September 24, 1863: Hooker to Chattanooga

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was an irascible and cantankerous man who didn’t suffer fools, or anyone else for that matter, gladly.  He was often a pain to be around.  However he more than made up for his lack of people skills, with driving energy, imagination and tenacity.  These characteristics all came into play in the wake of the Union defeat at Chickamauga.

On the night of September 23, 1863 he went to the White House and took the drastic step of summoning the President from his bed to attend a hurried council of war.  Stanton proposed to dispatch to Chattanooga from the Army of the Potomac the XI and XII corps, some 20,000 men.  Lincoln was dubious that the troops, having to travel some 1200 miles by rail, would arrive in time to aid Rosecrans.  Stanton came prepared for this objection.  Present at the meeting was Colonel D.C. McCallum, head of the Department of Military Railroads, who, at Stanton’s prompting, promised that the troops could be shipped in a week, and vouched for it with his life.  Lincoln, reassured, agreed to the plan.  The expedition was to be commanded by Major General Joseph Hooker, the former commander of the Army of the Potomac given another opportunity to play a major role in the War.

Stanton worked through the night and the entire next day, issuing orders, seizing railroads and giving Hooker full authority to use all and any resources necessary to make this lightning move.  Hooker, back in a major command again, wasted no time putting the troops into motion.  The troops began to entrain at Manassas Junction on September 25, and the first troops arrived at Bridgeport, Alabama on September 30, having traveled via Washington, D. C.- Baltimore, Md,- Bellaire and Columbus, Ohio- Indianapolis, Ind.-Louisville, Ky,- Nashville, Tenn, and on to Bridgeport, 30 miles from Chattanooga.  All the infantry in the two corps had arrived within nine days, with the cavalry, artillery, baggage, etc, having all arrived by the middle of October.

This was a stupendous demonstration of the ability of the Union at this stage of the War to transport large amounts of troops very swiftly over vast distances, one of many reasons why the Confederacy was unable to exploit a local victory like Chickamauga to reverse the overall trend of the War.

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