This Day in Georgia Civil War History
September 19, 1863
Battle of Chickamauga Began
The Battle of Chickamauga began; it was the first major Civil War battle fought on Georgia soil. Union General William Rosecrans was trying to gather his forces at Lee and Gordon’s Mills, while Confederate General Braxton Bragg was trying to isolate and destroy a separated portion of the Union army. Bragg’s army had recently been reinforced by troops from Mississippi and east Tennessee, with more from Virginia still on the way - thus making this battle a Civil War oddity in which the Confederate troops outnumbered the Union (although the advantage was very small). With the Confederate army advancing, Rosecrans feared his supply lines to Chattanooga might be severed, so he ordered General George H. Thomas to move north to secure them. Thomas encountered what he thought was a small Confederate force; he sent a small detachment of troops to either destroy or drive them away. In fact, it was a considerable force of Confederate cavalry. Both sides called for reinforcements as the fighting began, and as they arrived the battle began in earnest. Eventually the battle line stretched almost four miles, amongst heavily wooded areas. Repeated Confederate assaults along various parts of the lines resulted in some movement, but they could not win a complete breakthrough on this day. As night fell, the Union army still was intact, along with its supply line to Chattanooga. They pulled back along the main road in the area - the Lafayette Road - and strengthened their defensive positions.
Meanwhile, late in the evening, native Georgian James Longstreet arrived on the battlefield with the majority of his troops. Bragg subsequently divided his army in two - one wing under Longstreet and the other under General Leonidas Polk, who had borne the brunt of the first day’s fighting. They prepared their plans of attack for the following morning.