With Rosecrans limited to bringing most of his supplies into Chattanooga along a difficult, 60-mile wagon route across Walden's Ridge, on Wednesday, September 30, 1863 Confederate General Braxton Bragg ordered General Joseph Wheeler and approximately seven hundred cavalry on an extended raid against Rosecrans’ supply lines.
On October 2 at Anderson's Cross Roads, Wheeler’s raiders surprised and overwhelmed a Union supply train of 800 mule-drawn wagons. The Southerners began to kill the mules and burn the Union supplies, only to discover whiskey in several of the wagons.
The Confederate nation was pleasantly surprised by Braxton Bragg’s victory at Chickamauga. Generals such as Kirby Smith called on Confederate citizens to renew their efforts to contest and defeat the enemy. Yet Jefferson Davis blamed Braxton Bragg for not aggressively pursuing Rosecrans’ retreating forces into Chattanooga.
While the great railroad movement of Hooker’s troops to reinforce Rosecrans at Chattanooga began, a concerned Abraham Lincoln on Friday, September 25, 1863 lamented that Ambrose Burnside had yet to reinforce Rosecrans.
Writing Burnside by letter, Lincoln noted his desire for Burnside to take immediate action “and you have repeatedly declared you would do it, and yet you steadily move the contrary way.” Burnside denied any desire on his part to delay reinforcing Rosecrans.
On September 23, 1863 ships of the Imperial Russian Atlantic fleet arrived in New York; in mid-October ships of the Russian Pacific fleet would arrive at San Francisco. The Russians received an extremely cordial welcome on both American coasts and were honored with parades, dinners, and special programs.
In truth, the Russian visit had little to do with support for the Union. Russia feared a war with England and France over her suppression of a Polish revolt and particularly did not want her fleet tied up for the winter in the Baltic Sea.
In Washington, D.C. after a series of meetings on Wednesday, September 23, 1863, with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, Cabinet, and military leaders President Abraham Lincoln, responding to Rosecrans’ defeat at Chickamauga, ordered the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps of the Army of the Potomac, commanded by Joseph Hooker, west to reinforce Rosecrans’ embattled army.
On Monday, September 21, 1863 General George Thomas continued to secure the approaches to Chattanooga, but he too would soon retire into the safety of that city. Although Rosecrans’ army was in a strong position within Chattanooga, it was hemmed in by the mountains, the Tennessee River, and Bragg’s Confederates who held Missionary Ridge and lookout Mountain overlooking the city.
On Sunday, September 20, 1863 Braxton Bragg planned to drive Rosecrans from the Chickamauga battlefield by having General Leonidas Polk assault Rosecrans’ forces on the Confederate right flank. The Confederate assault was delayed until approximately nine-thirty in the morning.
The Union left retreated but held until noon. Then James Longstreet’s corps, just arrived from Virginia, struck the Union right, exploiting the gap in the Union lines accidentally created by Rosecrans’ orders of the previous night.
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.
On Friday, September 18, 1863 Braxton Bragg, reinforced by a portion of Longstreet’s corps which arrived from Virginia that morning, moved all but three divisions of his Army of Tennessee across West Chickamauga Creek in preparation of engaging Rosecrans’ Union forces.
By Wednesday, September 16, 1863 both Union General William Rosecrans and Confederate General Braxton Bragg were concentrating their respective forces in Georgia; within twenty-four hours their armies would clash at the battle of Chickamauga.
While Lincoln had confidence in his field commander, President Jefferson Davis had substantial doubts about the ability of Braxton Bragg. In a letter sent to Robert E. Lee, Davis confidentially expressed his concerns to Lee over Bragg’s earlier withdrawal from Chattanooga and Bragg’s “inexplicable” loss of the Cumberland Gap.