Any Victory Not Bathed in Blood: William Rosecrans’s Tullahoma Advance

A BGES Civil War Field University Program

With Jim Ogden

August 17–20, 2021; from Murfreesboro, TN

William Rosecrans and Braxton Bragg. Photo montage by Hal Jespersen.

“COMPEL A BATTLE ON OUR OWN GROUND?”: William Rosecrans on the objectives of his Tullahoma advance.

A “victory not bathed in blood.” A campaign with no major battle. Only a “campaign of maneuver.” Congratulations, you are a real student of the Civil War if you have given serious consideration to this key component of Maj. Gen. William Starke Rosecrans’s command tenure. Sadly, if not entirely overlooked, it is usually only briefly reviewed in histories of the war. Because of the way it did turn out, it is easy to say that it is only a campaign of maneuver. But as originally conceived, the Federal army commander intended and expected much more. Henry W. Halleck’s two “great objects” were still to be achieved. Rosecrans hoped that when he advanced from Murfreesboro, much would be accomplished. In this BGES program, we’ll examine what Rosecrans hoped would be a campaign that might include not the but rather his planned “Battle for Chattanooga.”


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

6 p.m. Gather at the Fairfield Inn hotel in Murfreesboro, where Jim will introduce you to General Rosecrans, his thinking, and his combat planning. He is an interesting character whose thinking is both strategic and advanced tactical. He was a man of great capacity, and the logic behind this operation, when juxtaposed against the expectations of the national leadership, reveals the depth of Rosecrans’s belief in his ability to deliver decisive results that supported Lincoln’s war objectives.

We will break in time for you to have dinner on your own.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

8:15 a.m.: We depart the hotel at 8:15 a.m. sharp, and soon enough we learn how Jim Ogden is a jewel! BGES Executive Len Riedel states that in his 28 years of operations he has found that Ogden is one of the best prepared historians he has ever worked with. That will become obvious as he moves in a precise critical point manner, sharing cogent analysis that is so well delivered it is hard to appreciate the years of study and thousands of hours of professional preparation he has experienced.

We’ll begin the day at Rosecrans’s forward base—Murfreesboro—and discuss his preparations and plans, visiting his massive supply base at Fortress Rosecrans and the site of Rosecrans’s actual headquarters. Like Rosecrans generally, we’ll then advance from Murfreesboro and take the field and join the forward movement of Robert Mitchell’s cavalry and Gordon Granger’s Reserve Corps and then Alexander McCook’s 20th Corps. The engagement and subsequent actions at Rover, Middleton, and Liberty Gap will all be explored.

Lunch is included.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

8:15 a.m.: We depart the hotel at 8:15 a.m. sharp. Rosecrans was cognizant of his position relative to Bragg’s advanced positioning. Jim moved you with Rosecrans’s right yesterday. Having seen the initial advance of Rosecrans’s right, today we’ll begin by looking at the advance of his left and Gen. Thomas Crittenden’s 21st Corps. After getting Crittenden moving onto the “Barrens” of Tennessee, we will turn to the advance of solid Gen. George Thomas’s 14th Corps. This will take us the remainder of the day. We’ll join John Wilder’s Lightning Brigade and examine its seizure of Hoover’s Gap and discuss the subsequent fighting at that vital point. With Braxton Bragg’s Highland Rim defenses penetrated, Rosecrans had satisfied his operational precondition and now, he was positioned to “compel a battle on our own ground.” History would record it as the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns.

After we return to Murfreesboro, we will gather for a group dinner. Lunch and dinner are included.

Friday, August 20, 2021

8:15 a.m.: We depart the hotel at 8:15 a.m. sharp. We soon learn that terrain is especially important here. The area between Nashville and Chattanooga is broken up by mountainous formations that lure defenders into a sense of security and challenges the aggressors to move deliberately and with caution. A mistake at any point could lay open the offender to a devastating counter thrust. Conversely, a sure-footed advance properly screened and affirmatively marched could bring decisive opportunities, and it is that which Rosecrans is seeking. He will save the blood of his troops for another day.

Rosecrans maneuvers on the “Barrens” and across the Duck River and to the Elk. The Cumberland Mountains will be the focus of the final day of our examination of Rosecrans’s Middle Tennessee phase of his Campaign for Chattanooga. We’ll follow Rosecrans as he tried to bring Bragg to battle without assaulting his opponent’s Tullahoma fortifications, and then across the Elk River after the Confederates withdrew across that stream. The effects of the raid, of Wilder’s Lightning Brigade on Bragg’s rear, and the impact of the rising water on the Elk River, will be examined. We’ll conclude, much as Rosecrans did, just up the western escarpment of the Cumberland Mountains looking back into Middle Tennessee. And you, my friends, will have been given an insider’s look as to how professionals examine the American Civil War.

Lunch is included. You will be able to depart after 6 p.m.

About the Faculty

Jim Ogden is one of the finest military historians in the country. A preservationist of the first order, he is often called upon to lead tours for distinguished visitors to the National Park Service—having taking Vice President Cheney and his family around Chickamauga and the region several times. Jim is the historian for the Chickamauga–Chattanooga National Military Park. The interpretation, appearance, and importance of the sites are properly served by his stewardship. Jim’s decades of experience have not only advanced BGES’s understanding of the Civil War in Central Tennessee and Northern Georgia, but they have positively affected any number of other students and historians of the war—a truly remarkable resource.

Hotel Information

We have set aside a block of 20 rooms at the Fairfield Inn, 175 Chaffin Place, in Murfreesboro, TN 37129. The rate is $109 per night, plus tax of over 17%. The cut-off date for the block is August 3. Call 615-849-1150 and ask for the Tullahoma Tour block arriving August 17. You are not required to stay at the HQ hotel.


The servicing airport is Nashville (BNA). The area is bisected by I-24 and is just a small jaunt away from I-40 and I-840. There is a lot of growth in the area, and you will find it a nice visit. Allow yourself an extra day to take in the Battle of Stones River or the Battle of Franklin. There is also a Krispy Kreme in town.

Recommended Reading

You will be provided with a reading book and maps upon arrival. The following books are suggested to enhance your readiness for the program. has a program to support non-profits IF YOU SIGN UP to support Blue and Gray Education Society (EIN 54-1720582) at AmazonSmile. When you sign up there rather than the normal Amazon site, one-half of one percent of your purchase price will be provided to BGES as a donation from Amazon. This will apply not only on this purchase but others you may make at other times. Thank you.


Registration includes three lunches and one dinner, a reading book with maps, the academic program, support of a professional historian, tour director, and transportation. We will also provide snacks and cold bottled water.

Register for this program using a secure PayPal link

Registration Type

To register by mail or fax, download this printable registration form: Any Victory Not Bathed in Blood: William Rosecrans’s Tullahoma Advance

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