Even after all this time and effort, there are at least three organizations involved with the Chickamauga campaign which remain almost entirely unknown quantities. My files contain glimpses of these commands, but only that – glimpses. They are shadows, acting off-stage, or in the wings. We never get to see them center stage.
All three of them have to do with reconnaissance. Two of them are Confederate formations, one is Federal. All of them almost certainly played a role in the campaign between September 8th, when Bragg departed Chattanooga, and September 18th, when the battle actually began.
The first of these is the informal scout detachment drawn from John T. Wilder’s Lightning Brigade. By 1863, virtually every Union brigade and division had a mounted scout detachment, drawn from the command at large. Evidence of those Union scout detachments appears from time to time in the Official Records, usually garnering only a passing mention.
Wilder’s scouts had a more important role than most, given the parent brigade’s direct attachment to Army HQ, and the sorts of independent missions Wilder was usually selected to undertake. Unfortunately, despite the great amount of information we have on Wilder, there is almost nothing on the scouts. Even Richard Baumgartner’s outstanding “Blue Lightning” tome has no details.
The second group belongs to Joe Wheeler’s cavalry corps. Wheeler had an “elite battalion” drawn from his corps, a special detachment he used for scouting and important missions behind enemy lines. Where they spies? Commandos? Deep cover operatives? We don’t know. Given how badly Wheeler failed in intelligence gathering throughout the campaign, I tend to think they weren’t really tasked with scouting – I suspect they were more like Forrest’s escort company, a formation Wheeler kept close and used as his personal combat force, but that is only a guess.
The third group, also Confederate, is potentially the most interesting to me, because I know the least about it. In August 1863, in addition to calling out the Georgia State Line, the State of Georgia mobilized several home-guard cavalry regiments and battalions. The unit formed in Walker County was the 6th Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Georgia State Guard. The first five companies of this battalion were raised in Walker County. Company E, also known as the Pond Springs Cavalry, were local men right in McLemore’s Cove.
This battalion has no presence in the published official Records. You can find a few traces of it in the Georgia state records, but no hint as to what they did, how many men were activated, or where they went.
Today, if you go to the Cove Methodist Church and walk in the little cemetery there, in addition to the Widow Eliza Glenn’s grave, you will see a half-dozen or so men of the 6th Battalion buried here.
I wish I knew more about them.