The railroad delivered a new kind of war















The Tullahoma Campaign is often overlooked by historians because of the more politically significant engagements at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in the summer of 1863.  In late June and early July, however, the Union’s Army of the Cumberland, based in the area of Murfreesboro, Tennessee maneuvered the Confederate Army of Tennessee out of its positions just to the south, near Shelbyville and Wartrace, driving the Southern troops out of middle Tennessee completely and into a fortified garrison in Chattanooga.

In all, the American Civil War was a long and bitter struggle.  The advantage swung back and forth between the sides during the fight over the Confederate independence movement from 1861 to 1865, and then in the Reconstruction phase of the war between 1865 and the middle of the 1870s.  Neither North nor South won a clear victory, nor did either side really lose.  In the end, the only thing that one could say for sure is that over 620,000 people were dead, thousands of others maimed for life, and that America was a very different place from what it had been in 1860.   

The fight was born in the country’s long-standing debate over slavery, or, more properly, the sectionalizing of that debate after 1820.  White Americans everywhere chose to define the so-called “peculiar institution” through the institution of the plantation, and thus ignored the fact that the system was actually embedded into every element of the national culture.  They imagined the large estates in South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and the like to form the base of a “peculiar” South, and out of this, Northerners and Southerners came to see themselves as radically different peoples.  Fundamental conflict was the result.  In part, this conflict took the form of the Confederate independence movement, and the formal war between the Union and the Confederate states.  The Tullahoma Campaign was a critical part of that war.