Chickamauga, according to soldier rumor, is a Cherokee word meaning “River of Death.” It certainly lived up to that grim sobriquet in September 1863 when the Union Army of the Cumberland and Confederate Army of Tennessee waged bloody combat along the banks of West Chickamauga Creek. Long considered a two-day affair, award-winning author David Powell embraces a fresh approach that explores Chickamauga as a three-day battle, with September 18 being key to understanding how the fighting developed the next morning. The second largest battle of the Civil War produced 35,000 casualties and one of the last, clear-cut Confederate tactical victories—a triumph that for a short time reversed a series of Rebel defeats and reinvigorated the hope for Southern independence. At issue was Chattanooga, the important “gateway to the South” and logistical springboard into Georgia.
Despite its size, importance, and fascinating cast of characters, this epic Western Theater battle has received but scant attention. Powell masterfully rectifies this oversight with The Chickamauga Campaign—A Mad Irregular Battle: From the Crossing of the Tennessee River Through the Second Day, August 22 – September 19, 1863. The first of three installments spanning the entire campaign, A Mad Irregular Battle includes the Tullahoma Campaign in June, which set the stage for Chickamauga, and continues through the second day of fighting on September 19. The second installment finishes the battle from dawn on September 20 and carries both armies through the retreat into Chattanooga and the beginning of the siege. The third and last book of the series includes appendices and essays exploring specific questions about the battle in substantially greater detail.
Powell’s magnificent study fully explores the battle from all perspectives and is based upon fifteen years of intensive study and research that has uncovered nearly 2,000 primary sources from generals to private, all stitched together to relate the remarkable story that was Chickamauga. Here, finally, readers will absorb the thoughts and deeds of hundreds of the battle’s veterans, many of whom they have never heard of or read about. In addition to archival sources, newspapers, and other firsthand accounts, Powell grounds his conclusions in years of personal study of the terrain itself and regularly leads tours of the battlefield. His prose is as clear and elegant as it is authoritative and definitive.
The Chickamauga Campaign—A Mad Irregular Battle is Powell’s magnum opus, a tour-de-force rich in analysis brimming with heretofore untold stories. It will surely be a classic must-have battle study for every serious student of the Civil War.