The Duel for Chattanooga
The Emergence of U.S. Grant
While Ulysses Grant was recovering from a near-fatal riding accident and George Meade was groping through Northern Virginia in a vain attempt to trap Lee's army, a small group of Confederate officials were debating a variety of plans designed to provide the South with a decisive victory to at least partially nullify the negative impact of Gettysburg and Vicksburg. During the weeks after those two disasters had occurred, William Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland had shaken off six months of almost total inactivity, and through a series of brilliant maneuvers, had forced Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee to abandon its base at Tullahoma and withdraw rapidly toward the vital rail center of Chattanooga. Unless this latest Federal drive was halted, the Yankees would soon enter Georgia and capture Atlanta, which would divide the northern and southern sections of the Confederacy in the same way that the fall of Vicksburg had split the republic into separate eastern and western sections a few weeks earlier.
Secretary of War Seddon and General James Longstreet once again proposed the plan that they had submitted after the victory at Chancellorsville ; namely, that at least one corps of the Army of Northern Virginia be transported west by rail to reinforce Bragg's army and overwhelm the Federals threatening Chattanooga and Atlanta. While Robert E. Lee had been able to veto this plan in May, this time Jefferson Davis approved the idea and Major Frederick Sims was ordered to work out the logistics of moving three Confederate divisions 550 miles from the Rapidan River to Chattanooga. However, while Sims was working out the calculations for this massive transfer, an army under General Ambrose Burnside captured Cumberland Gap and Knoxville. This forced the Confederates to reroute their expedition through the Carolinas, then to Augusta, Georgia, north to Atlanta and then finally toward the rapidly shifting lines of Bragg's army—a total of almost 1000 miles along the creaky, poorly maintained Southern