NPS Chickamauga and Chattanooga
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  • Transcript Stop 3

    Tour Stop 3: Poe Field

    To the east is the Georgia monument across the Lafayette Road, the tallest monument on the Chickamauga Battlefield.   On the first day of the battle, September 19, 1863, this field was the scene of heavy fighting, where Georgians under Confederate General William C. Bate had taken heavy losses attacking Union troops across open ground. Running left and right along the line of monuments is the center of the union battle line,as it existed on the second day of battle, September 20th. To the north, where the large 105th Ohio monument is located, were troops commanded by General John Brannan, and beyond his men was the line of General Joseph Reynolds, roughly near the area crossing the Lafayette Road.  The large field was farmed by the Poe family, whose home site is marked by a small sign.

    Breckinridge's attack on the Union left, near the previous tour stop, on the morning of September 20th, sent shock waves down the Federal battle line. Couriers were dispatched to commanders along the Federal line, requesting more troops be sent to help push the Confederates from their advanced position threatening the Union rear.  One of these couriers arrived at Brannan's headquarters around 10:30 a.m.  Brannan told him that he had sent all the assistance he could, and that he could not send anymore unless they came out of the main line.  Already under fire from Confederates in his front, Brannan could offer no more help.

    Still needing reinforcements, the courier then went to General Reynolds, whose troops were next in line.  Reynolds agreed that troops needed to be taken from the main line, but wanted Rosecrans’ approval before moving them.  Rosecrans headquarters, 600 yards behind you, was full of activity.  At the time the courier arrived to voice Brannan and Reynolds' concerns, the commanding general had been awake for almost two days. Without seeing the situation himself, Rosecrans made a fateful mistake.  He believed Brannan had already moved his soldiers out of position, creating a gap in the middle of the line.  However, there was no gap.

    At 10:45 a.m., Rosecrans issued a one-sentence order to General Thomas J. Wood, whose Union troops were a few hundred yards to the south.  "The general commanding, directs that you close up on Reynolds as fast as possible and support him."  Because Wood saw that Brannan's men were still in position next to Reynolds, he asked his superior, General Alexander McDowell McCook, to help explain the confusing order. The two decided the order must be followed, and Wood started moving his men to the north.  Meaning to plug the imaginary gap in his line, Rosecrans had opened up a real gap. Unknown to the Union commanders, the real threat was not to the north where Wood was headed.  Instead, the real threat was a powerful force of Confederates, waiting in the woods beyond where the Georgia monument now stands. This great Confederate threat will reveal itself at the next tour stop, the Brotherton cabin.