Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Gap at Chickamauga

The topic of my August 9th presentation at the Rocky Mountain Civil War roundtable is the gap in the line at Chickamauga. Roughly two-three years ago I submitted this article to America's Civil War magazine and it was accepted. The publisher though said that the topic wasn't quite their normal fare so it would take awhile to figure out when to use it. Since its been so long I decided to dust it off and present it to the roundtable. I've since worked on it, fleshed out some things, and its a different article than what was submitted those years ago. I'm looking forward to presenting it so that I'll get some more feedback and can make further corrections. And then perhaps I'll resubmit the article and see if anything happens this time around.

I go into the relationship between generals William S. Rosecrans and TJ Wood, and how that effected Wood's decision. I obviously talk a bit about the situation in the battle at the moment Wood moved out of line. But one of the major focuses of my article is what might have happened. I don't mean it as revisionist history, just examining the troops available to both sides in that area, the terrain that could have utilized, things like that. Then try to come to some conclusions on what might have happened if Wood had not pulled out of line. I point out the reasons Wood had for staying plus the reasons he had for leaving.

Overall I think I make a pretty good argument that Wood should have stayed in line. And I think I give a fair description of what the defensive possibilities of Dyer Ridge were. In the confusion that drips the Union right after the gap is exploited by Longstreet we forget just how many cannon and troops Rosecrans had at his disposal. If he had been given time to form a line along Dyer Ridge I believe it would have held and made Chickamauga a Union victory.

Then just for fun I play around with how the war might have been different if Chickamauga had been a Union victory. The short version is that I think the war last just about as long as it really lasted. The main difference I see is that Grant probably is not made general-in-chief and spends 1864 in the west. Grant might spend his time with Rosecrans and allow Sherman to conduct his own campaign against Mobile and/or Montgomery. Then maybe Sherman marches towards Atlanta from the southwest. At the same time though one wonders how Meade would have done against Lee. Would he have followed the formula that Grant used in 1864 or would he have followed the pattern of the past few commanders of the Army of the Potomac; fight a big battle, retreat to lick wounds, then in 2 months try it all again. I don't know enough about Meade to know what he would have done. I guess I need to find letters from Meade from the winter of 1863-64 describing his strategy for the coming spring campaign.

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