On Saturday, November 28, 1863 in the western theatre Sherman was ordered to Knoxville, Tennessee to assist Burnside’s forces against Longstreet’s Confederates. On the same day Braxton Bragg telegraphed Richmond from Dalton, Georgia, acknowledging “I deem to due to the cause and to myself to ask for relief from command and investigation into the causes of the [Chattanooga] defeat.”
In late November 1863 in Virginia Union General George Meade, as he did earlier in the month, crossed the Rapidan River, attempting to turn Lee’s right flank as he had been repeatedly urged to do by the Union War Department. Without Longstreet’s corps, Lee’s force of approximately 48,500 men could not realistically confront Meade’s nearly 85,000 troops.
Skirmishing occurred along the Rapidan, as Confederate sentries carried the word of Meade’s advance to Lee. What Meade desired was to turn Lee’s flank, forcing him to fall back toward Richmond.
On Thursday, November 26, 1863 Union forces under Sherman, Hooker, and Thomas pursued Braxton Bragg’s retreating Confederates through Chickamauga Station toward Ringgold, Georgia. On the 27th, Hooker engaged the Confederate rear guard in heavy fighting at Ringgold Gap.
On Wednesday, November 25, 1863, Ulysses Grant order William Tecumseh Sherman to attack the north end of Missionary Ridge and seize Tunnel Hill. Hooker’s Union forces would move from Lookout Mountain to cut off a Confederate retreat southward into Georgia, while General Lorenzo Thomas’ troops would attack the Confederate center when Sherman reached Missionary Ridge.
On Tuesday, November 24, 1863 three Union divisions commanded by General Joseph Hooker began a difficult climb up Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, near Chattanooga. Confederate defenders offered resistance at Cravens’ Farm, an outcropping of fairly level, mountainside land, but by the end of the day were driven off Lookout Mountain to the safety of nearby, strategically fortified, Missionary Ridge.
On Monday, November 23, Ulysses Grant began his assault on Braxton Bragg’s Confederate forces besieging Chattanooga. Two Union divisions successfully captured Orchard Knob, a strategic position approximately one mile in front of the main Confederate defenses.
After concluding his speech at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln boarded the 6:30 pm train for Washington, D.C. He was feverish and weak, suffering from a severe headache. A protracted illness followed, which included a vesicular rash, as doctors diagnosed the president’s illness as a mild case of smallpox.
On Thursday, November 19, 1863 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania after a two hour oration by Edward Everett, President Abraham Lincoln rose and in little more than two minutes officially dedicated the battlefield’s national cemetery.
The president personally felt that his brief talk had failed, and in truth some in the large crowd failed to realize that the president was speaking before his comments had concluded. However, the following day Lincoln received a note from Edward Everett acknowledging how near Lincoln had come “to the central idea of the occasion.”
On Wednesday, November 18, 1863 a special train left Washington, D.C. for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Depressed due to the Union military situation at both Chattanooga and Knoxville and because of Tad Lincoln’s illness, President Abraham Lincoln related few stories en route.
To his secretary John Hay, Lincoln remarked that he felt weak. Upon arriving at Gettysburg, the president spoke briefly to a small crowd outside the Wills House, where he was staying the night, and then retired to work on his remarks for the following day.