Rosecrans and Burnside Still Almost Nearly Ready

August 14, 1863 (Friday)

Rosecrans is just waiting for that peculiar train.
Rosecrans is just waiting for that peculiar train.

For weeks Generals William Rosecrans and Ambrose Burnside had been urged and ordered to move forward, and for weeks, both gave various excuses and reasons why it could not be done. In the mind of the War Department and President in Washington, the biggest reason why it had to be done, and swiftly, was the enemy. Though the surrender of Vicksburg had been a Confederate defeat, it freed up General Joe Johnston’s Army of Relief to reinforce Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

It was, therefore, imperative that Rosecrans attack and defeat Bragg before the Rebels had a chance to do that. Burnside, with his Army of the Ohio, was to take advance of Rosecrans’ movement, swoop down and finally wrest East Tennessee from the clutches of Rebellion.

When General Rosecrans heard from Lincoln on the 10th, the President wondered if it was already too late. This seemed to spark some kind of fire under Rosecrans. By the next day, he had moved an entire division of infantry, and one of cavalry, but soon thought better. There was only one day’s worth of food and not enough railroad cars to make a larger move, he told Washington. Burnside, whose own move was mostly independent of Rosecrans’, was the reason this time. He would not be able to step off for two more days. “His movement should be felt before ours on the left,” concluded Rosecrans.

Here's an approximate map of where everybody is. Approximately.
Here’s an approximate map of where everybody is. Approximately.

On the 12th, both he and Burnside spent much of the day sending telegrams back and forth. “Where are you?” asked Roscrans. “Am anxious to hear.” Burnside was at Camp Nelson, about twenty miles south of Lexington, Kentucky. “How are you progressing?” asked Burnside in reply. He had heard that Rosecrans would be delayed another two or three days.

But this, it seemed, was completely untrue. “We will be at the Tennessee River by the time you reach Kingston [upriver from Chattanooga],” boasted Rosecrans. “Do you want the excess of rations we have there?”

But Rosecrans’ bravado (or at least his optimism) was soon cut short. His men had to be moved by rail, but the line from Tracy City was “built for bringing coal down the mountains, has such high grades and sharp curves as to require a peculiar engine.” The only one they had was “broken on its way from Nashville,” and wasn’t repaired until the 12th. Rosecrans halted his entire movement “until that road was completely available for transporting stores to Tracy City.”

This would take roughly four days.

Camp Nelson, Kentucky
Camp Nelson, Kentucky

General Burnside, on the other hand, had been waiting for his IX Corps to return from service at Vicksburg. On the 12th, the same day that Rosecrans’ peculiar engine was reportedly repaired, the first of two divisions arrived in Covington, Kentucky. The second wouldn’t arrived for another week. This was enough, however, to get Burnside almost moving.

While they certainly weren’t ready quite yet,on this date, Burnside had prepared General Field Orders No. 2, which were nothing special, but let everyone know that the Army of the Ohio would soon be on its way.

Burnside began by reminding his men “that the present campaign takes them through a friendly territory, and that humanity and the best interests of the service reuire that the peaceable inhabitants be treated with kindness, and that every protection be given by the soldiers to them and to their property.”

Though it was difficult to tell, both Rosecrans and Burnside were nearly ready to begin their marches. After another full day of preparation, they would begin.1



  1. Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 30, Part 1, p50; Part 2, p548; Part 3, p16-17, 22, 30-31; This Terrible Sound by Peter Cozzens. []
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Rosecrans and Burnside Still Almost Nearly Ready by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International

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2 thoughts on “Rosecrans and Burnside Still Almost Nearly Ready

  1. I can hardly wait for the Battle of Chickamauga and when Grant saves the army at Chattanooga.

  2. Also worth noting on this date: the collapse of the improvised women’s prison in Kansas City, with at least ten females, all age 20 or less, inside. Four were killed including Josephine Anderson, the 15-year-old sister of William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, a lieutenant of William C. Quantrill. The rumor spread that the building had been deliberately undermined by Union soldiers. Ugly events were about to unfold.

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