Wheeler's Raid "A Rush For Sequatchie Valley" October 1 - 9, 1863
After losing the Battle of Chickamauga, Union Gen. William S. Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland had retreated to Chattanooga, TN, where they were soon besieged by Rebel Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee. A narrow, winding road through the Sequatchie Valley was the sole, tenuous supply line to the Union army. Bragg ordered Gen. Joseph Wheeler to take three divisions of cavalry and disrupt the Sequatchie Valley lifeline to Rosecrans's hungry army. Wheeler protested that his men and horses were too worn out for such a "desperate mission", and many of his officers predicted that at least half of the command would be lost, but Bragg was adamant.
Wheeler led his men northeast from Chattanooga up the south side of the Tennessee River. Along the way they were watched from the other side by Union cavalry who were ready to dispute any attempted crossing. On October 1, 1863, Wheeler, annoyed at the persistent Union shadow, ordered his men to force their way across the river near Washington, TN. A storm of gunfire from the opposite bank greeted the Rebels as they forced their horses through the swift three-foot-deep current. Ignoring the cries of their wounded, they pushed on across the wide river, emerged on the opposite bank, charged into the woods, and routed the blue-clad enemy. Thus began one of the most audacious and successful raids of the Civil War.
Union cavalry Gen. George Crook notified Rosecrans that the Rebels had crossed the river. The next day, while Wheeler's troopers plodded up Walden's Ridge- the height that separated them from the Sequatchie Valley- Rosecrans hurriedly began assigning reinforcements to protect his precious supply line. Just before dark on October 2, the Confederate horsemen reached the crest of Walden's Ridge and looked down into the darkening valley. At the same time Crook, with Rosecrans's admonition- "They must not be allowed to enter Sequatchie!"- echoing in his head, arrived at the base of the ridge.
Fascinating Fact: "It was impossible for me to resist the crossing, as there was no ford at the river where they crossed, until they made it last night", was the explanation Crook gave Rosecrans for the Rebels' successful crossing of the Tennessee River.
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