Chronological Events during the Union Occupation of Dade County
Sunday, August 30-Monday- Tuesday, Sept. 1
General Rosecrans and the Army of the Cumberland were moving south. He commanded 80,425 officers and soldiers. His first objective was to take Chattanooga. Another objective was to attempt to cut the Confederates from their railroad access to Rome and more importantly to Atlanta.
His three leading generals and corps were:
Major General George H. Thomas XIV Corps (14th) with 22,769 with four divisions
Major General Alexander McCook XX Corps (20th) with 14,178 with three divisions
Major General Thomas Crittenden XXI Corps (21th) with 13,958 with three divisions
Also essential to the campaign were a Reserve Corps under the command of Major General Gordon Granger and a Cavalry Corps (Ohio 3rd and 2nd Michigan and other divisions) commanded by Major General David Stanley.
The three main corps were poised on the west side of the Tennessee River (repairing railroad bridges, resting, etc.) preparing for the long uphill crossing of Sand Mountain (also called Raccoon) and later to cross Lookout Mountain. The path was to be three-pronged with McCook to the right (south) at Bridgeport and he headed over Sand Mountain to Valley Head (Winston’s Gap) and Ft. Payne (Rawlingville) then to cross Lookout toward Rome. Crittenden was on the left (north) and he was to cross the Tennessee River at Shellmound and move through Whiteside, Hooker, toward Wauhatchie and on to Chattanooga. General Thomas corps was in the middle and was to cross Sand Mountain and move in several ways toward the small town of Trenton in the Lookout Valley and later to cross Lookout Mountain at Johnson’s Crook.
According to Robertson’s article “The Fall of Chattanooga” in the Fall 2006 edition of Blue and Gray magazine, Trenton is described as “a village of about a dozen houses . . . nestled between Sand Mountain on the west and Lookout Mountain. Trenton was connected to Chattanooga by a good road and a spur of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad to the north.”
General Rosecrans had sent several corps from the north moving toward Chattanooga by crossing Walden’s Ridge and even farther north at Harrison and Tyner’s Station. This tactic was to fool Confederate General Bragg into believing that Chattanooga would be attacked from the north. His intelligence proved to be weak and he did not perceive this until it was too late.
Sunday, August 30, 1863 dawned “quite cool” according to 73rd Illinois Infantry Historian in Sheridan’s Division of the XX Corps. After crossing the Tennessee River, the Ohio 3rd Cavalry crossed Sand Mountain descended in to the Lookout Valley, visited Trenton and returned to the mountaintop. The 2nd Michigan Cavalry moved up river to Shellmound and crossed the river in make-shift rafts and canoes. At the same time the 2nd Tennessee (U.S) Cavalry marched into the darkness until they reached Running Water Canyon. Crittenden and the XIV began to move down the Sequatchie Valley toward Shellmound.
Meanwhile, Confederate General Bragg in Chattanooga had reports of Federals at Trenton, Shellmound and near Wauhatchie. He was told that the forces were not large and he continued to believe that he would be confronted from the northeast of Chattanooga. He did decide to consolidate his forces by halting Brigadier General John Wharton’s move northward at Lafayette, rather than sending him on toward Harrison, TN. Wharton’s assignment was to guard the passes over Lookout Mountain south of Chattanooga, just the path that the northern troops were about to take. Joe Wheeler’s cavalry was repositioned by Bragg. Wheeler’s 3rd Alabama was instructed on Aug. 30 to move to Trenton and to cover Lookout Mountain. They marched 35 miles on the 30th and 10 more in the early hours of the 31st.
Also on the 30th there were skirmishes between the 3rd Confederate Cavalry and the 2nd Tennessee (U.S.) from the river to Murphy’s Hollow Road and on toward Trenton. McCook’s 20th, led by Davis, managed to cross the river at Bridgeport toward Bellefonte and move to camp on Sand Mountain that night. General Sheridan’s division of the 20th stayed on the far side of the river in order to help repair the railroad bridge. His assignment after crossing the river was to march, via Trenton, to Will’s Valley (Fort Payne and Valley Head). Farther north the river crossing at Shellmound began. They had eight boats; several were hand-made. Troop movement began early evening of the 30th and continued at a pace of 400 men per hour until past midnight.
On Monday the 31st, moves and countermoves began, Wheeler’s man, Mauldin (3rd Alabama) reached Trenton after the long 45 mile hike. He immediately sent pickets up Sand Mountain where they were barely in place “before they were driven down the mountain and rallied command at the edge of Trenton.” Union Bridage Commander Heg had sent Col. Abernathy to Sand Mountain with 30 cavalrymen to map the road. He was unable to drive the Alabamians from Trenton, so he withdrew to Sand Mountain. Mauldin did express alarm in his report to Wheeler, he was flanked on the north and the south and his train was in danger. Even though he reported that he expected to be attacked. He promised to do his best but doubted that he would be successful. Within 3 hours of the message’s dispatch, Mauldin’s cry for help reached Bragg in Chattanooga, rather than Wheeler, at 2 a.m. on Sept. 1.
As the remainder of the Union XX Corps moved from Stevenson, the 73th Illinois Historian, reported the weather at 4:30 a.m., “dust was abundant in the road and on either side, but the weather was moderately warm and the march endurable.” The Confederate signalmen were sent to Lookout Mountain to send back information to troops in the other valley. Southern troops were moved around like chess pieces to build a screen for Bragg’s venture southward. Preparations were being made as if the Federals were able to take Trenton and cross Lookout Mountain. Infantry units were told to prepare rations for three days travel.
Trickery and rumors were rampant on all sides and caused great movement by all. Bragg was rumored to be moving north of Chattanooga to cross the river and hopefully split Rosecrans troops and to take their railroad. Rosecrans’ Chief of Staff, General Chester A. Arthur to his wife summed up the activity, “delaying movement until we can ascertain the truth of the rumor.”
Federal troop movement was slow. Job one for the Union on September 1 was to repair the Bridgeport railroad bridge so that supplies could be brought from the north. At Shellmound, that day, Private Bliss Morse wrote his mother about the food, surroundings and the weather. “Our camp is at a railroad station on the river. The corner of Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia lines join here and before I leave this place I am going to straddle them. This place takes its name from the large deposits of shells in the bank and hills around. . . . There are coal mines here from which the rebels get a great amount of coal. All the buildings there are at this place is the depot building and that is nearly demolished by shells thrown into it by our battery on the other side of the river, as our forces were to cross. . . . We had potatoes, green corn, and apples to eat—besides onions, squashes, and peaches. . . . We have had cool nights for the last two days with heavy dews.”
At 9 a.m. on Wednesday, September 2, a 2700 feet span was completed. Though shaky in spots troops began crossing by noon. At 3 p.m. about 700 feet of the bridge fell in the river taking five wagons and mule teams with them. Pontoons rescued all but one mule. Also on that day General McCook reported that the rest of Sheridan’s division marched across at Bridgeport and marched toward Trenton. The weather on that day was reported as “somewhat warmer.” As September 2 ended, both Negley and Sheridan encamped at the same spot on Sand Mountain at Moore’s Spring.