Railroad Math, Why Chattanooga Mattered

wausaubob

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Why didn't the War Department assign an army of fortification to Rosecrans after he made it to Chattanooga? Lincoln diverted forces to Knoxville instead and the department was late in getting Sherman started towards Tennessee. It might be a good demonstration of the concept of "friction". Unexpected individual events cause consequential delays.
 

wausaubob

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Denver, CO
Louisville is connected by rail to St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Columbus. By extension it is connected to Chicago and Pittsburgh/Alleghany. Kentucky had remained in the US, and Louisville was the primary reason why Kentucky remained loyal. If the army business is going to run through either Memphis, a hot bed of rebel support, or Louisville, a loyal, but Democratic city, the administration seems to have chosen Louisville. It had remained loyal. It had the labor force. And it had the established ferry connections, as did Cincinnati/Covington. I am not sure, but it seems the Louisville to Chattanooga connection would also be a business that would attract freedmen, as workers or as USCT.
Stanton and Lincoln should have been a little happier that Rosecrans had made it that far. Together with Grant's Vicksburg campaign, the war in western states was won. A quick campaign to seize Mobile, once the weather had cooled, would have been smart.
 

Lubliner

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As noted in the OP, Logistics dictate when, where and how battles and campaigns are planned and often dictates their results.

The importance of Chattanooga was early recognized by Union planners, which dictated the buildup of Nashville as as the Union prime supply base for the invasion of the csa in the West(making it one of, if not The, most heavily defended cities in the CW)

Buells glacial advance from Nashville was the first and early Union attempt to take Chattanooga, in 1862. What slowed Buell was keeping his supply rail line safe from confederate raiders(besides his own cautious nature) In the end, It turned out that the Union Logistics line was more secure running the longer distance through Ky South, than the shorter from Nashville.

The war in the West was a war of Logistics, as noted by the OP, like no other during the War, IMO and not just in Tn but also Mississippi.
I am sure it was just a slipped oversight on your part, but Buell's advance was out of Mississippi, through Alabama to Bridgeport, wasn't it? That was the reason Bragg had to send the troops southward and then north to Chattanooga before the Kentucky campaign in 1862.
Lubliner.
 

OpnCoronet

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I am sure it was just a slipped oversight on your part, but Buell's advance was out of Mississippi, through Alabama to Bridgeport, wasn't it? That was the reason Bragg had to send the troops southward and then north to Chattanooga before the Kentucky campaign in 1862.
Lubliner.
I am not sure, but, it is my understanding that Buells advance was supplied by a railroad which I assume was the one mentioned in the OP. I thought Bragg was defending the state of Mississippi and had to take the long way around through Alabama because the Union occupation of Nashville precluded taking the shorter route to Chattanooga from there.

If you are correct, this is why I like this board though, it can help clear up the many gaps in my knowledge of precise details of the Civil War.
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Bragg contrived to get Rosecrans to advance to ground unfamiliar to Rosecrans. I think Bragg had a plan of attack when that happened. However both armies were moving, Rosecrans was able to partly consolidate and Bragg had to change his plans. What does you research show?
If you read Dana's telegrams, you will have an as it was happening idea of what Rosecrans' knew & when he knew it. Once it became obvious that Bragg was concentrating rather than pulling back toward Atlanta, orders went out for Thomas et al to reconnect. At that point, Bragg's declared intention was to cut Rosecrans' army off from Chattanooga, pin his army against Lookout Mountain & destroy it. In typical Bragg fashion, he did everything but maneuver & concentrate on Rosecrans' left where the Rossville Gap was his only direct connection with Chattanooga. The same thing happened at Stones River.

The Round Forrest was the key to Rosecrans' position. The futile sweep of Rosecrans' right left no forces in place to attack the Round Forrest. Regiments that attacked Hazen's Brigade suffered up to 80% casualties in futile assaults. The disjointed uncoordinated attacks at Chicamauga had similar results. Bragg lost significantly more wounded/KIA than he inflicted.

The Great von Moltke said that strategy is a system of expedients. The simple truth is that there is absolutely no evidence that apart from attacking head on, Bragg had no plan. It is certain that none of his commanders, especially Longstreet, had the least clue what Bragg wanted them to do. Once the action started, his commanders were left to their own devices. In any case, once Rosecrans' army had tucked into the works in Chattanooga, he had completely lost the initiative. His army was incapable of maneuver due to the lack of wagons & draft animals. It could barely be supplied in their camps behind Missionary Ridge. Like Moses staring into the Promised Land, Bragg sat on the porch of the little white house atop Missionary Ridge & watched Grant prepare to destroy him.
 
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wausaubob

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Denver, CO
But this thread is about Chattanooga. There was a modern solution for the US. Bring troops by railroad all the way to Bridgeport, so that if Rosecrans had to retreat, he was retreating towards reinforcements. And then there was an ancient solution: in order to operate up and down a river, build boats. Lots and lots of boats.
 

Rhea Cole

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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I am not sure, but, it is my understanding that Buells advance was supplied by a railroad which I assume was the one mentioned in the OP. I thought Bragg was defending the state of Mississippi and had to take the long way around through Alabama because the Union occupation of Nashville precluded taking the shorter route to Chattanooga from there.

If you are correct, this is why I like this board though, it can help clear up the many gaps in my knowledge of precise details of the Civil War.
Buel got as far as Huntsville. The railroad between there & Memphis was simply impossible to keep open. A bee swarm of regular Confederate cavalry & banditti attacked it constantly. It was one of the very few instances during the war that the principle that a RR had to be repeatedly attacked to interdict traffic was employed.

I live in Murfreesboro TN, local diarists had a good deal to say about Buel's army passing through here on the way to Kentucky after Bragg left Chattanooga. The power vacuum left behind Buel where neither army occupied Murfreesboro is eulogized as the only truly pleasant period of the war.

More than one contemporary & modern military historian has said that if Buel had charged on to Chattanooga & establish communication via the N&CRR, it would have changed the course of the war. Of course, expecting Buel to think outside the drill book was not going to happen.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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Dec 1, 2018
If you take Weber's book at face value (which I do), it becomes almost impossible to believe that the Confederates had any chance to match up against the Union's outright superiority in railroad engineering and construction. As noted, the British U rails on the Nashville and Chattanooga had to be replaced by T rails made in Pennsylvania simply to be able to handle the weight. Buell and others could be a match for Sherman; the South had no one who could even approach Daniel McCallum's levels of skill and organization. Neither, for that matter, did the British.

The link to McCallum's Report: https://tinyurl.com/u7454mcn
 

Rhea Cole

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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
If you take Weber's book at face value (which I do), it becomes almost impossible to believe that the Confederates had any chance to match up against the Union's outright superiority in railroad engineering and construction. As noted, the British U rails on the Nashville and Chattanooga had to be replaced by T rails made in Pennsylvania simply to be able to handle the weight. Buell and others could be a match for Sherman; the South had no one who could even approach Daniel McCallum's levels of skill and organization. Neither, for that matter, did the British.

The link to McCallum's Report: https://tinyurl.com/u7454mcn
I think you have touched on something profound. Here in Middle Tennessee, it really was a railroad war. Everything was related to the N&CRR in some way. The cauldron of innovation that the wartime operation of that line involved carried on to the turn of the century. The quality of the thinking that went into making the Army of the Cumberland's logistics work is deeply impressive. There was absolutely nothing that even comes close on the other side.
 

Lubliner

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I am not sure, but, it is my understanding that Buells advance was supplied by a railroad which I assume was the one mentioned in the OP. I thought Bragg was defending the state of Mississippi and had to take the long way around through Alabama because the Union occupation of Nashville precluded taking the shorter route to Chattanooga from there.

If you are correct, this is why I like this board though, it can help clear up the many gaps in my knowledge of precise details of the Civil War.
You may be right as far as a connecting road into Alabama from Nashville with the road Buell was officially on. I don't remember who was in charge of Nashville right then. I know Mitchell was sent ahead to Bridgeport, and then transferred out. Buell was on the link between Corinth and Bridgeport is how I remember it. The line leading down from Nashville to tie in was possibly under a subordinate of Buell. I hope someone can clear this up for me. At the moment all my reference material take a time to look up, which is too short at the moment.
Lubliner.
 

OpnCoronet

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Feb 23, 2010
Buel got as far as Huntsville. The railroad between there & Memphis was simply impossible to keep open. A bee swarm of regular Confederate cavalry & banditti attacked it constantly. It was one of the very few instances during the war that the principle that a RR had to be repeatedly attacked to interdict traffic was employed.

I live in Murfreesboro TN, local diarists had a good deal to say about Buel's army passing through here on the way to Kentucky after Bragg left Chattanooga. The power vacuum left behind Buel where neither army occupied Murfreesboro is eulogized as the only truly pleasant period of the war.

More than one contemporary & modern military historian has said that if Buel had charged on to Chattanooga & establish communication via the N&CRR, it would have changed the course of the war. Of course, expecting Buel to think outside the drill book was not going to happen.
Good Info, I have to reorient what I thought I knew.

But, it raises new questions to me. Why was Buell in Alabama instead of Nashville
 

OpnCoronet

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Feb 23, 2010
You may be right as far as a connecting road into Alabama from Nashville with the road Buell was officially on. I don't remember who was in charge of Nashville right then. I know Mitchell was sent ahead to Bridgeport, and then transferred out. Buell was on the link between Corinth and Bridgeport is how I remember it. The line leading down from Nashville to tie in was possibly under a subordinate of Buell. I hope someone can clear this up for me. At the moment all my reference material take a time to look up, which is too short at the moment.
Lubliner.
More good info. Thanks.
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Good Info, I have to reorient what I thought I knew.

But, it raises new questions to me. Why was Buell in Alabama instead of Nashville
Good Question. Buel’s base was in Memphis. That RR was very difficult to keep open because of the hostility of the local population. A year later, Sherman was repairing & fighting to keep it open when Grant ordered him to hurry to Chattanooga.

It would have been inconceivable for Buel’s garrison soldier by the book mind conceive of & implement a bold dash to Chattanooga.

The vast supply base Rosecrans built up at Nashville/Murfreesboro during the winter of 1863 did not exist in the fall of 1862. It would have taken a commander much bolder than Buel to force March to Chattanooga & establish communication with Nashville. A lot of time & hard work went into securing the forty mile on a side fortress complex that secured Rosecrans’ base. Without that, there wouldn’t have been any supplies to send to Chattanooga.

A limiting factor was the state of the RR. Because the president of the N&CRR had pitched cheap British rails to complete the Murfreesboro to Monteagle Tunnel section, the volume of freight it could handle was limited. Buel was in no position to refurbish the rails from Chattanooga.
 

OpnCoronet

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Feb 23, 2010
Good Question. Buel’s base was in Memphis. That RR was very difficult to keep open because of the hostility of the local population. A year later, Sherman was repairing & fighting to keep it open when Grant ordered him to hurry to Chattanooga.

It would have been inconceivable for Buel’s garrison soldier by the book mind conceive of & implement a bold dash to Chattanooga.

The vast supply base Rosecrans built up at Nashville/Murfreesboro during the winter of 1863 did not exist in the fall of 1862. It would have taken a commander much bolder than Buel to force March to Chattanooga & establish communication with Nashville. A lot of time & hard work went into securing the forty mile on a side fortress complex that secured Rosecrans’ base. Without that, there wouldn’t have been any supplies to send to Chattanooga.

A limiting factor was the state of the RR. Because the president of the N&CRR had pitched cheap British rails to complete the Murfreesboro to Monteagle Tunnel section, the volume of freight it could handle was limited. Buel was in no position to refurbish the rails from Chattanooga.
A lot of good info here. The fog is slowly lifting from me.

As you noted already, the results of battles and campaigns, large and small, are usually dictated on how well their leaders understands the proper place logistics in their plans. As you noted before, Sherman expended a lot of his time in preparing his logistical command to support the kind of campaign he wanted to fight to take Atlanta.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
A lot of good info here. The fog is slowly lifting from me.

As you noted already, the results of battles and campaigns, large and small, are usually dictated on how well their leaders understands the proper place logistics in their plans. As you noted before, Sherman expended a lot of his time in preparing his logistical command to support the kind of campaign he wanted to fight to take Atlanta.
A really interesting side bar are Sherman’s maps. It was something the world had never seen before. Sherman delayed the start of the Atlanta Campaign 5 days to allow “...Sergeant Finegan & his motley crew to finish their work.” on Sherman’s map of North Georgia. The March to the Sea was planned & based on a map such as had never been seen before. Sherman said that he would not have attempted either campaign without those maps. You can see them yourself on the Library of Congress website.
 
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