Friday, March 23, 2007
Battle of Chattanooga
November 23—25, 1863
In September of 1863, following the rout of Union forces at the Battle of Chckamauga, Union General William S. Rosecrans retreated with his Army of the Cumberland to the safety of Chattanooga. There he awaited a Confederate assault as the town of Chattanooga, on the Tennessee River, was a strategically vital railroad junction giving east-west access into the Confederacy.
Three days after Chickamauga, on September 23, Confederate General Braxton Bragg set off in pursuit of Rosecrans at Chattanooga. There his army of Tennessee occupied the heights around the city awaiting the arrival of the Union troops.
General Rosecrans was in a precarious position, so President Lincoln ordered that two corps under the command of General Joseph Hooker be detached from the Army of the Potomac to reinforce Rosecrans' army. They also created a new command, the Military Division of the Mississippi, putting General Ulysses S. Grant in overall command at Chattanooga. Unimpressed with Rosecrans' record, Grant replaced him with Major General George H. Thomas, who had performed so heroically at Chickamauga.
By mid-November, the Army of Tennessee led by General William T. Sherman's arrived in the area bringing Grant's forces at Chattanooga to 70,000. Bragg's army, however, was not as strong as when he had arrived at Chattanooga. On November 4 he had dispatched General James Longstreet's corps from Chattanooga to Knoxville in east Tennessee, in an attempt to take the town from General Anbrose R. Burnside's Union Army of the Ohio garrisoned there. This reduced the number of men under his command at Chattanooga to 40,000, reorganized into two corps under General William J. Hardee and General John C. Breckinridge.
Grant planned to attack the rebel line encircling the city on the landward side from Lookout Mountain in the southwest to Missionary Ridge, running from southeast to northeast of the city. Hooker's corps on Grant's right would make a diversionary attack at Lookout Mountain and likewise Thomas would hold the center at Chattanooga while Sherman's corps would launch the main attack on Bragg's right, at Tunnel Hill, rolling up the Confederate lines as he swept down Missionary Ridge. Rain delayed Sherman on Grant’s intended day of attack, and instead Grant ordered Thomas to move forward from his trenches at Chattanooga to a hill called Orchard Knob, halfway between the opposing armies.
On November 23 Thomas' Army of the Cumberland brushed aside Confederate outposts to occupy Orchard Knob. Bragg, little more than a mile away on Missionary Ridge, saw the danger and pulled a division from Lookout Mountain on his left to strengthen the center. The next day Grant launched his attacks on Bragg's left and right wings. Sherman crossed the Tennessee north of Chattanooga but, having pushed aside light Confederate defenses across the river, stopped short of Tunnel Hill. Drawing up his forces on a nearby hill, he prepared for the attack on Missionary Ridge the following day. Meanwhile, at the other end of the line on November 24, Hooker had led his men across the river below Lookout Mountain and marched along the far bank to the mountain.
Facing Hooker's corps on Lookout Mountain was one Confederate division commanded by General Carter L. Stevenson. In thick mist, Hooker attacked the heavily outnumbered Confederates at 08:00, Stevenson was pushed back but managed to hold the Union troops on the steep slopes and the summit until the end of the day in what became known as the "Battle of the Clouds." This battle being in comparison a minor engagement (Union commander U. S. Grant himself called it an over glorified skirmish, “one of the romances of the war”). At nightfall the Confederates retired from the mountain, before they were cut off from the rest of their army, and joined their comrades on Missionary Ridge. The 147th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, with Lehigh Valley soldiers in the ranks, participated in the Battle Above the Clouds and in the Battle of Chattanooga.
Confederate General Bragg still resolved to hold his three-mile-long front on Missionary Ridge, believing that the high ground gave him an advantage over Grant. Breckinridge’s corps was to hold his right wing, and Hardee’s corps his left. At dawn on November 25 Sherman moved again, attacking the northernmost division on the ridge under the command of General Patrick R. Cleburne. Cleburne put up stubborn resistance on Tunnel Hill, and in spite of Sherman’s overwhelming numbers the Union force hammered against him without success into the afternoon.
Grant’s plan for the day had been for Thomas to occupy Bragg’s well-defended center while the two flanking attacks led by Sherman and Hooker would turn and destroy the Confederates, but events overtook him. Fearing that Cleburne could actually turn his own left wing, at 15:30 Grant ordered Thomas to advance to take Confederate rifle pits at the foot of Missionary Ridge. The 25,000-strong Army of the Cumberland swept forward from Orchard Knob and swept aside the Confederate line of defense at the rifle pits. Seeing that they had thrown the Confederate defenders into panicked retreat. The Union Army spontaneously continued its advance up the ridge. Unable to stop the attack, Thomas’ officers joined in the headlong scramble up the steep slopes. Reaching the crest they swept aside Bragg’s division in the center, seizing Confederate artillery which they turned and fired on the remaining defenders.
Bragg ordered a retreat to Dalton and gave General Cleburne the grim task of guarding his rear. Safely back in Dalton, he wired Davis of the defeat and asked to be relieved of duty.
The battle lasted three days; November 23—25, 1863. It was a Union victory. The casualty figures show that the killed, wounded or missing were: Confederates, 6,700 and Union, 5,800.
Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]
Links to this post:
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]