How Important was Chickamauga?

It goes without saying that Chickamauga was one of the toughest battles of the war (as was Stones River). But it remains to be seen as to how important it really was, except insofar as it set the stage for Chattanooga and Grant’s rise to supreme command. Was it simply another one of those missed opportunities that we hear so much about when it comes to the Confederates, or was there something more to it?

You tell me.

6 thoughts on “How Important was Chickamauga?

  1. Buck Buchanan September 20, 2013 / 1:13 pm

    Well it gave a really cool nickname to my Infantry regiment where I served as company commander! The 19th Infantry stood as part of King’s Brigade at Snodgrass Hill with Thomas and shares the nickname The Rock of Chickamauga.

    I believe the greatest outcome was the failure of the Army of Tennessee to exploit their success eventually resulted even Jeff Davis from losing faith in Braxton Bragg.

    It also set the stage for Longstreet to become the only Confederate commander to lose to Burnside.

  2. Lyle Smith September 20, 2013 / 2:23 pm

    I’m not sure it was that important. Chattanooga was the main objective point of the campaign that Rosecrans had started and the battle of Chickamauga did not end in Rosecrans losing Chattanooga.

    I’m also not sure the Confederates could have mounted an offensive campaign to drive the Army of the Cumberland completely out of the Cumberland Plateau and back into Middle Tennessee. They may could have destroyed the Army of the Cumberland in part, but probably not enough to make it flee from Chattanooga or capture/destroy it there. I’m not expert enough to really know though.

    • Lyle Smith September 20, 2013 / 2:31 pm

      Although what makes Chickamauga important is that the Confederates blunted Rosecrans attempt to destroy them and/or drive them further back towards Atlanta, if not eventually capture Atlanta, and this gave northern Democrats a defeat to campaign against Lincoln on. Trying to capture Atlanta would also have to wait until 1864, a Presidential election year.

      • Stephen Graham September 20, 2013 / 10:36 pm

        That’s the important point. The importance of the battle is not only what the Confederates might have achieved with their success. It’s also what the Union would have been able to achieve after securing Chattanooga. There would have been no need to divert resources to the relief of Chattanooga nor would there have been as much of a threat to Knoxville. That presents a different set of operational choices for the winter of 1863 and 1864.

        We also shouldn’t overlook the effect of another loss on the Army of Tennessee at that point. In addition to the on-going command crisis, the disintegration that started in November would have begun in September. There’s likely a less powerful AoT for the 1864 campaigns.

  3. John Foskett September 20, 2013 / 3:02 pm

    I have difficulty coming uo with a more fruitless tactical victory or a more meaningless tactical defeat than Chickamauga in a war full of pretty fruitless combat.(and I’m including such inconclusive productions as The Wilderness). As Lyle points out, the important target was Chattanooga, not the fields and woods down by the River of Death. If we think that putting Grant in command and the ensuing banishment of Bragg’s army to Georgia was a necessary step in his progession to taking over in Virginia, I guess that’s the significance.But I could well be missing something.

  4. SF Walker September 21, 2013 / 6:05 am

    Bragg traded about 17,000 of his men in return for trapping the Army of the Cumberland in Chattanooga for two months. Strategically, that’s about all his victory at Chickamauga produced. Had Longstreet and his corps not been there, Bragg probably wouldn’t even have won the battle, based on his previous performances.

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