Union Troops to be Shipped West to Rescue Chattanooga

September 24, 1863

Union troops in Chattanooga are besieged after the Battle of Chickamauga. President Lincoln wires General  William S. Rosecrans: “Last night we received the rebel accounts, through Richmond papers, of your late battle. They give Major Genl. Hood, as mortally wounded,  and Brigaders Preston Smith, Woolford, Walthall, Helm, of Ky, and Deshler killed; and Major Generals Preston, Cleburne and Greeg,  and Brig. Generals Benning, Adams, Bunn, Brown, and John Helm, wounded.  By confusion, the two Helms may be the same man, and Bunn and Brown may be the same man. With Burnside, Sherman, and from elsewhere, we shall get to you, from forty to sixty thousand additional men.”

In the middle of the night, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton wires Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana: ‘We have arranged to send fifteen thousand [twenty-three thousand] infantry under Hooker, and will have them in Nashville in five or six days, with orders to go immediately to wherever Rosecrans want them.’  A few minutes later he ordered Hooker by wire to seize and use all the railways he might need and to command all the ‘officers thereof’ to help and obey.”  Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “Stanton.–I propose then to send 30,000 from the Army of the Potomac.  There is no reason to expect that General Meade will attack Lee, although greatly superior in force; and his great numbers where they are, are useless.  In five days 30,00 could be put with Rosecrans.”  He added: “The President.–I will be that if the order is given tonight, the troops could not be got to Washington in five days.

The assistance of Stanton biographer Frank A. Flower wrote in Edwin McMasters Stanton: “At breakfast time President Garrett arrived in the War Office, followed before noon by T.A. Scott and S.M. Felton, from whom the amount of rolling stock instantly available was learned.  Stanton had not yet slept nor eaten, and Townsend, the adjutant-general, was trotting about with a half-eaten sandwich in one hand and a bundle of Stanton’s orders to be sent immediately in the other.”

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary : “Having gone home last evening very weary, was called up from my bed about midnight by a messenger from the War Department, who said I was wanted there immediately. The summons really alarmed me. I felt sure that disaster had befallen us; that the army of Rosecrans had been attacked before his defenses were completed, and had been compelled to surrender, or had been defeated with great loss in another bloody battle, and its remains driven across the Tennessee. Great was my relief when reaching the War Department, and asking, ‘More bad news?’ Stanton replied, ‘No; what there is favorable.’ He then handed me a telegram from [General James] Garfield to myself, which stated that Rosecrans could hold out ten days where he was, but earnestly urged reinforcements. Other telegrams from Rosecrans and Dana gave encouraging expectations that he could hold out still longer time. Both also urged reinforcements. After a littlo while the President and Mr. Seward also came in. General Hal leek was already there. Mr. Stanton then opened the conference by inquiring of General Halleck what reinforcements Burnside could add to Rosecrans, and in what time. Halleck replied, twenty thousand men in ten days, if uninterrupted. The President then said, ‘Before ten days Burnside will put in enough to hold the place, (Chattanooga).

“Stanton to Halleck—How many in eight days?

“Halleck—12,000.

“The President—After Burnside begins to arrive the pinch will be over.

“Stanton—Unless the enemy, anticipating reinforcements, attacks promptly. (To Halleck)—When will Sherman’s reach Rosecrans?

“Halleck—In about ten days, if already moved from Vicksburg. His route will be to Memphis, thence to Corinth and Decatur, and a march of a hundred or a hundred and fifty miles on the north side of the Tennessee river. Boats have already gone down from Cairo, and every available man ordered forward, say from twenty to twentyfive thousand.

“Stanton—Are any more available elsewhere?

“Halleck—A few in Kentucky; I don’t know how many; all were ordered to Burnside.

“Stanton—I propose to send 30,000 from the Army of the Potomac. There is no reason to expect that General Meade will attack Lee, although greatly superior in force; and his great numbers, where they are, are useless. In five days 30,000 could be put with Rosecrans.

“The President—I will bet that if the order is given to-night the troops could not be got to Washington in five days.

“Stanton—On such a subject I don’t feel inclined to bet; but the matter has been carefully investigated, and it is certain that 30,000 bales of cotton could be sent in that time, by taking possession of the railroads and excluding all other business, and I do not see why 30,000 men can not be sent as well. But if 30,000 can’t be sent, let 20,000 go.

“Much conversation followed, the President and Halleck evidently disinclined to weaken Meade’s force, whilst Seward and myself were decided in recommending the reinforcement of Rosecrans. It was at length agreed that Halleck should telegraph to Meade in the morning, and if an immediate advance was not certain, the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, supposed to make about 13,000 men, should be sent westward at once, under Hooker, with Butterfield as his chief-of-staff.”

Most surviving telegrams from President Lincoln to his wife are relatively brief.  But today, President Lincoln chooses to present a relatively detailed picture of the war to his wife in New York: “We now have a tolerably accurate summing up of the late battle between Rosecrans and Bragg. The result is that we are worsted, if at all, only in the fact that we, after the main fighting was over, yielded the ground, thus leaving considerable of our artillery and wounded to fall into the enemies’ hands, for which we got nothing in turn. We lost, in general officers, one killed, and three or four wounded, all Brigadiers; while according to rebel accounts, which we have, they lost six killed, and eight wounded. Of the killed, one Major Genl. and five Brigadiers, including your brother-in-law, Helm;  and of the wounded, three Major Generals, and five Brigadiers. This list may be reduced two in number, by correction of confusion in names. At 11/40 A.M. yesterday Gen. Rosecrans telegraph[ed] from Chattanooga ‘We hold this point, and I can not be dislodged, except by very superior numbers, and after a great battle’’ A despatch leaving there after night yesterday says, ‘No fight to-day.’”

President Lincoln writes to Pennsylvania Governor Andrew G. Curtin: “The Secretary of War tells me the claims for draft expences of last year, have been paid, except a few of questionable fairness; and that the appropriation, the amount of which I think he says was fixed by yourself, has been almost entirely expended. The reasonable requests you speak of we are complying with as nearly as we can. “

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