William S. Rosecrans Source Page
The architect of the military masterpiece at Tullahoma was a brilliant tactician and an uncertain politician.
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Rosecrans to Stanton about his victory at Tullahoma: "I beg in behalf of this army that the War Department may not overlook so great an event because it is not written in letters of blood."

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Willilam S. Rosecrans
William S. Rosecrans
William S. Rosecrans
Grave of William S. Rosecrans
Tombstone in Arlington
William S. Rosecrans

William S. Rosecrans was born  on 6 Sept. 1819 in Kingston Township, Ohio. The family came originally from Holland and settled in Pennsylvania before moving to Ohio. He was the son of Crandell Rosecrans, a stern man of unflinching integrity, and Jemima Hopkins and perhaps the great-grandson of Stephen Hopkins, colonial Governor of Rhode Island and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Hopkins also co-authored with John Adams the draft of the Articles of Confederation. Roserans graduated 5th in his class from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. in 1842. Among his classmates were James Longstreet, Richard H. Anderson, Abner Doubleday, John Newton, George Sykes, Seth Williams, Lafayette McClaws, Alexander P. Stewart, John Pope, D.H. Hill, and Earl Van Dorn. He was the roommate of James Longstreet and A.P. Stewart. After a brief service in the engineer corps he returned to the Military Academy as a professor,  remaining there until 1847. It was during this period that he became a Catholic. His brother, Sylvester Harden Rosecrans, later first Bishop of Columbus, sought instruction and converted also to Catholicism after William wrote to him of his own conversion.

Rosecrans resigned from the Army after 12 years of service in 1854, and became an architect and a civil engineer. He took over direction of mining in western Virginia (West Virginia today) where his geological surveys pointed with remarkable accuracy to profitable new veins of coal. He became President of a navigation company formed to transport coal. In 1857 he organized the Preston Coal Oil Co. in Cincinnati, OH. He was also an inventor. Numbered among his inventions were odorless oil, a round lamp wick, a short practical lamp chimney, and a new and economical method of manufacturing soap. While in the laboratory a safety lamp exploded and burned him so badly that he was bedridden for 18 months. As soon as he recovered, he returned to his now profitable business activities, but when the Civil War broke out he immediately offered his services.

His first duties in the war were for the state of Ohio when he became the drillmaster for the "Marion Rifles", after which he became the engineering officer that laid the plan for Camp Dennison, Ohio and eventually became the Commanding Officer of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which which among its members Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley, and Stanley Matthews, a future Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Rosecrans was soon appointed a Brigadier General in the regular Army in which capacity he defeated Robert E. Lee at Rich Mountain, Virginia. Rosecrans developed and carried out the plans which gained the victory at Rich Mountain, but McClellan, who wasn't even there, did not give him any credit in the official reports. Then Fremont was placed over him, and Rosecrans suffered under the pathfinder's less than professional approach to command. Thus Rosecrans requested a transfer to the west where he was first under Halleck, and then placed in charge of 2 divisions of the left wing of Grant's Army of the Mississippi at the battles of Iuka and Corinth.

At both battles he did well, driving Price from Iuka and repulsing the attack of Price and Van Dorn on Corinth. Grant absented himself and part of his forces from both battles. After Corinth, animosities between Grant and Rosecrans arose. Grant blamed Rosecrans for not pursuing the Confederate army after Iuka and Corinth, and then for pursuing too long, and Rosecrans placed blame on Grant for not sending reinforcements during the battle of Corinth. Rosecrans also felt that he could have destroyed the army of Price and Van Dorn at Tupelo, Miss. and gone on to take Vicksburg, thus shortening the war, but Grant probably wanted the laurels of Vicksburg for himself. Like McClellan, perceiving in Rosecrans a potential rival, Grant gave no credit to Rosecrans for the victories* and did his best to keep Rosecrans's star from rising too high. To escape this bitter climate and probable censure Rosecrans gladly accepted the offer of 24 Oct. 1862 to take command of the Army of the Cumberland. Grant later wrote in his Personal Memoirs: "I was delighted at the promotion of General Rosecrans to a separate command because I still felt that when independent of an immediate superior the qualities which I, at that time, credited him with possessing, would show themselves. As a subordinate I found that I could not make him do as I wished, and had determined to relieve him from duty that very day." By some coincidence Grant found fault with every subordinate commanding officer who was successful or displayed initiative.

Once in Tennessee Rosecrans put the organization of the Army of the Cumberland on an even higher level. Upon receiving reports that Bragg was moving toward Nashville, Rosecrans confronted him and fought competently at the very costly but indecisive battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River) on 31 Dec. 1862 and 2 Jan. 1863, for which Congress later accorded him the Thanks of the Nation. About this time, perhaps as a reaction to the casualties at Murfreesboro, Rosecrans's earlier aggressive quality gave way to caution, and he thus came into conflict with the War Department which demanded action and quick victories of him. Finally, on 23 June 1863, after six months of preparation in the face of official pressure to take the offensive, he began the Tullahoma campaign, a military masterpiece which forced back Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg a hundred miles and into Chattanooga, Tenn. at the cost of only 500 casualties. However, he was as ambitious as many another Civil War general, and he suffered from the lack of recognition he received for this victory about which he wrote the following reproach to Stanton: "I beg in behalf of this army that the War Department my not overlook overlook so great an event because it is not written in letters of blood."

He then maneuvered Bragg out of Chattanooga without a battle. There Rosecrans's caution vanished, and he followed Bragg precipitously and against Thomas's repeated warnings to first consolidate in Chattanooga. Bragg then turned upon him and brought on the bloody battle of Chickamauga (19-20 September 1963). An ill-advised move the morning of the second day opened a gap in Rosecrans's lines and allowed Southern forces to pour through and put to rout part of his army, which was driven back into Chattanooga.

Only the strong stand of Gen. George H. Thomas with 25,000 men on the Union left on Snodgrass Hill against the entire Confederate army numbering about 60,000 averted complete destruction. At nightfall the evening of 20 Sept. 1863 Thomas retired in good order and was not pursued. The defeat was mitigated, however, by the fact that the Union army retained control of Chattanooga. Rosecrans, who had joined in the flight to Chattanooga, seemed to have been demoralized by the defeat and became irresolute, although he did lay the groundwork for lifting the state of siege in which his army found itself, and for the following Union victory in the battle of Chattanooga (23-25 Nov. 1863). A month later Thomas replaced Rosecrans, ending any important role for him in the war.

However, his reputation with his men ramained intact. I quote Major James Connolly: "General Rosecrans was my beau ideal of leader; I would follow him with the devoation of the crusaders for 'Peter the Hermit.' This entire army was an army of crusaders under his leadership. He was the light and life of this army. When the order for his removal was made public this army said nothing; it was dumb, the blow was too sudden and too severe for speech; we all now pursue our way quietly, as soldiers bound to obey the orders of our superiors; we used to obey because we loved our leader, but let it be announced tomorrow that Rosecrans was to command us again, and every silent tongue in this quiet army would find a voice, whose loud acclaim would almost wake again to the dealy shock our sleeping comrades on Chickamauga's banks But enough; we'll triumph under Grant, just as well as Rosecrans, and perhaps it is right that Generals should be dealt with unjustly sometimes, as well as privates. ("Three Years in the Army of the Cumberland," pp. 134-35).

Moroever, his reputation with the public remained intact as well. On June 1, 1864, James Garfield telegraphed from Baltimore asking if he would accept the Republican nomination for Vice President on the ticket with Abraham Lincoln.  He had always been a strong Democrat and while he was intensely loyal and prosecuted the war with all his power, he doubted whether be could accept all principles of Republican Party. He hesitated and finally sent Garfield his consent, but it was too late. Rosecrans served in minor capacities for the remainder of the war and resigned in 1867.

He then moved to Los Angeles, CA and became an advocate for railroad building  in the West and Mexican trade, and in 1868 he was appointed Minister to Mexico. During the next two years he served in this capacity and took an active interest in affairs of that country. During the 1870's he developed mines in Nevada, the Southwest, and Sonora, Mexico. From 1881-1885 he represented California as  democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives where he became Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs. In 1885 Grover Cleveland appointed him register of the U.S. Treasury,  and he held the office until 1893, in which function he applied his signature to many a currency note. In 1889 Congress restored him to the rank and pay of a brigadier general of the regular army on the retired list. He retired to a ranch near Los Angeles in 1893 and died on 11 March 1898 in Redondo, Calif. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

* Grant sent on 9 Oct. 1862 the following telegraph to Lincoln: "Your dispatch received. Cannot answer it so fully as I would wish. Paroled now 813 enlisted men and 43 commissioned officers in good <ar24_157> health; 700 Confederate wounded already sent to Iuka paroled; 350 wounded paroled still at Corinth. Cannot tell the number of dead yet. About 800 rebels already buried. Their loss in killed about nine to one of ours. The ground is not yet cleared of their unburied dead. Prisoners yet arriving by every road and train. This does not include casualties where Ord attacked in the rear. He has 350 well prisoners, besides two batteries and small-arms in large numbers. Our loss there was between 400 and 500. Rebel loss about the same. General Oglesby is shot through the breast and the ball lodged in the spine. Hopes for his recovery. Our killed and wounded at Corinth will not exceed 900, many of them slightly." Not one word about Rosecrans who had just  won 2 battles.

Reports: Battle of Iuka; Battle of Corinth; Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River); Battle of Chickamauga

The Papers of William S. Rosecrans are stored and catalogued in the Department of Special Collections at the Online Library of the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). Type "Rosecrans papers" in search window.

Other articles:

1. The Removal of Rosecrans -The Burlington (VT) Daily Times, Thursday Morning, October 29, 1863

2. A Defence of General Rosecrans by H. M. Beadle - Catholic World, Volume 67, Issue 401, 1898, pp. 684-694

3. Excerpt from The Battle of Corinth by William S. Rosecrans, brevet Maj.-Gen. USA

4. General Rosecrans' Department of the he Ohio Headquarters Unit

Facts about William S. Rosecrans (1819-98) - brilliant tactician

Article defending Rosecrans from The Burlington (VT) Daily Times, Thursday Morning, October 29, 1863

The Removal of Rosecrans

No event of the war for the last year has so amazed the people as the sudden removal of Gen. Rosecrans from the command of the Army of the Cumberland. By his ability as a military leader; by his brilliant successes at Rich Mountain, Corinth, and Stone River (sic); he had gained the confidence and admiration of the entire loyal masses, and his praise was in every mouth. To be sure the repulse at Chickamauga disappointed many, but when it was ascertained that the enemy, by means of their interior lines of communications, had massed their forces in such superior numbers against him, no wonder was expressed that his noble army should experience a check. But a few weeks elapsed and his removal was announced, when immediately slanders of the vilest and even most improbable character was uttered against him. The Tribune, never too slow in finding fault with our generals, had him asleep in Chattanooga during the bloody fight of Chickamauga. The Times makes him out an inveterate opium-eater, while the Washington Chronicle finds every fault with him. The gallant General, in his Cincinnati speech, does not seem to wax wroth at his removal, but simply leaves his case with his brave army and to the American people, very casually denying the opium-eating charge.

How different the conduct of Rosecrans from that of McClellan when summoned to give up his command. From the former we have no string of glittering generalities, such as the latter favored the Army of the Potomac with. There was no ostentatious display of self and staff before the several corps for days, as with "Little Mac". The hero of Stone River (sic) simply yields up his command and depart quietly for his home.

Though time and investigation may show that there was the best of reasons for the removal of Gen. Rosecrans, and that the national safety required it, yet his patriotism and his courage will never be forgotten by his countrymen. The coolness, the daring, the bravery, which won the hard-fought field of Murfreesboro, when both victors and vanquished had given it up as lost to the Federal arms will be sure to find appropriate place and commendation in the history of the rebellion.

We would not find fault with the Executive, for we have in common with the great body of loyal men, the utmost confidence in his honesty and intention to do what is best in this terrible crisis, but mayhap in this case he has blundered in the Missouri controversy. We hope not.

At any rate, until Gen. Rosecrans has had a hearing, it is but fair that the common charity of men should be extended him. Upon this point we like the language of a recent article in the Army and Navy Journal: "We fling away as false and cruel the general charges made by the daily press against Gen. Rosecrans, of unmilitary conduct and vicious habits. Some of the charges we know to be untrue, and all of then are in their nature so antagonistic to his established character - which is austere, dignified, calm, self-possessessed (sic), and, in a word, soldierly to a rare degree - as to carry their refutation their face to all who know Gen. Rosecrans. But the whole matter, in all its bearings, will, we have reason to believe, speedily come up for investigation before the proper court; and until the charges then are made known, and the facts elicited brought to light, we advise his detractors, as well as a fluctuating public, to restrain themselves from indulging in random charges and harsh criticism against one who, during the last two years, has certainly done his country enough service to entitle him to honorable consideration, and to shield him from the poisoned shaft of unpatriotic malice."

Read more about Rosecrans in Van Horne's "Life of Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas", part 1.

From: Catholic World, Volume 67, Issue 401, 1898, pp. 684-694 (proposed to this site by Kevin S. Coy)

The publication of the part of the reminiscences of the late Charles A. Dana, assistant secretary of war under Stanton, and so long editor of the New York Sun, relating to Chickamauga, does great injustice to General William Starke Rosecrans, containing as they do a reiteration of the falsehoods and calumnies which were invented and published at the time to blacken his character and relieve those in authority of the blame for the partial failure of the campaign on the Tennessee in 1863. The truth will not permit Dana's account of what occurred immediately following the battle of Chickamauga, or his reflections upon the character or ability of General Rosecrans to go unanswered.

Rosecrans succeeded Buell in the command of the Army of the Cumberland in October, 1862. He had been at the head of the army but a short time when the War Department began to find such a fault with him that he was constrained, out of self-respect, to reply that he had not sought the command, and that if he could not be trusted he desired to be relieved. The War Department yielded, but with bad grace, for, to use the words of General H.V. Boynton, it "could not brook such manifestly proper independence."


In the spring of 1863 the armies of Bragg and Rosecrans faced each other in Middle Tennessee. The War Department urged Rosecrans to advance against Bragg. At that time Rosecrans' army was in no condition to attack Bragg and hold Middle Tennessee. He would have to depend upon one badly equipped railroad for supplies, and his forces were to few to continue a campaign against Bragg and maintain his communications. He especially urged that his cavalry should be so increased as to be able to hold the enemy's cavalry in check and prevent any interference with his communications. The request for more cavalry was never granted, and he was pressed to move upon the enemy notwithstanding. There were grave reasons against a forward movement of his army, and Rosecrans asked for the opinion of his corps and division commanders upon the policy of advancing at that time. General James A. Garfield, Rosecrans' chief of staff, who had had very little military experience, was the only one who advocated an immediate advance. General Sheridan was a division commander in Rosecrans' army, and has put on record his reasons for opposing an advance at that time. In his personal memoirs, vol. 1., page 259, he says: "During the spring and early summer Rosecrans resisted, with a great deal of spirit and on various grounds, these frequent urgings [to advance], and out of this grew an acrimonious correspondence and strained feeling between him and General Halleck. Early in June, however, stores had been accumulated and other preparations made for a move forward.  Rosecrans seems to have decided that he could safely risk an advance with prospects of good results. Before finally deciding, he called upon his corps and division commanders for their opinions, ... and most of them still opposed the projected movement, I among the number, reasoning that while General Grant was operating against Vicksburg, it was better to hold Bragg in Middle Tennessee than to push him so far back into Georgia that internal means of communication would give the Confederate government opportunity of joining part of his force to that of General Johnston in Mississippi."


Rosecrans did not await the capture of Vicksburg, but began his forward movement of the 23d of June. In sixteen days, rain falling continuously, he, with nine divisions and twenty brigades, had compelled Bragg, who had seven divisions and twenty-three brigades, to abandon his fortified strongholds of Shelbyville and Tullahoma, and retire to Chattanooga, to avoid a disastrous battle, which was only averted by the rains preventing Rosecrans making a rapid advance. Rosecrans' loss was less than six hundred men. General Boynton says of his campaign: "So brilliant had been the conception and execution that all the corps commanders, headed by General Thomas, hastened to call upon Rosecrans and offer the warmest congratulations."  General Sheridan, in his memoirs, gives Rosecrans great praise and declares that "forethought and study had been given to every detail," and Grant and Dana both commended the ability in conception and execution that marked this brief campaign.

Rosecrans at once began the most vigorous preparations to drive Bragg out of Chattanooga. General Boynton says: "Because of the necessities of the case compelled secrecy as one of the main elements of success, there was soon at Washington a manifestation of unreasoning impatience over what was criticised as the inaction of the Union commander."


Rosecrans new the necessity of having a greater cavalry force than was at his command, but being unable to obtain it, he sought permission to raise a force of mounted infantry. He sent General Rousseau to Washington to lay before the War Department his plan for organizing such a force and to impress upon the department the necessity of better supporting the Army of the Cumberland. Rousseau's mission was fruitless, Stanton declaring, with an oath, that Rosecrans should not have another man, in the face of Lincoln's approval.

The railroad was not repaired until July 25, and then supplies for the army had to be accumulated. As all the supplies the army was using had to be brought over this road, the capacity of which was limited, the accumulation of supplies for the passage of the Cumberland mountains took some time. Chattanooga lay beyond rough and precipitous mountains, two thousand feet high, there being but few roads by which the army could pass, and these difficult. The distance across these mountains would average sixty miles. By waiting until the corn was ripe enough to use it, it would enable the army to move with a great deal less forage. Notwithstanding all the difficulties to be overcome, and the great advantage of waiting until the corn was ripe, Halleck, whose ignorance of the country and the obstacles to be overcome is now apparent, sent the following dispatch, which Rosecrans received August 4: "Your forces must move forward without delay. You will daily report the movement of each corps until you cross the Tennessee River."


Well might Boynton say that this dispatch "was exasperating to the last degree," Boynton thought it was due to inexcusable ignorance, but at the time of so expressing himself he did not know that Garfield, Rosecrans' chief of staff, had written a letter to Chase, the secretary of the treasury, complaining of Rosecrans' inaction, and insinuating that the commander of the army would have to be changed before it could succeed in its mission. Garfield knew what Rosecrans was doing and the difficulties he was contending with, and he deliberately misrepresented his chief and his friend while hypocritically saying he loved every bone in his body.  Not a hint did he give Rosecrans that he was dissatisfied with the progress the army was making. Garfield's letter was written July 27, 1863, and Halleck's order was received by telegraph seven days after. Rosecrans did not know of his betrayal by Garfield until after the death of the latter, but the fact that Garfield had written such a letter gave his generous soul a wound which was deep and lasting.


Rosecrans replied to Halleck thus: "Your dispatch ordering me to move forward without delay, reporting the movements of each corps till I cross the Tennessee, is received. As I have determined to cross the river as soon as practicable, and have been making all preparations and getting such information as may enable me to do so without being driven back, like Hooker, I wish to know if your order is intended to take away my discretion as to the time and manner of moving my troops." To this Halleck answered: "The orders for the advance of your army, and that it be reported daily, are peremptory."

Rosecrans called his corps commanders in consultation and read the dispatches above quoted. There was unanimous opinion that it was impossible for the army to move at that time. Rosecrans then read his reply, which all approved, as follows:

"General Halleck: My arrangements for beginning a continuous movement will be completed and the execution begun Monday next. We have information to show that crossing the Tennessee between Bridgeport and Chattanoga is impracticable, but not enough to show whether we he had better cross above Chattanooga and strike Cleveland, or below Bridgeport and strike in their rear. The preliminary movements of troops for the two cases are very different. It is necessary to have our means of crossing the river completed and our supplies provided to cross sixty miles of mountains and sustain ourselves during the operations of crossing and fighting, before we move. To obey your order literally would be to push our troops into the mountains on narrow and difficult roads, destitute of pasture and forage, and short of water, where they would not be able to manoeuvre as exigencies might demand, and would certainly cause ultimate delay and probably disaster. If, therefore, the movement I propose cannot be regarded as obedience to your order, I respectfully request a modification of it, or to be relieved from the command."


Boynton says this "was the last interference from Washington," but adds: "From that time forward there was needed only only an excuse to insure his [Rosecrans] removal." Rousseau, on his return from Washington told Rosecrans that his official destruction was only a matter of time and opportunity, and that it was useless for him to hope for any assistance from the War Department. An object of suspicion at Washington, all support being refused to him, Rosecrans began the Chattanooga campaign, justly regarded as one of the greatest and most successful of the war, under the greatest difficulties.

In fifteen days Rosecrans had driven Bragg out of Chattanooga, but Bragg did not intend to give up that stronghold without a battle. He chose rather to risk a battle in the field than to stand a siege in Chattanooga, as Pemberton had done in Vicksburg.

To force Bragg out of Chattanooga it was necessary to threaten his lines of communication, and to keep a force behind him sufficient to prevent his return into Middle Tennessee. To do this the army was divided into three armies. McCook followed up the Lookout valley, some fifty miles south of Chattanooga, going further than was necessary; Thomas marched up the Chickamauga valley, seperated from McCook by two ranges of mountains, some thirty miles south of Chattanooga; Crittenden threatened Bragg from the north side of the Tennessee River, causing the rear-guard of Bragg's army to evacuate that city on the ninth of September. Crittenden occupied it the next day. On the 11th the purposes of Bragg were fully understood and Roscrans began the concentration of his forces.  Crittenden marched south to the support of Thomas, and McCook began his march north down the Lookout valley, looking for passes over the mountains by which he might join Thomas. His corps joined Thomas on the 16th, after hard marching which greatly weakened the men. Grant and Sheridan both have said that Rosecrans should have occupied Chattanooga and fortified it.  When the positions of the several corps of the army are considered, it will be found that Rosecrans could only have done this at the risk of McCook's corps destroyed and Thomas' corps defeated. If Bragg's communications had not been threatened by large forces he would not have evacuated Chattanooga. When he did evacuate it, the two corps threatening his communications were in great danger, for Bragg's army was superior to both these corps, even if he had received no reinforcements. Neither McCook nor Thomas could assist in occupying Chattanooga, and had Crittenden done so, McCook and Thomas would undoubtedly have been beaten before Crittenden could have completed the fortifications, and Bragg's victorious army would have destroyed his corps also. To drive Bragg out of Chattanooga the Union forces had to be divided; to hold Chattanooga that army had to be consolidated at a point south of that city and any attack that Bragg might make upon it repulsed.


When McCook joined Thomas and Crittenden, on the 16th, Rosecrans began to manoevre for position. Before such juncture he had to hold his forces so as to protect McCook, but after he had to put his army between Bragg and Chattanooga. Since the 11th there had been more or less fighting every day, the army, after the arrival of McCook, drifting to the left. The fighting on the 18th was heavy. That night, by order of Rosecrans, Thomas' corps, which was on the right, marched fourteen miles, taking its position on the left of the army, completely shutting off Bragg from the road to Chattanooga. Crittenden's corps was in the centre and McCook's held the right - positions which they maintained during the next two days. The battle raged furiously on the 19th, the army still drifting to the left, shortening its lines. Bragg was reinforced during the day by a part of Longstreet's corps from Lee's army, the remainder accompanied by that great commander himself, arriving that night. Buckner, who had been confronting Burnside in East Tennessee, had arrived several days before, and Bragg had also received reinforcements from Johnston's command. During the night of the 19th Rosecrans' lines were further shortened and his left strengthened. The Union army was greatly encouraged, for the day's fighting had been favorable to the Union cause.

The reinforcements which Bragg had received put Rosecrans at a decided disadvantage. Bragg's army, but little, if any, inferior in numbers to Rosecrans forces, had been increased by at least twenty thousand fresh troops, but not a man had Rosecrans received. Burnside was at Knoxville, and might have joined Rosecrans, or at least kept Buckner from joining Bragg. On the 11th of September, when Bragg had received part of his reinforcements, Halleck telegraphed Rosecrans: "After holding the mountain passes on the west and Dalton, or some point on the railroad, to prevent the return of Bragg's army, it will be decided whether your army shall move further south into Georgia and Alabama. It is reported here that a part of Bragg's army is reinforcing Lee. It is important that the truth of this should be ascertained as soon as possible."


This shows the ignorance that prevailed at Washington. Longstreet had left Lee's army nearly or quite a week before, yet the authorities at Washington believed that Bragg was reinforcing Lee. General Peck, stationed in North Carolina, sent word to Rosecrans, under date of September 6, that Longstreet's corps was passing south over the railroads, and Colonel Jacques, of the 73d Illinois, who had come up from the south, tried in vain to get admittance to the authorities at Washington to communicate to them the fact of Longstreet's movement, and then arrived in time to take part in the battle of Chickamauga.

Well might Boynton say this "criminal neglect of Rosecrans by the authorities was without excuse." He adds: "No friend of Halleck or Stanton has ever yet attempted to explain, much less defend it. These and other high officers, at one time or another, arraigned General Rosecrans as solely responsible for what they chose to designate as the disaster and defeat of Chickmauga."  As a result of this "criminal neglect" Rosecrans, on the 20th, had not more than 50,000 troops, worn out by marching and fighting to oppose Bragg's army of at least 60,000, and probably 65,000 men, 15,000 of whom, trained with Lee in Virginia, were fresh and eager for battle.  Bragg had reserves; Rosecrans had none, and had to take men from one part of his lines to repair disaster or strengthen his lines in other places. For the "criminal neglect" of permitting Rosecrans to be outnumbered Stanton and Halleck should have suffered, not Rosecrans and the valiant troops who fought under him.


On the 20th the battle raged more fiercely than on the previous day. The Union army held its own most gallantly until about 11 o'clock in the morning, when the right wing was broken. The disaster was caused by not having sufficient forces to maintain reserves. Breckinridge was pessing Thomas' flank, and Thomas requested that Brannan and his brigade be sent to his assistance. This was ordered, and Wood, who was on Brannan's right, was ordered to close upon Reynolds, who was on Brannan's left.  At the time the order was made there was no fighting on Brannan's front. When the order reached Brannan his front was being attacked, and sending what troops he could spare, he held the line until he could report to Rosecrans. Before Rosecrans heard from Brannan the attack had spread to Wood's front, but he obeyed the order. Thus a gap was left in the line through which Longstreet pushed several brigades. It has generally been supposed that nearly all of McCook's and Crittenden's troops were broken and driven from the field by Longstreet's attack, but only five brigades of McCook's corps left the field and the fragments of Crittenden's corps driven from the field would not amount to more than two brigades. Thomas, who had, and deserved to have, Rosecrans' full confidence, still held the left, according to Rosecrans' plan of battle, with about two-thirds of the Union army, though attacked by Bragg's whole force. The Confederate attack was most terrific, but Thomas held the field, drawing off his forces at night to Ross Gap in Missionary Ridge, in accordance with instructions from Rosecrans.

When the right wing was broken Rosecrans was in that part of the field and he was forced to retire. He could only join Thomas by a circuitous route. He was much concerned about the safety of his wagon-train, part of which was not more than three miles away.  The army would be put in a most difficult position if the wagon-train was captured or destroyed. He proceeded to Rossville, where he met Garfield, and sending him to Thomas with orders, he took measures to save the wagon-train and to organize the troops that had been driven from the field. He then went to Chattanooga to select the ground upon which to defend the city, if Thomas should be forced to retire. Thomas remained at Ross' Gap the whole of the 21st and on the 22nd arrived at Chattanooga. This was the first time the city had been really occupied by the Union forces, and until that day not one-third of the army had seen it. Though Chickamauga was a drawn battle, the objective point of the campaign had been reached when the Army of the Cumberland occupied Chattanooga, which was a great victory for the Union arms.


Rosecrans' going to Chattanooga on the 20th, was severely criticised by his enemies, who even attacked his military character.  Dana says he "escaped" to Chattanooga. This is a malicious insinuation against a great soldier who knew no fear. The opportunity had arrived when the power of Stanton enabled him to misrepresent the battle of Chickamauga and show the supposed incapacity of Rosecrans. The general who had made the most brilliant campaign of the war was maligned, his courage suspected, his ability derided. He was made a victim by those who were solely responsible for the failure to make Chickamauga a great victory, instead of a partial one.

If Dana could be believed, the commander who had displayed such brilliant generalship before and during the battle of Chickamauga, after that battle became a dawdler, if not an imbecile. In the following words Dana sums up what he affects to believe were the shortcomings of Rosecrans: "In the midst of these difficulties General Rosecrans seemed to be insensible to the impending danger, and dawdled with trifles in a manner that can scarcely be imagined. With plenty of zealous and energetic officers ready to do whatever needed to be done, precious time was lost because out dazed and mazy commander could not perceive the catastrophe that was close upon us, nor fix his mind upon the means of preventing it. I never saw anything so lamentable and hopeless. Our animals were starving, the men had starvation before them, and the enemy was soon to make desperate efforts to dislodge us. Yet the commanding general devoted that part of his time which was not employed in pleasant gossip to the composition of a long report to prove that the government was to blame for his failure on the 20th."


By the side of Dana's tirade is placed the statement made by Rosecrans before the committee of the houses of Congress on the conduct of the war.  Rosecrans was determined to hold Chattanooga at all hazards, and to do this he concentrated his forces into a defensive line sufficiently contracted to defy the enemy's power, and fortified it without delay. An interior line of fortifications was laid out and put in course of construction designed to cover his depots, with a garrison of one or two divisions to hold them against all the forces the enemy could bring. He made every effort to provide two bridges to the north side of the river, that communications with Bridgeport would not be obstructed. He had small steamboats and barges constructed to run between Bridgeport and Chattanooga, and one steamboat was running when Grant arrived. He had ordered Hooker to concentrate his troops at Stevenson and Bridgeport, with the intention of moving him into Lookout valley when his trains should arrive, and efforts were being pushed to construct pontoons to cross the river and connect Hooker with Chattanooga.  Rosecrans was charged with abandoning one of the passes of Lookout Mountain, but he was satisfied that he could not hold it and Chattanooga too. Though he abandoned the pass he erected a battery on the north side of the river commanding it and rendering its possession useless.  His enemies were quick to blame him for abandoning the pass, but gave him no credit for neutralizing its possession for the enemy. He had formed a plan to retake Lookout valley as soon as the bridges were completed.  He had ordered the thorough reconnoitering of the river banks opposite the northern end of Missionary Ridge, where Sherman afterwards crossed, with a view to a flank attack there. When relieved he had completed means to supply his army, and there was no difficulty in doing this when Grant arrived.  This shows that he did not "dawdle" and that he was neither "dazed" nor "mazy"


The efforts of Stanton to blacken Rosecrans' reputation were successful for a time, but the truth could not be hid. Time has vindicated Rosecrans, and his great military genius is now fully recognized by military men. The opinion of General R. J. Meigs, that the forcing of Bragg to leave Chattanooga was, up to that time, "not only the greatest operation of our war, but a great thing compared with any war," has become the opinion of all those competent to judge of the character of military events. This last effort of expiring malice will recoil on those who refused to supply Rosecrans with the men he needed, and who attempted to injure his military reputation to direct attention from their own "criminal neglect."

General Thomas' confidence in Rosecrans will offset anything Stanton or Dana may have said against him. Thomas told Dana himself, after the battle of Chickamauga, that he "had perfect confidence in the fidelity and capacity of General Rosecrans." Boynton says Thomas was very much hurt at the removal of Rosecrans, and records this fact: "General Thomas at first insisted that he would resign rather than appear to acquiesce in Rosecrans' removal by accepting the command.  It was at Rosecrans' earnest solicitation that he reconsidered his determination. But he did not hesitate to say that the order was cruelly unjust.  When Garfield left for Washington soon after the battle he immediately charged him to do all he could to have Rosecrans righted." There was no dissatisfaction on the part of the army with Rosecrans, and he was beloved by every man in it.


As has been shown, the authorities at Washington were awaiting the time and opportunity to relieve Rosecrans of his command. But in order to justify themselves they found it necessary to resort to a lie. Dana telegraphed Stanton that Rosecrans would abandon Chattanooga unless ordered to hold it.  There was no foundation whatever for such a statement, and the friends of Dana owe it to his memory to show who was the author of the falsehood.

The Society of the Army of the Cumberland has honored Thomas by erecting a statue in Washington to commemorate his great deeds. That society will not have done its full duty until the great services of Rosecrans have been commemorated in like manner.  But even if it should fail in its duty, history will give Rosecrans a high place among the great men and commanders of the war for the Union.