In Scott County, AR on September 1, 1863 Union forces under James G Blunt fought a Confederate brigade commanded by William L. Cabell. Cabell had just abandoned Ft. Smith, which was occupied by the Bluecoats without a fight. Cabell fought a retiring action while crossing over Devil’s Backbone in the Ouachita Mountains. Despite being outnumbered and saddled with a command filled with deserters, conscripts, and jayhawkers, he managed to get his command out of the area mostly intact. The battle itself was pretty much a draw, but with the Union possessing Ft. Smith, they now controlled the Arkansas River Valley.
The next day, troops under Union General Ambrose Burnside occupied Knoxville, TN.
Southern hopes for naval support from Great Britain were broken on September 5th when Lord Russell ordered that two ironclad warships bound for the Confederacy from Liverpool to be detained.
The Siege of Charleston took another bad turn for the South on September 6th when General P.G.T. Beauregard ordered the evacuation of Batteries Wagner and Morris Island.
In the Second Battle of Sabine Pass on September 8th, US Navy Captain Frederick Crocker entered the Sabine River in Texas near the Louisiana border with four gunboats and 5,000 Union soldiers. The pass was defended from Ft. Griffin by 46 Rebel soldiers and six guns of the Jeff Davis Guards under Lt. Richard Dowling. Surprisingly, the Rebel fire was accurate and deadly, forcing the Union fleet to withdraw, losing two gunboats and 200 sailors.
On the 9th, Confederate General John W. Frazier surrendered the Cumberland Gap. Also on that day, Federal troops moved into Chattanooga, TN without a fight. The Southern Army of Tennessee had already evacuated.
With the war in the western Confederacy in the balance, Longstreet’s Corps left Virginia in order to reinforce the Army of Tennessee.
Over the 10th and 11th, a series of maneuvers and skirmishes collectively referred to as the Battle of Davis’s Cross Roads took place in northwestern Georgia as part of the initial events of the Chickamauga campaign.
Also on the 10th, Confederate forces under John S. Marmaduke fought a delaying action against the Union troops of John W. Davidson east of Little Rock, AR in the Battle of Bayou Fourche, trying to buy time for the Confederates to evacuate the Arkansas capital. During the fight, Sterling Price was able to clear his troops from the town.
On September 13th, Union General George Meade pushed the Army of the Potomac to the banks of the Rapidan River.
Union General William Rosecrans, realizing his bare escape from the Confederate trap at Davis’s Cross Roads, concentrated his forces. He sent Thomas Crittenden toward Lee and Gordon’s Mills on the Chickamauga River. On the 13th, as Crittenden moved towards the Mills, Southern General Bragg had ordered Leonidas Polk to attack the Union force at dawn. But Polk failed to execute the attack which allowed Crittenden to reach his goal.
September 17th saw the arrival of Longstreet’s forward echelons into northwest Georgia.
On the 18th, Rosecrans ordered General George Thomas to head north, attempting to outflank Bragg. On that day, the pivotal Battle of Chickamauga opened when Union pickets engaged the 1st Georgia near Jay’s Mill.
On the 20th, Rosecrans tried to move into Chattanooga. Bragg tried to split his forces, and actually forced the Federals into a retreat. In the early morning hours, George Thomas ordered his troops to construct breastworks, which they accomplished in a very short time. The South repeatedly assaulted this position unsuccessfully, thus earning for Thomas the sobriquet “The Rock of Chickamauga.
Bad communications and poorly written orders bedeviled both sides resulting in confusion and lost opportunities. Technically, the Confederacy won the battle, but was unable to destroy the Union army or drive them from eastern Tennessee. Casualties were horrendous, second only to Gettysburg in number.
On September 22nd, Confederate General Jo Shelby began raiding Missouri and Arkansas.
With the Army of the Cumberland surrounded in Chattanooga, President Lincoln personally ordered the 11th and 12th Corps to relive the embattled Bluecoats. These troop movements, intended to be secret, were published in the northern media.
In the aftermath of Chickamauga, US Generals Crittenden, McDowell, and McCook are relived of duty and ordered to report to Indianapolis to face a court of inquiry.
From the 30th until October 17th, Confederate General Wheeler raided Union positions north and east of Chattanooga.