I know it's not sexy to break things down to simple explanations, and we'd
all prefer to blame every shortcoming on deep character flaws. However, I
think much of Rosecrans's failure can be laid at the foot of sleep
depravation (Negley too for that matter). He would have been wise perhaps
to cut short his all-nighters discussing religion with Garfield.
From: Rick Moody [mailto:r_moody@...
Sent: Sunday, January 02, 2005 6:10 PM
Subject: [civilwarwest] Woods Gap
I have always preferred to read the memoirs of the
fighting men and certainly the generals of the war.
They give us a inside view of what was on their minds
and the strategies they were trying to implement.
Here are a few excerpts from Sheridans memoirs (from
the public domain) concerning General Rosecrans and
the causes for the union losses at Chickamauga.
excerpts from Chapter XV
"The manoeuvres by which Rosecrans had carried his
army over the Cumberland Mountains, crossed the
Tennessee River, and possessed himself of Chattanooga,
merit the highest commendation up to the abandonment
of this town by Bragg on the 8th of September; but I
have always fancied that that evacuation made
Rosecrans over-confident, and led him to think that he
could force Bragg south as far as Rome."
and more of Chapter XV
"McCook was almost constantly on the march day and
night between the 13th and the 19th, ascending and
descending mountains, his men worried and wearied, so
that when they appeared on the battle-field, their
fatigued condition operated greatly against their
efficiency. This delay in concentration was also the
original cause of the continuous shifting toward our
left to the support of Thomas, by which manoeuvre
Rosecrans endeavored to protect his communications
with Chattanooga, and out of which grew the intervals
that offered such tempting opportunities to Bragg. In
addition to all this, much transpired on the field of
battle tending to bring about disaster. There did not
seem to be any well-defined plan of action in the
fighting; and this led to much independence of
judgment in construing orders among some of the
subordinate generals. It also gave rise to much
license in issuing orders: too many people were giving
important directions, affecting the whole army,
without authority from its head. In view, therefore,
of all the errors that were committed from the time
Chattanooga fell into our hands after our first
crossing the Tennessee, it was fortunate that the
Union defeat was not more complete, that it left in
the enemy's possession not much more than the barren
results arising from the simple holding of the ground
on which the engagement was fought.
excerpt from Chapter XVI
On the 19th of October, after turning the command over
to Thomas, General Rosecrans quietly slipped away from
the army. He submitted uncomplainingly to his
removal, and modestly left us without fuss or
demonstration; ever maintaining, though, that the
Chickamauga was in effect a victory, as it had ensured
us, he said, the retention of Chattanooga. When his
departure became known deep and almost universal
regret was expressed, for he was enthusiastically
esteemed and loved by the Army of the Cumberland, from
the day he assumed command of it until he left it,
notwithstanding the censure poured upon him after the
It is clear to me that Sheridan places blame for the
defeat at Chickamauga at the foot of Rosecrans. No
where could I find a criticism of Woods is his
In the "Army of the Cumberland by Henry M. Cist"
Chapter XII. The Battle of Chickamauga.
The author is very critical of Wood is this book and
definitely suggests a lack of professionalism on his
part in the "Gap".
I am inclined to agree with Sheridan, though I doubt
if he was a party to private conversations, or orders,
specific or between Wood, Thomas and Rosecrans.
I believe that Logistics are more important to the
final outcome of the major battles of a war than
tactics. The best tactics are often left wanting if
supplies and manpower are inadequate. General
Rosecrans was considered a brilliant strategist but
was frequently over running his supplies and manpower.
Rosecrans was over his head at Chickamauga and his
vague orders reflect his short comings.
"Mr. President, I have a cause of grievance. This morning I went to speak to
Colonel Sherman, and he threatened to shoot me." Mr. Lincoln, who was still
standing, said, "Threatened to shoot you?" "Yes, sir, he threatened to shoot
me." Mr. Lincoln looked at him, then at me, and stooping his tall, spare
form toward the officer, said to him in a loud stage-whisper, easily heard
for some yards around: "Well, if I were you, and he threatened to shoot, I
would not trust him, for I believe he would do it."
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