Was Chickamauga a Union victory?

David Moore

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#21
Here is another negative assessment of the claims put forth by Rosecrans and Boynton, written in 1911:

https://books.google.com/books?id=A...JAhVGOCYKHbmOCsIQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
Extract from a letter by W. S. Furay, in the Ohio State Journal, September, 1888:

The campaign of Chickamauga was directed against a city which was the very key to the interior of the Confederacy, the crossing point of its greatest lines of railroad from all directions, the citadel of Georgia and the whole interior South. So long as Chattanooga remained in Confederate hands, the enemy's power was practically unbroken, the great slave empire untouched.

General Loring, one of the most sagacious of all the officers that wore the gray, said to the writer of this article, near the close of the war, and before he had heard of the surrender at Appomattox: "Our cause is probably lost, but your temporary victories up to the latter part of 1863, had little to do with it. Not a man in the Southern Confederacy felt that you had really accomplished any thing until Chattanooga fell."

"You do not mean to say, general, that Vicksburg and Gettysburg were nothing?"

"The loss of Vicksburg," he replied, "weakened our prestige, contracted our territory, and practically expelled us from the Mississippi river, but it left the body of our power unharmed. As to Gettysburg, that was an experiment; if we had won that battle, the government at Washington would, perhaps, have tendered peace with a recognition of the Confederacy. Our loss of it, except that we could less easily spare the slaughter of veteran soldiers than you could, left us just where we were." •
"But in the latter part of 1863, some of your people lost hope?" I asked.

"Not exactly that," said he, "but they experienced then for the first time a diminution of confidence as to the final result."

"And may I ask what it was that occurred then which occasioned this change of feeling?"

"It was the fall of Chattanooga," he replied, "in consequence of the Chickamauga campaign, and the subsequent total defeat of GenEral Bragg'sefforts to recover it."

"Why did you regard Chattanooga as of such importance?" I asked.

"As long as we held it," he replied, " it was the closed doorway
to the interior of our country. When it came into your hands the door stood open, and however rough your progress in the interior might be, it still left you free to march inside. I tell you," continued he, with a vehemence which, iu so modest and quiet a gentleman, greatly impressed me, "that when your Dutch General Rosecrans commenced his forward movement for the capture of Chattauooga, we laughed him to scorn; we believed that the black brow of Lookout Mountain would frown him out of existence; that he would dash himself to pieces against the many and vast natural barriers that rise all around Chattanooga; and that then the Northern people and the government at Washington would perceive how hopeless were their efforts when they came to attack the real South."

"But the capture of Chattanooga convinced you that even the real South was vulnerable, did it?"

"Yes," said he, "it was then only a question as to whether we could beat back your armies by sheer force of desperate fighting, and as you largely outnumbered us, and our resources were every day diminishing, the prospects to the thinking part of our people looked gloomy indeed."

"But, general," I said, "there are people in the North who regard the Chickamauga campaign as a failure for the Union arms."

"Ah!" he replied, " we would gladly have exchanged a dozen of our previous victories for that one failure."

This conversation took place in the mouth of April, 1865, on board a steamer bound to New Orleans, the day after the battle of Blakely, in which General Losing commanded the Confederate forces, and he and his entire force that survived the battle, rank and file, were made prisoners by the Union Army under General Canby. I had approached the distinguished prisoner, who, by the way, with a comparitively mere handful of men, had bravely held the approaches to Mobile against us for a good many days, had introduced myself as war correspondent of one of the leading journals of the North, and had asked him to give me the exact relative position of the different bodies of troops under his command in the battle of the previous day. This he very courteously did, and authorized me to make use of the information in the account of the battle which I was preparing while hastening northward to the home office.

Then I gave him the latest information I possessed as to the progress being made by Grant in Virginia, aud of the advance of Sherman through the Carolinas toward Richmond. It was upon this that he made the first remark in the conversation I have just detailed, and in which 1 mentally noted every word he said with an absorbing interest which the reader will readily understand.

Half an hour afterward I was seated flat ou my haunches on the deck of the steamer, writing for dear life, when General Loring approached and accosted me.

"What are you writing now?" he inquired.

He had been so courteous under adverse circumstances to me, that I felt I could not be otherwise than entirely frank with him.

"I am writing out your remarks concerning the effect of the Chickamauga campaign," said I, "every word of which I well remember." i

"It struck me," said he, "that you might be doing that. But I think you will see that the publication of those remarks while the war continues might be seriously misunderstood by my compatriots in arms, and might subject me to heavy censure. I did not intend them for publication, and regarded them as part of a private conversation we were having after the public portion was closed. I can not take back the remarks now, and I have no power to prevent you from printing them. I can only ask you as a gentleman to withhold them from publication until the war is over."

It was a hard request to comply with. If the Jstruggle were to go on, General Loring's views would make a sensation, and be a great encouragement to the loyal people of the laud. I felt that in printing them I should make a big hit both as a journalist and a patriot. But with that courteous, sad-eyed, mild-mannered, and unfortunate gentleman standing over me, helpless as a prisoner of war who had given me his confidence, there was only one thing to do.

"Your wishes shall be respected, General," said I. "I shall finish my notes while our talk is fresh in my mind; but they will never see the light until I feel sure that their publication will discredit you with no one."

"Thank you," said he; "however the war may end, print what I said if you choose, and if you think it worth printing, any time after the conflict is closed."

More than twenty three years the notes of that conversation have remained in my hands, and they see the light for the first time to-day.

From https://books.google.com/books?pg=P...=onepage&q=general loring chickamauga&f=false
 

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dlofting

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#22
"It was the fall of Chattanooga," he replied, "in consequence of the Chickamauga campaign, and the subsequent total defeat of GenEral Bragg'sefforts to recover it."
In my opinion, Loring's reference to the Chickamauga campaign is quite different from the battle of Chickamauga, which is the subject of this thread. What Loring is talking about is the series of Union movements that resulted in the occupation of Chattanooga and ultimately culminated in the battle of Chickamauga. The planning and execution of the movements, by Rosecrans, was well done.......the conduct of the battle was not.....and Rosecrans was not there for the defeat of Bragg's "efforts to recover" Chattanooga. So if you're scoring this like a sports contest Rosecrans came out with 1 win, 1 loss and 1 "did not play"......a very average record.
 
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#23
Lots of opinions on this thread but little documentation from primary or secondary sources. I was hoping this new thread would become a repository of sources that others could consult while forming opinions.
Here's my source: the entire books "That Terrible Sound" and "Shipwreck of Their Hopes, by Peter Cozzens. It is full of primary sources, not just little snippets.
 
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#24
They actually did have access to to the outside world by crossing Walden's Ridge although it was slow and subject to raids.
They knew that reinforcements were on their way. Rosecrans was devising the plan that would open the Cracker Line.
pgs 419-420 https://books.google.com/books?id=X...HV8sAPEQ6AEIJTAA#v=onepage&q=overmuch&f=false
Retreating from the field and relying on an inadequate supply line is not the way to achieve victory. Now for sources Here's Einholf
p.186
" The Union army suffered terribly in its defeat at Chickamauga , but the Confederates fared little better. In terms of of the proportion of casualties to the total number engaged ,Chickamauga was the bloodiest battle of Civil War. The Union Army suffered 16,179 casualties, or 28% of its total number of 57,840 men; and the confederates suffered about 18,000 casualties 26% of their force of 68,000. While the Confederate army held the field after the battle, it had suffered more casualties then the Union army , making the victory an extremely costly one. Bragg had almost succeeded in destroying at least part of the Union army , and if he succeeded he could have changed the outcome of the war. Thomas's leadership had saved the Union cause from disaster."
Leftyhunter
 
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#25
Lots of opinions on this thread but little documentation from primary or secondary sources. I was hoping this new thread would become a repository of sources that others could consult while forming opinions.
P. 186 Einholf On Sept 21 l one of Thomas's divisional commanders sent an aide to see Rosecrans who observed"looked worn and exhausted and was laboring under excitement .He heard my statement but in doing so showed want of one requisite of a great military commander, firmness and self reliance under adverse circumstances. He was evidently crushed under the weight of his disaster; skillful, energetic and brave, his nervous temperament overbalancedall and exposed his weakness."
Leftyhunter
 
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diane

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#26
Maybe if Rosecrans had backtracked and helped out Thomas it would have been a Union victory but the way the Federals were skedaddling to Chattanooga in sincere fear of their lives, it's really hard to classify it as such. Forrest thought it was a good time to pursue them and annihilate them, but Bragg did not. He was an expert at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Perhaps the Confederates were blown like Bragg thought but it was worth the try!
 

Dave G

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#27
If Chickamauga was a Union victory then Dunkirk was a British victory, because they were able to evacuate a large portion of their army. Of course Winston Churchill reminded everyone that "wars are not won by evacuations".
I agree this argument is not valid. Thus:
If Chickamauga was a Union victory then Chancellorsville was a Union victory, because they were able to evacuate a large portion of their army.
Same for Antietam (Confederate victory), Fredericksburg 1 (Union victory), Fredericksburg 2 (Confederate victory) etc.
 
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#29
I agree this argument is not valid. Thus:
If Chickamauga was a Union victory then Chancellorsville was a Union victory, because they were able to evacuate a large portion of their army.
Same for Antietam (Confederate victory), Fredericksburg 1 (Union victory), Fredericksburg 2 (Confederate victory) etc.
VERY well said!! :smile:
 
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#31
They actually did have access to to the outside world by crossing Walden's Ridge although it was slow and subject to raids.
They knew that reinforcements were on their way. Rosecrans was devising the plan that would open the Cracker Line.
pgs 419-420 https://books.google.com/books?id=X...HV8sAPEQ6AEIJTAA#v=onepage&q=overmuch&f=false
I would like to credit Rosecrans with the plan to build the steamers. I'll take the author's word for that, although Grant in his memoirs talks about the measures he took to establish the "Cracker Line" and he seems to be generous to those who had a hand in it. I know primary sources are not always accurate, but I tend to believe Grant as his memoirs have been out there and he still gets most of the credit for the relief of Chattanooga. My GG-grandfather was in the Pioneer Brigade from Stones River onward and was present at the establishment of the Line, Missionary Ridge, and Lookout. So credit the men who actually did the work building the infrastructure.
 
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#34
Perhaps instead of people only posting their opinions it would be good to post links to available sources about the topic of this thread.
Einholf p.187
"Lincoln and Stanton where as critical of Rosecrans, McCook and Crittenden as the where complimentary of Thomas. Stanton was particulary harsh. As he listened to the reading of a dispatch from Rosecrans explaining the reasons for the Chickauga defeat, Stanton interrupted the reading and snapped"I know the reason well enough". Rosecrans ran away from his fighting men and did not stop for thirteen miles". Rosecrans report placed some of the blame on General McCook, and that angered Stanton even more. "No,they need not shuffle it of on McCook". "He is not much of a soldier. I never was in favor of him for Major General. But he is not accountable for this business . He and Crittenden made pretty good time away from the fight to Chattanooga, but Rosecrans beat them both".
Leftyhunter
 

David Moore

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#35
I would like to credit Rosecrans with the plan to build the steamers. I'll take the author's word for that, although Grant in his memoirs talks about the measures he took to establish the "Cracker Line" and he seems to be generous to those who had a hand in it. I know primary sources are not always accurate, but I tend to believe Grant as his memoirs have been out there and he still gets most of the credit for the relief of Chattanooga. My GG-grandfather was in the Pioneer Brigade from Stones River onward and was present at the establishment of the Line, Missionary Ridge, and Lookout. So credit the men who actually did the work building the infrastructure.
The War Dept looked into the relief of Chattanooga and credited Rosecrans. The request for the inquest was made by WF "Baldy" Smith who claimed the credit. Hardly anyone today credits Grant. The problem is his Memoirs which are often read without questioning their accuracy. That is the main point of Frank Varney's book. Here is a link to the War Dept report the summary of their conclusion is on page 20: https://archive.org/stream/reportofboardofa00unit#page/20/mode/2up

I always credit the men who actually did the fighting. It is not only Rosecrans and Thomas who have been neglected but the soldiers of the armies he commanded. He was always concerned for their well being.
 

David Moore

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#36
Here's my source: the entire books "That Terrible Sound" and "Shipwreck of Their Hopes, by Peter Cozzens. It is full of primary sources, not just little snippets.
A bit more specificity would be helpful. I met and spoke with Peter Cozzens last March (2015.) I would say he has a generally positive opinion of Rosecrans. He once told me it was "sad" that he didn't have a statue.
 

David Moore

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#37
P. 186 Einholf On Sept 21 l one of Thomas's divisional commanders sent an aide to see Rosecrans who observed"looked worn and exhausted and was laboring under excitement .He heard my statement but in doing so showed want of one requisite of a great military commander, firmness and self reliance under adverse circumstances. He was evidently crushed under the weight of his disaster; skillful, energetic and brave, his nervous temperament overbalancedall and exposed his weakness."
Leftyhunter
What is the source of the quote?
 

David Moore

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#38
Maybe if Rosecrans had backtracked and helped out Thomas it would have been a Union victory but the way the Federals were skedaddling to Chattanooga in sincere fear of their lives, it's really hard to classify it as such. Forrest thought it was a good time to pursue them and annihilate them, but Bragg did not. He was an expert at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Perhaps the Confederates were blown like Bragg thought but it was worth the try!
The question of whether Rosecrans should have gone to Thomas has been debated almost from the time right after Chickamauga. There are several versions of what was said between Garfield and Rosecrans none of which is independently verifiable. Rosecrans said he ordered Garfield to Chattanooga but Garfield said he couldn't do all the tasks assigned him and suggested Rosecrans himself go. Garfield had a different version.(Much of Garfield's story comes from JD Cox's book published in 1900) I would pose this question: If Rosecrans really believed his army was routed on the field what should he have done? Fight to the finish (or death) with Thomas or prepare the defenses of Chattanooga? What was the prize Chickamauga Creek or Chattanooga? Most historians of the battle believe that Forrest could not have taken Chattanooga because it was so well defended.
 

David Moore

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#40
Einholf p.187
"Lincoln and Stanton where as critical of Rosecrans, McCook and Crittenden as the where complimentary of Thomas. Stanton was particulary harsh. As he listened to the reading of a dispatch from Rosecrans explaining the reasons for the Chickauga defeat, Stanton interrupted the reading and snapped"I know the reason well enough". Rosecrans ran away from his fighting men and did not stop for thirteen miles". Rosecrans report placed some of the blame on General McCook, and that angered Stanton even more. "No,they need not shuffle it of on McCook". "He is not much of a soldier. I never was in favor of him for Major General. But he is not accountable for this business . He and Crittenden made pretty good time away from the fight to Chattanooga, but Rosecrans beat them both".
Leftyhunter
Lincoln was much more kindly disposed to Rosecrans. He was quoted as saying, "I find it is scarcely less than indispensable for me to do something for Gen. Rosecrans" after Chattanooga and "Grant and Sherman for reasons he (Lincoln) couldn't understand disliked Rosecrans "
http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/lincoln7/1:135?rgn=div1;view=fulltext
Niccolay and Hay A. Lincoln Vol 8 P 474
 



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