The Battle of Chattanooga
Lookout Mountain from Union works in Chattanooga.
From Harper's Pictorial History of the Great Rebellion
With the Confederate Army in front of Chattanooga divided into two corps, Hardee
on the right and Breckinridge on the left on Missionary Ridge, and General
Stevenson with a small force occupying Lookout Mountain, Bragg waited.
plan of battle was for Sherman with his four divisions to cross the Tennessee
River at Brown's Ferry and march behind Stringer's Ridge, concealed from the
eyes of the Confederates, and take a position near the North Chickamauga Creek.
He was to re-cross the river by pontoon bridge at the mouth of the South
Chickamauga Creek, strike the north end of Missionary Ridge and capture it as
far as the railroad tunnel. Thomas was to move his Army of the Cumberland to the
left, and connect with Sherman. This united force was to sweep the Confederates
southward off Missionary Ridge and away from their base of supplies at
Chickamauga Station. Howard's Corps was to act as a general reserve for this
force. Hooker, with the Twelfth Corps and Brig. Gen. Charles Cruft's Division
(Fourth Corps), was to hold Lookout Valley. Col. Eli Long's Cavalry was to cover
Sherman's left and when no longer needed for this task was to strike Bragg's
communications. This original plan, however, was changed several times to fit
The rains that hampered movement of Union supplies also delayed Sherman's
movement across the Tennessee. High water broke the bridge at Brown's Ferry and
Osterhaus' Division could not cross the river. Subsequently it received orders
to join Hooker in Lookout Valley. On November 22, Grant received word that Bragg
was withdrawing his army; actually the movement reported was Buckner leaving to
reinforce Longstreet. To "test the truth" of the report, Grant changed
his plans and ordered Thomas to make a demonstration to his front on the 23rd.
This began the battles of Chattanooga.
ORCHARD KNOB. The Union Army of the Cumberland had made its positions very strong during the time it was besieged by Bragg's army. One of its strong points was Fort Wood on an elevated point east of the town. Thomas, according to instructions, sent Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's and Brig. Gen. T J. Wood's divisions to level ground at Fort Wood and there formed them in line, Wood on the left, Sheridan on the right, with Brig. Gen. Absalom Baird supporting Sheridan. Brig. Gen. R. W. Johnson's troops held the trenches, and Maj. Gen. 0. 0. Howard's Corps, which had crossed from the north bank of the river, acted as the reserve.
At 2 p. m. on November 23, the lines of blue moved forward, driving the
Confederate outposts and their supports back to the base of Missionary Ridge,
and captured Orchard Knob, a low hill a little more than a mile in front of the
ridge. The Union forces occupied the captured entrenchments and erected a
battery on Orchard Knob. Except for occasional artillery firing, the fighting
ended for the day.
MOVES. During the night of November 23-24, Sherman began to carry out his role
in the drama. He selected Brig. Gen. Giles A. Smith's brigade to man the pontoon
boats, concealed in North Chickamauga Creek, to cross the Tennessee River and
secure a bridgehead near the mouth of the South Chickamauga Creek. During the
hours of darkness the brigade landed at its designated place. A few soldiers
stopped at the mouth of the creek, surprising and capturing the pickets there.
The remaining troops landed and prepared to build bridges across the Tennessee
River and South Chickamauga Creek. By early afternoon they had finished the
bridge across the river, and Sherman's forces were across and ready to attack.
Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis' Division (Fourteenth Corps), which had guarded
the pontoons, also crossed and became part of Sherman's force.
Sherman attacked and seized the north end of Missionary Ridge at 4 p. m.
against only Confederate outpost opposition. To his surprise, Sherman found a
deep and wide ravine separating the north end of the ridge from Tunnel Hill
immediately southward, his real objective. Cleburne's Division of Confederate
troops had hurried to Tunnel Hill only an hour or two before Sherman seized the
north end of Missionary Ridge, and they were busily engaged entrenching there
when Sherman arrived across the ravine from them. Sherman did not attack Tunnel
Hill that afternoon, but entrenched where he was.
BATTLE ABOVE THE CLOUDS, NOVEMBER 24. While operations were in progress, east of
Chattanooga, Hooker moved into action west of the town. The failure of Osterhaus'
Division to join Sherman resulted in another change of orders. A new plan for
Hooker to take Lookout Mountain and descend into Chattanooga Valley replaced the
original one of having him merely hold Lookout Valley and the route to
Bridgeport. Hooker had three divisions in his force commanded by Brigadier
Generals Peter J. Osterhaus, John W. Geary, and Charles Cruft, each from a
different army corps. Geary was on the right at Wauhatchie, Cruft in the center,
and Osterhaus near Brown's Ferry. It was a unique team. One who was present
wrote, "We were all strangers, no one division ever having seen either of
The terrain that confronted Hooker's command was rugged, steep, heavily
timbered, and topped by a rocky cliff. At the northern end, at the cliff base
and halfway up the mountain, was a bench of nearly level land. On it stood the
Cravens Farm. At 8 a. m. on November 24 Hooker sent Geag's Division, supported
by a brigade from Cruft's Division, to effect a crossing of Lookout Creek. The
troops accomplished this with little opposition and Geary climbed the mountain
until the head of his column reached the cliff. The division then moved to the
left and proceeded northward toward the point of the mountain.
While Geary climbed the mountain, Cruft, with his force, moved farther down the
valley toward the Tennessee River and seized a bridge over the creek.
Osterhaus's Division then crossed the stream at that point in the face of sharp
skirmishing with Confederate defenders before the latter retreated up the
mountain. The three Union divisions soon joined on a common line and, supported
by Union batteries on Moccasin Point, steadily drove Walthall's Confederate
brigade around the point of Lookout Mountain to the Cravens farmhouse. By noon,
Hooker's forces were in possession of the farm but the Confederates made a stand
beyond the Cravens house within prepared defense works, and were joined there by
two brigades from the top of the mountain. Fog, which covered the Mountainside
most of the morning, became so heavy that by 2 p. m. it was almost impossible to
see. This factor, plus a shortage of ammunition, caused Hooker to halt and
consolidate his position. Later in the afternoon, Carlin's brigade arrived with
a resupply of ammunition. During the night, General Stevenson withdrew the
Confederate forces from Lookout Mountain and marched them to Missionary Ridge
where they joined their comrades holding that sector of the line.
"The Battle Above the Clouds" was fought on the bench of land surrounding the Cravens house. There was no fighting on top the mountain. The romantic name given in later years to this action on the Union right was the result of the fog and mist which shrouded the mountain that day from observers below. It was not until the next morning that the 8th Kentucky Volunteers planted the Stars and Stripes on top of the bluff.
RIDGE NOVEMBER 25. The decisive blow of the battle was at hand. Grant's Orders
for the Morning of November 25 were as follows: "Sherman was directed to
attack at daylight. Hooker was ordered to move at the same hour and endeavor to
intercept the enemy's retreat, if he still remained; if he had gone, then to
move directly to Rossville and operate against the left and rear of the force on
Missionary Ridge. Thomas was not to move until Hooker had reached Missionary
Sherman began his attack, as directed, just after sunrise. His troops attacked
Cleburne's Division frontally, but without success. All night the Confederates
had worked at strengthening their position on Tunnel Hill, which now formed the
Confederate right. These field works gave good protection to Cleburne's men from
enemy fire. The stubbornly fighting Confederates held their positions against
repeated attacks by superior numbers. This fight continued until 3 P. M., and is
a notable example of the value to a greatly outnumbered defending force of field
works on a good position. Some Union troops did make a lodgment on the slopes of
Tunnel Hill in the afternoon, but a Confederate charge drove them off.
Cleburne's soldiers held the hill.
In the meantime, Hooker was in trouble, not with the enemy, but with Chattanooga
Creek. He started for Rossville bright and early to get into position to strike
Bragg's left. Stevenson's men, who had evacuated Lookout Mountain during the
night, had burned the bridge across Chattanooga Creek and had done all they
could to obstruct the roads that Hooker needed to march to Rossville. Hooker
lost 3 hours building a bridge across the creek and it was late afternoon before
his men took their places on Missionary Ridge.
From his post on Orchard Knob, Grant realized that Sherman's attacks had failed
to gain their objective and that Hooker had been delayed in reaching his
assigned position. To relieve some of the pressure on Sherman, Grant ordered
Thomas to move out against the Confederate center on Missionary Ridge.
The ridge that lie before the Union troops was rough and steep. It rose from 200
to 400 feet higher than the level ground at its base. Its steep slopes were
broken by ravines, strewn with boulders, and dotted with stumps, the latter
reminders of recently felled timber. The first line of Confederate breastworks
was at the foot of the ridge. Some unfinished works had been built halfway up
the slope. Finally, a third line of works was built on the natural, instead of
the military, crest of the hill. Thus, Confederate fire from the crest could not
cover some of the ravine approaches.
Four Union divisions, Baird, Wood, Sheridan, and R. W Johnson, from left to
right, started toward the ridge. The hard charging Union soldiers soon
overwhelmed the gray defenders in the rifle pits at the base of the ridge.
Scarcely halting, and generally without orders to continue, the men in blue
charged up the ridge. They followed the retreating Confederates so closely from
the rifle pits that the Confederates on the crest in many places hesitated to
fire for fear of hitting their own men. It was not long before units of the Army
of the Cumberland pierced the Confederate line in several places and sent
Bragg's veterans reeling in retreat down the east slope of the ridge toward
Chickamauga Creek. Sheridan pushed forward in pursuit of the retreating army,
capturing men, artillery, and equipment. Even though the Confederate center had
disintegrated, Hardee held his position on the Confederate right until darkness,
and then began his withdrawal with Cleburne's Division covering the retreat.
Bragg's army crossed Chickamauga Creek during the night, carrying out a
surprisingly successful retreat.
During the evening of the 25th, Grant issued orders to Thomas and Sherman to
pursue Bragg. The next morning, Sherman advanced by way of Chickamauga Station,
and Thomas' troops marched on the Rossville Road toward Graysville and Ringgold.
In the vicinity of Ringgold, Cleburne's Confederates held a strong position on
Taylor's Ridge covering Bragg's retreat. Cleburne's men repulsed a Union attack,
inflicting heavy casualties until Bragg's army had successfully withdrawn
southward, and then they followed. Union troops then occupied Taylor's Ridge.
There the pursuit stopped.
This decisive Union victory raised the siege of Chattanooga.
following tabulation of strength and casualties at the Battle of Chattanooga is
based on Livermore's studies:
"Chickamauga and Chattanooga Battlefields" by James R. Sullivan. National Park Service Historical Handbook Series No. 25, 1951