Reader Challenge: Prove Rosecrans was Panicked at Chickamauga

As I slowly work my way to the end of General Grant and the Rewriting of History: How the Destruction of General William S. Rosecrans Influenced Our Understanding of the Civil War, I continue to find interesting questions raised.  My goal today is to explore one of those questions, with your help.

The Question:

First, the question, taken directly from page 209 of Frank P. Varney’s new book:

  • Did [William S.] Rosecrans panic and flee from Chickamauga?

After 10+ pages looking at the question, Varney assures readers the answer is no to both parts of the question , the source for these assertions resting with the words and writing of four men:

  1. Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana, present on the battlefield and looking into Rosecrans for…
  2. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, known for his dislike of Rosecrans,
  3. Rosecrans’ own Chief of Staff James A. Garfield, who Varney asserts threw Rosecrans under the bus to further his own aspirations,
  4. and Captain Alfred Hough of Negley’s Division.

I don’t want to spoil the reasons why Varney believes the recollections of these four men are all tainted, and in one case was not even a true recollection. To find out, make sure you get the book when it is released in June.

For the purposes of this reader challenge, assume Varney is correct and these four men falsely maligned Rosecrans and his behavior on September 20, 1863. 

The Challenge:

  • Prove that Rosecrans panicked and fled from Chickamauga:
    • using any primary or secondary source other than Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs and the four men listed above
    • and which does not rely on those five sources

I’d prefer letters or diary entries from men who were actually present at the battle, but anything you can find will do.  I’m very curious to see if this can be done, but I don’t personally have the time available right now to do it myself.  I’d love to see if it is possible.  Varney provides pages of letters and diary entries saying Rosecrans still had the trust of the Army of the Cumberland, but 20 letters out of 50,000+ men on the field of battle proves nothing other than at least a few of Rosecrans’ men hadn’t lost faith.  I’m curious if TOCWOC’s readers can produce sources from shortly after Chickamauga which say Rosecrans behaved badly.


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