Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review: The Chattanooga Campaign

Edited by Steven E. Woodworth & Charles D. Grear

Sometimes an event is so complex that a single narrative explaining what happed or a single viewpoint from which to view the event is not the best way to tell its story.  The Chattanooga Campaign and the battles which it encapsules, is just that kind of event.

Following its defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 20, 1863 the Union Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Major General William S. Rosecrans, retreated northward to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Shortly thereafter Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee besieged the vital rail-hub that was considered to be the gateway to the South.  When Ulysses S. Grant relieved Rosecrans and assumed command of the Army of the Cumberland he determined to break the siege and open the way to Atlanta.

“The Chattanooga Campaign,” edited by Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear, tells the complicated story of the campaign and its simultaneous, but separate, battles on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. The story of the campaign is told in ten chapters:

  • A Perfect Storm of Ineffectiveness: The Corps and the Loss of Lookout Mountain, by Alex Mendoza.
  • “Lookout Mountain Frowned Down Upon Us”: The Union Army and the Struggle for Lookout Valley, by Stewart Bennett.
  • “The Very Ground Seemed Alive”: Sherman’s Assault on the North End of Missionary Ridge, by Steven E. Woodworth.
  • Baptizing the Hills and Valleys: Cleburne’s Defense of Tunnel Hill, by John R. Lundberg.
  • What Happened on Orchard Knob?: Ordering the Attack on Missionary Ridge, by Brooks Simpson.
  • This Grand and Imposing Array of Brave Men: The Capture of Rossville Gap and the Defeat of the Confederate Left by Sam Davis Elliott.
  • Saving the Army of the Tennessee: The Confederate Rear Guard at Ringgold Gap, by Justin S. Solonick.
  • From the Chickamauga with “Old Rosy” to Missionary Ridge with Grant: The Fall 1863 Struggle for Chattanooga and the Press, by Ethan S. Rafuse.
  • “What I am Doing I do not Consider Desertion”: Trans-Mississippian Reactions to Chickamauga and Chattanooga, by Charles D. Grear.
  • A Chattanooga Plan: The Gateway City’s Critical Role in Civil War Battlefield Preservaiton, by Timothy Smith.

Two of the best chapters in the book are “What Happened on Orchard Knob” by Brooks Simpson which gives a very detailed explanation of who did, or rather who did not, order the charge on Missionary Ridge.  And second, “What I am doing I do not Consider Desertion,” by the books co-editer, Charles D. Grear, which discusses the emotional toll, and consequences, of the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga on the Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi theater of war.

With its ten chapters written by ten authors “The Chattanooga Campaign,” complete with maps and photographs, at once gives you a breakdown of the various stages and battles of the campaign, and the differing perspectives and approaches made by its authors gives its reader a more comprehensive, 360° view of it, and to a smaller degree the war in the West.

ISBN 978-0809331192, The Southern Illinois University Press, © 2012, Hardcover, 256 pages, Maps, Photographs, Illustrations, Notes & Index. $29.95.  To Purchase this book click HERE.

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