Chickamauga and Chattanooga: The Battles That Doomed the Confederacy

Chickamauga and Chattanooga: The Battles That Doomed the Confederacy

by John Bowers

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780380725090
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/01/1995
Edition description: REPRINT
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

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In 1863 the country was, populated by slightly more than thirty-four million people and was referred to in the plural: "The United States are," not "The United States is." The singular usage would come later. The Civil War now raged. Harper's Weekly, in 1863, put it this way: "We are engaged in a war in which they wilt conquer us, or we shall conquer them. They are coming to the Lakes, or we are going to the Gulf. The victory on one side or the other will be radical and final. It will be a social as well as a military victory. It will be like the Normans in England."

At may be thought that the country stood still while such a momentous event was going on. It did not. A new society was taking shape—because of the war, and, in some cases, despite it. On May 5, 1863, Joe Coburn won the heavyweight boxing title by knocking out Mike McCoole in sixty-three rounds in Charleston, Maryland. A new craze was sweeping the heartland-roller skating. James L. Plimpton had devised a four-wheel skate that allowed skaters to change direction by shifting weight from one side to the other. The craze started in New York and soon spread through out the country; the Chicago Casino could accommodate 3,000 spectators and 1,000 skaters, and a San, Francisco rink advertised 5,000 skates for rent. In Virginia City miners witnessed the triumphant performance of one Adah Isaacs Menken, who, at the close of her singing. and vaudevillian act, was strapped to the back of a wild horse, in a flimsy gauze garment, and driven up a mountain trail to a wildly cheering audience who stood on chairs. In New York General Tom Thumb took as his bride Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump on February 10, 1863. It wasthe summer of the antidraft riots in New York that claimed 1,000 dead or wounded before Federal troops restored order. It was the year in which Edward Everett Hate wrote The Man Without a Country, and toward the close of the year, on November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address. Stonewall Jackson died that year—on May 10—a few days after his victory at Chancellorsville. It was the year of Chickamauga, an Indian word that is said by some to mean "River of Death."

The soldier, in gray who commanded, the Army of Tennessee was tall, somber, and sickly thin—4 man whose most prominent feature was a pair of majestic eyebrows that formed a straight bushy line beneath a wide forehead. You didn't know where one left off, and the other began; it was as if he had but one long wide eyebrow. His -beard and hair were flecked with gray, his grayish-green Scotch, Irish eyes often reflecting pain or rage, seldom anything in between., One look and you knew that here was a man, who had. seen trouble—someone. who would deal it out, too. He might not be a boon, companion, a good old boy, or a Man with manners wrapped in magnolia and moonbeams, and although he was born in North Carolina, rather than Virginia or Louisiana, Braxton Bragg was as Southern as Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson or Pierre G. T. Beauregard. He may have been crazy; he certainly Was strange. He loved to write letters, orders, memoranda-and always sought the final word, the final say. In another guise he could have been one of those crackpots who pen eccentric whining letters to the editor of a small daily, pointing out the errors of all save himself, latching on to some minor civic matter—a sewage ordinance or landfill'and worrying it like a dog with a bone. He had the unusual quality of being perpetually tenacious and perversely ineffectual. But he was not, in 1863, reduced to writing letters to the editor of a small town paper. He wore the gold braid of a general. His Army of Tennessee was all that stood between the Federal Army of the Cumberland and its entrance I through the gateway to the sea, at Chattanooga. At that moment, in the entire Confederacy, it had been left to Bragg to stave off the Federal advance and save the cause.

In January 1863, he had taken pen to hand and written a round robin letter to all his generals. Sitting hunched over, cadaverous, at his campaign desk, busily dipping his steel stylus In black ink and then furiously scribbling, he ostensibly wanted to know what they thought of him. He asked for the generals candid views of his capacity to command; also, by the. way he wanted them to admit that they had recommended retreating from Murfreesboro. The battle of Murfreesboro, or Stone's River, had taken place on New Year's Eve, 1862, and ended in a Confederate I retreat On January 3, 1863. Even though Bragg's army Was left in relative control I of its position, the men had retreated—fallen back, tucked it in, withdrawn. In Bragg's mind it hadn't been his fault. His generals had been responsible. Back came their replies, with little time, wasted, every one testy.

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