The Day Before

By Randy Golden and Col. Samuel Taylor,
Exclusively for Our Georgia History


William Rosecrans [US, Lincoln] was concerned by reports coming in from units west of the LaFayette-Chattanooga Road (commonly shortened to Lafayette Road) that Rebels were advancing in force. The move towards Bragg's rear had spread his men out across 50 miles of rough terrain deep inside enemy territory. His troops had moved through dense underbrush and rugged mountains south of Chattanooga to get into northwest Georgia. Turning around and retreating across the mountains while opposed by The Army of Tennessee would be a disaster. The Army of the Cumberland, most of which were south and west of Lee and Gordon's Mill began moving north towards Chattanooga along LaFayette Road.

Braxton Bragg [CS, Davis] planned his initial attack at Gordon Hall in LaFayette, Georgia. He wanted to move north of the Union Army and take the LaFayette Road, splitting the Union Army and forcing Rosecrans to attack an entrenched line to reform his men. Bragg realized that this wide, straight road was by far Rosecrans best route to Chattanooga. As an initial move to take the road Bragg sent out orders to seize the bridges across Chickamauga Creek. Lee and Gordon's Mill was the point at which The Army of Tennessee was to cut off Rosecrans.

Rebel troops in LaFayette began the northward journey on September 18 and ran into resistance along the way. They were to take the bridge at the mill while men further north under Bushrod Johnson [CS] crossed Chickamauga Creek at Alexander's and Reed's bridges and moved south. In Catoosa Springs, Georgia, General John B. Hood [CS, Longstreet] arrived from the Army of Northern Virginia amid much fanfare. He would assume command of General Johnson's division, combine it with his, and march south to support the attack on Lee and Gordon's Mill.

Alexander's Bridge and Reed's Bridge were the essential crossing points for the Confederate Army. Although there were fords, the heavy artillery and quartermaster's wagons required a bridge to cross the river in a timely manor. Colonel Robert Minty [US, Crook] guarded Reed's Bridge, near the northern end of the battlefield while Col. John Wilder [US, Reynolds] guarded Alexander's Bridge further south.

The first Rebel forces to approach the northern bridge were under the command of Col. John Fulton [CS, Stewart]. He launched a flanking maneuver while his brigade moved towards Chickamauga Creek from a low gap in Peavine Ridge. Minty, who was caught off-guard by the men on his left realized he was outnumbered and retreated, failing to destroy the bridge as ordered. Rebels started crossing at Reed's shortly after 3:00pm on September 18

Minty's withdrawal left Wilder in an untenable position guarding Alexander's Bridge. He claimed to see the Confederates that had driven Minty back from his position near Reed's Bridge approaching on his flank (this was probably other Rebels who had forded the river closer to Wilder's position). Wilder had other problems as well, for in front of him on the other side of Chickamauga Creek was a relatively strong Rebel force under the command of Daniel Govan [CS, Liddell] and Richard C. Walthall [CS, Liddell]. Before he withdrew, Wilder had the opportunity to introduce the Rebels to the power of the Spencer repeating rifle, a demonstration that they would witness again on the 20th during the breakthrough at the Brotherton Cabin.

Fire set by the Union mounted infantry consumed Alexander's Bridge on the afternoon of the 18th. Only Reed's Bridge would be of use to the Confederates. That was more than they needed. Pouring across the bridge and fords further south, Bushrod Johnson's Rebels pushed towards Lee and Gordon's Mill and the main body of the Yankee army. By nightfall, more than 9,000 Rebels occupied a portion of the west side of Chickamauga Creek, and more were being added thoughout the night.

Visit the fighting: The original Reed's Bridge and Alexander's Bridge have been replaced, although the current bridges are very close to the original location.

Reed's Bridge: I-75 exit 350 (Battlefield Parkway). Go west on Battlefield Parkway to first light (Three Notches Road). Turn left on Three Notches Road and travel 1.0 to Reed's Bridge Road. Turn right and continue for 3.7 miles. The road crosses Peavine Ridge then dips to Chickamauga Creek. The steel-reinforced cement bridge over Chickamauga Creek is in the approximate location of Reed's Bridge.

Alexander's Bridge: From Reed's Bridge (see above for directions to Reed's Bridge), continue to Jay's Mill Road. Turn left, and continue on Jay's Mill until it ends at Alexander Bridge Road. Turn left and on Alexanders Bridge Road and continue to the bridge.


Front
Introduction
Prelude (December, 1862 - September, 1863)
The Day Before (September 18, 1863)
First Contact
Early Fighting
The Conflict Widens
A Battleline is Drawn
A Bad Start
Rosecrans Moves North
Breakthrough at the Brotherton Cabin
Counterattack
Granger Reinforces Thomas



Return to Index


FrontHistory 101Early GeorgiaAmerican IndiansSearch
WarsPeopleTimelineListsPlacesPoetry




Golden Ink
Georgia's innovative design group


Legal Notice
Privacy Policy
Copyright