September 28

This Day in History

Civil War

Sep 28, 1863:

Union generals blamed for Chickamauga defeat

Union Generals Alexander M. McCook and Thomas Crittenden lose their commands and are ordered to Indianapolis, Indiana, to face a court of inquiry following the Federal defeat at the battle of Chickamauga in Georgia.

Eight days before, the Union Army of the Cumberland, commanded by General William Rosecrans, had retreated from the Chickamauga battlefield in disarray. On the battle's second day, Rosecrans mistakenly ordered a division to move into a gap in the Federal line that did not exist, creating a real gap through which the Confederates charged, thus splitting the Union army. One wing collapsed, and a frantic retreat back to Chattanooga, Tennessee, ensued. The other wing, led by General George Thomas, remained on the battlefield and held its position until it was nearly overrun by Confederates.

The search for scapegoats began immediately, and fingers soon pointed to McCook and Crittenden. Their corps had been part of the collapsed flank, so Rosecrans removed them from command. Crittenden's removal stirred anger in his native Kentucky, and the state legislature sent a letter to President Abraham Lincoln demanding a reexamination of the firing. In February 1864, a military court cleared McCook and Crittenden, but their careers as field commanders were over. By quickly removing McCook and Crittenden, Rosecrans had been trying to save his own job. Within weeks after firing the generals, Rosecrans was himself replaced by Thomas.

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