Battle Map: Chickamauga

battle map
Map titled “Draft of battle, 19th-20th Sept” drawn by George C. Lusk (click image to enlarge). Drawn in pencil on laid paper 12.375″ wide torn to 7.75″ high, printed with blue vertical lines spaced 3/8″ apart. Title is written in brown ink. MCHS archival document.
battle map with labels
Map titled “Draft of battle, 19th-20th Sept” drawn by George C. Lusk, with labels added (click image to enlarge). MCHS archival document.

The map above was drawn by George Campbell Lusk. The title, “Draft of battle, 19th-20th Sept,” and the reference to Gordon Granger’s Reserve Corps in Rossville indicate it is a map of the Battle of Chickamauga.

The battle took place September 18-20, 1863, in northwestern Georgia. The Union force of 58,000 troops (the Army of the Cumberland, led by Major General William Rosecrans, and Major General Gordon Granger’s Reserve Corps) fought 66,000 soldiers of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, led by General Braxton Bragg. Seven of every 25 men on the battlefield were killed or physically wounded. Only the Battle of Gettysburg incurred more casualties than the Battle of Chickamauga during the Civil War.

Chickamauga was one of several battles over the city of Chattanooga. Earlier in the month, Rosecrans had succeeded in forcing Bragg out of the city. Bragg wanted to take it back and destroy Rosecrans’s army. The forces clashed at Chickamauga Creek. After three days the Confederates earned a victory by forcing the Union troops to retreat from the battlefield. But Rosecrans’s army survived and retained control of Chattanooga.

It isn’t known when George Lusk drew this map. He served as Captain of Company K, 10th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. The soldiers of the 10th were part of Major General Granger’s Reserve Corps, but they were stationed at the Union supply base in Bridgeport, Alabama, during the Battle of Chickamauga. Lusk’s map includes Bridgeport, although it is actually about 40 miles downriver from the battleground.

Private Joel Waters of Company K wrote to his brother about Captain Lusk:

“I have got a very good captain he passes me out [i.e. gives me written permission to leave camp] every day if I want to go but I never get tight [i.e. drunk] and always come back when he tells me to. Some of the Captains is hard on their men and punish them for most any little offense.”

(Written December 15, 1861, from Camp Morgan, Mound City, Illinois. From Correspondence of Joel E. Waters, p. 10-12.)

Lusk was a 37-year-old veteran of the Mexican War, married with two children, when he joined the Union cause. He was born in Edwardsville, Illinois. Lusk fulfilled his three-year term of service in August of 1864 but was unable to resign until October due to the responsibilities of command. (Click here to read a transcription of Lusk’s resignation letter.) He returned to Edwardsville where he and his wife Mary had a third child. Lusk worked as a United States revenue agent and then as a policeman and police magistrate. He died in 1892 and is buried in Lusk Cemetery in Edwardsville.

discharge papers
Discharge papers for Captain George C. Lusk (click image to enlarge). MCHS archival document.

Ideas for Teachers (or anyone who wants to take a deeper dive into the map)

Some relevant essential questions for students to explore:

  • What events happened during the Civil War and what impact did they have?
  • What impact did military leadership have on the conduct of the war?

Possible classroom activities:

  • Re-draw George Lusk’s map to scale and compare it to Lusk’s version.
  • Compare George Lusk’s map of the Battle of Chickamauga to maps of the battle found in history books and discuss the differences.
  • Read John Waters’s letters from September and October of 1863 (p. 33-37) describing his experiences in Company K before and after the battle and discuss how they provide context for the map.

Sources for this article include United States federal decennial census records and the following additional sources: