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Army of the Cumberland
Army of the Cumberland
The Army of the Cumberland existed twice, in the early days of the war, then again in early 1863 after William S. Rosecrans took command of the Army of Ohio from Don Carlos Buell.
Abraham Lincoln had not been happy with Buell since the Battle of Shiloh, when he showed up late on the first day. When advancing towards Chattanooga in June, 1862, Buell tried to hold a line nearly 400 miles long. Braxton Bragg and the Army of Mississippi and E. Kirby Smith and the Army of Kentucky easily sidestepped Buell, nearly cutting his line of supply to Louisville in the Confederate Invasion of Kentucky. When 20 officers wrote complaining of Buell to the President, Lincoln offered the job of commander to George Thomas who refused.
Following Perryville, Lincoln offered the job to William S. Rosecrans, who accepted. The Army of the Cumberland, essentially the renamed Army of the Ohio, was formed the following day. Rosecrans moved south, where he met Bragg's Confederates when they attacked near Murfreesboro, Tennessee in the Battle of Stone's River. Two field commanders, Thomas and Phillip Sheridan, played pivotal roles in the success of the Army of the Cumberland that day. Sheridan rallied his men against a good part of Bragg's army, only pulling back when his division had been decimated, and Thomas, who held the center of the Army of the Cumberland's line in spite of having both flanks turned.
After a day's rest, the Army of the Cumberland returned to battle and drove the Army of Tennessee south of the Duck River. With both armies reeling from the great loss at Stone's River they resupplied for the next six months. Finally, in June, 1863 Rosecrans began the Tullahoma Campaign that ended with his army in Stevenson, Alabama and eyeing the prize of Chattanooga. Col. John Wilder conceived a ruse where his men would move northeast of Chattanooga, act as if the Union were massing a second army and force Bragg to retreat. Bragg fell for Wilder's trick and at the start of September, 1863, Rosecrans entered Georgia. Yet the very reason why Bragg retreated made it dangerous for Rosecrans to occupy the city - it was a nightmare to defend.
The entrance to Georgia from the northwest is guarded by a series of high plateau topped ridges, most famous of which is Lookout Mountain. Rather than concentrate his forces in Chattanooga, Rosecrans decided to pierce the mountains through their gaps, often being forced to build roads as they advanced. Rosecrans was hoping to get through the mountain passes safely, then use Chattanooga to supply his army. The Union commander never got the chance.
On September 19, 1863, Bragg launched an attack against the Army of the Cumberland that resulted in the worst defeat in U. S. Army history, the Battle of Chickamauga. After being routed and contained in Chattanooga, Rosecrans had serious doubts about maintaining both his position and his army. To rescue the beleaguered Yankees, Lincoln sent "Fighting Joe" Hooker, William Tecumseh Sherman and General Ulysses S. Grant to take overall command. In late November, 1863, the Union Army broke the Army of the Cumberland, now under the command of George Thomas, out of Chattanooga.
During the Atlanta Campaign, Thomas took the Army of the Cumberland through Northwest Georgia and on to Atlanta. Almost singlehandedly, the Army of the Cumberland battled the Confederates at the "doors of death." Joe Johnston had five months to entrench and the result made Sherman, Thomas's new commander, wary of a frontal assault near Dalton, Georgia. At the battle of Resaca,
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"Fighting Joe" Hooker
Army of the Cumberland was last changed on - January 1, 2009
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