1863 One Hundred And Twenty-five Years Ago

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On November 19 a dedication ceremony took place at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at the site of the recent Battle of Gettysburg. The featured speaker, Edward Everett, a Greek scholar and former senator, delivered a stirring two-hour oration. President Lincoln, invited to give “a few appropriate remarks,” read a suprisingly brief address that began “Fourscore and seven years ago. …”

The disastrous Union defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga left the Army of the Cumberland besieged at Chattanooga. Gen. Ulysses Grant and his troops came to the rescue, forcing open a supply line via Brown’s Ferry. The “cracker line” kept the army from starving as reinforcements trickled in.

Gen. Braxton Bragg committed a grave tactical error when he dispatched part of his force to retrieve Knoxville from Union hands. Thus diminished, the Rebel line partially encircling Chattanooga was ill prepared for the decisive battle to come.

On November 24 Gen. Joseph Hooker and his Army of the Potomac attacked the Confederate left, while Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and the Army of the Tennessee came in from the right. The following day the Army of the Cumberland, now under Gen. George Thomas, advanced in a furious charge that drove the Confederates from their position into a headlong retreat.

The decisive Battle of Chattanooga was a major setback for a Confederacy still shaken from defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Braxton Bragg’s demoralized army went into winter quarters in Dalton, Georgia, to wait until spring.