Chickamauga: The end of the second day


As the second day of fighting wound down, both army commanders took time to meet with their key subordinates.

Rosecrans held a council of war. A staffer remembered the meeting:

When I entered, the General [Rosecrans] was lying upon the cords of a rude bedstead at the right of the door, Gen. Thomas was standing in front of a big log fire at the other end of the room, with his coat-tails under his arms, warming himself—there was hoar frost that night; the other generals were near the fire…the situation was discussed . . . the probable amount of the reenforcements to the enemy from Lee’s Army of Virginia, the plan of the next day’s battle, the desperate attempts made all day by the enemy to get control of the Rossville Road.

Rosecrans decided to stay and fight it out. “In the army’s two previous encounters with Bragg—at Perryville and Stones River—the army had made a strong defense and, after repulsing Bragg’s attacks, the Confederate commander withdrew,” explains historian Lee White. “Rosecrans and his commanders now hoped for history to repeat itself.”

Bragg, meanwhile, met with his commanders individually, which ultimately led to confusion. Lt. Gen. D. H. Hill got lost trying to find Bragg and so never even met with him. Another general, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet of the famed Army of Northern Virginia, arrived from the east and was ushered from the train station to the battlefield and put in charge of an entire wing of the army—including many men he had never before commanded, on ground he didn’t know. By morning, many of Bragg’s subordinates were second-guessing their commander and, combined with their confusion, were slow to launch Bragg’s planned offensive.


Text adapted from material in Lee White’s Bushwhacking on a Grand Scale: The Battle of Chickamaugapart of the Emerging Civil War Series.

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