Gateway to Chickamauga and the Campaign for Atlanta
— Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails —
In early September 1863, a major Federal army entered Georgia for the first time since the outbreak of war. A division of Union Major General William S. Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland arrived here on September 4th, the first of at least 25,000 troops to pass through Trenton. They traveled here from northeast Alabama and southern Tennessee, crossing over Sand Mountain, with an ultimate goal of capturing Atlanta.,
While Rosecrans made his headquarters in Trenton, his men spread over all of Dade County, foraging for food and animals. At 3:30 AM on the 9th, Rosecrans issued the following order from Trenton to 14th Corps commander, Major General George H. Thomas, "Chattanooga is evacuated by the rebels and [Brigadier General D. Wagner's brigade] will occupy it in the morning. The commanding general desires you to call on him at once to consult in regard to arrangements to the pursuit."
Rosecrans' aggressiveness, based on the faulty belief that Confederate General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee was in full retreat, came despite Thomas pleading with him to consolidate the army, then spread over fifty miles. A major portion of the Federal army proceeded to cross Lookout Mountain about four miles southeast from here at Johnson's Crook, continuing toward their bloody defeat at Chickamauga from September 18 through 20.
In November 1863, during the subsequent Confederate siege of the Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga, Union Major General William T, Sherman brought reinforcements from Mississippi. In an ineffective attempt to divert attention away from Chattanooga, Sherman ordered his brother-in-law, Brigadier General Hugh B. Ewing, with an infantry division to the Trenton area. They destroyed some mills and factories while many local citizens fled to the nearby mountains and hid what belongings they could.
The next year and a half was a time of great distress for those citizens remaining in Trenton, subjected to constant raids by Union loyalists from Alabama and Tennessee, some of whom had been forced from their homes in this area by Confederate supporters. Nevertheless, the civilian population remained solidly behind the Confederacy. With most men away at war, the women and children, with the help of slaves, kept their farms going. They supported themselves, plus produced a surplus for the war effort. The women met regularly to roll bandages, make uniforms, and prepare food to send to the men at the front.
At war's end in 1865, Confederate Colonel James Cooper Nisbet, a local farmer who had organized an 85-man company in the summer of 1861 just south of Trenton at Easley's Store, came home. He and other surviving veterans set to work with the same courageous devotion to duty they had shown on the battlefield, rebuilding their homes and community. Trenton is the county seat of Dade County, that Nisbet and others called the "banner volunteer county of the Confederacy."
This title gained prominence because the number of Dade County men who served in the Confederate Army was much greater than the number of voters.