This Day in the Civil War

Wednesday Sept. 18 1861

The Confederate invasion of Kentucky (in the Yankee view of things) or rescue mission from an impending Northern invasion (the Confederate philosophy of the matter) was proceeding with considerable speed and action, and remarkably little fighting. This was in part because the two invading forces were not yet close enough to fight each other, and neither had any intention or desire to fight with Kentuckians, who were wanted as allies. In consequence, when Brig. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner rolled into Bowling Green, Ky., today, there was no battle; the Confederates simply marched in and started looking for a place to camp.

Thursday Sept. 18 1862

The single bloodiest day of the War was over, or at least the shooting part of it was. Miller’s cornfield held 12,000 dead or dying, and thousands of others lay dead or suffered behind trees, in other fields, or along fencerows. In every building for miles around, surgeons, volunteers, farm families and strangers struggled to treat the wounded. Surgery was done on doors removed from their hinges; the survivors were laid on mattresses, tents, the bare ground, and in one case a hay manger to attempt to recover. Of the unscathed, Lee’s advisors recommended a hasty retreat across the Potomac. Lee, knowing that McClellan had thousands of reserves who had not even been used yesterday, chose to remain braced for another attack. For reasons known only to McClellan, the 36,000 Union men were never used.

Friday Sept. 18 1863

The Army of Tennessee was on the march today. Leaving only three divisions near Ringgold, Braxton Bragg moved all the rest across West Chickamauga Creek. These men were joined by Gen. James Longstreet’s corps from the Army of Northern Virginia, which had been detached after Gettysburg and sent west to help Bragg’s sagging fortunes. On the Union side, Rosecrans swung Thomas’s men far to the northeast to guard the right flank and the roads to Chattanooga. This required a difficult forced march, as they were far to the south of where they needed to be. As the armies got closer to each other skirmishes flared all along the line, at Pea Vine Ridge, Stevens’ Gap, Spring Creek, and numerous fords and bridges. The Chickamauga may have been only a creek, but it flowed between steep rocky banks and could only be crossed at a few points.

Sunday Sept. 18 1864

Jefferson Davis was either a great believer in the power of positive thinking, or completely deluded today. The siege of Petersburg continued as it had for months, with no progress whatever being made to break it. The only major portion of the Army of Northern Virginia operating elsewhere, Early’s cavalry force in the Shenandoah, was scattered and under pressure from Sheridan’s Union men. The far West had been lost since the fall of Vicksburg the summer before. Nevertheless, Davis sent a letter full of glowing optimism to a Confederate Congressman today, saying that he thought Atlanta could be retaken and “Sherman’s army can be driven out of Georgia, perhaps be utterly destroyed.”

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