The Background Battle of Chattanooga:

In the background of Battle of Chattanooga – Rosecrans had performed badly at Chickamauga, fleeing the field. Grant sacked him and appointed the Rock of Chickamauga, General Thomas, to replace the Runner of Chickamauga. General Thomas had the task of holding Chattanooga at all costs—and Lincoln made sure he was plentifully reinforced, which was easy to do because Braxton Bragg besieged the city with his usual incompetence; as Longstreet said: “We were trying to starve the enemy by investing him on the only side from which he could not have gathered supplies.”

The Battle of Chattanooga:

By 23 November 1863, 70,000 Federal troops were amassed in battle of Chattanooga. The Federal breakout began with General Thomas seizing Orchard Knob from the Confederates, and driving the Confederate line back. The next day, Joseph Hooker led the Federal attack at the Battle of Lookout Mountain, known as the “The Battle above the Clouds,” and used his six-to-one advantage in men to defeat the Confederates.


But the key battle was the Battle of Missionary Ridge. It was begun on 24 November and engaged with a fury on 25 November. Again the Federals had six to one odds in their favor, but the three Confederate lines ascending the steep ridge threw back Federal attacks all day—at times in hand to hand combat.

General Thomas, however, refused to be denied victory. He brought up 23,000 Federals on a two mile-long line and sent them charging a full mile under fire. The bluecoats crashed into and overwhelmed the 3,200 Confederates in the rifle pits at the base of the ridge. As retreating Confederates scrambled out of the way, fire poured down on the Federals from the Confederate second line: artillery fire, musket fire, an inferno of blazing fire. The Yankee junior officers on the spot thought they had no choice: they had to charge straight up the mountain through that avalanche of artillery shells and bullets.

Grant, seeing the blue uniforms move up, thought it was suicide and demanded to know who had given the order to attack up the ridge. No one knew, but the bluecoats kept moving, dodging behind whatever cover they could find as they made their ascent. Soon they had captured the second line of Confederate rifle pits, the defenders scrambling higher to the final line. Though the fire remained fierce and deadly, the Union troops got a break. As the Federals ascended, the Confederate artillery‘s field of fire diminished to nothing, it being impossible to depress the barrels any farther. The Confederate gunners were reduced to lighting fuses on canister shells and rolling them and cannon balls down the ridge.

Grabbing the flag of the 24th Wisconsin from an exhausted color sergeant, eighteen-year-old Lieutenant Arthur MacArthur (father of future general Douglas MacArthur) led the final charge: “On Wisconsin!” he cried. Soon the Federals were over the top, and as MacArthur planted his regiment’s colors in front of what had been Braxton Bragg’s headquarters he was greeted with the sight of Confederate uniforms melting away down the reverse slope of the ridge.

Phil Sheridan led the Federals’ pursuit, which continued the next day. Only the fighting courage of Patrick Cleburne’s shielding division (Cleburne was known as “the Stonewall Jackson of the West”) allowed the Confederates to escape. The charge up Missionary Ridge had decided the contest. Told that Confederate generals had considered Missionary Ridge impregnable, Grant replied, “Well, it was impregnable.”4 But the bravery of men like Arthur MacArthur and Phil Sheridan had changed that.

What You Need to Know about Battle of Chattanooga:

The Battle of Chattanooga at last led to General Braxton Bragg’s removal from command. Unfortunately, Jefferson Davis replaced him with another general who specialized in retreat: Joseph E. Johnston

Following Union defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga, Union forces retreated to the railroad junction of Chattanooga, Tennessee. From November 23-25, 1863, Union troops routed the Confederates at the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionaries Ridge; the victories forces the Confederate troops back into Georgia, ending the siege of Chattanooga and creating the groundwork for Sherman’s Atlanta campaign and March to the Sea in 1864.



                1. After Chickamauga, Rosecrans moved his entire army into the defenses of Chattanooga.  He was expecting Bragg to attack.
                2. Bragg’s army was beset with dissension.  Most of his subordinate generals detested him and quarreled with him. Bragg was not good at dealing with difficult people unlike Lee.
                3. When Bragg was criticized for not pursuing Rosecrans, he blamed his subordinates.
                4. The dissension became so bad that Davis decided to visit the army to personally straighten things out.  Davis asked all of Bragg’s subordinate generals if they though he should remove Bragg, and all said yes.
                5. The only real alternative to Bragg was Johnston, whom Davis despised, so Davis decided to keep Bragg.
                6. Bragg removed two of his corps commanders, including Polk.
                7. Forrest urged Bragg to attack.  Bragg refused and had a sharp quarrel with Forrest, whom he ordered to turn over his command to another general.  Forrest told Bragg “You have played the part of a damned scoundrel and are a coward. If you were any part of a man, I would slap your jaws. If you ever again try to interfere with me or cross my path, it will be at the peril of your life.”  Bragg did nothing in response.
  • Bragg Moves
                1. Bragg moved his army toward Chattanooga and occupied two major pieces of ground: Missionary Ridge (400 feet high and to the east of Chattanooga) and Lookout Mountain, which loomed over Chattanooga.
                2. Union reinforcements, including Sherman’s force of 17,000, plus 25,000 troops from Virginia under Joseph Hooker, joined Rosecrans’ army.
                3. Inside Chattanooga, supplies were beginning to run short.  There was only one very narrow road over which supplies could be brought.  By October, Rosecrans’ army was on quarter rations.
                4. On October 17, Lincoln named Grant commander of all Union armies between the Mississippi and the Appalachians (Halleck’s old job).  Grant removed Rosecrans from command, went to Chattanooga, and took personal command of the Federals there.
                5. At the same time, the Federals opened up new lines of supply.
                6. Meanwhile, Longstreet was sent with 15,000 troops to try and retake Knoxville.  This left Bragg with only 45,000 men.
                1. By mid-November, Grant had 75,000 men.
                2. Bragg’s army was still deployed on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain.  The ridge had rifle pits at its bottom and its top, and it had some about halfway between the top and bottom.
                3. Three rebel brigades held lookout Mountain, which was 2000 feet high
  • The Battle
                1. Grant wanted Hooker (on the Union left) to capture Lookout Mountain.
                2. Sherman’s army would attack Bragg’s right lank at the northern end of Missionary Ridge.
                3. Thomas would demonstrate against the Confederate center, also on Missionary Ridge.  Thomas’ soldiers were offended by this seemingly secondary assignment.
                4. On November 24, Hooker’s men captured Lookout Mountain.  The clouds were hanging low, so that the fight was later called “The Battle Above the Clouds.”  The following morning, some Union soldiers placed a flag at the top of the hill. Union soldiers on the ground broke into cheers.
                5. Sherman had less success, having to fight the best Confederate division, under Patrick Cleburne. Cleburne repulsed the bluecoats.
                6. The next morning, one of Sherman’s subordinate generals, Phil Sheridan, took out flask, and raised it to the Confederate gunners at the top of the ridge.  “Here’s at you!” he said. A Confederate cannon fired at him in response, missing but splattering him with mud. “That was ungenerous.” Sheridan replied. “I’ll take your guns for that!”
                7. Grant ordered Thomas to attack the line of trenches at the base of Missionary Ridge.  Thomas was NOT to go any further.
                8. Thomas’ men moved forward. Grant and Thomas were quite a way back from the front, watching them.  To their surprise, Thomas’ men marched all the way toward the top of the ridge. (The men were sitting ducks in the first row of rifle pits, and they had something to prove after Chickamauga.)
                9. Grant asked Thomas “Who ordered those men up the hill.”  “I don’t know. I did not.” Thomas replied. “When those fellows get started, all hell can’t stop them.”  Grant replied that someone would catch hell if this turned out badly.
                10. When the Federals reached the top of the ridge, the rebels retreated. (This was an exception to the usual rule about frontal assaults on fortified positions).
                11. As the Confederates retreated, many Federal soldiers taunted them, shouting “Chickamauga!  Chickamauga!
                12. (Fun fact): One of the color bearers in the charge up Missionary Ridge was a young officer named Arthur MacArthur.
                13. The entire Confederate army retreated 25 miles to Dalton, GA
                14. Years later, when a student of the battle commented to Grant that the Confederate generals saw their position as impregnable, Grant replied, “Well, it was impregnable.”

Outcome of Battle of Chattanooga

        1. The Union had 6000 casualties, while the Confederates had about 6500.  This was a much lower total than in many battles.
        2. Chattanooga was now irretrievably lost to the Confederates. (Also, Longstreet’s attack on Knoxville failed).
        3. All rail connections between the Confederate East and West are severed.
        4. This was the third major defeat for the Confederacy (along with Gettysburg and Vicksburg) in the summer and fall of 1863.
        5. After the battle, Bragg admitted fault for the defeat.  Davis removed him from command and replaced him with Joseph Johnston.  Bragg goes to Richmond to become Davis’ chief military advisor. (Tell Joke about Bragg – 1848)
        6. Grant’s reputation as the greatest Union general is confirmed.  Sherman said “It was a great victory…the neatest and cleanest battle I was ever in.  And Grant deserves the credit for it all.”
        7. Other Union commanders moved up with Grant, including George Thomas, William T. Sherman, and Philip Sheridan.


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