The Battle of Wauhatchie

October 28-29, 1863 in Hamilton-Marion-Dade Counties, Tennessee

Union Forces Commanded by
Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
±- 28 327 15
Confederate Forces Commanded by
Brig. Gen. Micah Jenkins
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
±- 153 305 69
Conclusion: Union Victory
Chattanooga Campaign

Observing the Union movements on the 27th and 28th, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet and Gen. Braxton Bragg decided to mount a night attack on Wauhatchie Station. Although the attack was scheduled for 10:00 pm on the night of the 28th, confusion delayed it till midnight. Shortly after midnight  on the 29th, Gen. Micah Jenkins's brigade of South Carolinians launched a rare night attack on Gen. John W. Geary's Union corps at Wauhatchie, Tennessee. The Union line, in the shape of a V with sides facing to the east and the north, was fiercely attacked on both fronts by screaming Confederates rushing out of the darkness. Though the sudden attack pushed the Union soldiers backward until the 2 fronts were almost back to back, Geary's stalwart men managed to fight off Jenkins's attackers and hold their positions.

Three miles away at Brown's Ferry, Gen. Joseph Hooker, commander of the XI and XII Union Corps, heard the sounds of battle at Wauhatchie and dispatched two divisions to Geary's assistance. Marching toward the boom of the guns, the lead division, commanded by Gen. Carl Schurz, took the wrong road and got mired in the swamp. Geary's men continued to hold fast. Schurz's troops eventually extricated themselves and marched on  toward Wauhatchie, only to run into the Confederate brigade of Gen. Evander M. Law, which was positioned on a small hill that dominated the road from Brown's Ferry.

Law's men were greatly outnumbered and almost encircled by Schurz's division,  but the hilltop position was naturally strong, and several vigorous Union assaults were repulsed with great slaughter. Then Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr's division reinforced Schurz's men, and together they drove the Confederates off the hill with a furious bayonet charge.

As the Union reinforcements began arriving at Wauhatchie, Jenkins realized that the attempt to capture Wauhatchie was failing and ordered his troops to withdraw. A rumor circulated through the Union camps that Union mules that were stampeded by the fight had made the Confederates believe they were being attacked by cavalry, causing the Confederate retreat.  

The Federals now had their window to the outside and could receive supplies, weapons, ammunition, and reinforcements via the  Cracker Line. Relatively few night engagements occurred during the Civil War; Wauhatchie is one of the most significant.

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