Decisions at Chattanooga
The Nineteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Battle
Lawrence K. Peterson
University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee, 2018, 176 pages
Book Review published on: February 8, 2019
Lawrence K. Peterson has produced a well-documented and unique perspective on the battle and campaign centered on the town of Chattanooga, Tennessee, from September through November 1863 during the American Civil War. As Peterson notes in his preface, his book “is not another work describing the Battle of Chattanooga, instead it is an entirely different approach to viewing how this battle and other Civil War battles and campaigns unfolded.” He dissects the battle into nineteen critical decisions that he places into five categories and time periods. In his introduction, Peterson articulates that Union Gen. William Rosecrans and his Army of the Cumberland’s flanking maneuver from Nashville forced Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of the Tennessee out of middle Tennessee and into Georgia. Those maneuvers eventually led to Bragg’s attack on Rosecrans’s army at the Battle of Chickamauga. Following the battle, he discusses the critical decisions both presidents—Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis—made with regard to their commanding officers. Lincoln consolidated the Union’s three Western departments into the Military Division of the Mississippi and placed Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in command while removing Rosecrans of command. Davis, on the other hand, ignored advice from his senior officers in the field and reaffirmed his longtime friend, Bragg, to remain in command of his army. The author also discusses the positioning of both armies in and around Chattanooga to discuss on how the battle would unfold. (Peterson further breaks down his nineteen points in the format of describing the situation, options, decision, results/impacts, and alternative decision and scenario for each point.)
Furthermore, the author presents three critical points that were made on 23 November that eventually contributed to a Union victory. He inserts personal accounts from officers and enlisted soldiers to highlight why decisions were made at each point of the battle. Moreover, decisions on the first day of battle range from Gen. William T. Sherman’s attack on the Confederate right flank to Union Gen. Joseph Hooker’s attack near Lookout Mountain on their left flank. On the second day, he discusses the decisions that ultimately lead to the Union advance onto Missionary Ridge and retreat of Bragg’s army. In addition to his conclusion, Peterson provides a very detailed Union and Confederate order of battle and a driving tour map with eleven stops describing the critical decision points made at each stop. As the author had noted, this unique look into Decisions at Chattanooga would make a welcome addition to the Civil War enthusiast collection of the American Civil War in the Western Theater.
Book Review written by: R. Scott Martin, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas