The Mysterious Events at McLemore’s Cove

(August 9, 2017) Unlike Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, Confederate armies west of the Appalachians and east of the Mississippi River seldom won major battles. The biggest success, at Chickamauga in late September 1863, was a Pyrrhic victory, costing the Rebel Army of Tennessee more casualties than the defeated federal Army of the Cumberland. Kennesaw Mountain was a sizable Confederate win, but most of the other convincing victories in the region—Chickasaw Bayou, Holly Springs, Richmond, Munfordville—were strategically small.

Yet there were at least two instances when the Army of Tennessee should have achieved a significant victory, but failed for mysterious reasons. The first was at McLemore’s Cove on Sept. 10 and 11, 1863, shortly before the nearby battle of Chickamauga.

Things had not gone well for the Confederates in Tennessee that summer. The Union general William Rosecrans had deployed his Army of the Cumberland with such skill in mid-June 1863 that it suffered minimal casualties when maneuvering Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee out of the central part of the state. Bragg was forced to retreat into fortified Chattanooga, which was barely within Tennessee state lines.

Then, on Aug. 21, Rosecrans began a follow-up campaign to dislodge Bragg from Chattanooga in order to capture the railroad center without storming its defenses. On Sept. 9 he succeeded, when Gen. Thomas Crittenden’s corps entered the town without the loss of a single man.

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2 thoughts on “The Mysterious Events at McLemore’s Cove

  1. Jeff Moore

    Jefferson Davis personally liked Bragg and kept him in charge of the west. Big mistake. So much could have been done differently with another General in charge. Don’t blame Bragg for being a bad leader. but blame President Jeff Davis for keeping him. Davis should have ordered Lee South after Gettysburg instead of Longstreet and called Bragg home. Lee could have stayed only for the fall and in the spring returned to Virginia as Longstreet did. Things would have been different. Lee would have captured Chattanooga the day after the Confederate victory at Chickamuga Creek. Then moved on into the Tennessee proper. Atlanta would have never fallen and Lincoln would have defeated. Just my opinion… Davis lost that war.

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