President Abraham Lincoln meets with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, several cabinet members, and military planners on September 23 to discuss the desperate situation at Chattanooga, Tennessee. Three days before, Union General William Rosecrans’s army had been dealt a serious defeat at Chickamauga, Georgia, just south of Chattanooga. The Yankees suffered 16,000 casualties, and there was fear that a Confederate attack on Chattanooga would place the Union army in grave danger. Reinforcements were needed quickly, but there weren’t any in the immediate vicinity.
Lincoln and his advisors settled on a bold plan to ship General Joseph Hooker and his men, who were in Virginia with the Army of the Potomac, to relieve Rosecrans’ army. Some observers thought it would take at least a month, but the troops were moving within two days. Railroads and military officials received notification by telegraph, and the troops were given the highest priority. One of Hooker’s corps arrived in Chattanooga, while the other was shipped to nearby northern Alabama. It took just a week and a half to ship an entire army of soldiers, animals, and equipment.
The move of Hooker’s army, which underscored the Union’s ability to effectively utilize the rail network, was one of the most impressive logistical accomplishments of the war.