Battle of Chickamauge - Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia
Battle of Chickamauga - Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia
Magnificent fall colors pay
tribute to the fallen at the site
of the Battle of Chickamauga.
Battle of Chickamauga - Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia
|Battle of Chickamauga
Cannon dot the Georgia battlefield and red and
blue markers point out troop positions.
Explore Chickamauga Battlefield
Legend holds that the word "Chickamauga"
means "River of Death" in an old Indian
language. It is an appropriate legend
considering the brutal and deadly fighting
that took place along the creek of that name
during the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia.
Chickamauga was the culmination of a
campaign that had begun three months
earlier in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The
Union Army of the Cumberland, commanded
by General William S. Rosecrans, had
occupied Murfreesboro following the Battle of
Stones River, while the Confederate Army of
Tennessee, led by General Braxton Bragg,
had dug in 20 miles away at Tullahoma.
Throughout the spring of 1863, the two
armies had warily eyed each other until, in
late June, Rosecrans began to move. Over
the next three months, he and Bragg carried
out a campaign of maneuver, with the Union
general and his larger army (60,000 men)
tried to corner and destroy Bragg and his
smaller force (43,000 men). Bragg, however,
skillfully avoided the destruction of his army
as the two forces moved southeast to
In early September, Rosecrans moved south
around Chattanooga and over Lookout
Mountain into Georgia. Moving to counter this
development, Bragg left Chattanooga and
pulled back to Lafayette, Georgia. From there
- knowing that strong reinforcements in the
form of General James Longstreet's Corps
from the Army of Northern VIrginia were on
the way - Bragg took the offensive.
On September 18th, he moved forward to a
position along Chickamauga Creek where
he formed the Confederate army along a line
that stretched for miles from Reed's Bridge to
near Lee and Gordon's Mill.
The Battle of Chickamauga began on the
morning of September 19,1864, when Union
infantry collided with a force of Confederate
cavalry near Jay's Mill on the northern edge of
the battlefield. From there the battle spread
south for four miles as both Rosecrans and
Bragg fed more and more men into the fight.
Neither of the commanders had wanted to
fight along Chickamauga Creek as the area
was one of heavy woods and small fields
with limited visibility. Command and control
issues would plague both armies. (Please
click here to view a map of the battlefield.)
The day's fighting was fierce and bloody, with
the men often fighting hand to hand in thick
underbrush and woods. Slowly, though the
Confederates forced the Federal line of battle
back to the LaFayette Road about a mile
west of where the fighting had begun. There
the first day of the battle sputtered to a close,
with the moans and screams of thousands
of wounded penetrating the night. In some
areas the woods burned, tragically killing
wounded soldiers who were unable to walk
or crawl away.
Both armies reorganized their lines during
the night and Bragg, growing more confident
in his ability to defeat Rosecrans, planned to
take the offensive a first light the next
morning. General Leonidas Polk was placed
in command of the right wing of the Southern
army, while the newly arrived General James
Longstreet was given command of the left.
Polk was to begin the attack and the rest of
the army would then follow with a series of
hammer-like blows down the length of the
The Confederate attack was slow in getting
off, but as the morning progressed the Battle
of Chickamauga once again flared to life.
The Southern troops slammed into the
hastily prepared breastworks of the Union left
at Snodgrass Hill and Kelly Field, but a hard
fight by Union General George Thomas held
back the assaults. The fight spread down the
line, as ordered by Bragg, but attack after
attack failed to dent the Union lines.
Realizing that the battle was running behind
schedule, however, General Longstreet held
back his main assault. Not facing immediate
attack on his right, Rosecrans began to shift
units to reinforce Thomas. This mistakenly
led to the creation of a gap in the Union line
of battle directly at the point where Longstreet
would lead his main attack. It was a critical
Finally unleashed, the Georgia general's
soldiers stormed forward and General John
Bell Hood's command struck the gap and
pierced the Union line.
Longstreet quickly exploited the situation,
pouring additional troops in and moving his
forces to begin rolling up the Union line. The
Federal troops right and left of the point
where Hood broke the lines began to
crumble and retreat in confusion. General
Rosecrans himself was swept from the field
by a mass of running soldiers, as were many
of his subordinate commanders.
The only part of the Union army to hold was
the force under the immediate command of
General Thomas, who beat back assault
after assault at Snodgrass Hill. He would
soon be dubbed the "Rock of Chickamauga."
Thomas held out until near sundown when
he received orders from Rosecrans to
withdraw and fell back to Missionary Ridge.
The next day the Federals retreated into the
fortifications of Chattanooga.
The Battle of Chickamauga was one of the
most stunning Confederate victories of the
Civil War. It was also one of the most costly.
More than 34,000 men in the two armies
were reported killed, wounded or missing.
The battlefield is now part of Chickamauga &
Chattanooga National Military Park and is
located at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, just
south of Chattanooga. Please click here to
visit the park service's official website for
The Chickamauga battlefield is open to the
public daily from sunrise to sunset. Visitor
center hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
(except for Christmas Day). There is no fee to
visit the Chickamauga section of the national
park. Other units of the park include Point
Park on Lookout Mountain, Cravens House
on Lookout Mountain and smaller areas on
Cabin on the Battlefield
The site of the battle was
mostly woods dotted by a few
Monument at Chickamauga
The battlefield is dotted with
monuments placed by the
various states that sent men
to fight at Chickamauga.
The LaFayette Road, now
paved and part of the park
tour route, was the center of
Bloody Ground in Georgia
More than 34,000 men were
reported killed, wounded or
missing at Chickamauga, a
shocking casualty rate for
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Last Updated: May 7, 2013
History on Lookout Mountain