By the end of August 1863, the Union Army of the Cumberland led by William Rosecrans had forced the Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg out of Tennessee. Bragg holed up in the strategically pivotal river port and rail nexus of Chattanooga. On 8 September, with several Union bridgeheads established across the Tennessee River, Bragg, fearing encirclement, evacuated Chattanooga and reassembled south of Chickamauga Creek. Meanwhile, Rosecrans, believing the Confederates to be in full retreat, addressed the mountainous Georgian terrain by dividing his forces three ways to chase them down. Bolstered by reinforcements, Bragg was thus presented with a priceless opportunity to defeat the Union forces in detail. The opportunity was wasted through timid execution, and the defiance of Bragg’s subordinates, most brazenly at McLemore’s Cove, where Confederate Generals Hindman and Buckner failed to pounce with a Union Division at their mercy. Alerted to their peril, Rosecrans hastily concentrated his forces.
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