Chickamauga: The Conflict Widens

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

Situation overview: 19 September 1863, 1:00 pm: Fighting had been contained to the northern end of the battlefield, between Reed's Bridge Road and Brotherton Road. Lines were impossible to maintain for either side. At this point in time both the Union and Confederate forces in this area were poorly formed, organized in clumps in the forest. In general, those in the open fields were better organized. Braxton Bragg [CS, Davis] had amassed most of the Army of Tennessee for a frontal assault on what was rapidly becoming Rosecrans' right flank. Rosecrans had organized his southern units, continuing with a movement north to safety in Chattanooga (Chattanooga history) while blocking the Rebels from their attempt to control LaFayette Road. As the sound of battle drew nearer to the Union soldiers on LaFayette Road they slowed their northern movement and began to prepare to defend the position.

Brock Field is a clearing few hundred feet east of the Brotherton Cabin. It was to be the site of the first pitched battle of day. In the see-saw battle to the north Col. John Croxton [US, Brannen] had been attacked, then he counterattacked, then his Kentuckians were attacked again. Now Croxton was in pursuit of Govan's [CS, Lidell] flank when they ran headlong into the right flank of Benjamin Franklin Cheatham's [CS, Polk] Division. Without benefit of cover Croxton's Kentuckians returned to the Union line some 500 feet behind their position. Rebels saw the quick retreat and sensed an easy kill. As Croxton's men retreated they passed through the Union line which was prepared for the oncoming Confederates. Cheatham's men stopped advancing, took a position and the battle for Brock Field began.

The fighting in Winfrey Field was not over yet, as Leonidas Polk's [CS, Bragg] men were about to find out. In support of the line formed by Brigadier Generals William B. Hazen [US, Palmer] and Charles Cruft [US, Palmer], the Yankee right flank began to advance, making surprising progress against the disorganized Rebels in the area. The Yankees pushed towards the intersection of Brotherton Road and Alexander Bridge Road and the Confederate line disintegrated. The only reason the Union advance slowed was to preserve their unit's own integrity. Nathan Bedford Forrest, however, was not about to let the Federals advance so easily. He found a battery of artillery and had them form across Alexander Bridge Road. As the Rebels retreated they passed safely through the guns, which only came into the view of the Yankees when they were 50 yards away. The first volley devastated the line of Bluecoats. Behind the artillery the Rebels began to form a weak line.

Unknown to either the Confederate or Union commanders, this was the area of the greatest concentration of Federal troops. Forrest's tactic only delayed the inevitable as the Union troops advanced on both sides of the artillery. Soon the Confederate flanks gave way and the artillery withdrew for protection. Only time, distance, and Walthall's Mississippeans in Winfrey Field would finally halt the Union juggernaut. General Braxton Bragg [CS, Davis] did not have any reinforcements to spare when Bishop Polk requested help for Cheatham's [CS, Polk] Tennesseans. What Bragg did offer was to advance Major General John B. Hood's [CS, Longstreet] men to the south to relieve the pressure on the Bishop and Cheatham's men.

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
Granger Reinforces Thomas

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