Battle of Chattanooga

Battle of Chattanooga

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The Battles for Chattanooga (November 23 to November 25, 1863) were a series of battles in which Union forces routed Confederate troops in Tennessee at the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge during the American Civil War (1861-65). The victories forced the Confederates back into Georgia, ending the siege of the vital railroad junction of Chattanooga and paving the way for Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta campaign and march to Savannah, Georgia, in 1864.

Battles For Chattanooga: Background

After the Confederate victory at Chickamauga in northwest Georgia in September 1863, the Union army retreated to the vital railroad junction of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Confederate General Braxton Bragg (1817-76) quickly laid siege to the city, cutting off access to Union supplies. In response, President Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) ordered Major General Ulysses S. Grant (1822-85) to Chattanooga. Grant, who arrived in October, soon refortified the city, opening up a desperately needed supply line, and began maneuvers to lift the siege.

Battles For Chattanooga: November 23-25, 1863

The Battle of Chattanooga was launched on November 23 when Grant sent General Thomas (1816-70), who was dubbed the Rock of Chickamauga for standing his ground against the Confederates at the Battle of Chickamauga) to probe the center of the Confederate line. This simple plan turned into a complete victory when the Yankees captured Orchard Knob and the Rebels retreated higher up Missionary Ridge. On November 24, the Yankees under Major General Joseph Hooker (1814-79) captured Lookout Mountain on the extreme right of the Union lines. The Battle of Lookout Mountain, also known as the Battle Above the Clouds, set the stage for the Battle of Missionary Ridge.

The attack took place in three parts. On the Union left, General William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-91) attacked troops under Patrick Cleburne (1828-64) at Tunnel Hill, an extension of Missionary Ridge. In difficult fighting, Cleburne managed to hold the hill. On the other end of the Union lines, Hooker was advancing slowly from Lookout Mountain, and his force had little impact on the battle. It was at the center that the Union achieved its greatest success. The soldiers on both sides received confusing orders. Some Union troops thought they were only supposed to take the rifle pits at the base of the ridge, while others understood that they were to advance to the top. Some of the Confederates heard that they were to hold the pits, while others thought they were to retreat to the top of Missionary Ridge. Furthermore, poor placement of Confederate trenches on the top of the ridge made it difficult to fire at the advancing Union troops without hitting their own men, who were retreating from the rifle pits.

The attack on the Confederate center turned into a major Union victory. After the center collapsed, the Confederate troops retreated on November 26 and Bragg pulled his troops away from Chattanooga. He resigned shortly thereafter, having lost the confidence of his army.

Battles For Chattanooga: Union Victory And Aftermath

The Union suffered an estimated 5,800 casualties during the Battle of Chattanooga, while the Confederates’ casualties numbered around 6,600. Grant missed an opportunity to destroy the Confederate Army when he chose not to pursue the retreating Rebels, but Chattanooga was secured. Sherman resumed the attack in the spring after Grant was promoted to general in chief of all Federal forces. Sherman’s troops captured Atlanta in early September 1864 and in November embarked on the so-called March to the Sea, which concluded with the occupation of the port of Savannah in late December. The Civil War would continue through April of 1865.

American Civil War: Battle of Chattanooga

The Battle of Chattanooga was fought November 23-25, 1864, during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Having been besieged following its defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga, the Union Army of the Cumberland was reinforced and reinvigorated by the arrival of Major General Ulysses S. Grant. After re-opening supply lines to the city, Grant commenced a campaign to push back the Confederate Army of Tennessee. This culminated on November 25 when Union assaults shattered the Confederate forces and sent them reeling south into Georgia.

Battle of Chattanooga

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Battle of Chattanooga, (November 23–25, 1863), in the American Civil War, a decisive engagement fought at Chattanooga on the Tennessee River in late November 1863, which contributed significantly to victory for the North. Chattanooga had strategic importance as a vital railroad junction for the Confederacy. In September 1863 a Federal army led by General William S. Rosecrans was besieged there by a Southern army commanded by General Braxton Bragg. The following month General Ulysses S. Grant took over the campaign to relieve the Union troops and seize the offensive. With the help of reinforcements from General Joseph Hooker and General William Tecumseh Sherman, the Federal forces defeated the Confederates in the Battles of Lookout Mountain (see photograph ) and Missionary Ridge and lifted the siege by the end of the month the Confederate army was in retreat into Georgia. Losses of men were less than at Chickamauga (about 6,000 Union and 7,000 Confederate), but the result was completely decisive, ranking in importance with Vicksburg and Gettysburg the same year. The way had been opened for Sherman’s march to Atlanta and Savannah the following year.

Battle of Chattanooga - HISTORY

The Confederates began a siege of Union occupied Chattanooga, but the Union raced reinforcement by rail and successfully defended the city. They took the battle to the Confederates when their forces under the command of General Grant attacked and captured Look Out Mountain

After the battle of Chickamauga, the Confederates began a siege of Union occupied Chattanooga. Rosencrans wired Washington that without reinforcements he would be unable to hold it for very long. Washington, thus, gave reinforcing Chattanooga their highest priority. The question was where troops could be brought from to secure the mission. The Army of the Potomac was the answer. The railroads were the vehicle. In a remarkable logistics move, 20,000 men and all of their equipment were transferred to Chattanooga in eleven days. It was the longest, and fastest movement of troops in the 19th century.

However, sending troops alone was not enough. It was decided that a new commander was also needed. Thus, the Division of the Mississippi was created, spanning the Mississippi to the Alleghenies. U.S. Grant was appointed the commander of the new unit. Grant was given the option of maintaining Rosnecrans as the Commander of the Army of the Cumberland, or replacing him. Grant decided to replace Cumberland with Sherman. Once he arrived in Chattanooga Grant's first goal was to open the supply route into Chattanooga. Grant did this with a well planned action– in which, elements of Hooker’s advancing corps, combined with troops from Chattanooga to seize the crossings of the Tennessee River near the Raccoon Mountains. This became known as the Cracker line. Once this action was accomplished, supply lines were restored and Grant's forces could resume receiving regular rations.

Grant's future success was further aided, by dissension in the Confederate ranks. Bragg's subordinates all called for his removal. Confederate President Davis was forced to travel to Bragg's headquarters to try to work out the differences. This was a task he failed to achieve. The only thing Davis did accomplish, was to recommend the detachment of Longstreet to reconquer Little Rock.ilitia headquarters in Booneville. The militia was routed and the Unionist were in firm control of the state.

With the departure of Longstreet, the momentum moved inextricably to Grant. By mid-November, Sherman had arrived from Vicksburg with an additional 17,000 men. Grant ordered Burnside, who was outside Little Rock, to keep Longstreet busy as long as possible. This he did, by avoiding battle, and instead forcing Longstreet to begin a siege of the city.

Grant was now ready to assault the Confederate forces surrounding him at Chattanooga. His plan called for an attack on both flanks of the Confederate lines, while using Thomas' recently defeated forces as a mere feint in the center. Thus, on November 24th, Hooker's forces assaulted Lookout Mountain. With relatively light casualties (less than 500 soldiers killed), Hooker’s forces successfully ascended Lookout Mountain.

Sherman forces, on the other hand, were having a harder time of it. On the 24th, they successfully ascended the other end of the Confederate lines, only to find that it was not part of Missionary Ridge, but a separate hill. The next morning, on the 25th, Sherman’s forces attempted to assault the end of Mission Ridge, with little success. Finally, an exasperated Grant ordered Thomas forces to make a limited assault in the center, to relieve some of the pressure on Sherman. The assault by the veterans of Chickamauga succeeded beyond all expectations. Thomas’ forces sprinted up the open plain, straight at the first line of Confederate forces and overcame them swiftly. Grant, and the other commanders watching from below at Orchard Knob, were shocked to see the Union soldiers advance from the first line of Confederate fortification and head straight up the hill without orders. The defenders were similarly shocked, and fell back in total disarray. In a few minutes, all of the Confederate positions were overrun, and Missionary Ridge was in Union hands. The Confederate forces retreated almost 30 miles towards Atlanta.

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Military situation Edit

Chattanooga was a vital rail hub (with lines going north toward Nashville and Knoxville and south toward Atlanta), and an important manufacturing center for the production of iron and coal, located on the navigable Tennessee River. In September 1863, the Union Army of the Cumberland under Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans executed a series of maneuvers that forced Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg and his Army of Tennessee to abandon Chattanooga and withdraw into northern Georgia. Rosecrans pursued Bragg and the two armies collided at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19–20. Bragg achieved a major victory when a gap was opened mistakenly in the Union line and a strong assaulting force commanded by Lt. Gen. James Longstreet serendipitously drove through it and routed a good portion of the Union army. A determined defensive stand by Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas on Snodgrass Hill saved the army from total destruction, earning him the nickname "Rock of Chickamauga" and allowing time for most of Rosecrans's army to retreat to Chattanooga. Bragg did not cut off the escape routes to Chattanooga and did not organize a pursuit that might have seriously damaged the Union army before it could regroup and prepare its defenses in the city. The Union forces took advantage of previous Confederate works to erect strong defensive positions in a tight, 3-mile-long semicircle around the city. [8]

Bragg had three courses of action. He could outflank Rosecrans by crossing the Tennessee either below or above the city, assault the Union force directly in their fortifications, or starve the Federals by establishing a siege line. The flanking option was deemed to be impracticable because Bragg's army was short on ammunition, they had no pontoons for river crossing, and Longstreet's corps from Virginia had arrived at Chickamauga without wagons. A direct assault was too costly against a well-fortified enemy. Receiving intelligence that Rosecrans's men had only six days of rations, Bragg chose the siege option, while attempting to accumulate sufficient logistical capability to cross the Tennessee. [9]

Bragg's army besieged the city, threatening to starve the Union forces into surrender. The Confederates established themselves on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, both of which had excellent views of the city, the Tennessee River flowing north of the city, and the Union's supply lines. Bragg also had little inclination to take offensive action against the Federal army because he was occupied in leadership quarrels within his army. On September 29, Bragg relieved from command two of his subordinates who had disappointed him in the Chickamauga campaign: Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman (who had failed to destroy part of the Union army at McLemore's Cove) and Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk (who had delayed attacking on September 20 at Chickamauga). On October 4, twelve of his most senior generals sent a petition to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, demanding that Bragg be relieved of command. Davis personally visited Chattanooga to hear the complaints. After he decided to retain Bragg in command, Bragg retaliated against some of those generals by relieving Lt. Gen. D.H. Hill and Maj. Gen. Simon B. Buckner. [10]

Capt. George Lewis, 124th Ohio [11]

In Chattanooga, Rosecrans was stunned by the defeat of his army and became psychologically unable to take decisive action to lift the siege. [12] President Abraham Lincoln remarked that Rosecrans seemed "confused and stunned like a duck hit on the head." [13] Union soldiers began to feel the effect of extremely short rations and many of their horses and mules died. The only supply line that was not controlled by the Confederates was a roundabout, tortuous course nearly 60 miles long over Walden's Ridge from Bridgeport, Alabama. Heavy rains began to fall in late September, washing away long stretches of the mountain roads. On October 1, Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler's Confederate cavalry intercepted and severely damaged a train of 800 wagons—burning hundreds of the wagons, and shooting or sabering hundreds of mules—at the start of his October 1863 Raid through Tennessee to sever Rosecrans's supply line. Toward the end of October, typical Federal soldiers' rations were "four cakes of hard bread and a quarter pound of pork" every three days. [14]

Grant and Thomas headquarters, October 23.

The Union high command began immediate preparations to relieve the city. Only hours after the defeat at Chickamauga, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker to Chattanooga with 20,000 men in two small corps from the Army of the Potomac in Virginia. Even before the Union defeat, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had been ordered to send his available force to assist Rosecrans, and it departed under his chief subordinate, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, from Vicksburg, Mississippi. On September 29, Stanton ordered Grant to go to Chattanooga himself, [15] as commander of the newly created Military Division of the Mississippi, bringing all of the territory from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River (and much of the state of Arkansas) under a single commander for the first time. Grant was given the option of replacing the demoralized Rosecrans with Thomas. Although Grant did not have good personal relations with Thomas, he had previously determined that he "could not make [Rosecrans] do as I wished" in the capacity as a subordinate. Grant selected Thomas to command the Army of the Cumberland. Hearing an inaccurate report that Rosecrans was preparing to abandon Chattanooga, Grant telegraphed to Thomas, "Hold Chattanooga at all hazards. I will be there as soon as possible." The Rock of Chickamauga replied immediately, "I will hold the town till we starve." Grant traveled over the treacherous mountain supply line roads and arrived in Chattanooga on October 23. [16]

Reopening the Tennessee River Edit

Opening the Cracker Line Edit

The chief engineer of the Army of the Cumberland, Brig. Gen. William F. "Baldy" Smith, had devised a plan with Rosecrans to open a more reliable supply line to the troops in Chattanooga. General Thomas put the plan afoot immediately upon taking command. Smith briefed Grant immediately after the new commander's arrival and Grant enthusiastically concurred with the plan. Brown's Ferry crossed the Tennessee River from Moccasin Point where the road followed a gap through the foothills, turned south through Lookout Valley to Wauhatchie Station, and then west to Kelley's Ferry, a navigable point on the Tennessee that could be reached by Union supply boats. If the Army of the Cumberland could seize Brown's Ferry and link up with Hooker's force arriving from Bridgeport, Alabama, through Lookout Valley, a reliable, efficient supply line—soon to become known as the "Cracker Line"—would be open. In addition, a force at Brown's Ferry would threaten the right flank of any Confederate movement into the valley. [17]

Hooker left Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum with one of his divisions of the XII Corps to guard the railroad line from Murfreesboro, to Bridgeport. Slocum's remaining division, under Brig. Gen. John W. Geary, and the two divisions of Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard's XI Corps were ordered to move quickly to Lookout Valley. However, weather conditions delayed the movement, so Grant decided to move ahead with the Brown's Ferry operation even before Hooker could arrive. Smith's plan for the assault on Brown's Ferry was to send most of one brigade (Brig. Gen. William B. Hazen's) traveling stealthily downriver on pontoons and a raft at night to capture the gap and hills on the west bank of the Tennessee while a second brigade (Brig. Gen. John B. Turchin's) marched across Moccasin Point in support. [18]

Braxton Bragg had no idea that this operation was being planned, but he was aware of Hooker's pending river crossing at Bridgeport, so was concerned about his left flank. He ordered Longstreet to move additional units into Lookout Valley, but, unknown to Bragg, the order was ignored. Furthermore, Longstreet's lack of diligence allowed command mixups to leave only two regiments near Brown's Ferry. [19]

Early on the morning of October 27, Hazen's men floated unnoticed past the Confederate position on Lookout Mountain, aided by low fog and no moonlight. They were able to seize the ground above Brown's Ferry by 4:40 a.m. A counterattack by the 15th Alabama Infantry, commanded by Col. William C. Oates (of Little Round Top fame) was repulsed and Oates was wounded. Oates's brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law, placed his brigade blocking the road over Lookout Mountain and reported the Union success to Longstreet. Longstreet dismissed the importance of the report, considering the Union move to be only a feint, and did not bother passing the information on to Bragg. When Bragg learned of it, he ordered Longstreet to retake the ground immediately, but Longstreet once again did nothing and Smith's men spent the day consolidating their bridgehead without interference. [20]

Hooker's column marched through Lookout Valley and linked up with Hazen and Turchin at Brown's Ferry at 3:45 p.m., October 28. Thomas's staff began the preparations to bring supplies over the Cracker Line and he telegraphed General in Chief Henry W. Halleck that he expected "in a few days to be pretty well supplied." [21]

Wauhatchie Edit

Having ignored several direct orders from Bragg to attack Brown's Ferry, Longstreet was ordered by Bragg to attack Hooker's concentration at Wauhatchie instead. There, Hooker had neglected to arrange his force into effective defensive positions, instructing them merely to find good cover for the troops and bivouac. He detached Brig. Gen. John W. Geary's division at Wauhatchie Station, a stop on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, to protect the line of communications to the south as well as the road west to Kelley's Ferry. Longstreet was amazed to see Geary's bivouacking soldiers with their large wagon train parked directly in front of him. [22]

Longstreet ordered a night attack, a relatively rare occurrence in the Civil War, [23] using only the brigade of Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law and Brig. Gen. Micah Jenkins's division from Lookout Mountain, far fewer troops than Bragg had authorized. The attack was scheduled for 10:00 p.m. on October 28, but confusion delayed it until midnight. Although Geary and his officers expected an attack and had thrown out pickets, its suddenness took them by surprise. Enveloped from the north by Col. John Bratton's brigade, the Union defenders formed into a V-shaped battle line, facing north and east. Geary's son Edward, an artillery lieutenant, was killed in the battle, dying in his father's arms. [24]

Hearing the sounds of battle, Hooker, at Brown's Ferry, sent Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard with two XI Corps divisions as reinforcements. Orders of march were confused and delayed the movement. Hooker mistakenly deployed units from both XI Corps divisions against Law's and Brig. Gen. Henry L. Benning's brigades, leaving no one to go to Geary's aid. Law's 2,000 men were greatly outnumbered by Hooker's men, but the hilltop position was naturally strong and several vigorous Union assaults were repulsed. [25]

Receiving an erroneous report that Bratton was retreating, Law decided to pull back. Just as his men left their entrenchments, Col. Orland Smith's brigade (Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr's division) spilled over them, capturing some stragglers and scattering a regiment that failed to get the order to retreat. Meanwhile, Hooker agreed to let Howard proceed to Wauhatchie with some cavalry. Geary's men continued to hold fast, although they began to run low on ammunition. Just as Bratton began to sense victory, he received a note from Jenkins to retreat because Union reinforcements were arriving at his rear. He withdrew to Lookout Mountain, successfully covered by Benning's brigade. [26]

Both sides had planned poorly for the battle. Hooker's carelessness in placing his men had left them at risk. Grant was disgusted at Hooker's performance and considered relieving him. Longstreet committed too few men for an assault of this importance and Bragg was also disgusted with his subordinate. Bragg's biographer, Judith L. Hallock, wrote that Wauhatchie was, for Longstreet, an "ill-conceived, ill-planned, and poorly coordinated attack" that "resulted in a shambles." [27]

Longstreet departs Edit

The view of Peter Cozzens, The Shipwreck of Their Hopes [28]

The opening of the cracker line changed the strategic situation completely. Bragg knew the siege was effectively broken. Considering his options—retreating from the area assaulting the Union fortifications at Chattanooga waiting for Grant to attack attempting to move around Grant's right flank attempting to move around Grant's left flank—Bragg realized that movement around Grant's left flank was the only promising option. It would potentially allow him to re-establish an additional badly needed rail supply line (to Virginia via Knoxville) and join forces with about 10,000 men operating in southwestern Virginia under the command of Maj. Gen. Samuel Jones. An impediment to this plan was the operation of Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside's Union Army of the Ohio, currently occupying Knoxville and blocking the railroad. On October 17, Bragg had ordered the division of Maj. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson and two cavalry brigades to extend his right flank toward Knoxville. On October 22, Bragg added the division of Brig. Gen. John K. Jackson to the expedition, bringing the total to about 11,000 men, and considered sending Stevenson's corps commander, John C. Breckinridge, as well. In early November, Bragg ordered additional reinforcements and changed the orders from simply extending the right flank to actually pushing Burnside away from Knoxville and reestablish communications with Virginia. [29]

But events in Virginia caused Bragg to change his plan. Responding to a suggestion from President Davis, Bragg announced in a council of war on November 3 that he was sending Longstreet and his two divisions into East Tennessee to deal with Burnside, replacing the Stevenson/Jackson force. Davis had suggested Longstreet for this assignment because he intended Longstreet's divisions to return to the Army of Northern Virginia at the end of the campaign and Knoxville was on the route back to Virginia. In the face of a rapidly expanding enemy force, Bragg chose to divide his army and decrease his net defensive force by about 4,000 men (less than 10%) in order to facilitate the move on Knoxville. Campaign historian Steven E. Woodworth judged, however, that "even the flat loss of the number of good soldiers in Longstreet's divisions would have been a gain to the army in ridding it of their general's feuding and blundering." [30]

Preparations for battle Edit

Grant had two weeks following Wauhatchie before Sherman was to arrive, and he charged Thomas and Smith with the responsibility for planning an assault against Bragg, starting with an attack by Sherman on the Confederate right flank, emphasizing that he would not approve the plan until Sherman had an opportunity to review it. After considerable reconnaissance the two generals presented their plan on November 14. Sherman's arriving troops would use newly improved roads to pass through the hills north of Chattanooga, taking a route that was not visible from Lookout Mountain, hoping that Bragg would not know for certain whether Sherman was targeting Chattanooga or Knoxville. Smith would assemble every available boat and pontoon to allow Sherman's corps to cross the Tennessee River near the mouth of the South Chickamauga Creek and attack Bragg's right flank on Missionary Ridge. If the attack were successful, the Union would control the two key railroad lines that supplied Bragg's army, forcing him to withdraw. Thomas's army would simultaneously pin down the Confederate center on Missionary Ridge. The plan also called for Hooker to assault and seize Lookout Mountain, Bragg's left flank, and continue on to Rossville, where he would be positioned to cut off a potential Confederate retreat to the south. [31]

Sherman arrived ahead of his troops on the evening of November 14. He observed the end of Missionary Ridge that he was designated to attack and remarked that he could seize it successfully by 9 a.m. on the assigned day. Grant approved Thomas's and Smith's plan, although he withdrew support for the attack by Hooker on Lookout Mountain, intending the mass of his attack to be by Sherman. Sherman's men were still a considerable distance from Chattanooga because they had been under orders from Halleck to repair the railroad as they marched the 330 miles from Vicksburg (an order countermanded by Grant on October 27) and their commander had ignored advice from Thomas that he march rapidly without the impediment of his trains, as Hooker had done. Although Grant had hoped to begin offensive operations on November 21, by November 20 only one of Sherman's brigades had crossed over Brown's Ferry and the attack had to be postponed. Grant was coming under pressure from Washington to react to Longstreet's advance against Burnside at Knoxville. [32]

Bragg, having dispatched most of his cavalry, had little means of gathering intelligence. He assumed that Sherman's corps would be heading toward his department's extreme right flank at Knoxville, not Chattanooga. Therefore, he believed that the main Union assault would occur on his left flank, Lookout Mountain. On November 12, Bragg placed Carter Stevenson in overall command for the defense of the mountain, with Stevenson's division placed on the summit. The brigades of Brig. Gens. John K. Jackson, Edward C. Walthall, and John C. Moore were placed on the "bench" of the mountain (a narrow and relatively flat shelf that wrapped around the northern end of the mountain approximately halfway to the summit). Jackson later wrote about the dissatisfaction of the commanders assigned to this area, "Indeed, it was agreed on all hands that the position was one extremely difficult to defense against a strong force of the enemy advancing under cover of a heavy fire." [33] Thomas L. Connelly, historian of the Army of Tennessee, wrote that despite the imposing appearance of Lookout Mountain, "the mountain's strength was a myth. . It was impossible to hold [the bench, which] was commanded by Federal artillery at Moccasin Bend." Although Stevenson placed an artillery battery on the crest of the mountain, the guns could not be depressed enough to reach the bench, which was accessible from numerous trails on the west side of the mountain. [34]

Dissatisfaction also prevailed in the Chattanooga Valley and on Missionary Ridge, where Breckinridge, commanding Bragg's center and right, had only 16,000 men to defend a line 5 miles long. Brig. Gen. Patton Anderson, whose division was assigned to the Confederate works along the western base of the ridge, wrote "This line of defense, following its sinuosities, was over two miles in length—nearly twice as long as a number of bayonets in the division could adequately defend." [35] Bragg exacerbated the situation on November 22 by ordering Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne to withdraw his and Simon B. Buckner's divisions from the line and march to Chickamauga Station, for railroad transport to Knoxville, removing 11,000 more men from the defense of Chattanooga. This move was apparently made because, as Grant had hoped, Bragg concluded that Sherman's troops were moving on to Knoxville, in which case Longstreet would need the reinforcements, for which he had been constantly clamoring since he was first given the assignment. [36]

The Battles for Chattanooga

Seldom did the war witness a more anxious gathering of surly senior officers than Grant, Thomas, and their staffs atop Orchard Knob. Churned by fears that Sherman had failed in his attack and that Hooker was fatally stalled along Chattanooga Creek, all present were absorbed in a tension more palpable than the shell fragments that rained on the knob.

By mid-afternoon, Grant had run out of ideas. After much debate, Grant gave Wood these orders: "If you and Sheridan advance your divisions to the foot of the ridge, and there halt, I think it will menace Bragg's forces so as to relieve Sherman." Wood agreed to try.

Preparations were made to assault the ridge. Corps commander Gordon Granger explained the details of the plan to Wood: "You and Sheridan are to advance your divisions, carry the intrenchments at the base of the ridge, if you can, and, if you succeed, halt there. The movement is to be made at once, so give your orders to your brigade commanders immediately, and the signal to advance will be the rapid, successive discharge of the six guns of the battery." Thomas stood apart, watching their going with trepidation. To his way of thinking, Grant intended to sacrifice the Army of the Cumberland in a quixotic effort to salvage Sherman.

The Confederate fortifications opposite Thomas's four divisions looked menacing enough. Arrayed along a front slightly less than three miles long were the better part of four Rebel divisions and nine batteries of artillery—approximately 16,000 men defending the seemingly impregnable heights against an attacking force of 23,000 that had nearly a mile of largely open ground to cross.

Imposing at first glance, the Confederate defenses were in reality a horribly improvised, sadly neglected patchwork. Their sorry state stemmed largely from the misplaced faith of both Bragg and Breckinridge that any serious attack would come only against the army's flanks.


The flaws in the Confederate defenses were numerous. Bragg and Breckinridge had waited until November 23 to begin fortifying the ridge. That night, Breckinridge ordered breastworks built along the crest and Patton Anderson to supply the troops to construct them. With the apparent concurrence of Bragg, he issued a second order that took Anderson by surprise. He was to leave half of his division in the trenches at the foot of Missionary Ridge and withdraw the remainder to defend the crest. Zachariah Deas was to command the former troops, Anderson those atop the ridge.

Oddly, Breckinridge gave no such instructions to Bate or Stewart. He made no provision to withdraw any part of Bate's two brigades, then entrenched at the base, or to remove his artillery. Stewart also was left in the valley with his division.

Neither Anderson nor his brigade commanders Deas and Arthur Manigault cared for Breckinridge's plan splitting the division between two lines struck them as the height of folly. Nor was the line chosen on the crest appropriate, being too far back to be of much use. There were too many undulations, projections, descents, and ravines to provide an adequate field of fire along the whole ridge.


For the artillery, the problem was even more acute. Not only were the cannon run too far forward, but they were too widely dispersed.

One final, potentially fatal flaw existed in Breckinridge's attenuated sector: he had no reserves with which to plug any hole that the Federals might punch into the narrow crest. Every man was committed, either to the rifle pits at the foot of Missionary Ridge or the breastworks atop it.

So matters stood until the morning of November 25, when Thomas pushed forward his skirmishers to test the strength of Deas's defenses. They were repulsed after a sharp fight, but their probe demonstrated that the Yankees might do what Bragg and Breckinridge found unimaginable: attack the center in force. The two still were unwilling to abandon the flat, but they struck a bizarre compromise with Brigadier General Zachariah Deas, who commanded part of the forces on the flat. Should the enemy advance in force, Deas's troops—and all others on the flat—were to hold their position until the Yankees approached to within 200 yards, then deliver a single volley and retire up the slope, skirmishing as they climbed. What such a tactic might accomplish, short of blocking the line of fire of those at the top and exhausting the men at the bottom, neither Bragg nor Breckinridge ventured to explain.

On the plain beyond Missionary Ridge, blue-clad troops by the thousands assembled. Rebel artillery from the crest boomed its greeting. As long as they were in the timber, the Federals knew they were fairly safe: the woods would provide at least a modicum of shelter for half the distance of their advance. But over the final 300 to 700 yards of the plain the Rebels had chopped down every last tree, both for firewood and to open a field of fire. From the rifle pits to the physical base of the ridge was a plateau about 100 yards wide, upon which the Confederates had built a cluster of huts.


Granger told his division commanders to deploy with all their brigades on line. Each brigade was to cover itself with a double line of skirmishers and maintain a strong reserve. All was ready by 3:00 P.M. Baird assembled on the left of Wood. Edward H. Phelps's brigade was arrayed on the extreme left of Baird's line, opposite Alfred Vaughan's brigade of Anderson's Rebel division. Ferdinand Van Derveer held Baird's center, and John Turchin formed his brigade on the right.

Wood deployed his division with Sam Beatty on the left, August Willich in the center, and William Hazen on the right of his division. Phil Sheridan had George Wagner, Charles Harker, and Francis Sherman lined up from left to right. Harker's command assembled a mile west of Bragg's headquarters.

Grant ordered Thomas's Army of the Cumberland to seize the Confederate rifle pits at the base of Missionary Ridge. Troops of Granger's and Palmer's corps swept forward, captured the rifle pits, and then continued up the slopes of Missionary Ridge to the crest. In so doing, they broke the Confederate line and forced Bragg into a withdrawal from the Chattanooga area.

On Granger's right, Palmer's Fourteenth Corps was represented solely by Richard Johnson's division. Johnson formed the brigades of William Stoughton and William Carlin in line of battle, leaving that of Starkweather behind to man the fortifications.

The men were formed quickly, but several senior officers in both the Fourth and Fourteenth corps were confused about what was expected of them. They were unsure how far they were supposed to advance or what to do when they got to where they were going. Grant's order to halt at the rifle pits at the base of the ridge was misunderstood by far too many of the generals charged with executing it. Some doubted the order because they thought it absurd to stop an attack at the instant when the attackers would be most vulnerable both to fire from the crest and to a counterattack. Others apparently received garbled versions of the order.

Baird got the correct version he simply couldn't believe it. So he decided to go for the summit. Wood said he received the correct order directly from Granger and that he then called together his brigade commanders to repeat it to them verbatim. But something went wrong. Hazen and every man in his brigade understood the task at hand. Sam Beatty may have understood the order as well, but his front-line regimental commanders were unsure where they were to stop. Willich swore that he only learned several days afterward that the order had been "to take only the rifle pits at the foot of the ridge."


Phil Sheridan was thoroughly befuddled. His confusion about the objective trickled down to his subordinates, who went forward blindly. And Richard Johnson had only a vague idea what was about to happen, which left his brigade commanders largely on their own. "My instructions were not very definite," said William Carlin. So he came up with his own. Riding along his line of battle, he shouted: "Boys, I don't want you to stop until we reach the top of that hill."

Twenty-three thousand officers and men lay in line of battle in Chattanooga Valley, waiting for the inevitable six-gun volley that would sound the march to whatever awaited them. It came at about 3:30 P.M. The first moments of the advance passed in silence. Then, through the branches of the naked trees, the Federals saw bright flames spew from the ridge and strands of dull gray smoke curl upward. An instant later, a crash like a thousand thunderclaps shook the valley. Attackers and defenders alike were deafened. None had ever heard such a cannonading in mountainous country before.

The air was sibilant with screaming shells, but the Confederate artillerymen overshot their targets. Some Yankee regiments lost not a man to the cannonade most, fewer than a dozen. As the Federals emerged from the timber, they caught sight of the Rebel rifle pits. A grand, spontaneous cheer swept along the Union line. Just as spontaneously, the Yankees accelerated their pace from the quick time to the double-quick time. Some regiments burst into an uncontrolled run.

The Confederate withdrawal from the rifle pits was even more ragged than the Federal advance toward them. Some units withdrew after firing one volley others stayed and fought it out until they were overrun most ran as soon as they were able. When the survivors reached the crest, their presence wrought chaos. Their wild pushing and shoving as they tried to get to the rear frightened and demoralized their comrades on the crest. The Federals below were only slightly better off. Panting and coughing, they collapsed in the abandoned rifle pits.



Yankee skirmishers got to the rifle pits first. In about ten minutes the first-line regiments of each brigade joined them, creating a momentary jumble of bluecoats two miles long. Brigade commanders halted their subsequent lines out on the flat. They did so reluctantly, understanding that the Rebel artillery fire, until then ineffectual, would improve in accuracy with each minute their men lay in the open.

Meanwhile, the rifle pits themselves were proving death traps. As soon as the last of their comrades cleared their front, the Confederates on the crest sent volleys into the midst of the clustered Yankees. Then the greater portion of the Confederate artillery turned its attention from the flat to the rifle pits, changing their ammunition from shot and shell to canister.

In every mind there arose one thought: get out of the rifle pits immediately. For some commanders, of course, there really was no decision to be made they incorrectly had understood Grant's order to be to seize the summit. For others, a continued advance at least to the base of the ridge—from 200 to 400 yards away—seemed the only alternative to slaughter. There the contours of the slope would provide some cover from the rain of bullets, and its steepness would prevent the Rebel artillerymen from depressing their cannon tubes sufficiently to hit anyone.

In the first critical moments after taking the rifle pits, then, Thomas's four divisions moved independently of one another. Even brigades splintered as regimental commanders took the course of action that seemed most promising.

To August Willich went the honor of reaching the rifle pits first, a few minutes after 4:00 P.M. Willich had no intention of halting in them: "It was evident to everyone that to stay in this position would be certain destruction and final defeat every soldier felt the necessity of saving the day and the campaign by conquering, and everyone saw instinctively that the only place of safety was in the enemy's works on the crest." Sam Beatty's brigade reached the rifle pits a few minutes after Willich. He too went up the slope full tilt. On the division right, Hazen also took his cue from Willich.

Sheridan was at least five minutes behind Wood in reaching the rifle pits. Wagner's brigade hit the pits a few moments before Harker and Sherman. The works were empty the Rebels already were well on their way to the crest. In keeping with his assumption that Missionary Ridge was the objective, Wagner urged his men up the slope. Wagner's impetuous push inspired the regiments of Harker's brigade, and they also started upward. So too did Francis Sherman, but far more slowly, as his brigade faced a much steeper ascent. Cursing and swinging his sword, Sheridan rode along the edge of the rifle pits on a big black horse, slapping at skulkers.

Facing the steepest portion of the ridge, Richard Johnson's two brigades edged forward tentatively, preferring the cover of the Rebel huts on the plain to the uncertainties of the slope.

On the Union left, Baird too had run into trouble. The brigades of Phelps and Van Derveer reached and cleared the lower rifle pits ten minutes after Wood's division had done the same on their right. But Turchin's brigade was still hurrying across the flat, trying to catch up. Perhaps because Turchin was lagging behind, Phelps and Van Derveer elected to halt their first line at the rifle pits. Both also directed their second-line regiments to lie down back on the flat. Fortunately, neither line suffered much. Vaughan's Tennesseans were retreating, masking their comrades on the crest, so that their fire at Phelps was erratic. And the artillery was "harmless but annoying."

Turchin had no intention of stopping at the rifle pits. His men reached them even more winded than their comrades to their left, but Turchin ordered them on with or without support, he would obey Baird's order to seize the crest.

It was 4:10 P.M. when Turchin started up the ridge, just thirty minutes after the signal guns had barked. Baird, Wood, Sheridan, and Johnson all wrestled with their own worries, giving little thought to the problems of the others. The craggy texture of the slope saved hundreds of Federal lives by preventing the Confederates along the summit from getting a good aim at the ascending enemy. At the same time, it made a burlesque of unit integrity among the attackers. Regiments broke up, but "the men formed and fought under any commander who was near and who was headed towards the enemy," said an Ohioan. "All regular formations were soon lost," agreed a Kansan. "Great masses of men, who had crowded together in the places easiest of ascent, were climbing the steep at intervals and vying in their efforts to be first."


At the head of each cluster of soldiers were regimental or national colors so that, instead of one long line, the Federal assault gave the appearance of a series of arrow-like sorties.

Breckinridge's generals could have recited a litany of woes. First, friendly troops continued to disrupt fields of fire, as scores of frightened Rebels were still struggling for the safety of the crest, many stumbling upward less than fifty yards ahead of the Yankees. Second, smoke blanketed the crest and settled in the ravines up which the Yankees were snaking. Third, those Rebels who did fire were badly overshooting their mark. Fear of hitting their own men, the blinding smoke, and a reluctance to expose themselves above the trenches caused many to squeeze off shot haphazardly. Finally, most of the batteries could no longer depress their cannon tubes to engage the Yankees. Exasperated cannoneers resorted to hurling lighted shells down the slope.

Nearer came the Federals. Puffing and perspiring, crawling on hands and knees where the incline was too sleep or rugged to walk, they dragged themselves upward.

Nearer came the Federals. Puffing and perspiring, crawling on hands and knees where the incline was too steep or rugged to walk, they dragged themselves upward. Color-bearers toppled by the dozen. The noise was terrific. "Orders could not be heard ten feet, so almost all orders of officers were given by the motion of the hand or sword," said an Ohio major. "Each soldier moved as his courage and endurance dictated."

Patton Anderson watched the approach of Wood's division with deep misgiving. He appreciated the difficulties faced by his thin line of riflemen in the entrenchments. "Owing to the confirmation of the ridge, from which several spurs projected along my front, affording cover to the attacking forces, and protecting them from any but a direct fire . . . he was enabled to advance to within a short distance of the crest with relative impunity," rued the Floridian.

It was a few minutes before 5:00 P.M. Amid the lengthening shadows, fifty yards away from the Rebel line, a small band of Willich's and Hazen's men rushed forward from behind an embankment along the Bird's Mill road. Over the log breastworks they leaped before the startled Mississippians of Colonel William Tucker could fire a shot. Panic gripped the Rebels. They ran from the works by the score. Nearly as many surrendered.



Toward the breastworks clambered the remainder of Willich's brigade. Crowding Willich's left, having scurried for the shelter of a deep ravine, was Beatty's brigade, compacted to a front nearly as small as that of a normal-sized regiment.

For an instant, the issue hung in doubt. Sixty feet short of the entrenchments, the Federals wavered—stopped by a fierce Rebel volley and their own fatigue. The arrival of Beatty's reserve restored the momentum of the attack, and the Yankees made a last dash for the breastworks. In a moment they were over, grappling briefly with Tucker's Mississippians before the mad panic that had struck Tucker's left center infected his entire line.

A few hundred feet down the ridge, the rest of Hazen's brigade came up. A fortuitous undulation in the slope helped shelter Hazen's men until they were just three yards from the breastworks. By then the Rebels had fired their final volley and had no time to reload. Over the logs climbed the Federals. "We were up the hill in a very few moments, and some of the Rebels who had been murdering our men to the last moment, rolled over on their backs and looked up in a very pitiful attitude," said Colonel James Foy, who was leading the charge.

Bragg was near Bate. The sudden appearance of Foy's Yankees left him dumbstruck he had been congratulating Bate's men for having sent the brigades of Wagner and Harker recoiling down the ridge. Now he felt the absence of a tactical reserve. He implored Bate to spare whatever troops he could from his own breastworks to drive away the Federals and restore the break on Anderson's front.

Bate felt mortified but unable to respond. Wagner and Harker were on the move again and almost halfway up the ridge to his front, "advancing in such numbers as to forbid the displacement of any of my command."

Hazen was on the crest now, driving his reformed brigade relentlessly southward. Colonel Tyler tried to pull back his right-flank units to meet Hazen, but a bullet cut him down before he could fashion an adequate firing line. Hazen's Yankees made short work of Tyler's leaderless brigade. "The Federals [ran] over us like a herd of wild cattle," confessed one frightened Tennessean.

Wagner's brigade crowned the crest a few minutes later. No brigade suffered more in ascending Missionary Ridge than did Wagner's. He lost 730 men: three times more than did Sam Beatty and more than twice the casualties sustained by the brigades of Francis Sherman, Harker, or Willich. Only Hazen's losses of 522 came close.

Having suffered so much, the disappointment of Wagner and his troops at finding the crest virtually abandoned was almost unbearable. Everyone had wanted a chance to sink his bayonet into a Rebel.

On Wagner's right, Charles Harker and his brigade enjoyed a more stirring climax to their ninety-minute ordeal. They swarmed over the summit a minute or two before Wagner reached the crest to find the Rebel infantry had retreated. But while Harker's Federals were denied the chance to cross bayonets with the enemy, they found compensation awaiting them beyond the breastworks. There, on the narrow crest beside Bragg's headquarters, struggling to bring off their four Napoleon twelve-pounders, were the Kentuckians of Cobb's Battery. As the Federals surged toward them, most of the gunners prudently ran off. The rest gave up or were cut down.


Bragg had been shuttling along the ridge, trying with almost comic desperation to rally first Tucker's broken brigade, then Finley's Floridians, and finally Gibson's Louisiana Brigade, which crumbled before Francis Sherman's Federals. Near the front yard of the Moore house, Bragg sat astride his horse holding a large flag, imploring men who detested the sight of him to hold their ground.


With nothing but blue to be seen on the crest, Bragg remounted and turned his horse rearward to join the retreating throng. In any meaningful sense, the center of his supposedly impregnable Missionary Ridge line had ceased to exist.


But there was still killing and running aplenty going on along the doomed sector. Francis Sherman had managed to get his men out of the rifle pits at the foot of the ridge and on their way toward a lightly defended second line partway up that was defended by elements of Strahl's Tennessee brigade. Once they got started, Sherman's men had no trouble rolling over the Tennesseans.

Sherman gave his men ten minutes to recover their strength. Then, with a rush, they swarmed out of the second trench. The Rebels fought like fiends for as long as they could, but here too the terrain betrayed the defenders. The same sharp incline that winded the Yankees also kept the Rebels from getting a clear shot without showing themselves above their low works. So, instead, they lay down and hurled rocks and lighted shells randomly downhill.

Over the top came the Federals. The Rebel infantry ran off, taunted by the same cries of "Chickamauga, Chickamauga!" they had been hurling at their foe. Throughout Sherman's brigade, exhaustion gave way to ecstasy as the men crowded around four guns of a Rebel battery abandoned in the melee.

Sherman's appearance on the crest, although as dramatic as that of any other brigade, was anticlimactic insofar as the defeat of Bate was concerned. But it did make an important contribution to dislodging Stewart, whose division at 5:15 P.M. was the only Confederate force left on the ridge south of Bragg's headquarters.

Stewart was holding on because Richard Johnson's two brigades were making no headway against the thread of a line held by Strahl's left regiments and Stovall's brigades. Stoughton's mixed brigade of regulars and volunteers was repulsed in its first effort at clearing out the Tennesseans from the rifle pits on the slope. By the time Stoughton took them, Sherman's men were going over the top. Stoughton rested his men, then drove hard to make up the lost ground. His effort halted abruptly. Though Strahl's troops on the crest were putting up a gallant resistance, their numbers alone were too few to stop the Yankees what caused Stoughton to lag behind was the almost perpendicular wall formed by the ridge over the last two hundred feet of his front. Stoughton might have languished on the dizzying incline longer had Sherman's success on his left not compelled Strahl finally to give up his line along the crest.


Brigadier General William Carlin confessed: "I started up the ridge because I saw the troops on my left going up, but who gave the original impulse it would be hard to ascertain." Carlin had made the only choice possible, but his decision was irrelevant: the men already had taken matters into their own hands. "They were like a headstrong horse with a bit in his teeth, beyond holding in," said Carlin's second-in-command, Benjamin Scribner. Carlin's brigade carried their portion of the crest at 5:30 P.M., at the cost of more perspiration than blood Stewart had ordered Stovall to withdraw before the Yankees reached the top.

Matters were desperate on the Confederate left, where General Breckinridge had gone at 3:30 P.M. When he arrived, Colonel J. T. Holtzclaw was watching the approach of Fighting Joe Hooker's powerful Federal column from the direction of Lookout Mountain. As the Yankees crossed Chattanooga Creek and made for the undefended Rossville Gap, the key to the Confederate left flank, Breckinridge realized he would have to fend off Hooker's three divisions with Holtzclaw's five understrength Alabama regiments.

The Yankees marched through Rossville Gap, brushing aside the handful of Rebels who had been guarding the supplies and wagons at Rossville, before Breckinridge could send more troops to oppose them. Once through, the Federals regrouped for a go at the ridge itself. Hooker improvised a scheme of maneuver. He told Cruft to swing north, get onto Missionary Ridge, and then "engage the enemy vigorously in case he should be met, pressing the line rapidly northward along the ridge until the enemy was encountered." To John Geary, who was closing on Rossville, he gave orders to leave the road short of the gap and march northward along the western base of the ridge.

It was a brilliant plan, the more so for its simplicity. Cruft would take the Confederates in the flank Geary would feel for a chance to strike a weak point from in front and Osterhaus would net from behind any Rebels trying to flee the field.

The execution was as sound as the conception. Holtzclaw's brigade was boxed in between Hooker's three divisions and Carlin's brigade of Johnson's division. Finding Federals on all four sides, nearly all the Confederates gave up Carlin's troops alone netted 706 officers and men.

The Federal assault on Anderson's division followed a discernible pattern. Anderson's brigades folded from south to north, as Union forces pushed them from in front and rolled up their flank. Regiments of Willich's and Beatty's brigade, after clearing Tucker's Mississippians from their front, turned captured cannon on the enemy and swept northward. Their pressure on Manigault's left flank hastened his collapse. All of these events—from the rout of Tucker to the defeat of Manigault—lasted no more than fifteen or twenty minutes.

Just as it did Manigault, the unexpected pressure on Deas's flank doomed the Alabamian. He withdrew his left regiments before the Yankees in front of them reached the crest but was too late to save either his right regiments or three of the four guns of Waters's battery.

Van Derveer joined Turchin, and together their badly intermingled brigades headed toward the last of Anderson's brigades: the four Tennessee regiments of Brigadier General Alfred Vaughan. At Anderson's behest, he peeled off two of his regiments from the breastworks in a hopeless effort at stemming Van Derveer and Turchin. The two lines blazed away at a hundred yards until the Tennesseans ran out of ammunition. Vaughan conceded the contest, retreating by the left flank off Missionary Ridge.

As twilight deepened in a purple and gunsmoke gray darkness, every unit of Anderson's, Bate's, and Stewart's divisions was either tentatively reforming among the foothills east of Missionary Ridge or else in headlong retreat . . .

Vaughan's withdrawal ended the battle for the Confederate center and right. As twilight deepened into a purple and gunsmoke gray darkness, every unit of Anderson's, Bate's, and Stewart's divisions was either tentatively reforming among the foothills east of Missionary Ridge or else in headlong retreat toward Chickamauga Station. Only Cheatham's and Cleburne's divisions of Hardee's right wing remained of what Bragg and Breckinridge had deemed to be an impregnable line. Frank Cheatham was fully cognizant of the disaster unfolding to his left. Shortly after the Federals started across the valley, Cheatham had surmised that few if any of the attackers would strike his portion of the line on Missionary Ridge. Consequently, he rode to the extreme left of his division to watch the fight unfold on Anderson's front. The Tennessean sat behind Jackson's brigade. To Jackson's right were the decimated commands of Walthall and Moore. The moment Vaughan began to flounder, Cheatham ordered Jackson and Moore to charge front to the left. Only McCants's Florida Battery stayed put to hold the line against Phelps's left regiments, which, contrary to Cheatham's calculations, were climbing the ridge in front of Jackson.

In the fast-fading light, Jackson and Moore were able to stop Van Derveer's advance northward along the crest. But Baird and Van Derveer had reserves to feed into the fight, and after thirty minutes in action, Jackson's brigade fled. With his flank exposed, Moore withdrew as well. Most of Phelps's brigade was on Missionary Ridge now, and his and Van Derveer's men surged northward.




Cheatham scrambled to place another obstacle before their further progress. Baird was just one mile from Tunnel Hill. All Cheatham had left to stop—or at least slow—him was Walthall's fragment of a brigade, which he now brought into play. Walthall's Mississippians, few though they were, proved sufficient for the task at hand. A few volleys halted the Yankees, who came no nearer than 200 yards, and after several more minutes of frenetic shooting by both sides, they ceased fire and backed out of range. It was about 6:00 P.M.

Darkness, more than the Mississippians, had put an end to Baird's advance. And, despite their superior numbers, the Yankees were disorganized and exhausted. All seemed content to let the Confederates leave the field at their leisure. The fight for Missionary Ridge was over.

The night of November 25, 1863, was the saddest to date in the depressing history of the Army of Tennessee. Over three rough country lanes, the heartbroken troops of Bragg's dispersed divisions moved toward South Chickamauga Creek, on the far bank of which they might find at lest temporary safety. Awaiting them at Chickamauga Station was Bragg, as distraught as his men.

Bragg understood that the army's stay at Chickamauga Station must be brief, as the Federals were likely to pursue before dawn. Planning to leave shortly after midnight, Bragg chose as the immediate objective of his retreat Ringgold, Georgia, a town ten miles southeast of Chickamauga Station astride the strategically vital Western and Atlantic Railroad. Just beyond Ringgold, the railroad passed through a gap in a thirty-mile-long ridge known as Taylor's Ridge south of the tracks and White Oak Mountain north of them. From Ringgold, Bragg planned to retire fifteen miles farther to Dalton.

Where were the Yankees during the long, cold night of November 25? Why did no columns of jubilant bluecoats come bursting through the dark forest west of South Chickamauga Creek to consume the weary Rebels?

The answer rested with Grant. Having won a stunning though unexpected victory on Missionary Ridge, he was momentarily at a loss what to do next. And the last Confederates scarcely had disappeared from Missionary Ridge before Grant felt obliged to turn the better part of his attention to a problem more vexing than finishing off Bragg: what to do about General Burnside, who reportedly was besieged at Knoxville by Longstreet and low on provisions. The pressure from Washington to help Burnside and his uncertainty over affairs on his own front rendered Grant unable to fashion a fast, coordinated pursuit of Bragg during the night of November 25. Instead, he fashioned a compromise strategy. At daylight, he would chase Bragg with Sherman's troops and part of Thomas's army Granger, meanwhile, would take his corps to succor Burnside.

The pursuit got off to a rocky start, and Bragg's infantry passed through Ringgold intact before nightfall on the twenty-sixth. It ground completely to a halt the next day, when Pat Cleburne, commanding the rear guard, successfully defended Ringgold Gap against a series of poorly orchestrated attacks by Fighting Joe Hooker. Although outnumbered three to one, Cleburne had deployed his division along White Oak Mountain and Taylor's Ridge so as to avail himself of the advantages the high ground offered. He held on until noon, when word came that the army trains were safely on their way to Dalton and that he might withdraw as he pleased. In saving the trains and artillery of the Army of Tennessee, Cleburne had lost 221 men, while inflicting over 500 casualties.

Ringgold Gap marked the end of the Chattanooga campaign, the most decisive to date in the West. Bragg had lost a campaign a week later, he lost his command.

Ringgold Gap marked the end of the Chattanooga campaign, the most decisive to date in the West. Bragg had lost a campaign a week later, he lost his command. President Davis at last conceded the need to relieve him. But a change in commanders could not mask the fact that the South had been dealt a devastating blow. Counting those of Cleburne's division who fell at Ringgold Gap, the Army of Tennessee reported casualties of 6,667 in the battles for Chattanooga that is, Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge. Of these, 4,146 were counted as missing. Grant, however, insisted that he sent 6,142 men to Union prison camps. His count probably is more reliable, reflecting the hundreds of stragglers netted during the pursuit from Chickamauga Station to Ringgold Gap. Equally serious was the loss in artillery. Forty cannon and 69 limbers and caissons had been surrendered or abandoned, most on Missionary Ridge.



By comparison, Grant had suffered 686 killed, 4,329 wounded, and just 322 captured or missing. Sheridan's division had sustained nearly a quarter of these casualties: 1,346, almost all in the assault on Missionary Ridge.

Although volunteers were virtually nonexistent in the Confederacy and able-bodied conscripts as scarce as hard currency, it was still easier to replace men than to regain territory. The South had lost for good the state of Tennessee. The late autumn offensive of John B. Hood's ragged and sick remnant of an army a year later could not change that reality. From November 26, 1863, until the end of the war, the South would be on the strategic defensive in the West.

The Chattanooga campaign also cemented the triumvirate that would win the war: Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan.

Of course, the South's loss was the North's gain. Union armies now had secure lines of communication from the Ohio River to Chattanooga. The city became a giant storehouse, where supplies stockpiled during the winter months made possible Sherman's spring 1864 offensive against the last virgin reaches of the Confederate heartland—the interior of Georgia.

The Chattanooga campaign also cemented the triumvirate that would win the war: Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan. Grant's star, which had faded briefly after Vicksburg, was to burn brightly from then on, illuminating a path to the White House.

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Special Collections

Perry Mayo Collection

History Shared: Perry Mayo generously donated a box of medium format black & white negatives. The photos were likely taken from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s. They capture some of the most active periods of infrastructure change in Chattanooga's history since the Civil War.

Stokes Photos

In 1922, his obituary described him as ‘one of the most prominent photographers of the city.’

Remarkably, a significant set of his photo collection has survived three generations. Stokes uniquely featured landmarks, buildings, and historic vistas.

Glass Plate Negatives

Glass plate negatives captured over 100 years ago represent daily life, homes, friends, and landmarks that are difficult to place in our current landscapes.

Here we see young men and women with gleams in their eyes - great grandmothers and great grandfathers in their prime around 1900. While all of their lives have come and gone, we get a remarkable glimpse into their world.

Battle For Chattanooga

BATTLE FOR CHATTANOOGA is a series of three races commemorating this area's Civil War history. Races are held in locations where key events of the Battles for Chickamauga and Chattanooga occurred in the fall of 1863.

The 2021 race series is under way!

Battle for Chattanooga kicked off on November 14, 2020, with the Fort Oglethorpe 5k. Everyone who completed the 5k race is automatically entered in the race series and only needs to complete just two more races to receive their free finisher's medal.

Complete all three races in the series and claim this custom-designed finisher's medal at the final race!

Details and rules:

Participating in Battle for Chattanooga is FREE and open to anyone (runners and walkers) who completes the qualifying events. Complete all three races and receive a custom-designed Battle for Chattanooga finisher's medal.

To Participate:

  1. Finish one eligible event in each of the three races in the series.
  2. Receive your medal at the finish line of the final race in the series.

Battle for Chattanooga is FREE, simply pay the entry fee for each race you run.

Qualifying races in the series:

*note: the first race in the series was in November 2020, the remaining races will be held in 2021. Check the CTC race calendar to confirm race dates.

Complete one eligible event in each of these three races:

  1. Fort Oglethorpe 5k November 14, 2020COMPLETED!
  2. Missionary Ridge Road Race (4.7 mile) August, 7 2021 (registration opening Spring 2021)
  3. Chickamauga Chase* September, 18 2021(registration opening Summer 2021)
    *eligible events: 15k, 5k, 8-mileTrail

1. Battle For Chattanooga (BFC) participants must complete one eligible event in each of the three races in the series.

2. Participants' name must be listed in the official race results for each qualifying race. Results posted on the Chattanooga Track Club website.

3. Requests to receive finishers' medals by mail must be received by October 18, 2021 (no charge for mailing).

Receiving your BFC finisher's medal:

there are two options to receive your free, custom-designed, Battle for Chattanooga finisher's medal.

  1. In-person pickup. At the final race in the series, the Chickamauga Chase (September 18, 2021). Your qualifying race results will be verified at pickup.
  2. By mail. Send an email with your name and mailing address to [email protected] Medals will be mailed starting after September 18.

Battle for Chattanooga Race Series is free to the community and 100% funded by the Chattanooga Track Club. To support this and other programs please consider becoming a member of the CTC.

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02881.29 Author/Creator: Currier & Ives Place Written: New York, New York Type: Print Date: circa 1863 Pagination: 1 lithograph : col. 31.3 x 42.8 cm.

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02881.29 Author/Creator: Currier & Ives Place Written: New York, New York Type: Print Date: circa 1863 Pagination: 1 lithograph : col. 31.3 x 42.8 cm.

Hand colored lithograph published by Currier & Ives at 152 Nassau Street, New York. Subtitle is: "Between the Union forces under Genl. Grant, and the Rebel Army under Genl. Bragg." Caption under title says: "This great conflict began on Monday Novr. 23d. and has lasted until Thursday the 26th but the main battles were fought on the 24th & 25th, resulting in a complete victory for the Union Arms. The battlefield extended six miles along Missionary Ridge, and several miles on Lookout Mountain, but the battle was so well ordered by Genl. Grant, and so heroically fought by his gallant Army, that at last the Rebels broke in utter and total confusion, throwing away their guns, and leaving artillery, caissons, ammunition and every thing of value behind them reckless of all, save safety." Picture dominated by a triangle of furious hand-to-hand fighting where Union and Confederate troops are meeting. Background shows rows of troops charging behind them. Lithograph is mounted.

From the last days of September through October 1863, General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate army laid siege to the Union army under Major General William Rosecrans at Chattanooga, cutting off its supplies. On 17 October, Major General Ulysses S. Grant received command of the Western armies he moved to reinforce Chattanooga and replaced Rosecrans with Major General George Thomas. A new supply line was soon established. Major General William T. Sherman arrived with his four divisions in mid-November, and the Federals began offensive operations. On 23-24 November, Union forces struck out and captured Orchard Knob and Lookout Mountain. On 25 November, Union soldiers assaulted and carried the seemingly impregnable Confederate position on Missionary Ridge. One of the Confederacy’s two major armies was routed. The Federals held Chattanooga, the "Gateway to the Lower South," which became the supply and logistics base for Sherman’s 1864 Atlanta Campaign.

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