Learning Lincoln On-line
FROM-- SET FOUR, CIVIL WAR STUDIES
21 Readings About the Great Battles of the Civil War #11--Battle of Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain
The North won three of the most important battles of the Civil War in 1863. Two of these Union victories occurred in early July in Gettysburg, Pa., and, after a long siege, in Vicksburg, Miss. In the fall the third crucial engagement was staged in the area around Chattanooga, Tenn.
The campaign began on Sept. 19, 1863. General Rosecrans' Union army at Chickamauga, Ga., was routed by General Bragg's Confederates. Rosecrans fell back to Chattanooga. Bragg occupied Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. Confederate troops then cut off the Union army from its supply base at Bridgeport, Ala., downstream on the Tennessee River.
To aid the trapped Federals the government sent reinforcements to Chattanooga--General Sherman with an army from Vicksburg and General Hooker with 15,000 men from Virginia. General Grant was put in supreme command. He immediately replaced Rosecrans with Gen. George H. Thomas.
On October 27 and 28 Grant's command cleared the Tennessee River of Confederates west of Lookout Mountain. This reopened the road to Bridgeport. East of the city Union troops seized Orchard Knob on November 23. The next day Grant sent Hooker to attack Lookout Mountain. This seemed foolhardy because the mountain sides were steep and choked with vegetation. In addition, a thick fog had gathered, giving the conflict the name "battle above the clouds."
Hooker attacked vigorously. He had about 9,000 men against a defending force of less than 2,000. By afternoon the lower slopes had been taken. Bragg then abandoned Lookout Mountain to meet a new threat on his right flank--Sherman was attacking Gen. William J. Hardee at the north end of Missionary Ridge.
Sherman was stopped and Hooker prevented from joining in the attack on Gen. John C. Breckinridge. By the afternoon of November 25 the Union offensive had stalled completely. To help Sherman's attack from the north, Grant ordered Thomas to capture a line of rifle pits at the western foot of the ridge. Thomas' men won their objective. Then, instead of halting as ordered, they continued the attack up to the top of the ridge. The surprised Union generals could only follow, and the equally surprised Confederates on the crest broke ranks and fled. Soon Bragg's entire army was in headlong flight to the south. This victory gave the North control of the railroads centered in Chattanooga. The South now had only one east-west route--through Atlanta. During the series of battles the Union army, which consisted of some 56,000 men, suffered 5,815 casualties. The Confederates, with about 41,000 men, lost 6,687 killed, wounded, or missing.