On December 31, 1862 and January 2, 1863 the armies of William S. Rosecrans and Braxton Bragg battled at Murfreesboro (Stone’s River), southeast of Nashville. After an initial Rebel victory, Union forces returned to the battlefield, eventually forcing their Southern opponents to withdraw to a position south of the Duck River. Bragg set up headquarters in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and created a strong defensive line. Rosecrans began to prepare for an offensive move against the Army of Tennessee.
The Battle of Chickamauga was one of the major clashes of arms between the forces of the Federal North and the Confederate South. The Federal Army of the Cumberland versus the Confederate Army of Tennessee in what was later called ìThe Bloody Battle in the Westî. The first day’s fighting of the Battle of Chickamauga consisted of several Confederate attempts to seize crossing points on Chickamauga Creek. Union cavalrymen delayed the Confederates at Reed’s Bridge, but eventually Southern forces seized the span and advanced southwestward toward Lee and Gordon’s Mill. Union mounted infantrymen at Alexander’s Bridge also fought a successful delaying action before being forced back. Southerners did get across the Chickamauga on September 18, but the delays prevented them from reaching the left flank of the main Union force.
Chickamauga was an extremely costly battle for both armies. Rosecrans lost more than 16,000 men killed, wounded, and missing, while Bragg’s army of roughly 68,000 men sustained more than 18,000 casualties. While the battle was considered a Confederate victory because it pushed the Union army back to Chattanooga rather than letting them proceed into Georgia Rosecrans achieved his objective for the campaign, the capture of Chattanooga. Union troops did have to be pulled from Virginia and Mississippi to reinforce Rosecrans’s besieged army in Chattanooga, but otherwise the staggering losses sustained in both field armies produced few immediate tangible results.