On July 4th, two great Union triumphs fell upon an anxious nation like a bombshell. Across the North, Independence Day would be marked forever by the twin successes of Gettysburg and Vicksburg (though in all fairness, few Northerners were fully aware of Grant’s achievement in Mississippi that day, given the lack of direct telegraphic access to the front.) In fact, July 4th 1863 was celebrated by three Union accomplishments, not just two.
Abraham Lincoln would call it “the most splendid piece of Strategy I know of.” Even years later, General David Stanley argued that “no better piece of successful strategy was carried out during the war.” Beginning on June 26th, amid a week’s worth of driving rainstorms which turned Middle Tennessee’s throughways and byways to little more than quagmires, the Union Army of the Cumberland flanked Bragg out of Shelbyville and Tullahoma, forcing the Confederate Army of Tennessee to stagger back all the way to Chattanooga.
On the 4th, Rosecrans dined with Alexander McDowell McCook, head of the Union XX Corps, at Winchester. It was a festive affair. Garfield, Jefferson C. Davis and Phil Sheridan were also present; bottles made the rounds, and congratulations were offered. But Rosecrans wasn’t just there to party. Amid the cigars and whisky, Rosecrans laid out his initial ideas for the capture of the next vital objective: Chattanooga.
The Chickamauga Campaign had begun…