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Maneuver for Position

Bragg was aware of the isolated positions of the Union Army, and he saw an opportunity to strike his opponent in detail, one corps at a time, while they were not in supporting distance of each other. He issued orders to Maj. Gen. T. C. Hindman and Lt. Gen. D. H. Hill to strike Maj. Gen. James S. Negley's division of Thomas' corps, which was in an advanced position at McLemore's Cove, but Hill failed to carry out his order. Bragg ordered Buckner to join Hindman which he did on September 10. Instead of attacking Negley, the two Confederate commanders decided that a different plan was needed for the situation and sent their recommendation to Bragg. While this correspondence passed back and forth, Negley withdrew and rejoined the rest of Thomas' corps. The Confederates had now lost their opportunity to strike and possibly destroy this division.

Two days later a similar situation arose with the same result—loss of the opportunity to strike another corps in detail. This time Bragg ordered Polk to move his and Walker's corps to Lee and Gordon's Mills to strike Union General Crittenden's divided force. Two of Crittenden's divisions had marched toward Ringgold; one had moved to Lee and Gordon's Mills. Polk, instead of attacking, went on the defensive and asked for reinforcements. For the second time in 3 days, subordinate Confederate commanders allowed a Union corps to regroup.

Rosecrans now realized Bragg had concentrated and reinforced his army, and that his own force was in danger of annihilation in its divided condition. Accordingly he ordered General Granger, commanding the Reserve Corps in the vicinity of Bridgeport, Ala., to Chattanooga; General Crittenden to position at Lee and Gordon's Mills on Chickamauga Creek, some 12 miles south of Chattanooga; and General Thomas to move northward toward Crittenden as soon as he was joined by General McCook's Corps, which had been commanded to make haste in joining the other corps.

In the hurried concentration of the Army of the Cumberland, McCook withdrew from Alpine and chose to retrace his way by crossing over Lookout Mountain, thence up Lookout Valley where he had to recross the mountain to join General Thomas. It took McCook approximately 5 days (September 13 to 17) to complete this movement, greatly to the consternation of Rosecrans who had expected McCook to follow the shorter route on top of Lookout Mountain or roads through McLemore's Cove. Some of the troops, however, such as the Second Division, did forced marches in some instances of 25 miles in a day.

Bragg made no effort to prevent this concentration of the Union forces, and during the night of September 17 the three corps were within supporting distance of each other. The Union left was at Lee and Gordon's Mills, and from there the line extended west and south through McLemore's Cove to Stevens Gap through Lookout Mountain.

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Last Modified: Fri, May 17 2002 10:00:00 pm PDT

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