After a hiatus, I have posted another installment of my series on the Civil War, aka The War of the Rebellion
This piece covers the critically important, but often underappreciated 1863 campaign in Central Tennessee. As I note in the piece, the Confederate general John B. Gordon described the Rebel setbacks at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga as "a triune disaster to the Confederate cause."
But I conclude that the case can be made that the most important of these was Chattanooga. For even though 1863 appears in retrospect to be the decisive year of the war, war weariness in the North was becoming widespread, even with Union successes in the field. Dissent in the North was a major concern for Lincoln; indeed, he did not expect to win the election of 1864.
It was Sherman’s capture of Atlanta in September of 1864 that changed the electoral equation. Had Atlanta not fallen when it did, it is very possible that Democrat George McClellan would have been elected president, with the Copperhead Rep. George H. Pendleton of Ohio, as his vice president. A negotiated peace may well have followed.
But before Atlanta could fall, Union forces had to penetrate the Appalachian barrier at Chattanooga, opening the road to Atlanta. Had Bragg prevailed at Chattanooga, or even delayed its loss to the Union, the outcome of the war may have been far different than it was. The title of Peter Cozzens’ book on Chattanooga says it all: the loss of the city to the Confederates was indeed "the shipwreck of their hopes."
I also address the Lost Cause myth that claims that Confederate military leadership was generally superior to that of the Union. In fact, the only consistently successful Confederate army was Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. I don’t have a lot of positive things to say about Braxton Bragg, who commanded the main Confederate army in the West, the Army of Tennessee. I try to show how his failures in leadership destined his unfortunate army to stumble from one defeat to another.