As another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.
There were three great battles of the Civil War, Sharpesburg, Gettysburg and Chickamauga, and all three battles were strangely events where General James Longstreet was the main battle body, in fact the only division or corp doing the fighting, while the rest of the Confederates were idle, and the theater commanders were just as idle.
Chickamauga is a small version of Gettysburg, but in fact it was a more deadly field. There was almost 50% casualties in the Longstreet group during that battle, as the fighting was that horrific.
Tennessee was the strategy of General Longstreet to assist General Johnston in Mississippi before Grant and to relieve General Bragg in Tennessee before Rosecrans. Honestly, there were few Confederates generals who were dolts, but the list of Summer, Bragg and Early, were all equals in being the worst.
In Tennessee, there was the east and west campaign. In the east the incompetent Union General Burnside was winning against a nothing resistance, and in the west there was Rosecrans making headway against Braxton Bragg.
General Longstreet sums up the Bragg army in Longstreet arrives off the train, and is told to follow the road as that is Bragg's headquarters. Longstreet follows it with his party in the dark, and discovers he has been directed into the Union lines. He states he will ride ahead to a fallen tree roadblock, where he then gets in the trees and rides off to save his command.
At Bragg's headquarters a like command is availing itself to failure, as Bragg has decided his right will attack the Union and Longstreet will be on the left assisted by this. What happens is the right attacks, does nothing and quits, which leaves Longstreet alone to smash into the Union lines in horrid combat, but he wins the field.
None of this is easy as Bragg tells Longstreet, that Longstreet will have to go it alone as Bragg has not a man on the right who will fight.
This is compounded by Bragg being unaware the next morning that Longstreet has pushed the Union back, as he rides to the Confederate right where he commends the commander there for looking for the enemy, which has already retreated.
He was disturbed by the failure of his plan and the severe repulse of his right wing, and was little prepared to hear suggestions from subordinates for other moves or progressive work. His words, as I recall them, were : There is not a man in the right wing who has any fight in him." From accounts of his former operations I was prepared for halting work, but this, when the battle was at its tide and in partial success, was a little sur- prising. His humor, however, was such that his subor- dinate was at a loss for a reopening of the discussion.
In the heat of the combat, Longstreet has a wild eyed officer appear, telling him that General Hood is dead, his horse is dead, he cut away a Union artillery horse to ride to Longstreet, lost his hat and his whole command is dead and he could not find one man alive.
General Longstreet asks him in a condescending tone if he is certain that he could not find "one man alive" and in that tone the officer becomes a bit more settle, as Longstreet informs him reinforcement are coming, which burst through at that moment, and in that the officer settles down and gains courage again.
General Benning, of his " Rock Brigade," lost his horse, and thought General Hood was killed. He cut a horse loose from a captured gun, mounted, and using part of a rope trace as his riding whip, rode to meet me and report disaster. He had lost his hat in the melee, and the bri- gade disappeared under the steady crushing fire so quickly that he was a little surprised. He reported, " General Hood killed, my horse killed, my brigade torn to pieces, and I haven't a man left." I asked if he didn't think he could find one man. The question or the manner seemed to quiet somewhat his apprehensions and brought affirma- tive answer, when he was told to collect his men and join us at the front ; that we had broken and carried the first line ; that Johnson's division, on his left, was then in the breach and pushing on, with Hindman on his left, spread- ing battle to the enemy's limits ; that Stewart's division would hold it on our right, and the brigades of Kershaw and Humphreys then on the quick step would be with us in a minute and help restore the battle to good organiza- tion. Just then these two brigades burst through the brush in cheerful, gallant march, and brought him back to his usual courageous, hopeful confidence.
Longstreet's command wins a very hard victory, but General Bragg is not done yet with the battle, as Longstreet is preparing to drive the Union forces far away, but Bragg instead decides that a parade through Chattanooga would be more appropriate to restore morale to the city. Longstreet mentions that Yankees running for their lives out of Chattanooga would accomplish the same, but Bragg wants a parade and calls of pursuit. The Union notes they are not being followed, dig in, stay in the city, and Bragg does not get his parade.
When our march reached General Bragg's head-quarters and re- ported on the 22d, he gave me orders to direct a division from the line of march to follow the enemy towards Chat- tanooga. When asked if he had abandoned the course upon which his march was ordered, he said the people would be greatly gratified to know that his army was marching through the streets of Chattanooga with bands of music and salutations of the soldiers. I thought, and did not fail to say, that it would give them greater pleasure to know that he had passed the Tennessee River, turned the enemy out of Chattanooga in eager flight, to save his rear- ward lines, whilst we marched hammering against the broken flanks of his columns. But the cavalry had re- ported that the enemy was in hurried and confused retreat, his trains crossing the river and passing over the nose of Lookout Mountain in disorder. The praise of the inhabitants of a city so recently aban- doned to the enemy, and a parade through its streets with bands of music and flaunting banners, were more alluring to a spirit eager for applause than was the tedious march for fruition of our heavy labors. General Rosecrans prepared, no doubt, to continue his retreat, anticipating our march towards his rear, but finding * In his official report of the battle, General Bragg denies that his march of the 21st was for the crossing of the Tennessee River ; refers to the proposition as visionary, and says of the country, "Affording no subsistence for men or animals." — Rebellion Record. that we preferred to lay our lines in front of him, con- cluded that it would be more comfortable to rest at Cliat- tanooga, reinforce, repair damages, and come to meet us when ready for a new trial. When General Bragg found that the enemy had changed his mind, and was not inclined to continue his rearward march, he stretched his army in a semicircle of six miles
Thus the brilliant victory of General Longstreet and his Soldiers was squandered by Braxton Bragg. Longstreet would winter in below zero weather in Tennessee, but as a testament to his prowess, General Grant who wanted Longstreet driven out of Tennessee, never could order his command to attempt it and General Sherman, never ventured north, as no one in the Union wanted to fight General Longstreet.
So the Confederacy received no relief, and the threat to Ohio, never appeared as Longstreet intended. Instead it was wasted time, as Longstreet stated that when he wanted to push this operation, he had trains directly into Tennessee, but by the time the orders appeared, the Union had cut the lines, and he had to take his command into Georgia into order to get into Tennessee.
This campaign was wasted effort and in a dispute, Lt. General DH Hill was relieved of command, which the South could ill afford to lose, as he was behind Longstreet the greatest combat general the South had. He surpassed both Sherman and Grant.
Bragg was later recalled for political reasons, and reappointed in Richmond to commander of the army, which was supposed to put him into a position where he could not lose the war all by himself.
That though is the essence of Chickamauga, the most bloody of battles and the most hard fought. It was once again a resounding Southern victory, wasted by the theater generals in charge.