Sunday, September 22, 2013

Retreat to Chattanooga, Sept. 21 - 22, 1863

The Federals never intended to make Rossville a permanent defensive position because it was too easily outflanked from the north or west.  By the night of September 21, the Army of the Cumberland had recovered some of its organization after the disaster of the previous day.  The Army trains were either back in Chattanooga or on their way to Bridgeport, beyond immediate danger. Accordingly, after dark, Rosecrans ordered Thomas to withdraw to Chattanooga, occupying the old defensive lines first erected by Bragg's men when the Rebels held the town....[with Thomas in the center, Crittenden on his left and McCook on his right]...

Only a handful of Federals remained outside those lines as a rear guard.  Minty's Cavalry covered Rossville Gap, infantry detachments [Dick's Brigade] watched Missionary Ridge to the north, and Brig. Gen. James G. Spears' Federal East Tennessee brigade defended the northern end of Lookout Mountain.  Other Union troops [under Whitaker] crossed over to the northern bank of the Tennessee River to protect against Rebels crossing either upstream or downstream.  [Powell and Friedrichs, page 254]

These remaining outposts were challenged by the full force of Longstreet and Polk and all except Whittaker on the northern bank were forced to withdraw behind  the perimeter of Chattanooga's defensive lines.  With the Yankees so compressed and fortified, a new plan would be needed if Bragg was to destroy Rosecrans once and for all.

Colonel Stout's report of September 24, 1863 provides the only record of the actions of the Seventeenth during these two critical days. 

On The 21st,.. 

... we moved to the left up and along the mountain range bounding the Chattanooga Valley on the east; took position and remained until 11 o'clock that night, when we moved within a mile of this place and camped
On the morning of the 22nd, we joined you here. I had sent out an officer on the 21st to find you, and he returned after night with an order from you to join the brigade at once, but General Wood detained us. General Wood and Colonel Buell treated us with great kindness. My men had shot away their 60 rounds of ammunition.  []

The cost of the campaign was frightful.  Officially, Rosecrans reported 16,179 killed, wounded and missing.  Bragg reported 17,804, but 18,500 is probably a more accurate estimate for the Rebel army.  [Powell and Friedrichs, page 256]

Of the 487 men of the Seventeenth Kentucky that officially were engaged at Chickamauga, six men were killed, 105 wounded and 15 reported missing for a total of 126 casualties by the time this battle was over. The totals for their brigade were 1,384 engaged, 16 killed, 254 wounded and 61 missing for a total of 331 casualties. [Powell and Friedrichs, page 272]

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