Today in History: Lincoln sends reinforcements to Chattanooga following defeat in 1863

September 23rd, 2013

On September 23, 1863, the Union Army was reeling from a decisive defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga at the hands of Confederate General Braxton Bragg. Keenly aware of Union General Rosecrans’ depleted army, President Lincoln diverted General Joseph Hooker from Virginia to the area, setting in place a strategy that would reinvigorate the Army of the Cumberland, and place General Ulysses S. Grant in charge of the Union Army.

Early in the morning on September 18, Confederate General Bragg posted his army on the west bank of the Chickamauga Creek, seeking to gain a favorable position outside Chattanooga where they could push north. The next day, the two sides clashed, with Bragg’s troops able to smash through Union General Rosecrans’ line, causing 16,000 Union casualties. The Union army was forced to retreat into Chattanooga, with the Confederates ultimately besieging the city, preventing the entry of federal supplies.

Just three days later, President Lincoln met with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and other military advisers to devise a plan to rescue the city of Chattanooga from the Confederate siege. He opted to divert General Joseph Hooker’s troops from Virginia and ultimately appointed General Ulysses S. Grant as Commanding General of the Union Army.  

The defeat of the Union army at Chickamauga inspired Herman Melville to compose “Memorials: On the Slain at Chickamauga,” a poem that commemorates those killed. Read the poem and discussion questions with your class. 

For more on the Battles of Chattanooga and Chickamauga, check out this page from the National Park Service which includes detailed summaries of the battles and interactive tours.  

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