In the second week of September, 1863, the Ninety-ninth Ohio regiment marched with the Twenty-first Army Corps under the leadership of Major General Thomas L. Crittenden into Chattanooga after the Confederate Army, under General Braxton Bragg, evacuated without firing a shot.
Crittenden secured the town with troops before heading south to Georgia.
By Sunday, September 13th, the corps reached the area of Lee & Gordon’s Mills, a two-story white building on the Chickamauga Creek.
When fighting started on Saturday, September 19, Major General George H. Thomas’ Fourteenth Corps and Major General Alexander McCook’s Twentieth Corps were also in the Union’s line of defense. A Reserve Corps under Major General Gordon Granger waited to be called if needed. All these army corps made up the Army of the Cumberland with Major General William S. Rosecrans in charge.
The Ninety-ninth Ohio infantry was part of Brigadier General Van Cleve’s division. Divisions were divided into brigades and Colonel Sidney M. Barnes led the brigade for the Ohio regiment.
The amount of activity on the Confederate line showed that a large force waited to meet the Union Army in the coming battle. Most realized it would be a fierce fight before the first shot fired.
Confederate soldiers attacked the Union line where the Ninety-ninth Ohio laid waiting under the command of Colonel Swaine. Though unprepared for the swiftness of the assault, their training took over. When Union troops began retreating behind his regiment, Colonel Swaine ordered his men to lie flat until the soldiers in blue passed them.
Then Swaine ordered an advance. Brave men leaped to their feet to obey the command despite the muskets aimed at them. They checked the Confederate advance as the two sides peppered one another with lead.
Fighting went against them when they were flanked on the right. Swaine ordered his men to fall back to the La Fayette Road. Bullets and cannon fire came in such rapid succession in several areas of the battlefield that it made one continuous uproar. Smoke and the smell of gunpowder surrounded them.
Darkness ended the day’s fighting though gunfire continued on the picket line from those assigned to guard the troops.
The worst part of the long, frosty night for most soldiers was listening to the cries of the wounded that lay between the opposing lines.
Ambulance wheels ambled near to pick up wounded. Artillery creaked to new locations. Troops repositioned. No one slept much.
The next day’s fighting intensified. When the Southerners broke through a gap in the Union line, panic sent the northern army retreating in mass confusion. The withdrawal eventually led to Chattanooga.
The last of the Union soldiers finally reached Chattanooga on September twenty-second. There had been so much confusion during the retreat that many soldiers didn’t find their regiments until reaching town.
The huge battle fought near the Chickamauga Creek in Georgia was a decisive win for the Confederates.
-Sandra Merville Hart
Korn, Jerry. The Fight for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge, Time-Life Books, 1985.
Swanson, Mark. Atlas of the Civil War Month by Month: Major Battles and Troop Movements, The University of Georgia Press, 2004.
Woodworth, Steven E. Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, University of Nebraska Press, 1998.