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Tullahoma Campaign
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Campaigns
June 23, 1863 Army of the Cumberland begins the Tullahoma Campaign against the Army of Tennessee Tennessee
  Army of the Cumberland
  Leonidas Polk
  Braxton Bragg
  William S. Rosecrans
July 7, 1863 Braxton Bragg completes his withdrawal from Tullahoma to Chattanooga Tennessee
  Braxton Bragg

Tullahoma Campaign

Named for the city of Tullahoma, Tennessee, south of the Duck River which was the site of Bragg's headquarters following the Battle of Stone's River. At the start of the campaign Ulysses S. Grant had John Pemberton under siege in Vicksburg and Robert E. Lee was advancing into Pennsylvania. The strategic objective of the Tullahoma Campaign, Chattanooga, ranked second of three on Lincoln's list of important Confederate targets - the other two were Richmond, Virginia, and the Mississippi River.

No one waited more apprehensively for the start of the Tullahoma Campaign than Abraham Lincoln, Edwin Stanton, and Henry Halleck. Between May 1, and June 22, 1863, more than 100 communications between these three men and General William S. Rosecrans are recorded in the Official Records. These communications move from pleas to hostile threats to force Rosecrans to advance.

Rosecrans was convinced the Army of the Cumberland was not ready to advance on May 1, 1863, although it was not substantially different than the army that began its advance on June 23. That day, almost 6 months after Stone's River, Rosecrans ordered a movement on Bridgeport, Alabama and the railhead at Stevenson with three corps under Alexander McCook, Thomas Crittenden and George Thomas totaling 65,000 men.

Opposing the Army of the Cumberland was a worn and ragged Army of Tennessee under Braxton Bragg divided into two corps under William Hardee and Leonidas Polk totaling some 46,000 men and boys (this figure is commonly accepted, but it was probably closer to 43,000). Positioned along the Duck River from McMinnville to Columbia, the main body of Bragg's force was centered between Wartrace and Shelbyville. Tullahoma, Bragg's choice for his headquarters had no paved streets and could not be easily defended.

From his headquarters in Tullahoma, Bragg was already having problems with his corps commanders. Since Perryville and Stone's River his senior staff had not only been complaining to each other about Bragg's inability or unwillingness to fight a war, they had been quarreling with their commanding officer. William Hardee, especially, had become uncommunicative, a fact which would cost the Confederacy East Tennessee. Meanwhile, P. G. T. Beauregard was advocating reinforcing Bragg's Army of Tennessee with Joe Johnston's men and some from the Army of Northern Virginia, then letting Bragg advance on Nashville and perhaps Louisville, cutting Grant's force off from the important rail line to the North and destroying his ability for instant communication to Washington.

Jutting west from the Cumberland Plateau, a range of mountains known as the Highland Rim limits access from the Duck River Valley to Tullahoma. Four gaps, Liberty, Hoover, Guy and Bellbuckle, were used for roads or railroads and offered Rosecrans the best opportunity to attack the Confederate forces. West of Columbia a wide valley offered Rosecrans an easy route, but would have put him well west of Bragg. Coming through Hoover Gap to Manchester seemed the only logical line of attack once a direct frontal assault had been ruled out. Hoover Gap did present problems, though. From the Duck River to the gap the road runs in a deep valley known as Matt's Hollow, posing a logistical nightmare for the troops.

Bragg thought Rosecrans would move due south and try to outflank the Army of Tennessee to the left. Instead, Rosecrans chose to advance on the Manchester Road through Hoover Gap. Bragg's plan called for Hardee to react quickly and decisively to keep Rosecrans in the gap while Polk came in behind and trapped the Army of the Cumberland. Bragg's main concern was whether Hardee could make a stand until Polk sealed off the rear.

Colonel John Wilder and his Lightning Brigade had been charged with taking Hoover Gap. To screen the advance of the Army of the Cumberland, Rosecrans ordered Reserve Corps commander Gordon Granger and Cavalry commander Brigadier General David Stanley to make a feint against Polk's Corps north of Shelbyville. Wilder then seized the gap on June 24, 1863, but when he reached the far end of the gap he ran into A. P. Stewart's men and had to wait almost two days for George Thomas to advance in support. For these two days Bragg heard nothing about the attack from Hardee.

During that time fighting raged in or near the gap but finally Rebel forces withdrew and informed General Bragg before they concentrated in prepared earthworks around Tullahoma. Rain began to have a negative affect on Rosecrans' campaign. After Thomas and McCook pushed through the gap Crittenden should have been there, but the soggy roads slowed him to a crawl, taking him 4 days to advance less than 20 miles. In the meantime, Rosecrans ordered a cavalry strike (by the Lightning Brigade) against the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad south of Tullahoma near Decherd on July 28.

As Thomas and McCook took up a position in front of the entrenchments circling Tullahoma, Crittenden should have been preparing to attack Bragg's rear. Instead, he was just coming out of Hoover Gap. Wilder's raid had tipped Bragg off to his exposed rear and Bragg obeyed an order issued by President Jefferson Davis six months earlier, withdrawing to Chattanooga, 60 miles southeast.

Inside Tullahoma Rosecrans paused to regroup, much to the chagrin of Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck. A barrage of telegrams got Rosecrans to advance, this time to the outskirts of Chattanooga (Bridgeport and Stevenson, Alabama), where his forces stopped for two months. This marked the end of the Tullahoma Campaign.

Links appearing on this page:

Abraham Lincoln
Army of Northern Virginia
Army of Tennessee
Army of the Cumberland
Braxton Bragg
Edwin Stanton
George Thomas
Henry Halleck
Jefferson Davis
June 22
June 23
June 24
June, 1863
Leonidas Polk
May 1
May, 1863
P. G. T. Beauregard
Richmond, Virginia
Robert E. Lee
Stone's River
Ulysses S. Grant
William Hardee
William S. Rosecrans

Civil War Encyclopedia >> Campaigns

Tullahoma Campaign was last changed on - February 11, 2007
Tullahoma Campaign was added in 2005

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