From the very start of the civil war, East Tennessee was a part of the Confederacy that Abraham Lincoln wanted to liberate. Lincoln said that all the loyal Unionists who were waiting in the mountains of East Tennessee deserved their attention. He held high hopes of adding East Tennessee to the Union column. But, Braxton Bragg had other notions.
Confederates Set Eyes on Tennessee, Too
The Confederates held almost the same thoughts about Tennessee as Abraham Lincoln. Although all of them were not focusing on this part of the war map, many of the people that mattered had their eyes firmly set on it.
That is the reason why they made a decision to pull strength around Virginia and send it to the west in order to reinforce Braxton Bragg. The man who thought about this or moved or mooted this idea was Gustave Toutant Beauregard. He had supported this idea earlier also in the wake of victory at Chancellorsville, prior to Robert Lee moving toward Gettysburg.
Reinforcements for Braxton Bragg
In May 1863, the Confederates had already debated and argued on this plan. But now the situation was different. This was after Gettysburg, and this was after Lee had failed in his invasion across the Potomac River in June and July.
So, this time, the terms of the debate were different. Confederate President Jefferson Davis was in support of this idea and so was the Secretary of War, James Seddon. And then Braxton Bragg, James Longstreet, and many other military and political personalities also supported it. Lee didn’t have any choice but to agree that his army would be weakened so that they could hopefully achieve something in the vicinity of Chattanooga.
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Rosecrans: Riding High on Success
In the meantime, in a magnificent follow-up of the Tullahoma Campaign, William S. Rosecrans, with his Army of Cumberland, once again tasted success like the one in June. They maneuvered Braxton Bragg out of Chattanooga without even a fight. Chattanooga was an important city. It was located at the junction of two majorly important east-west Southern railroads.
Another reason why it was a critical city was that on one hand, if you were coming from the south, it served as a gateway to eastern Tennessee and on the other hand it was also a gateway to the industrial centers of Georgia because there was a railroad connection between Chattanooga and the important city of Atlanta in northern Georgia. So if there was a move from Chattanooga to Atlanta, there would once again be a split in the Confederacy.
This was the kind of move that Winfield Scott had thought of way back during the earlier planning in the first spring of the war. And this was a major strike into the heart of the Confederacy.
So the capture of Chattanooga by the Federal forces came as very good news for the north.
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The Taming of Bragg
On August 16, Rosecrans started his advance. He, along with one of his army corps, first demonstrated in front of the city and in front of Bragg’s forces. Then, with the rest of his force, he crossed the Tennessee River above the city. This way, he came behind the left flank of Bragg’s force. Braxton Bragg was then left with no choice but to abandon the city of Chattanooga. He did so on September 9. He fully retreated out of Tennessee.
There was no army of Tennessee in Tennessee now; it was in north Georgia. Six days before Rosecrans had captured Chattanooga, Ambrose Burnside had captured Knoxville. That meant a huge success for the Union in the last two cities of Tennessee which were not under their control.
Rosecrans Plans to Chase Bragg Further
The entire Tennessee was now under the control of the Union. On the 9th, Rosecrans had telegraphed Lincoln, “Chattanooga is ours without a struggle, and East Tennessee is free. Our move on the enemy’s flank and rear progress.”
Rosecrans wanted to further strengthen this advantage and wanted to keep going after Braxton Bragg. He thought that the Confederates were now totally disorganized and demoralized and they would not have any offensive notions in mind now.
Thus, acting on this belief, he scattered his army by spreading them from Chattanooga to North Georgia. However, he was unaware that the Confederates, led by Braxton Bragg, were making a plan for a big counter-offensive.
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Bragg’s Counteroffensive Plan
Braxton Bragg had his own notions of an offensive.
He had been sent reinforcements in the form of two divisions from the army of Joseph Johnston. He was further reinforced by troops under Simon Boliver Bucknor which were stationed at east Tennessee. And he was to receive more reinforcements from Lee’s army.
Those two veteran divisions of the Army of Northern Virginia were very used to success and had won a number of battles. They were coming via rail but had to take a longer route. However, due to many problems faced during their travel, including the breakdown of cars and the rolling stock, only two-thirds of the troops could reach Bragg on time for the next battle.
What was Braxton Bragg’s plan? He was aware of the fact that Rosecrans was scattered all over north Georgia. So his plan was to hit these Union forces while they were scattered and before they could come together. He planned to get behind the Federal forces and cut them off completely from Tennessee river and Chattanooga. He wanted to isolate them in north Georgia.
Both sides were trying to do the same thing. When Federal intelligence picked up this movement of the Confederate troops, reinforcements were ordered for Rosecrans. A big battle was looming not very far off.
Common Questions about How William Rosecrans Outwitted Braxton Bragg
For Tennessee, the Confederates decided to pull strength around Virginia and send it to the west in order to reinforce Braxton Bragg.
William Rosecrans, along with one of his army corps, first demonstrated in front of the city of Chattanooga and in front of Braxton Bragg‘s forces. Then, with the rest of his force, he crossed the Tennessee River above the city. This way, he came behind the left flank of Bragg’s force. Bragg was then left with no choice but to abandon the city of Chattanooga.
Braxton Bragg had been sent reinforcements in the form of two divisions from the army of Joseph Johnston. He was further reinforced by troops under Simon Boliver Bucknor. And he was to receive more reinforcements from Robert Lee’s army.