On October 17, 1863, aboard a railroad car in Indianapolis, Indiana, General Ulysses S. Grant met for the first time Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. The two most important points of high ground the Confederates occupied were Missionary Ridge to the east and north of the city and a huge rock known as Lookout Mountain. Many consider Chattanooga and Missionary Ridge simply a part of the natural chain of events guided by that military mastermind, Ulysses S. Grant; the reality was anything but. In late June General William S. Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland began to push southward from Murfreesboro; then, smartly outmaneuvering Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee, Rosccrans chased the Confederates into northern Georgia and occupied Chattanooga, “the gateway to the Deep South.” This was a solid enough achievement, but Rosecrans got the idea that Bragg was in hopeless straits, and lie sent his army chasing headlong through the mountains south of Chattanooga to apply the crusher. Please support this 70-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage. A report from General in Chief Henry W. Halleck in Washington warned him that a corps from Lee’s army in Virginia was moving down into East Tennessee, posing a threat to both the Army of the Cumberland in Chattanooga and the Army of the Ohio, commanded by Ambrose Burnside, in the Knoxville area. Many of the soldiers were wakeful, and they agreed that this was a powerful omen meaning bad luck for somebody. “The question of supplies may now be regarded as settled. As soon as he learned that Sherman was going to be late, Grant postponed Thomas’ attack and sent word to Hooker to march south along the eastern foot of Lookout Mountain. He followed in his father’s footsteps, leading American forces in the Pacific in World War II and turning the tide of the Korean War. He wasted little time disposing of Rosecrans; George H. Thomas, the one Union general who had enhanced his reputation in the Chickamauga battle, took over the Army of the Cumberland. It was an excellent plan, and it probably would have worked, except that Sherman was not where he thought he was. Grant agreed, moved partly by a suspicion that Bragg might be preparing to retreat. The Battle of Missionary Ridge was fought on November 25, 1863, as part of the Chattanooga Campaign of the American Civil War. … It is unexampled—another laurel leaf is added to Grant’s crown.” Both victors and defeated were amazed by what had been done, and it is clear that even though the assault had not been the spontaneous, grass-roots explosion that it soon became in legend, something remarkable had happened when the officers told the men to go up the steep mountainside. During the night a Confederate staff officer rode the length of the crest and noticed that the line was pretty thin; there was only one rank, and the men were spaced farther apart than was usually considered advisable. The division on the left of the assault wave belonged to General Absalom Baird, and Baird reported that the staff officer who brought him Thomas’ order to advance told him that taking the rifle pits was just the first step in a general assault on the mountain, “so that I would be following his wishes were I to push on to the summit.” Next in line were Gordon Granger’s two IV Corps divisions, Thomas J. Wood’s and Phil Sheridan’s, and on the extreme right was the division led by General Richard W. Johnson. Create your own unique website with customizable templates. gen. john Breckinridge had 9 brigades with which to cover a 2.5 mile front opposite Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's center. To do this, of course, it would be necessary to drive the Confederates away from Raccoon Mountain, but this might be easy because Bragg’s army held this area weakly. When the army in Chattanooga looked to its right it saw something worse: the upper end of Lookout Mountain, a massive reef that came up one hundred miles out of Alabama, its axis pointing a little east of north, touching the river a few miles west of the city. This would bring him out at a place called Wauhatchie, on the eastern slope of Raccoon Mountain approximately four miles south of Brown’s Ferry. His men found that getting down from their own ground into that unanticipated valley was bad enough, because there were Confederates on the far side shooting at them, but going up the opposite side was much worse, because Cleburne’s artillery and infantry could send a vicious fire slicing all along this slope. General Thomas had already approved it, and preliminary activities were even now under way; all that these generals wanted was final approval from General Grant—that, and the assurance that the project had top priority and would get overriding directives in case of need. Then, just as if a stage manager knew when to close a brilliant scene, the clouds hid the sun again, the drifting fog came back, the Lookout Mountain battle lines vanished from sight; and Grant, who had been over on the left of Thomas’ line, came riding back toward the center, as leisurely and unemotional as a farmer going out to inspect his acres. (FT. Bragg, NC) I have never really understood the practice of naming bases after defeated Confederate … For Chattanooga, from first to last, was the most completely theatrical battle of the entire war. Let him be ordered to march toward Chattanooga along the line of the railroad and its accompanying highway. And at last—two o’clock, perhaps, or near it—Grant concluded that Thomas must attack no matter what was happening elsewhere. To be sure, the rifle pits made an unprotected target for the Confederate gunners, and as veterans these Federals could see that they would be safer climbing the ridge, where there was a good deal of dead ground, than they were here in the open. Bragg picked up reinforcements, including a corps from Lee’s army in Virginia, and on September 19 and 20, along Chickamauga Creek in northern Georgia, he smashed the Army of the Cumberland and sent it reeling hack into Chattanooga. At the very least, plans would go wrong. Johnson said he had been ordered to advance with the left of his division touching the right of Sheridan’s, and he was to conform to Sheridan’s movements. The ground was steep but there was strangely little opposition—nothing but a little rifle fire from scattered Confederate patrols—and Sherman’s men got up onto the high ground without trouble. Besides, a new atmosphere had unquestionably come in with him. Missionary Ridge: Important Battle...Shabby Interpretation - See 64 traveler reviews, 13 candid photos, and great deals for Chattanooga, TN, at Tripadvisor. His job, he told us, was to maintain his ground and defend. For a few moments they could see nothing, because most of Thomas’ line was invisible from the hilltop; then the soldiers appeared, rank upon blue rank, forming up to face Missionary Ridge, flags in the wind, sunlight coming down from beyond Lookout Mountain to slant along the rows of bright muskets, and the final scene had opened. One of the problems is that there is so much residential development along the Ridge. Cleburne took two brigades and came down the ridge, but before he could get to the center the Confederate line had been broken and he could do no more than draw a line across the ridge, facing south, to keep the Federals from driving north to destroy his own command. I can now feel the difference. Astoundingly, and against the odds, the charge was a swinging success. Bragg had finally seen what was coming, and had sent a division led by his best combat soldier, General Patrick Cleburne, over to hold Tunnel Hill and the knobby ground north and east of it. The prediction was correct. Grant’s staff stayed up late to enjoy the sight, and Grant remarked that all of the Confederate troops would be gone from Lookout by morning. Wood had two of his brigades in front, and the commander of one of them, General August Willich, said that he had understood all along that they were to storm the crest; not until after the battle did he learn that they were supposed to stop when they had taken the rifle pits. Across the base of Moccasin Point, hidden from Confederate view by woods and hills, there was an insignificant little road that left the river opposite Chattanooga and reached the river again at a nowhere of a place called Brown’s Ferry. Hard work, exposure, short grain and no long fodder have almost destroyed them.” It was quite true, as Grant pointed out to General Halleck, that steamboats now were running regularly between Kelley’s Ferry and Bridgeport, “thus nearly settling the subsistence and forage questions”; the army was not going to starve. The fifth was the one Grant had taken from Bridgeport, four times as long and ten times as difficult as the others. Meanwhile there was Sherman, who was supposed to have the principal part in the battle and who on November 24 contributed nothing to legend but something to misunderstanding. As commander of the newly created Military Division of the Mississippi, with jurisdiction over all Federal troops between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi River, Grant was ordered to get to Chattanooga without delay, restore the situation there, and take the military initiative away from the Confederates. From Moccasin Bend to the end of Missionary Ridge, the Confederate army was in plain sight, its campfires making a crescent against the sky night after night, its picket lines so close that Northern and Southern boys fraternized daily in a most unwarlike manner; but Grant and Thomas and all of their men might as well have been north of the Ohio River for anything they could do about it. It was complete chaos. Then Thomas sent his men forward, and the flood tide swept up over Orchard Knob and the little ridges around it, and the mile-wide line of advance, its front all sparkling with the fire of the skirmishers, flooded the plain and the higher ground and drove Bragg’s outpost line back to the rifle pits at the foot of Missionary Ridge. Abraham Lincoln, with that special perceptiveness of his, had early seen the qualities of the man. If things were done properly, Bragg’s army should be roundly defeated. There was also the river, usable by steamboats at most stages of the water, and the river skirted the northern tip of Lookout Mountain. Then it began to rain, and it kept on raining for two days, turning the roads to fathomless mud and reducing Sherman’s march from Bridgeport to a crawl. The high ground that Sherman occupied on the afternoon of November 24 was not the northern end of Missionary Ridge at all; it was simply a detached hill, completely separated from Missionary Ridge by a deep valley with steep sides. The Lincoln government had suddenly come alive to the fact that one of its major forces, the Army of the Cumberland, faced imminent disaster in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and fierce Stanton, “Old Man Mars,” had hurried west to straighten things out. © Copyright 1949-2018 American Heritage Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved. So Thomas got new orders—to “carry the rifle pits at the foot of Missionary Ridge, and when carried to reform his lines on the rifle pits with a view to carrying the ridge.”. He had the right men with him on this ride: Thomas, who had already endorsed a plan to break the siege, and the chief engineer officer of the Army of the Cumberland, Brigadier General William Farrar Smith, who had devised the plan and was prepared to execute it. Battle of Missionary Ridge, 1863. On the morning of November 24 Hooker was to take everybody he had and assault Lookout Mountain, as the original plan had contemplated. The only force available to him to counter this threat was Sherman’s, toiling slowly eastward from Memphis, repairing the Memphis & Charleston Railroad as it came. All Grant could promise was that a real attack would be made after Sherman arrived. It was also referred to as "Mission Ridge" in the early years. Vimy Ridge was the first time the entire Canadian Corps, which was composed of at least 75,000 to 80,000 Canadian soldiers across four divisions, fought together. So much for November 23: a curtainraiser, setting the stage, setting also the tone, giving the defenders on Missionary Ridge a long look at an army that began to seem irresistible. It turned out later that the report was false, but Grant had to take it at face value and consider the damage a mobile force of 25,000 Confederates might accomplish in this part of the country. On December 7th 1863 Breckenridge was surprised to … Not being in action themselves, these men watched intently from afar. They came out of the trenches in knots and clusters, with ragged regimental lines trailing after the moving flags and a great to-do of officers waving swords and yelling, and then they went up the five-hundred-foot slope and broke General Bragg’s line once and for all and made his army retreat all the way back into Georgia. They could see nothing but battle smoke drifting up from a mountainside that was still hidden by the fog. The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a battle on the Western Front in 1917. A thinner haze came up along the rifle pits below as the Federals got into musket range, and now the open ground in front was all speckled and streaked with the bodies of men who had been hit. The plan was highly flexible, so that whether it led to a big fight or an elaborate maneuver would depend largely on circumstances—on what Sherman found when he got past the northern end of Missionary Ridge, and on how Bragg responded to his appearance there. — The Editors. Yet even as this threat evaporated a new one appeared. When the Confederates were routed at Missionary Ridge, Bragg once again blamed Breckenridge and accused him of being drunk. The soldier glanced at it and said: “Yes, that’s what did it. … The deserter was wrong, although he thought he was telling the truth; misguided to the end, Bragg had detached one more infantry division and sent it to East Tennessee to help Longstreet. At Chattanooga almost everybody could see almost everything. At the break in the hills just opposite Brown’s Ferry there appeared to be no more than a company of infantry. Bragg had had Missionary Ridge all to himself for nearly two months, but up here where the northern tip of the ridge came down toward the river he did not seem to be very strong, and Grant’s plan for the battle hardened as the generals studied the scene with their field glasses. You can see our troops fighting hard to defend their land against Union soldiers, The place where the blood of our soldiers fell- Missionary Ridge, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, The Eleventh Hour December 20, 1863, “...They were all over the place. By sending away Longstreet and two divisions of infantry, Bragg had prepared the way for his own defeat; Grant knew it, knew that a hard blow well delivered must drive the Confederate army back into Georgia—and found himself utterly unable to strike. Then it swings around in a sharp hairpin turn and goes back north again, enclosing a long finger of land known as Moccasin Point, the river’s hairpin turn bearing the name of Moccasin Bend, and makes its way around the northern end of Raccoon Mountain. The old men of the 24th wrapped his body in the flag hanging on the wall, the flag he had carried to the top of Missionary Ridge as a teenager. On Thursday, November 19, Secretary S tan ton telegraphed to President Lincoln (who had gone to Gettysburg to make a speech) that Grant had things moving at Chattanooga and that “a battle or falling back of the enemy by Saturday, at furthest, is inevitable.”. At the foot of the northern end of the high palisade there was a little open plateau where the Confederates had an entrenched position, and in this place they put up a stout resistance. They never had been coming, because Lee simply did not have 25,000 men to spare. Taken in front and in flank, the Confederate line defending Lookout Mountain was compelled to give ground, and foot by foot the Federals cleared the western slope of the big mountain and swung around to attack the northern slope. Thomas was sending in four infantry divisions, 20,000 men or more—more men than Pickett had used at Gettysburg—and the charge was something to see. The war was momentarily stagnant. That night, also, Sherman got three divisions in place north of the Tennessee, just across from the upper end of Missionary Ridge; and as far as anyone at Federal headquarters could see, Bragg could be hit hard on both flanks the next morning. In one way or another, most of the little columns found a good deal of shelter; their heaviest losses came earlier, down on the open ground, and though it took a brave man to make this ascent, the going was not as bad as it looked. Thomas’ part had always been thought of as supplementary, simply because to storm the main line on Missionary Ridge seemed impossible unless most of the Confederate army was kept busy elsewhere. Some of our men were running toward the top of Missionary Ridge while others were shooting down at the Union soldiers who were also storming to the top. After four or five miles Hooker could turn left and hit the southern end of Missionary Ridge at Rossville Gap, which would put him on Bragg’s left flank in position to drive northward along the ridge, crumpling the Confederate line as he came. I was almost up. The truth began to be visible at Federal headquarters around 7 A.M. , when Sherman’s attack failed to develop. The war was not going to move on until somehow those cannon were silenced at the top of that rocky steep called Missionary Ridge. Not for Thomas was the business of tapping the enemy’s lines lightly. In Virginia, George Meade’s Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia were too spent after Gettysburg to do much more than spar with each other. The first battles at the ridge … Actually, these remarks prove nothing except that corps and division commanders do not always know what is going on in the combat zone. Then darkness came, and as the mist vanished once more, Hooker’s campfires could be seen, snaking up and down the long slope, with snapping spits of light out in front where pickets and skirmishers kept up an intermittent fire. Hooker, who had his own eye for drama, sent patrols up a winding road on the eastern side of the mountain before daylight, and at dawn a party from the 8th Kentucky reached the topmost, outward-jutting crag of rock on the summit. By this time Sherman would be ready to make his own attack, and Bragg would be assailed at both ends of his long line; and Thomas would be massed in front of his center, ready for anything. These paintings are artists' depictions of the fighting at Missionary Ridge. The heavy rains also caused a rise in the Tennessee River, the swollen waters carried much driftwood downstream, the driftwood battered at the pontoon bridge at Brown’s Ferry, and before Sherman had all his men across there the bridge was swept away. After their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga, the 40,000 men of the Union Army of the Cumberland under Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans retreated to Chattanooga. The unhappy truth was that the army’s whole transportation system—that is to say, the huge array of horses and mules that pulled wagons, guns, and ambulances, without which the army could not travel—had been almost ruined by the blockade, and the damage could not be set right immediately. The southernmost end of the ridge extends into Georgia. An emotional officer on the plain confessed that “the pealing of all the bands was as if all the harps of Heaven were filling the dome with triumphant music,” and after this promising beginning he added that “it is useless to attempt a description of such a scene as that,” leaving literature much the poorer. All of these facts, of course, were visible to anyone who examined a map or climbed a hill and looked about him, but Thomas and Smith wanted Grant to reflect on certain subsidiary facts they had uncovered. Lookout Mountain rose 1,500 feet above city and river, its upper third a vertical palisade of sheer rock, with a long slope of farm and forest country sliding down from the base of the palisade to the river and the open country below. 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