How well did General Forrest perform at Chickamauga?

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major bill

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Some people do not feel General Forrest was at his best at the Battle of Chickamauga. So was his performance at Chickamauga great, good, or not so good?
 
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major bill

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Read "Failure in the Saddle" by David Powell for a great assessment of Forrest's performance and Wheeler's too. Neither comes off very well.
I should read this. Off and on I have read books where I question the objectivity of the author. Some authors just seem to have it in for certain Generals. Perhaps the author is just looking for a way to sell books. General Bragg is one of these. So some authors are going to dump all the short comings of the Battle of Chickamumga on Bragg. Contrast this to Lee at Gettysburg, where all the short comings were Longstreet's fault. If Lee had been in charge at Chickamumga, I have a feeling many authors would roast both Forrest and Wheeler.
 
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There's much about Forrest at Chickamauga in the Forrest forum, here are two threads:


 

diane

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Peter Cozzens has just the opposite view as David Powell - he believes Forrest made mistakes (a couple of beauties, by the way) but that overall, Wheeler did worse. In fact, Forrest was blamed for several of Wheeler's goofs. However, it was Forrest's men who touched off the whole she-bang by running into Minty at Reed's Bridge. It was also Forrest's first match-up with Wilder. The Confederates won, but it did light the fuse. To me - well, somebody was going to do it anyway! It was also the first time Forrest had command of a corps. He did get off to a bumpy start but recovered well and showed he did indeed have the potential to command more than cavalry. All told - everybody made mistakes in that battle. Forrest always maintained that Bragg lost the victory by failing to destroy the Union army as it ran for Chattanooga - "What does he fight battles for?" the general grumped. Bragg thought his army was too winded but Forrest knew that men who smelled victory would get a miraculous second wind!
 
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Cavalry Charger

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There's much about Forrest at Chickamauga in the Forrest forum, here are two threads:


I like the way the article gives impressions of both Bragg's and Forrest's take on things. Speaks to the tensions that must have existed between the two men as well. Pretty sure Forrest had more to say about that at some point, but I'd need to look up his exact words!
 

uaskme

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Forrest was head and shoulders better than Wheeler at Chickamauga.

Powell is fair. Been a long time, since I read Cozzen. If Forrest had of stayed with the AOT and Bragg had been replaced, he could of made a difference.
 

Georgia Sixth

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it was Forrest's men who touched off the whole she-bang by running into Minty at Reed's Bridge.
Yep, my 6th Georgia Cav was there. Shortly after Minty, Thomas' infantry brigades began to arrive. They intended to push the confederates back across the creek, I believe, but Forrest wasn't about to retreat. That said, the after action reports I've read indicate it was an intense fire fight all morning long. Let's just say they were genuinely relieved when they were "relieved" by infantry. I've always had the hunch that the toughness of the blue infantry explained some of Forrest's uncharacteristic lack of aggressiveness the rest of the battle.
 
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JeffCSA

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I think strong leadership at the top by coordinating both Wheeler and Forrest toward the same objectives would have made a big difference to their performance at Chickamauga. After all, there were 15,000 cavalrymen in those two units. It seems that both generals operated independently instead of pulling together. You can't tell me if both of those generals moved to the Union rear, together, they couldn't have blocked the retreat to Chattanooga. I think if they had clear, precise orders and to act as a single unit instead of two we would have seen even more Confederate success.

You will have to admit Bragg had a great plan to destroy the three separated prongs of the Yankee army but his lieutenants quarreled and fumed with him and one another. No one seemed to act with haste to the plan as speed was paramount.
 

diane

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Yep, my 6th Georgia Cav was there. Shortly after Minty, Thomas' infantry brigades began to arrive. They intended to push the confederates back across the creek, I believe, but Forrest wasn't about to retreat. That said, the after action reports I've read indicate it was an intense fire fight all morning long. Let's just say they were genuinely relieved when they were "relieved" by infantry. I've always had the hunch that the toughness of the blue infantry explained some of Forrest's uncharacteristic lack of aggressiveness the rest of the battle.
I think you may be right, there! Forrest had more respect for the western Union troops than the eastern, and he knew when to fight and when not to fight. Most of his big defeats were battles ordered by somebody else, not of his choosing. Also contributing to his lack of aggression was he had a corps command in addition to his cavalry, and the battle itself was chaotic. He sometimes had to be in three places at once, too. Ector had him take over a battery, which he did, and then kept sending couriers to see if Forrest had it. After the third time telling him it was fine, he yelled at the fourth courier, "Tell him I am by God HERE!" He was - he had a duster with 14 bullet holes in it for proof.
 

Coonewah Creek

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Read "Failure in the Saddle" by David Powell for a great assessment of Forrest's performance and Wheeler's too. Neither comes off very well.
Sadly, one of very few of Dave's books I have not yet read. I've known Dave for a long time however, and I can't help but believe he would have treated Forrest fairly in his research and writing.
 
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AlexPensFan86

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Have not read "Failure in the Saddle" yet, but I did recently finish Powell's 3 volume set on Chickamauga. His assessment of Forrest seems fair in that Forrest did a few things well, but overall it wasn't his finest hour. Now as for Wheeler, based on what Powell says, I think that had any other general but Bragg been in command Wheeler would have abd should have been court-martialed for his behavior at Chickamauga. He routinely disregarded and flat out disobeyed orders for a large portion of the campaign and seems to have got off scott free.
 

Belfoured

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Have not read "Failure in the Saddle" yet, but I did recently finish Powell's 3 volume set on Chickamauga. His assessment of Forrest seems fair in that Forrest did a few things well, but overall it wasn't his finest hour. Now as for Wheeler, based on what Powell says, I think that had any other general but Bragg been in command Wheeler would have abd should have been court-martialed for his behavior at Chickamauga. He routinely disregarded and flat out disobeyed orders for a large portion of the campaign and seems to have got off scott free.
Failure in the Saddle is very well researched and objective. The same can be said of Eric Wittenberg's Holding the Line book, which is a great (and strongly recommended) assessment of the Wilder/Minty/Forrest encounter on September 19. If anybody wants an objective look at Forrest in another battle where he didn't match his reputation, Thomas Parson's book Work for Giants is a really well-done study of Tupelo.
 
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