The Chickamauga Campaign

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Overview

From mid-August to mid-September 1863, Union major general William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland maneuvered from Tennessee to north Georgia in a bid to rout Confederate general Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee and blaze the way for further Union advances. Meanwhile, Confederate reinforcements bolstered the numbers of the Army of Tennessee, and by the time the two armies met at the Battle of Chickamauga, in northern Georgia, the Confederates had gained numerical ...

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Overview

From mid-August to mid-September 1863, Union major general William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland maneuvered from Tennessee to north Georgia in a bid to rout Confederate general Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee and blaze the way for further Union advances. Meanwhile, Confederate reinforcements bolstered the numbers of the Army of Tennessee, and by the time the two armies met at the Battle of Chickamauga, in northern Georgia, the Confederates had gained numerical superiority.

Although the Confederacy won its only major victory west of the Appalachians, it failed to achieve the truly decisive results many high-ranking Confederates expected. In The Chickamauga Campaign, Steven E. Woodworth assembles eight thought-provoking new essays from an impressive group of authors to offer new insight into the complex reasons for this substantial, yet ultimately barren, Confederate victory.

This broad collection covers every angle of the campaign, from its prelude to its denouement, from the points of view of key players of all ranks on both sides. In addition to analyzing the actions taken by Union leaders Thomas L. Crittenden, Alexander McCook, and James S. Negley, and Confederate commanders Braxton Bragg, Patrick Cleburne, Daniel Harvey Hill, Thomas C. Hindman, James Longstreet, and Alexander P. Stewart, the book probes the campaign’s impact on morale in the North and South, and concludes with an essay on the campaign’s place in Civil War memory. The final essay pays particular attention to Union veteran Henry Van Ness Boynton, the founder and developer of Chickamauga and Chattanooga State Military Park, whose achievements helped shape how the campaign would be remembered.

This second volume in the Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland series provides a profound understanding of the campaign’s details as well as its significance to Civil War history.

Contributors: 

John R. Lundberg

Alexander Mendoza

David Powell

Ethan S. Rafuse

William G. Robertson

Timothy B. Smith

Lee White

Steven E. Woodworth

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Editorial Reviews

H-Net

Command and Leadership at Chickamauga

Often overshadowed in light of the more popular battles of the Civil War’s eastern theater, the battle of Chickamauga stands as the largest battle of the western theater, and at approximately thirty-five thousand casualties also the bloodiest.  It is also the only significant engagement Confederate forces won in the West.  By the fall of 1863, Confederates forces in the West had endured a series of strategic defeats, often resulting in the loss of vital territory and resources.  Capitalizing on earlier victories in Tennessee, General William Rosecrans, now commanding the Union’s Army of the Cumberland, sought a war of maneuver to force the Confederates out of Tennessee and northern Georgia.  In early September General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee evacuated Chattanooga.  Situated in the Cumberland Mountains, Chattanooga held strategic importance both as a vital railroad junction and as the gateway into the heartland of Dixie.  On the night of September 18, Bragg, reinforced with units from the Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of General James Longstreet, positioned his army along the banks of the Chickamauga Creek, approximately twelve miles south from Chattanooga.  The battle began on the following morning, September 19, and for the ensuing two days the armies struggled for supremacy of the field.  The “high tide” of the battle occurred on September 20 when Confederate forces under the immediate command of General John Bell Hood assaulted the Federal center, thereby exploiting an unintentional gap in the Union line.  As the Southern soldiers sought to gain the tactical advantage, Union General George Thomas rallied his troops to stave off complete disaster and earned himself the title “the Rock of Chickamauga.”  Tactical victory came at a high cost for the victory deprived Army of Tennessee, sustaining approximately nineteen thousand casualties.  Having gained possession of the battlefield, Bragg’s army moved to reclaim Chattanooga.

The Chickamauga Campaign, edited by Steven E. Woodworth, distinguished Civil War scholar and history professor at Texas Christian University, is the second volume in the Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland series.  Seven of the eight essays examine and analyze the battle’s leaders and lost opportunities, while the final essay explores elements of the “new military history” by outlining the creation of Chickamauga National Military Park.  Contributors include Ethan S. Rafuse, Woodworth, Alexander Mendoza, Lee White, John R. Lundberg, William G. Robertson, David Powell, and Timothy B. Smith.

The introductory essay, “In the Shadow of the Rock,” by Rafuse, professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, offers an evaluation of two neglected Union corps commanders, General Thomas Crittenden and General Alexander McCook, who indeed have stood in the shadow of George Thomas.  Rafuse explores Crittenden and McCook’s leadership prior to the engagement at Chickamauga as an indictor of their performance during the battle and as a means of evaluation independently from the success of George Thomas.  By the fall of 1863, on the one hand, McCook suffered from a damaged reputation in light of his poor performance at Perryville and Stones River.  On the other hand, Crittenden’s men were not engaged at Perryville and, unlike McCook, Crittenden’s conduct at Stones River improved his reputation within the Army of the Cumberland.  Evaluating their leadership at Chickamauga and particularly their involvement in the execution of the “fatal order” that removed General Thomas Wood’s division from the Union line, thus creating the gap that Thomas filled, Rafuse finds fallacies in both generals’ conduct.  The War Department’s 1864 inquiry into the debacle at Chickamauga exonerated both McCook and Crittenden; however, neither general saw service in the Army of the Cumberland again.  To this end, Rafuse concludes that such termination of McCook was justified because the general “did not possess the personal or intellectual qualities necessary to lead a corps effectively on a Civil War battlefield” (p. 41).  Based on his pre-Chickamauga performance Crittenden’s removal, however, was unjustified.  Rafuse contends that Crittenden’s “lapses in judgment” during the battle stand as an “aberration” to an otherwise solid career (p. 42).

Woodworth’s essay explores a “great military nonevent” at McLemore’s Cove when the Confederates had the opportunity to destroy portions of the Federal army as they passed through the mountain gaps around Chattanooga between September 9 and 11.  Major General Thomas Hindman’s Confederates enjoyed numerical superiority, but their failure to capitalize on their advantages remains, according to Woodworth, “one of the most inexplicable missed opportunities” of the war (p. 65).  Woodworth attributes this missed opportunity to four factors.  First, he applauds the leadership of Union commanders, namely Major General James Negley, and their careful reconnaissance to accurately ascertain the enemy position.  Second, Unionist civilians played an integral role in providing Union forces with accurate information on the Confederate position.  Negley’s forces evaded disaster at McLemore’s Cove, in part, because of Hindman’s poor leadership.  And finally, Woodworth concludes that the factious command within the Army of Tennessee undermined Bragg’s authority and his subordinates’ confidence in his abilities. 

Expanding on evaluations of Union and Confederate leadership, Mendoza’s essay considers relations within the high command of the Army of Tennessee, focusing specifically on corps commander Daniel Harvey Hill.  Following poor performance at Chickamauga, Bragg relieved Hill from command and subsequently transferred him out of the Army of Tennessee.  Hill sought to restore his reputation and to return to active duty to no avail and consequently returned to North Carolina to witness the war’s final years as a civilian.  Hill neglected to execute Bragg’s orders to move his corps to McLemore’s Cove in the hopes of trapping advance elements of the Union army maneuvering through mountain gaps toward Chickamauga Creek.  Following this Pyrrhic victory, several of Bragg’s subordinates, including Longstreet and Hill, orchestrated a cabal to relieve the divisive general from command of the army.  President Jefferson Davis, however, remained steadfast in his support for Bragg.  Mendonza does not seek to justify Hill’s involvement in the effort to remove Bragg from command, but he does argue that Hill’s removal was unfair, namely, because other critics of Bragg, including Longstreet, Leonidas Polk, and Hindman remained on active duty.

Two essays evaluate the performance of division commanders within the Army of Tennessee.  White’s essay offers the one positive interpretation of leadership within the Army of Tennessee.  White argues that newly appointed Major General Alexander P. Stewart exhibited strong command and control during the battle.  In addition to a solid battlefield performance, Stewart successfully straddled the factions within the high command, remaining on positive terms with Bragg and Polk, one of Bragg’s most vocal critics.  Notwithstanding this performance, Bragg reorganized his army in the wake of Chickamauga, which resulted in the dismantling of Stewart’s division.  Lundberg narrates yet another example of inadequate leadership from Major General Patrick Cleburne.  Lundberg contends that had Cleburne assaulted the Federal left, held by Thomas, as Bragg initially ordered on the morning of September 20, the Union position would have collapsed.

In the wake of defeat at Gettysburg, Davis approved the transfer of Longstreet and his First Corps to join Bragg’s forces in Tennessee.  In “Bull of the Woods?” Robertson evaluates the leadership of the much-maligned Longstreet.  Recent scholars, led by Ezra Warner, William Piston, and Jeffrey Wert, have sought to restore the reputation of Robert E. Lee’s “old warhorse.”  Chickamauga provides historians with the opportunity to evaluate Longstreet’s abilities outside of the long-casted shadow of Lee.  Robertson contends that his campaign for a transfer out of the Army of Northern Virginia was based largely on personal motives.  Longstreet recognized his career limitations as long as Lee remained in command of the Army of Northern Virginia and believed that he could provide better generalship to the western forces than Bragg.  During the battle, Robertson concludes, Longstreet’s generalship was mediocre at best.  He failed to capitalize on the breakthrough of the Union position and allowed the initial success to degenerate into a series of costly and futile frontal assaults against a strong position.  Free of Lee’s shadow, Robertson concludes that Longstreet’s performance was “far less exceptional and far more average” than his supporters maintain.  Instead, Longstreet “employed no innovative methods and showed no tactical brilliance” (p. 135).

In the final essay, Smith shifts the interpretive focus away from questions of battlefield leadership and addresses issues of the “new military” history by exploring the career of Henry Van Ness Boynton and his role in the preservation of Chickamauga National Military Park.  Boynton, a veteran of the 35th Ohio, received the Medal of Honor for his valor on Chattanooga, but upon being wounded at Missionary Ridge spent the remainder of the war as a war correspondent for the Cincinnati Gazette.  Boynton remained active in postwar affairs as a member of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland and a dutiful shaper of the memory of the Civil War and particularly the fighting at Snodgrass Hill.  In 1888, nearly twenty-five years after local residents of Gettysburg established the nation’s first battlefield preservation organization, Boynton proposed the idea of creating a similar park at Chickamauga to fellow veterans of the Army of the Cumberland.  The timing was appropriate.  Boynton and other like-minded preservationists capitalized on the increasing patriotic sentiments of reconciliation to create battlefield memorials that sought to honor soldiers’ valor and also to bind the nation’s war wounds.  His work was without precedent; Boynton drafted the legislation to introduce into Congress, termed the phrase “national military park,” and recommended that each newly created park be managed by a three-member commission.  Boynton’s efforts came to fruition on September 18, 1895, with the creation of Chickamauga National Military Park.  In addition to introducing the legislation to preserve Chickamauga, Smith argues that Boynton willingly molded the interpretation of Chickamauga by emphasizing the fighting at Snodgrass Hill, where Boynton and the 35th Ohio fought.  Although at times downplaying earlier preservation efforts by the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, Smith finds Boynton’s work pioneering and titles him the “father of the modern military park movement” (p. 183).

The essays in Woodworth’s The Chickamauga Campaign offer a compelling study in command and leadership at the battle of Chickamauga.  This work is not intended to provide a general overview of the campaign, but to explore specific events within the battle.  Woodworth’s Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland works toward bringing due attention to the war’s western theater.  When complete, these seventeen volumes will reenergize otherwise neglected campaigns and provide a more nuanced understanding of the decisiveness of the western engagements.  In its entirety, this series will do for the western theater what Gary Gallagher’s edited campaign and battle series did for the war’s already popular eastern theater.

— Jennifer Murray

TOWOC--A Civil War Blog

Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland is a brilliant series of essays edited by the historian Steven E. Woodworth.  These books are not introductions to the campaign but to provide an in-depth examination of a person or event in the campaign.  Each essay is by an experienced historian, with excellent writing skills with knowledge of the subject.  Steven E. Woodworth’s talents as an editor make this an outstanding series.  All essays are intelligent and detailed without being boring or losing the intended reader.  The result is a thought provoking enjoyable learning experience.

“The Chickamauga Campaign’ is no exception and might be the better than “The Shiloh Campaign”.  The selection of subjects and authors results is an in-depth look at the campaign and personalities.  The essays fully capture the complexities while building our understanding of these events.....

The writers are historians and each essay is complete with footnotes.  A series of maps orientates the reader on the battlefield and in the area of the campaign.  An index and short bios of the contributors completes the book.

This is a series that anyone with an interest in the Western Campaigns needs in their library.  Each book is will designed; the essays are intelligent, informative and great reading.

— James Durney

Civil War Books and Authors

The second volume from SIU Press and editor Steven Woodworth's Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland series, The Chickamauga Campaign is kicked off by historian Ethan Rafuse, whose essay provides a lengthy descriptive and analytical discussion of the role of Union corps commanders Alexander McCook and Thomas Crittenden in the campaign. Both officers have a fairly terrible martial reputation in the literature, but Rafuse makes a solid case that they performed at least competently up until Chickamauga's second day, where both promptly blew it. Ultimately, McCook and Crittenden were both relieved, although they were exonerated by a subsequent court of inquiry into their Chickamauga performances. In terms of the Army of the Cumberland's future, their removals for the best, but Rafuse believes the more competent Crittenden was the more ill used of the two.

In the second essay, general editor Steven Woodworth takes another look at the McLemore's Cove debacle. His concise discussion, from both sides, of the setup and event progression is well done. The article's outlining of the four principle reasons why the situation turned out as it did is also soundly argued. That intelligence provided by unionist civilians was of vital importance in the Union escape is, at least to this reader, a new interpretation on one of the campaign's more infamous episodes. I do think Woodworth's perspective of the Prairie Grove campaign is flawed, at least in how his interpretation of the general's defensive posture on the heights is used to highlight Thomas Hindman's role in aborted battles as indicative of a pattern of choking in big moments of weighty responsibility.

In a balanced manner, Alexander Mendoza's contribution looks at the sins of D.H. Hill, egregious though they were at both McLemore's Cove and the final day at Chickamauga. According to the author, although perhaps deserving of censure and removal, Hill was unfairly singled out for blame in the battle's aftermath, perhaps in part due to the North Carolinian's lack of political clout. It strikes one as a reasonable view.

Lee White's article details the leadership of A.P. Stewart. He finds "Old Straight"'s handling of his division on September 19, where his command temporarily pierced the federal center, to be the most skillful of any division commander for the entire battle. White goes even further in proclaiming that Stewart was the "only division commander in that army to have delivered a good performance at Chickamauga" (pg. 99), a lofty claim that begs for a detailed comparison of his colleagues beyond the scope of the article.

The September 19 night attack of Patrick Cleburne's division is chronicled in John Lundberg's essay, but I'm not sure he sufficiently makes the case that the assault's failure "cost the Confederates a chance for total victory" (pg. 113). Following this is a fresh look at James Longstreet's role in the battle by the dean of Chickamauga scholars, William Glenn Robertson. Longstreet's performance is highly praised in the literature, but Robertson's research finds that the deep column formation that was so successful in the battle was formed more by happenstance that any kind of thoughtful planning, and, overall, Longstreet's tactical approach was more typical of the common frontal attack than any kind of innovation.

In the second to last chapter, the unfortunate end of Union General James S. Negley's Civil War career is put under the microscope by David Powell. Though quite ill at the time, Negley performed competently in the Chickamauga campaign and battle up until September 20, when he unilaterally withdrew his intact and badly needed command, along with over 30 guns, from Snodgrass Hill without notifying his superiors, thus leaving his colleagues in the lurch. Along with meticulously reconstructing the day's events as they related to Negley, Powell deftly picks apart the general's case for his own defense. The final essay, by Timothy Smith, explores the post-war career of Army of the Cumberland veteran Henry Boynton, a hard charging journalist who later became a key figure in battlefield preservation and in the formation of the battlefield parks we see today, especially the Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP.

The book does suffer from one serious deficiency. Although the five maps provided are useful for general orientation, none are specifically associated with any of the articles. With no visual aids to guide readers through the many complicated and confusing tactical maneuvers so well detailed in many of the essays, their ability to impart a deeper level of clarity and understanding is significantly reduced. Nevertheless, these eight essays, all effectively written by prominent professional and avocational western theater scholars, comprise a multitude of fresh insights into an important and neglected campaign. The Chickamauga Campaign is highly recommended.
 

— Andrew Wagenhoffer

From the Publisher
“Intriguing and excellent analyses of the strategy, tactics, and leadership of both armies from the prelude leading up to the campaign to key engagements and the evolution of the battlefield into a national military park.  Required reading for an understanding of the complexities of the Chickamauga campaign."

—Michael B. Ballard, author of Vicksburg: The Campaign that Opened the Mississippi

“This book presents an insightful and multifaceted view of the Chickamauga Campaign.  This is must reading for anyone interested in an in-depth discussion of a major battle in the decisive West.”

—John F  Marszalek, executive director  of the Ulysses S. Grant Association, Mississippi State University

H-Net - Jennifer Murray
Command and Leadership at Chickamauga
Often overshadowed in light of the more popular battles of the Civil War’s eastern theater, the battle of Chickamauga stands as the largest battle of the western theater, and at approximately thirty-five thousand casualties also the bloodiest. It is also the only significant engagement Confederate forces won in the West. By the fall of 1863, Confederates forces in the West had endured a series of strategic defeats, often resulting in the loss of vital territory and resources. Capitalizing on earlier victories in Tennessee, General William Rosecrans, now commanding the Union’s Army of the Cumberland, sought a war of maneuver to force the Confederates out of Tennessee and northern Georgia. In early September General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee evacuated Chattanooga. Situated in the Cumberland Mountains, Chattanooga held strategic importance both as a vital railroad junction and as the gateway into the heartland of Dixie. On the night of September 18, Bragg, reinforced with units from the Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of General James Longstreet, positioned his army along the banks of the Chickamauga Creek, approximately twelve miles south from Chattanooga. The battle began on the following morning, September 19, and for the ensuing two days the armies struggled for supremacy of the field. The “high tide” of the battle occurred on September 20 when Confederate forces under the immediate command of General John Bell Hood assaulted the Federal center, thereby exploiting an unintentional gap in the Union line. As the Southern soldiers sought to gain the tactical advantage, Union General George Thomas rallied his troops to stave off complete disaster and earned himself the title “the Rock of Chickamauga.” Tactical victory came at a high cost for the victory deprived Army of Tennessee, sustaining approximately nineteen thousand casualties. Having gained possession of the battlefield, Bragg’s army moved to reclaim Chattanooga.
The Chickamauga Campaign, edited by Steven E. Woodworth, distinguished Civil War scholar and history professor at Texas Christian University, is the second volume in the Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland series. Seven of the eight essays examine and analyze the battle’s leaders and lost opportunities, while the final essay explores elements of the “new military history” by outlining the creation of Chickamauga National Military Park. Contributors include Ethan S. Rafuse, Woodworth, Alexander Mendoza, Lee White, John R. Lundberg, William G. Robertson, David Powell, and Timothy B. Smith.
The introductory essay, “In the Shadow of the Rock,” by Rafuse, professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, offers an evaluation of two neglected Union corps commanders, General Thomas Crittenden and General Alexander McCook, who indeed have stood in the shadow of George Thomas. Rafuse explores Crittenden and McCook’s leadership prior to the engagement at Chickamauga as an indictor of their performance during the battle and as a means of evaluation independently from the success of George Thomas. By the fall of 1863, on the one hand, McCook suffered from a damaged reputation in light of his poor performance at Perryville and Stones River. On the other hand, Crittenden’s men were not engaged at Perryville and, unlike McCook, Crittenden’s conduct at Stones River improved his reputation within the Army of the Cumberland. Evaluating their leadership at Chickamauga and particularly their involvement in the execution of the “fatal order” that removed General Thomas Wood’s division from the Union line, thus creating the gap that Thomas filled, Rafuse finds fallacies in both generals’ conduct. The War Department’s 1864 inquiry into the debacle at Chickamauga exonerated both McCook and Crittenden; however, neither general saw service in the Army of the Cumberland again. To this end, Rafuse concludes that such termination of McCook was justified because the general “did not possess the personal or intellectual qualities necessary to lead a corps effectively on a Civil War battlefield” (p. 41). Based on his pre-Chickamauga performance Crittenden’s removal, however, was unjustified. Rafuse contends that Crittenden’s “lapses in judgment” during the battle stand as an “aberration” to an otherwise solid career (p. 42).
Woodworth’s essay explores a “great military nonevent” at McLemore’s Cove when the Confederates had the opportunity to destroy portions of the Federal army as they passed through the mountain gaps around Chattanooga between September 9 and 11. Major General Thomas Hindman’s Confederates enjoyed numerical superiority, but their failure to capitalize on their advantages remains, according to Woodworth, “one of the most inexplicable missed opportunities” of the war (p. 65). Woodworth attributes this missed opportunity to four factors. First, he applauds the leadership of Union commanders, namely Major General James Negley, and their careful reconnaissance to accurately ascertain the enemy position. Second, Unionist civilians played an integral role in providing Union forces with accurate information on the Confederate position. Negley’s forces evaded disaster at McLemore’s Cove, in part, because of Hindman’s poor leadership. And finally, Woodworth concludes that the factious command within the Army of Tennessee undermined Bragg’s authority and his subordinates’ confidence in his abilities.
Expanding on evaluations of Union and Confederate leadership, Mendoza’s essay considers relations within the high command of the Army of Tennessee, focusing specifically on corps commander Daniel Harvey Hill. Following poor performance at Chickamauga, Bragg relieved Hill from command and subsequently transferred him out of the Army of Tennessee. Hill sought to restore his reputation and to return to active duty to no avail and consequently returned to North Carolina to witness the war’s final years as a civilian. Hill neglected to execute Bragg’s orders to move his corps to McLemore’s Cove in the hopes of trapping advance elements of the Union army maneuvering through mountain gaps toward Chickamauga Creek. Following this Pyrrhic victory, several of Bragg’s subordinates, including Longstreet and Hill, orchestrated a cabal to relieve the divisive general from command of the army. President Jefferson Davis, however, remained steadfast in his support for Bragg. Mendonza does not seek to justify Hill’s involvement in the effort to remove Bragg from command, but he does argue that Hill’s removal was unfair, namely, because other critics of Bragg, including Longstreet, Leonidas Polk, and Hindman remained on active duty.
Two essays evaluate the performance of division commanders within the Army of Tennessee. White’s essay offers the one positive interpretation of leadership within the Army of Tennessee. White argues that newly appointed Major General Alexander P. Stewart exhibited strong command and control during the battle. In addition to a solid battlefield performance, Stewart successfully straddled the factions within the high command, remaining on positive terms with Bragg and Polk, one of Bragg’s most vocal critics. Notwithstanding this performance, Bragg reorganized his army in the wake of Chickamauga, which resulted in the dismantling of Stewart’s division. Lundberg narrates yet another example of inadequate leadership from Major General Patrick Cleburne. Lundberg contends that had Cleburne assaulted the Federal left, held by Thomas, as Bragg initially ordered on the morning of September 20, the Union position would have collapsed.
In the wake of defeat at Gettysburg, Davis approved the transfer of Longstreet and his First Corps to join Bragg’s forces in Tennessee. In “Bull of the Woods?” Robertson evaluates the leadership of the much-maligned Longstreet. Recent scholars, led by Ezra Warner, William Piston, and Jeffrey Wert, have sought to restore the reputation of Robert E. Lee’s “old warhorse.” Chickamauga provides historians with the opportunity to evaluate Longstreet’s abilities outside of the long-casted shadow of Lee. Robertson contends that his campaign for a transfer out of the Army of Northern Virginia was based largely on personal motives. Longstreet recognized his career limitations as long as Lee remained in command of the Army of Northern Virginia and believed that he could provide better generalship to the western forces than Bragg. During the battle, Robertson concludes, Longstreet’s generalship was mediocre at best. He failed to capitalize on the breakthrough of the Union position and allowed the initial success to degenerate into a series of costly and futile frontal assaults against a strong position. Free of Lee’s shadow, Robertson concludes that Longstreet’s performance was “far less exceptional and far more average” than his supporters maintain. Instead, Longstreet “employed no innovative methods and showed no tactical brilliance” (p. 135).
In the final essay, Smith shifts the interpretive focus away from questions of battlefield leadership and addresses issues of the “new military” history by exploring the career of Henry Van Ness Boynton and his role in the preservation of Chickamauga National Military Park. Boynton, a veteran of the 35th Ohio, received the Medal of Honor for his valor on Chattanooga, but upon being wounded at Missionary Ridge spent the remainder of the war as a war correspondent for the Cincinnati Gazette. Boynton remained active in postwar affairs as a member of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland and a dutiful shaper of the memory of the Civil War and particularly the fighting at Snodgrass Hill. In 1888, nearly twenty-five years after local residents of Gettysburg established the nation’s first battlefield preservation organization, Boynton proposed the idea of creating a similar park at Chickamauga to fellow veterans of the Army of the Cumberland. The timing was appropriate. Boynton and other like-minded preservationists capitalized on the increasing patriotic sentiments of reconciliation to create battlefield memorials that sought to honor soldiers’ valor and also to bind the nation’s war wounds. His work was without precedent; Boynton drafted the legislation to introduce into Congress, termed the phrase “national military park,” and recommended that each newly created park be managed by a three-member commission. Boynton’s efforts came to fruition on September 18, 1895, with the creation of Chickamauga National Military Park. In addition to introducing the legislation to preserve Chickamauga, Smith argues that Boynton willingly molded the interpretation of Chickamauga by emphasizing the fighting at Snodgrass Hill, where Boynton and the 35th Ohio fought. Although at times downplaying earlier preservation efforts by the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, Smith finds Boynton’s work pioneering and titles him the “father of the modern military park movement” (p. 183).
The essays in Woodworth’s The Chickamauga Campaign offer a compelling study in command and leadership at the battle of Chickamauga. This work is not intended to provide a general overview of the campaign, but to explore specific events within the battle. Woodworth’s Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland works toward bringing due attention to the war’s western theater. When complete, these seventeen volumes will reenergize otherwise neglected campaigns and provide a more nuanced understanding of the decisiveness of the western engagements. In its entirety, this series will do for the western theater what Gary Gallagher’s edited campaign and battle series did for the war’s already popular eastern theater.
TOWOC-A Civil War Blog - James Durney
Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland is a brilliant series of essays edited by the historian Steven E. Woodworth. These books are not introductions to the campaign but to provide an in-depth examination of a person or event in the campaign. Each essay is by an experienced historian, with excellent writing skills with knowledge of the subject. Steven E. Woodworth’s talents as an editor make this an outstanding series. All essays are intelligent and detailed without being boring or losing the intended reader. The result is a thought provoking enjoyable learning experience.

“The Chickamauga Campaign’ is no exception and might be the better than “The Shiloh Campaign”. The selection of subjects and authors results is an in-depth look at the campaign and personalities. The essays fully capture the complexities while building our understanding of these events.....

The writers are historians and each essay is complete with footnotes. A series of maps orientates the reader on the battlefield and in the area of the campaign. An index and short bios of the contributors completes the book.

This is a series that anyone with an interest in the Western Campaigns needs in their library. Each book is will designed; the essays are intelligent, informative and great reading.

Civil War Books and Authors - Andrew Wagenhoffer
The second volume from SIU Press and editor Steven Woodworth's Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland series, The Chickamauga Campaign is kicked off by historian Ethan Rafuse, whose essay provides a lengthy descriptive and analytical discussion of the role of Union corps commanders Alexander McCook and Thomas Crittenden in the campaign. Both officers have a fairly terrible martial reputation in the literature, but Rafuse makes a solid case that they performed at least competently up until Chickamauga's second day, where both promptly blew it. Ultimately, McCook and Crittenden were both relieved, although they were exonerated by a subsequent court of inquiry into their Chickamauga performances. In terms of the Army of the Cumberland's future, their removals for the best, but Rafuse believes the more competent Crittenden was the more ill used of the two.

In the second essay, general editor Steven Woodworth takes another look at the McLemore's Cove debacle. His concise discussion, from both sides, of the setup and event progression is well done. The article's outlining of the four principle reasons why the situation turned out as it did is also soundly argued. That intelligence provided by unionist civilians was of vital importance in the Union escape is, at least to this reader, a new interpretation on one of the campaign's more infamous episodes. I do think Woodworth's perspective of the Prairie Grove campaign is flawed, at least in how his interpretation of the general's defensive posture on the heights is used to highlight Thomas Hindman's role in aborted battles as indicative of a pattern of choking in big moments of weighty responsibility.

In a balanced manner, Alexander Mendoza's contribution looks at the sins of D.H. Hill, egregious though they were at both McLemore's Cove and the final day at Chickamauga. According to the author, although perhaps deserving of censure and removal, Hill was unfairly singled out for blame in the battle's aftermath, perhaps in part due to the North Carolinian's lack of political clout. It strikes one as a reasonable view.

Lee White's article details the leadership of A.P. Stewart. He finds "Old Straight"'s handling of his division on September 19, where his command temporarily pierced the federal center, to be the most skillful of any division commander for the entire battle. White goes even further in proclaiming that Stewart was the "only division commander in that army to have delivered a good performance at Chickamauga" (pg. 99), a lofty claim that begs for a detailed comparison of his colleagues beyond the scope of the article.

The September 19 night attack of Patrick Cleburne's division is chronicled in John Lundberg's essay, but I'm not sure he sufficiently makes the case that the assault's failure "cost the Confederates a chance for total victory" (pg. 113). Following this is a fresh look at James Longstreet's role in the battle by the dean of Chickamauga scholars, William Glenn Robertson. Longstreet's performance is highly praised in the literature, but Robertson's research finds that the deep column formation that was so successful in the battle was formed more by happenstance that any kind of thoughtful planning, and, overall, Longstreet's tactical approach was more typical of the common frontal attack than any kind of innovation.

In the second to last chapter, the unfortunate end of Union General James S. Negley's Civil War career is put under the microscope by David Powell. Though quite ill at the time, Negley performed competently in the Chickamauga campaign and battle up until September 20, when he unilaterally withdrew his intact and badly needed command, along with over 30 guns, from Snodgrass Hill without notifying his superiors, thus leaving his colleagues in the lurch. Along with meticulously reconstructing the day's events as they related to Negley, Powell deftly picks apart the general's case for his own defense. The final essay, by Timothy Smith, explores the post-war career of Army of the Cumberland veteran Henry Boynton, a hard charging journalist who later became a key figure in battlefield preservation and in the formation of the battlefield parks we see today, especially the Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP.

The book does suffer from one serious deficiency. Although the five maps provided are useful for general orientation, none are specifically associated with any of the articles. With no visual aids to guide readers through the many complicated and confusing tactical maneuvers so well detailed in many of the essays, their ability to impart a deeper level of clarity and understanding is significantly reduced. Nevertheless, these eight essays, all effectively written by prominent professional and avocational western theater scholars, comprise a multitude of fresh insights into an important and neglected campaign. The Chickamauga Campaign is highly recommended.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809329809
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2010
  • Series: Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 537,847
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Winner of the Grady McWhiney Award of the Dallas Civil War Round Table for lifetime contribution to the study of Civil War History, Steven E. Woodworth is a professor of history at Texas Christian University. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of twenty-seven books, including The Shiloh Campaign, Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861–1865, Jefferson Davis and His Generals, and Davis and Lee at War.

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  • Posted May 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent book

    Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland is a brilliant series of essays edited by the historian Steven E. Woodworth. These books are not introductions to the campaign but to provide an in-depth examination of a person or event in the campaign. Each essay is by an experienced historian, with excellent writing skills with knowledge of the subject. Steven E. Woodworth's talents as an editor make this an outstanding series. All essays are intelligent and detailed without being boring or losing the intended reader. The result is a thought provoking enjoyable learning experience.
    "The Chickamauga Campaign' is no exception and might be the better than "The Shiloh Campaign". The selection of subjects and authors results is an in-depth look at the campaign and personalities. The essays fully capture the complexities while building our understanding of these events.
    Ethan S. Rafuse leads off with a look at the "other" Union Corps commanders, Thomas L. Crittenden and Alexander M. McCook. This essay provides an overview of the campaign and resulting battle by following their actions. A well-established author, he looks at the Army of the Cumberland and the results of the defeat. Part politics, part military history, part army management 101 this is an excellent essay.
    McLemore's Cove is a major event in the campaign. Bragg had a chance to destroy a Union division and badly damage Rosecrans here. Steven E. Woodworth provides a balanced look at what did and did not happen and why.
    Alexander Mendoza continues his excellent work with a look at D. H. Hill, Chickamauga and the questions caused. This looks at how long the war of words lasted and the impact the war had on the lives of the men who fought it.
    Lee White is starting to emerge as a speaker and writer. His work as a historian and ranger at Chickamauga show in his essay on A. P. Stewart.
    John R. Lundberg looks at one of the few planned night attacks during the war. This is a detailed look at Cleburne's attack, the reasons for it, the planning or lack of planning, the attack and what it costs. This is a critical look at decision making in the Army of Tennessee with just a whiff of desperation.
    William G. Robertson takes a critical look at James Longstreet and the breakthrough. He first looks at Longstreet's reception, orders and knowledge his command. As the attack occurs, we follow Longstreet through the day seeing just what impact he has on the battle.
    David Powell brings his expertise to bear in an essay on Negley at Horseshoe Ridge. Back on the Union side, we follow their army management and how Negley reacts to differing orders. We follow the fighting, his withdrawal and the ongoing questions this caused.
    Most historians do not write about the founding of the National Military Parks. Timothy B. Smith is an exception to this rule. He has written on the development of Shiloh and here looks at Henry Van Ness Boynton. Boynton was instrumental in the development of the idea for the parks. In addition, he was a founder of the Chickamauga Park. This essay opens this area of Civil War history to a wider audience. This very enjoyable essay departs from the normal "Battles and Leaders" history.
    The writers are historians and each essay is complete with footnotes. A series of maps orientates the reader on the battlefield and in the area of the campaign. An index and short bios of the contributors completes the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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