As I continue my Civil War History in a Nutshell, we have reached the Battle of Chickamauga – Day 2. The first day was a small, afternoon battle across West Chickamauga Creek. The second day, September 19, was an all-out slugfest, with the Confederate and Union armies fighting for the same ground over and over.
During the night, General Rosecrans (Union) and General Bragg (Confederate) got their armies lined up. The objective: control of LaFayette Road, the main road between Chickamauga and Chattanooga. The Union troops were determined to hold the road. The Confederates were determined to take the road and drive the Union army southwest away from Chattanooga and against Lookout Mountain where they could strike a death blow.
The battlelines started out clear enough but were soon completely muddled. One regiment after another was sent into battle. As soon as one group started to retreat, another regiment would take it’s place, driving the other army back. Back and forth like a see-saw, the men fought across field and forest. They charged into canister artillery shot that would mow down several companies with a single blast. By the time the battle was over, the fields were littered so thickly with bodies that it was said you could walk from one end to another without stepping on the ground.
By the afternoon, the Union army was being pushed back, but was still fighting hard. Up and down the line of battle, the armies were muddled together, rushing in to defend or charge wherever there was a temporary opening. You can see how mashed together the afternoon armies are compared to the clear lines of the morning. The fields were also a mess. Crops had been destroyed, cabins were burned. Cannon shot had destroyed trees in the forests. The bodies of dead and wounded littered the ground everywhere.
Finally darkness fell, giving the armies a chance to regroup. Lines were reset and order restored. But the soldiers were not able to settle down to sleep. Many of them dug entrenchments as a slight protection against the fighting that would come the next day. The cries of the wounded, in the no-mans-land between the armies, were heart-rending. And the temperature dropped for an unseasonable frost which froze the men who had left their knapsacks and blankets with the corps supplies at the beginning of the day.
Chickamauga – Day 2 – was a horrible battle with no clear advantage to either side. What would come on the morrow?
Find out next week in the next installment of Civil War History in a Nutshell.