On this date of September 9, 1863, the critical rail and river center of Chattanooga, Tennessee was entered by General Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland, having been abandoned by Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. The Confederates withdrew into Georgia, not far away. Rosecrans’ forces were spread out over 40 miles.
“The enemy has decided not to fight at Chattanooga,” Rosecrans wrote to Halleck … adding in a subsequent communication, “Chattanooga is ours without a struggle, and East Tennessee is free … Our move on the enemy’s flank and rear progresses, while the tail of his retreating column will not escape unmolested.”
Five days earlier, Rosecrans had completed the crossing of the Tennessee River, threatening Chattanooga from the south and west. Worried by these reports, Jefferson Davis (on the 5th) asked Bragg, “What is your proposed plan of operation? Can you ascertain intention of enemy? … Can you not cut his line of communication and compel him to retreat for want of supplies?” Beyond skirmishing, there were no major engagements, and the Confederates reluctantly retreated into Tennessee, where the interesting battle of Chickamauga would break out nine days later.
On this same date, an amazingly accurate story appeared in the New York Herald that the Corps of James Longstreet was being detached from Lee in Northern Virginia to join with Bragg in Tennessee. Jefferson Davis had convinced the anxious General Lee that this was necessary, to which Lee acquiesced in the hopes that a great victory there might accomplish much for the mood and war effort of the South (in the wake of Vicksburg and Gettysburg). As Longstreet was boarding the trains with his men, Lee is reported to have said, “General, you must beat those people out there” … to which Longstreet replied, “They shall be beaten if I live.”
Interesting Extra Stuff
The Chickamauga Battlefield was a part of the very first National Military Park. Veterans proposed this late in the 1800s, and it was established as such in August of 1895 (including the nearby sites of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge). This designation would be followed by Shiloh, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Antietam.
Before it became a park, the forests of Chickamauga remained largely untouched. So many bullets had been imbedded in the trees at that location that local lumber mills in the region would never accept any timber from the site of the battle. It was simply too dangerous to cut into the wood!