On these fields and in the woods surrounding a small creek in
northwest Georgia, Union and Confederate armies clashed during the
fall of 1863 (September 19-20) in some of the hardest fighting of the
Civil War. An Alabama Infantry Regiment, the 19th Alabama,
fought in this battle as it had done so in other western battles
since Shiloh. This regiment was composed of men from northeast
Alabama. As in most Confederate regiments, the members of the 19th
were not plantation owners, rather they were farmers, shopkeepers and
common everyday folk. They heard their nation's call to arms and were
mustered into service in September 1861. The men of the regiment
fought and died largely unknown to history. It might be said that the
19th was a typical infantry unit...not flashy, but steady.
At Chickamauga the 19th had a part in an uncommon sight for the Army of Tennessee, the routing of a Federal army from the field. The second day of battle at Chickamauga was probably the 19th's greatest day in all the war. On that day, the 19th was part of the left wing of the Army of Tennessee as it broke through the Federal line and drove the Army of the Cumberland from the field. This virtual tour is designed to describe in words and pictures what the 19th saw and did on those few days in September 1863.
The prize was Chattanooga, key rail center and gateway to the heart of the Confederacy. The campaign that brought the armies to the banks of Chickamauga Creek began late in June, 1863 when General William S. Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland, almost 60,000 strong, moved from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, against General Braxton Bragg's 43,000 Army of Tennessee. Six months earlier, these same armies clashed at Stones River (Murfreesboro) where, after a three day battle, the Confederates retreated after a "near victory." Now, once more, through a series of skillful marches, Rosecrans forced the Army of Tennessee to withdraw southeastward toward Chattanooga. There Bragg dug in northeast of the city expecting an attack from Rosecrans in that area that never came. Early in September, the Federals crossed the Tennessee River to the southeast of Chattanooga and again forced Bragg to withdraw without a fight.
Eluding his Federal pursuers, Bragg concentrated his forces at LaFayette, Georgia, 26 miles south of Chattanooga. Here reinforcements from East Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi swelled his ranks to more than 66,000 men. Thinking that Bragg was in full retreat, Rosecrans split his army into smaller commands and swung the various parts south over Lookout Mountain trying to catch Bragg. However, Bragg was not in retreat, rather Bragg was moving to catch and destroy these isolated commands. Twice he tried unsuccessfully to destroy segments of Rosecrans' army as they crossed the Lookout Mountain range. Alerted to the fact that Bragg was not in retreat, Rosecrans begin concentrating his troops along the LaFayette Road near the Lee and Gordon Mill. Then, on September 18, hoping to wedge his troops between the Federals and Chattanooga, Bragg posted his army on the west bank of Chickamauga Creek along a line from Reed's Bridge to just opposite Lee and Gordon's Mill.
Fighting began shortly after dawn on September 19 when Union infantry encountered Confederate cavalry (Forrest) at Jay's Mill. This brought on a general battle that spread south for nearly four miles The armies fought all day on the 19th and gradually the Confederates pushed the Federals back to LaFayette Road. On the 20th Bragg again tried to drive between the Federal force and Chattanooga, but failed to dislodge Rosecrans' line. Then the fortunes of war changed in favor of the Confederates when, due to a staff error, Rosecrans ordered a division (Woods) to close on the division to his north. This movement created a gap where by chance General James Longstreet's right wing was attacking. As the Confederates poured through the Federal line much of the Federal right, including General Rosecrans, were routed from the field.
The 19th Alabama Infantry Regiment (Deas' Brigade, Hindman's Division) took part in this breakthrough. The following is a tour of the ground that the 19th traveled over on September 19 in preparation for the battle and the ground they fought on during that long day of September 20, 1863.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, Or close the wall up with our English dead! In peace there 's nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility; But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger: Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood. King Henry V, Act iii. Sc. 1.
Please direct any comments regarding this project to Mark Williams.