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1863 September 26: Battle of Chickamauga, and Other News

September 27, 2013

Following is The Polk County Press summary of the week’s news, published on September 26, 1863, and one item from The Prescott Journal of September 26.

The first report concerns the Battle of Chickamauga, which took place on September 19-20, 1863, in northwest Georgia.  General William S. Rosecrans led the Union forces and General Braxton Bragg the Confederate.  The final article, from the Journal, and is its only mention for the week of the events that became known as the Battle of Chickamauga.

Bragg, who had abandoned Chattanooga on September 8, was determined to reoccupy the city and decided to meet Rosecrans’ army, defeat it, and then move back into Chattanooga. On the second day of battle, Rosecrans moved part of his army to filled a supposed gap in his line, thus creating an actual gap through which Confederate General James Longstreet sent eight brigades.  Longstreet’s attack drove one-third of the Union army—including Rosecrans himself—from the field.  The Confederates launched several follow-up assaults, but Union General George H. Thomas and his men held their line.  When evening came the Union forces retired to Chattanooga while the Confederates occupied the surrounding heights and besieged the city.  Thomas’ determination to hold his position—while Rosecrans and the other Union generals fled—earned him the nickname “Rock of Chickamauga.”  The battle was the most significant Union defeat in the Civil War’s Western Theater and involved the second highest number of casualties in the War (the Battle of Gettysburg being the highest).

From The Polk County Press:

The News.

On the morning of the 19th desperate engagement commenced between the Army of the Cumberland under Gen. ROSECRANS , and the rebel army under BRACG , in the vicinity of Crawfish Springs, Ga., about 20 miles from Chatanooga [sic], Tenn.  This day (Saturday,) the engagement was fierce and bloody, and the enemy were repulsed with heavy loss.  ROSECRANS’ left was driven back once but recovered its ground again.  ROSECRANS took ten guns and lost seven this day.  The losses on both sides were very heavy.

On Sunday the attack was renewed and the rebels, being strongly reinforced by troops from LEE’S [Robert E. Lee] and BEAUREGARD’S [P.G.T. Beauregard] armies, overpowered ROSECRANS’ left, forcing him to fall back.  ROSECRANS then withdrew to Chatanooga [sic] with his whole army.—On Monday another engagement took place between the left of our army under Gen. THOMAS, and the rebels in large force, supposed to be Gen. LONGSTREET’S corps, from LEE’S army.  The enemy were badly beaten, and forced to retreat.  Gen. THOMAS marched into Chatanooga [sic] with his corps on Monday, and took up his position in the new line of defense.  On Tuesday Gen. ROSECRANS had concentrated his forces at Chatanooga [sic], and was receiving heavy reinforcements from GRANT’S [Ulysses S. Grant] army and from other points.  His soldiers are still in good spirits and confident of success in defeating the rebels on Tuesday or Wednesday.  It will be sometime before we shall get the whole particulars of these engagements.  As it appears now, we think it about a drawn battle.

Battle of Chickamauga, by Kurz & Allison (see footnote 1)

Battle of Chickamauga, by Kurz & Allison (see footnote 1)

The news from the Potomac Army is exciting.  The whole army is in motion, and advancing on Gordonsville.  LEE’S army is reported to be 40,000 strong awaiting an attack.—A battle will doubtless have been fought before out next issue.

Gen. BLUNT [James G. Blunt] has cleaned the rebels out of the Indian Territory, capturing Fort Smith and driving the rebels in every direction.

Gen. STEELE [Frederick Steele] has captured Little Rock, Ark., and driven the rebels out of that portion of the State.

The siege of Charleston is progressing favorably.  Heavy storms have prevented important operations during the past week.

On the whole we think the news of the week more cheering that disheartening.  We trust the clouds will soon be brightened by the light of glorious victories.

From The Prescott Journal:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23d, 1863.

Gen. Graham² who commanded one of our brigades at Gettysburg, and was taken prisoner and conveyed to Richmond, has recently been exchanged, and reached here this morning.

Gen. Graham has communicated important information to the Government.  He is satisfied that only two of Longstreet’s divisions, with his artillery, have been sent to Bragg.  In addition to this force he says that two brigades and the Wise Legion, under Pickett, have been detailed to reinforce Bragg.

Gen. Graham says he saw eighty-one pieces of artillery in Richmond on its way South.

He says the news of the battles fought between Bragg and Rosecrans was a disappointment to the rebel authorities at Richmond.  They expected to hear that Rosecrans had been annihilated, and that Bragg had re-taken East Tennessee, instead of which Richmond was in mourning for the losses Rosecrans had inflicted on Bragg.

1.  “Battle of Chickamauga, Sept. 19′ & 20′, 1863.” This digital image is from an original 1890 Kurz & Allison print, available at the Library of Congress. The UWRF University Archives & Area Research Center has in its Special Collections a copy of Battles of the Civil War: The Complete Kurz & Allison Prints, 1861-1865, Birmingham, Ala.: Oxmoor House, 1976 (Oversized E 468.7 .B3 1976), which includes a copy of this print.
2.  Charles Kinnaird Graham (1824-1889) was a sailor in the United States Navy as a young man and served in the Mexican War. With the start of the Civil War he became colonel of the 74th New York Infantry. In November 1862 he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers. At the Battle of Chancellorsville he commanded the 1st Brigade in the 1st Division, III Corps. During the Battle of Gettysburg, Graham was wounded and taken prisoner on July 2. He was sent to a prison camp in Richmond, Virginia, until he was exchanged on September 19, 1863.  After recovering, he was given command of a gunboat flotilla on the James River called the “Naval Brigade,” which he led during the First Battle of Fort Fisher. Following that, Graham was given commanded of the defenses of Bermuda Hundred and later the garrison of Norfolk, Virginia. In March 1865, he was appointed a brevet major general of volunteers. After the war, Graham returned to the practice of civil engineering, including being the surveyor of the port of New York from 1878 to 1883.

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