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wooden railroad trestle
Wooden railroad trestle at Cumberland Ravine, Ga., erected by Union Army to replace bridge destroyed by Confederates.
Courtesy National Archives.

Reinforcements for General Bragg

General Bragg had purposely given the impression that his army was disorganized and in full flight before Rosecrans. Actually, however, he was not running away but was quietly preparing for battle and gathering strength as reinforcements began to reach him. Realizing that Maj. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner's Corps could not defend Knoxville from Burnside, and having no troops to spare for reinforcements, Bragg ordered Buckner to rejoin the Army of Tennessee. Buckner's Corps of 8,000 men joined Bragg about the time the latter evacuated Chattanooga. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston from his army in Mississippi sent two divisions (about 9,000 men), under command of Major Generals John C. Breckinridge and W. H. T. Walker. A little later at Bragg's insistence Johnston sent two brigades, under command of Brigadier Generals John Gregg and Evander McNair. These brigades added 2,500 more troops to Bragg's Army.

About this same time preparations were under way to reinforce General Bragg further with Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's corps from the Army of Northern Virginia.

The movement of Longstreet's troops from Virginia to reinforce General Bragg in Georgia was an outstanding logistical achievement for the Confederacy. Even though by this time railroads had become an important factor in the strategy of war, no major troop movement involving so many lines over such a long distance had yet been attempted. It also shows the great concern the Southern War Department felt for the approaching battle.

Longstreet's soldiers
Longstreet's soldiers detraining below Ringgold, Ga., September 18, 1863. From there they marched into battle at Chickamauga.
A. R. Waud wartime sketch. From Battlefields in Dixie Land and Chickamauga National Military Park.

From the Army of Northern Virginia to General Bragg's forces in Georgia was a distance of some 900 miles by railroad lines through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. It was necessary for the troops to take this longer and roundabout route of reaching General Bragg because General Burnside had cut the railroad line by way of Knoxville.

By the summer of 1863 the railroads in the Confederacy were in very poor condition, for it had been extremely difficult to replace rails and rolling stock as the war continued. For the most part, the lines were comparatively short; were not connected at many points; lacked bridges across some of the major rivers; and like railroads everywhere, had different gauges. Sixteen different railroad lines were involved in the transfer as all parallel routes and all types of rolling stock were pressed into service.

In spite of all these difficulties, however, the movement was attended with dispatch and secrecy. Leaving the vicinity of Orange Courthouse, Va., on or about September 9, the advance brigades of Longstreet's Corps were joining General Bragg 9 days later. Mrs. Mary B. Chestnut recorded in her diary what she saw of this troop movement:

At Kingsville (S. C.) on my way to Camden, I caught a glimpse of Longstreet's Corps going past . . . It was a strange sight. What seemed miles of platform cars, and soldiers rolled in their blankets lying in rows with their heads all covered, fast asleep. In their grey blankets packed in regular order, they looked like swathed mummies. One man nearby was writing on his knee. He used his cap for a desk, and he was seated on a rail.

Information on the details of the movement, of the delays, the hazards encountered, as well as the number of men, animals, and artillery transported is difficult to find. A fair estimate of the number of troops is 15,000.

Only part of the infantry troops, and none of the artillery, arrived in time to participate in the Battle of Chickamauga; Longstreet himself was not present for the first day's fighting but three of his brigades were. The five brigades (about 9,000 men) which took part in the second day of battle became heroes along with their commander when they broke through the Union line.

map of route of reinforcements
(click on map for an enlargement in a new window)

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