Book Review: Tullahoma: The Forgotten Campaign that Changed the Course of the Civil War, June 23 - July 4, 1863


by David A. Powell and Eric J. Wittenberg.

El Dorado Hills, Ca.: Savas Beattie, 2020. Pp. xii, 396. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 1611215048

The Most Brilliant “Forgotten” Campaign of the Civil War

Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans hardly ever pops up in conversations about great leaders of the Civil War, since he is primarily remembered for the disaster that befell his Army of the Cumberland at Chickamauga. Yet in the early summer of 1863 Rosecrans carried out what is arguably the most brilliant campaign of the war, albeit one over-shadowed by the contemporary events at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. By a series of maneuvers over little more than ten days he hustled Braxton Bragg’s Confederate army out of central Tennessee virtually without a fight and at remarkably little cost in lives on either side. That operation is the subject of this impressive new work by two notable students of the war.

Opening with a brief overview of Rosecrans’ life and character, the authors set the stage in four chapters covering the nature of the two armies and events from late 1862 through the Spring of 1863. They then examine Rosecrans’ meticulous preparations for the operation to capture the heart of Tennessee.

Rosecrans kicked off his offensive on June 23rd. His plan was simple to outline, by making use of feints, diversions, and rapid movements, he would seem to threaten one of Bragg’s flanks, thereby drawing the latter’s attention in that direction, and then move in strength against Bragg’s other flank, forcing him to withdraw. Explaining its execution is not so easy, but the authors do this well. Rosecrans pulled this off three times over just a few weeks, setting up an “operational rhythm” that totally discomfited Bragg, throwing him back over 100 miles; the Union losses were fewer than 100 dead, Confederate casualties are uncertain, but included some 1,500 prisoners.

There was no great “Battle of Tullahoma” comparable to Gettysburg, with a comparable butcher’s bill, of Vicksburg, with its great bag of prisoners, which is perhaps one reason that Rosecrans’s operation is often overlooked, yet it gave the Union a trifecta in July of 1863 . But there were many little fights, skirmishes, and combats, which are well told, often in great detail. The authors make good use of eye-witness accounts drawn from both sides, found in diaries, letters, memoirs, reports, and the like. They also offer us numerous often insightful biographical profiles of many of the participants of all ranks, some well known, but most now largely forgotten, to help us better understand who did what and why.

Tullahoma: The Forgotten Campaign that Changed the Course of the Civil War, is an outstanding addition to the literature of the war.




Note: Tullahoma: The Forgotten Campaign that Changed the Course of the Civil War, is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi   

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