and moved his men toward the sound of fighting in the direction of Horseshoe Ridge.  Arriving at 2:00 PM, the 9th Ohio and 35th Ohio successfully defended their positions on the ridge from several Confederate attacks until about 7:00 PM when the final withdrawal began.  Van Derveer’s 3rd Brigade was the last Union unit to leave the ridge that night.     

 

Historians of Chickamauga have credited Ferdinand Van Derveer and his 3rd Brigade with saving the Union left on the morning of the 19th by Reed’s Bridge Road and on the morning of the 20th at Kelly’s Field.   

 

Chickamauga (26th Ohio Infantry)

The 26th Ohio fought with the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, XXI Corps at Chickamauga.  Arriving at the Viniard Farm at 3:00 PM on the 19th, the regiment was put into line to support units already fighting there.  No sooner than they lined up, retreating Union troops passed through their lines, followed closely by advancing Confederates.  Outnumbered, the 26th Ohio stood its ground until half of its men became casualties, and then retreated to continue fighting from a ditch.  The regiment moved to Brotherton’s Farm early on the 19th.  At about 11:30 AM, as they were moving from one position to another, the 26th was struck by Longstreet’s attack and broken into fragments.  The regiment rallied and made one more stand at Dyer’s Farm before being forced to retire towards Chattanooga.

 

Chickamauga (69th Ohio)

The 69th Ohio (organized in Butler County) served in the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Reserve Corps at Chickamauga.  The regiment’s participation in the fighting was brief but critical.

 

The day before the battle (September 18th), the 69th Ohio was sent to support Union cavalry skirmishing with the rebels at the Reed’s Bridge.  The Confederates had captured the bridge, giving them a major crossing over Chickamauga Creek.  The regiment joined in the skirmishing, prevented the enemy from expanding their bridgehead, and captured 22 rebel soldiers.   After spending the night in the woods near the bridge, the 69th Ohio was ordered to recapture the bridge and burn it.  Before daylight on the 19th of September, the regiment drove the enemy from the bridge approaches, charged across the bridge, and set it on fire.  By destroying the bridge, the 69th Ohio had trapped two Confederate divisions on the Union side of the creek and prevented other rebel units from using the bridge to launch attacks on the Union left.  At 7:00 AM, the regiment was sent to rejoin the Reserve Corps and did not actively participate in the battle after that.

 

 

Chickamauga (74th Ohio)

 

At Chickamauga, the 74th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd division, XIV Corps.  The regiment spent most of the first day guarding the division supply train, but that evening it was sent to the Glenn house to support Battery G, 1st Ohio Light Artillery.  On September 20th, the 74th skirmished with rebel infantry until mid-morning and then moved to the Dyer Farm.  When Longstreet’s charge smashed the Union right, the 74th Ohio and other regiments protected over 50 pieces of Union artillery, and insured they were able to safely retreat from the battlefield. 

 

Chickamauga (93rd Ohio)

The 93rd Ohio was part of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, XX Corps.  At about 12:30 PM on the 19th, the regiment moved into the line in the woods at the south part of Kelly’s Field.  After stopping a Confederate attack, the 93rd made its own charge and drove the enemy back.  After dark, they stopped another rebel assault, losing their two most senior officers in the process.  On the morning of the 20th, two more Confederate attacks were repulsed before noon.  The 93rd remained on the field after the Union right collapsed and skirmished with enemy until General Thomas withdrew his corps toward Chattanooga that evening.

Comments