Honoring the Chickamauga Campaign

Crossing the Tennessee
Crossing the Tennessee River, a panel from The Army of the Cumberland panorama, painted by William Travis

While the battle of Chickamauga was fought between September 18 and 20, 1863; Union General William Starke Rosecrans’s campaign to capture Chattanooga and (if possible) capture or destroy the Confederate Army of Tennessee really began on August 16th. Federal infantry closed down to the north bank of the Tennessee River on a broad front, ranging from well above Chattanooga into East Tennessee all the way down into Northern Alabama.

The first real warning Braxton Bragg received of this effort, however, came on August 22, when Union artillery shells began dropping into the streets of Chattanooga, causing a panic.

Since 2009, I have been posting material related to this fascinating campaign on my own blog (Chickamaugablog.com)  Now I have begun a new project, an effort to track the campaign on a near-daily basis, drawing on the letters and diaries of the men involved.

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Private John Franklin Roberts of the 7th Mississippi Infantry. Born in 1828, Roberts was 35 years old that summer of 1863, Already a married man twice over. (He married Nancy Dunn in 1848, and Elizabeth Freeman in 1856.) He was wounded and captured at Shiloh; spending time in Camp Douglas Illinois, until exchanged.

Roberts was literate, but his letters are rife with misspellings and colloquialisms. I find I value such errors a great deal. Why? I think because they offer us clues as to how folks actually talked, and sounded, in 1863 – something we would not really have a window into otherwise.

That is because many of the misspellings are phonetic. “Whipt” instead of whipped, for example. In an upcoming post, one Confederate refers to the city of “Atlanter,” for Atlanta. As I read these passages, I sound them out in my head, (sometimes even out loud, if it takes a moment or two to figure out the meaning.) If you don’t already do that, give it a try, and see if it opens a new window onto the past for you, as well.

2 Responses to Honoring the Chickamauga Campaign

  1. OK, I give up, I cannot find the post of Private Roberts that you mention in this email. As you ask, I would love to give it a try…but where is it? Can you please help a grandmother out and find it for me! I really enjoy ECW. Thanks’ Betty Callis

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Betty, it’s a link to Chickamaugablog. Here is the quote: _August 16th, 1863, the calm before the storm…_ (https://chickamaugablog.wordpress.com/2015/08/16/august-16th-1863-the-calm-before-the-storm/) August 16, 2015 Over the next few weeks as we once again commemorate the anniversary of the battle of Chickamauga, I will be posting more frequently, sharing some of the soldiers’ accounts I and others have gathered over the years. This is the first of these posts. In August, 1863, Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee defended Chattanooga, braced for the next Union advance. Unsure of where the Federals might approach, Bragg’s infantry was spread out along the south bank of the Tennessee River for several miles, both upstream and down, alert for signs of a Federal incursion. For much of that month, the Mississippians of J. Patton Anderson ’s Brigade, Hindman’s Division, picketed the downstream portion of the river, between Battle Creek and Bridgeport. It was not a relaxing time for Anderson’s men. From the diary of John Roberts, C Company, 7th Mississippi: Aug 16. All quite [quiet] this morning. No yankees in site of mi post yet. We see fine times heare only we don’t half to a nuf to eate. We started out with too days ratchens but on bread all molded and out mete all sowerd. . . .I heare a good meney of our men is deserten and going home. Some 60 diserted and left for home. Thir was a squad of calvery sent after them to fetch them back but when they over taken them and they had a fite, [the] diserters whipt the calvery and went on. I heare too [2] diserted from our regt last nite and went over to the yanks. Now this will never do. I am a fraid we are gone up.I heare Miss[issippi] is a going back in the union and if she dos I am a going home Shore. Desertions would continue to plague the Mississippians. In a letter from this same time period, George Lea of the 7th noted that: Our troops are doing very bad deserting every night almost. There has been as many as fifteen left in the last week. T[wo] from our regt. . . . I say let them go for such men are not of any benefit to us at all. If we had them back and did not kill them we would have them to watch. Let them go but if you catch them, shoot. On August 21st, Anderson’s brigade was withdrawn from Bridgeport and marched back to Chattanooga. The day book for Company F of the 7th Mississippi: August 22nd [Recording the previous day’s activity] Left and marched all night and came to Wauhatchie, distance 20 miles. Bivouacked there. Bragg would come to regret withdrawing his infantry from their more distant picket posts.

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