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Battle of Chickamauga
Battle of Chickamauga
by Rick Byrd

Author's Note

I began the effort to write a synopsis of the Battle of Chickamauga for Military History Online with great enthusiasm, mixed with more than a tinge of reluctance. It represents the first formal writing I've done relating to military history. The final product would not have been possible if not for the work of many people, who certainly know the subject in much greater detail than I do. Although a complete list of sources I've used appears at the end of the text, I must say a few words of thanks to Peter Cozzens, whose excellent and detailed work, "This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga", was instrumental in my study of the battle. After several re-readings of the entire work, I carried the book around with me for months, examining bits of the text in stolen minutes, gleaning a deeper understanding of different facets of this extremely complex battle. It was also by my side as I composed this write-up of Chickamauga, and it was an invaluable resource, especially in tracking the complicated movements of the Confederate command on the night of September 19th, 1863, and on the morning of the following day. Someone once commented correctly that Cozzens gives a "tree by tree" account of the battle, and all students of military history and of the American Civil War are indebted to him for his scholarly approach and his highly readable style. It has often been rightly pointed out that his work is to Chickamauga what Edwin Coddington's "The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command", is to that great battle. Anyone wishing a detailed view of the Chickamauga campaign is highly encouraged to add Mr. Cozzen's work to their library.

Thanks are also due to Steven Woodworth, whose excellent battlefield guide and companion work "A Deep Steady Thunder", aided me greatly on trips I made to the battlefield personally. I also relied on the short but informative text of the National Park Civil War Series, entitled "The Battle of Chickamauga", written by William G. Robertson and accompanied by the excellent maps of George Skoch. Additionally, I found the video "The Battle of Chickamauga" from the "Unknown Civil War" series of documentaries, narrated by Steven Lang and distributed by Greystone Communications Group, Inc., helpful in obtaining a general over-view of the battle. Special thanks go to my Brother, Ronald Byrd, who accompanied me on several trips to the battlefield in May and November, 2000, and whose excellent questions challenged me to gain a deeper understanding of the events of the battle and of the men who fought at Chickamauga. I would also like to thank James H. Ogden III, and the entire staff at the Chickamauga -Chattanooga National Military Park for the excellent work they perform. I proudly acknowledge as well the support, in all of my creative endeavors, of my family - Marcell Byrd, Alvin Byrd, Edwin Smith and Michelle Byrd. Thanks are extended to Ms. Alice Graham and Mr. Paul Cox, who accompanied me to the battlefield and to areas like Missionary Ridge and Orchard Knob in Chattanooga, pointing out many interesting sites. 

I would also like to thank my friends in Los Angeles; Todd LaClair, Heather Cunha, Ken Easton, Miguel Sandoval, Tony Ferrarra, Marla Mears, Leonard Johnson, Armen Grigorian, Mark Merthe, Kevin Zelch, Cindy Keene, Jennifer McKinney, Jason Curcio, Justin Curcio, Mike and Stephanie Horvat, and numerous others who have indulged my interest on the subject of Chickamauga. Very special thanks are extended to Brian Williams and everyone at Military History Online for giving me the opportunity to compose this write-up in the first place and for providing the maps which accompany the text. I have found the site the greatest "living" resource on the subject of the American Civil War, World War II, and numerous other topics relating to military history.

As an aspiring singer-song writer, performing on the stages of the Los Angeles rock music scene, a health care professional, and a student of clinical psychology, I realize that I make an unlikely source to write a detailed synopsis of a Civil War battle, let alone one as challenging and complex as Chickamauga. Still, I have tried hard to stay accurate to the events, and to include enough detail to hold the attention of the seasoned student of military history, while at the same time striving to make it interesting and understandable to the average lay-person who has no previous knowledge of the subject. 

In the interest of space, I reluctantly made the decision to forego adding biographical information on the participants, with the exception of the material included in a few of the vignettes related to the battle. It goes without saying that often an understanding of the lives and experiences of those who fight in a battle greatly enhances an over-all comprehension of the specific decisions they make, and the interested reader is encouraged to consult one of the sources in the attached bibliography to obtain these important details. I have also attempted to steer clear of making judgments as to the competence level of the leaders involved in the drama. Controversy, virtually always married to historical accounts of any battle, abounds on the subject of Chickamauga as well. Among them are included such issues as Bragg's abilities and effectiveness as a commander, Longstreet's alleged desire to gain command of the Army of Tennessee for himself, what has come to be called the "Cist-Boynton" controversy, which holds Major Frank Bond and Brigadier General Thomas Wood as largely responsible for the Union defeat, and many others. Although I have not included my personal views relating to these and other controversies, their study is interesting and well worth gaining a familiarity with. I have also decided not to include specific footnotes, save for citing the source of some of the lengthier vignettes, where almost always, the reader (as will be obvious) is referred to Cozzens. Finally, despite my best efforts, I have no doubt that this work may contain errors and, where they occur, the responsibility is entirely my own.

It is in mournful memory that I respectfully dedicate this effort to all of the men who bravely fought and valiantly died amid the fields and forests of Chickamauga.

Richard A. Byrd
January, 2001
Studio City, CA

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Copyright © 2001 Richard A. Byrd.

Written by Richard A. Byrd.

Published online: 04/09/2001.

* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent those of MHO.
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