The Chattanooga campaign was one of the key moments of the fighting in 1863, and saw U.S. Grant undo the damage done by the Confederate victory at Chickamauga, raise the siege of Chattanooga and then drive away the Confederate armies outside the city, in the process also lifting the siege of Knoxville. This series of successes set the stage for Sherman's march to Atlantic, and then his march to the sea, so played a pivotal part in the eventual Union victory in the Civil War. This entry in the campaign series follows events on both sides of the lines from the point when Bragg's Confederates approached the city, through the most dangerous phase of the resulting siege and on to Grant's efforts to get supplies into the city, then reinforcements and finally his attempts to destroy Bragg's army. Although this last stage of Grant's plan wasn't entirely successful, the Confederates were forced to retreat after suffering heavy losses, and failing to take advantage of their success at Chickamauga.
This is an excellent short account of the campaign, with a clear narrative of the campaign, giving both sides' perspective of events. There is the normal selection of high quality maps, which help make sense of a fairly complex campaign, as well as a good selection of illustrations and contemporary photographs (including some showing the battlefield as it was then).
The two commanders emerge as the most significant differences between the two sides. Bragg was lethargic, apparently happy to just sit and wait until the defenders of Chattanooga ran out of food. He argued with all of his corps commanders, and only really retained his command because he had Jefferson Davis's support. In contrast Grant injected a great deal of energy into the Union effort, was generally able to rely on his subordinates, and came up with a successful plan to get supplies into the city and then go onto the offensive. Realistically the Confederate siege had failed the moment Grant was able to open the 'cracker line' into Chattanooga. After that Bragg really should have retreated, to shorten his own supply lines, but his refusal to do so gave Grant a chance to destroy his army. Grant wasn't able to take that chance, but he shouldn't have been given it in the first place.
The Battlefield Today
Author: Mark Lardas