Battle of Chickamauga "A Disastrous Mistake" September 19-20, 1863
All day long on September 19, 1863, Confederate soldiers under the command of Gen. Braxton Bragg and Union forces under Gen. William S. Rosecrans had fought a vicious battle of attack and counterattack along the four-mile front near Chickamauga Creek in northern Georgia. The Rebel attacks had come close to breaking the Union line on several occasions, but the soldiers in blue had managed to stave off the swarms of Rebel troops, and the line was still intact. Both sides had suffered tremendous casualties, and all knew that the contest would resume the next day.
A haggard General Rosecrans was up early the next morning making adjustments in the positioning of the commands in the Union defensive line. The left of his line came under attack before 10:00am, and in the confusion of all the troop movements going on behind the Union lines, Rosecrans made a disastrous mistake: In one section near the center of the Union lines the soldiers were so well concealed in the trees that Rosecrans thought there was a gap. To fill it, he brought up a division from another section of the line, unfortunately creating a real quarter-mile gap in his line. Confederate Gen. James Longstreet's soldiers, who had by happenstance recently arrived from the Army of Northern Virginia, were able to go yelling and charging through the gap, thereby splitting the Union line in two.
Half the Union army was swept away by the furious attack made by 23,000 men in three Confederate divisions. The Union soldiers were panic-stricken, and the entire right of Rosecrans's line, most of the five divisions, vanished as the blue soldiers struggled to stay out of the Rebels' way. Rosecrans was in the path of the retreating soldiers and was swept away with them. A jubilant Longstreet turned his gray horde to the right. He would throw his men at the other end of the Union line, commanded by Gen. George H. Thomas. If he could defeat them, the entire federal army would be destroyed.
Fascinating Fact: Gen. Thomas J. Wood, commander of the troops Rosecrans moved to fill the nonexistent gap, knew there was no gap in the line. But he had recently been upbraided by Rosecrans for not following orders, and he was afraid not to do exactly as told, even though he knew it to be a terrible mistake.
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