Only Gettysburg was bloodier than the Battle of Chickamauga that ended in northwest Georgia on this day in 1863.
Three months earlier, the Union Army had begun a strategy to capture Chattanooga, a major railroad hub and gateway to the Deep South. General William Rosecrans' U.S. Army of the Cumberland, and General Braxton Bragg's Confederate Army of Tennessee, collided at Chickamauga Creek, 12 miles south of Chattanooga. For three days, 120,000 soldiers fought. The combined casualty count was 34,000 men -- the greatest Union defeat in the Western Theater.
The largest battle fought on Georgia soil, Chickamauga was a tactical Confederate victory, but a strategic defeat.
U.S. General George Thomas earned the nickname "Rock of Chickamauga" by holding off the Confederates long enough for the Union Army to retreat to Chattanooga, their objective all along. Two months later Ulysses S. Grant decisively defeated Bragg's Confederates at Chattanooga. That opened the door to Atlanta and Sherman's march to the sea. Ironically, ultimate Confederate defeat began with the Confederate victory at Chickamauga on September 20, 1863, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.