David Powell’s The Chickamauga Campaign—Glory or the Grave: The Breakthrough, Union Collapse, and the Retreat to Chattanooga, September 20-23, 1863 is the second volume in his magnificent projected three-volume study of this overlooked and largely misunderstood campaign.
According to soldier rumor, Chickamauga in Cherokee meant “River of Death.” The name lived up to that grim sobriquet in September 1863 when the Union Army of the Cumberland and Confederate Army of Tennessee waged a sprawling bloody combat along the banks of West Chickamauga Creek. This installment of Powell’s tour-de-force depicts the final day of battle, when the Confederate army attacked and broke through the Union lines, triggering a massive rout, an incredible defensive stand atop Snodgrass Hill, and a confused retreat and pursuit into Chattanooga. Powell presents all of this with clarity and precision by weaving nearly 2,000 primary accounts with his own cogent analysis. The result is a rich and deep portrait of the fighting and command relationships on a scale never before attempted or accomplished.
His upcoming third volume, Analysis of a Barren Victory, will conclude the set with careful insight into the fighting and its impact on the war, Powell’s detailed research into the strengths and losses of the two armies, and an exhaustive bibliography.
Powell’s magnum opus, complete with original maps, photos, and illustrations, is the culmination of many years of research and study, coupled with a complete understanding of the battlefield’s complex terrain system. For any student of the Civil War in general, or the Western Theater in particular, Powell’s trilogy is a must-read.