On Saturday, September 19, 1863 southeast of Chattanooga the Battle of Chickamauga began when Federal troops of General George Thomas encountered dismounted cavalry of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Fighting intensified, as the bulk of both William Rosecrans’ and Braxton Bragg’s armies engaged in a ragged, three-mile long front.
Throughout the day the Confederates assaulted the Union line, attempting to penetrate between Chattanooga and the Federals who held the approaches to the city. Although Bragg achieved some degree of surprise, he failed to find a way through the Union lines.
Losses on both sides were heavy with negligible results. As nightfall came, Rosecrans tightened his line, moving several key divisions but unfortunately creating a gap in the Union defenses that Bragg would quickly exploit on the following day.