On October 17, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln placed General Ulysses S. Grant as Commander of the Western Union Army. One of Grant’s first actions was to reinforce the Union troops that were occupying Chattanooga, Tennessee. As the Union forces in Chattanooga were reinforced, Grant replaced General William Rosecrans with General George Thomas as commander of the Union forces in Chattanooga. One of Thomas’s tasks was to establish a new Union supply line.
In November 1863, the Confederate Army led by General Braxton Bragg, laid siege to Chattanooga in hopes of routing out the Union forces and destroying their new supply line.
On November 19-20, 1863, Union General William Rosecrans, Commander of the Army of the Cumberland, met the Confederate forces of General Braxton Bragg and his Army of Tennessee, at Chickamauga. The battle was a Confederate victory. The 2 days of fighting at Chickamauga was costly for both sides with the Union losing around 16,000 dead, wounded or missing and the Confederates losing about 18,500 dead, wounded or missing. It turned out to be two of the bloodiest days of the Civil War.
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Rosecrans was forced to retreat to Chattanooga where Bragg and his Confederate forces held them under siege.
On, November 23, 1863, Union General Grant attacks the Confederate troops of Bragg that had held Chattanooga under siege. The battle lasted for 3 days.
On November 24, 1863, the Battle of Lookout Mountain took place as part of the three-day battle for Chattanooga. Union General Joseph Hooker, under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant and General George Thomas, was held up in Chattanooga with about 80,000 Union troops. Confederate General Carter Stevenson, under the command of General Braxton Bragg, under the command of General William T. Sherman, had laid siege to Chattanooga with about 50,000 troops.
Slowly, amidst fierce fighting, the Union soldiers slowly made their way up Lookout Mountain. A sudden surge by Union soldiers overwhelmed the Confederate troops and captured Lookout Mountain, after Stevenson received orders to abandon Lookout Mountain.
The Battle of Lookout Mountain was a decisive Union victory.
On this day, November 25, 1863, the Battle of Chattanooga took place on Missionary Ridge. Missionary Ridge, so named because of the trail taken by early missionaries on their way to local Cherokee villages, is a prominent rise about 300 feet high with very steep walls that runs several miles along the edge of Chattanooga.
During the siege of Chattanooga, the Confederates had established a strong presence on Missionary Ridge that they thought was impregnable. In addition to the entrenchments on top of Missionary Ridge, the Confederates had also established a number of gun pits on the lower slopes. The Battle of Missionary Ridge began when Grant ordered his troops to attack the rifle pits on the lower slopes.
Union General William T. Sherman, also present at Chattanooga, led his troops against the lower rifle pits towards end of the ridge. The Confederates held Sherman’s forces back at the beginning.
At the same time, Union General Hooker attacked from Lookout Mountain. Additional Union forces attacked the Confederates from the center of their line on Missionary Ridge. Some of the Union forces believed their orders were to just take the rifle pits and others believed their orders were to take the top of the ridge. The superior Union forces attacking the center of the Confederate line stormed past the rifle pits and up the ridge to the top. Once the central Confederate line was breached, the Union forces stormed up Missionary Ridge.
The Confederates found it more difficult to defend their position than they thought. First, they found it impossible to fire against the advancing Union forces from on top Missionary Ridge without hitting their own troops below. Secondly, the trenches they dug atop the ridge were inadequate for a decent defense.
The Battle of Missionary Ridge was the huge victory for the Union, forcing Bragg to retreat and pull all of the Confederate forces from the siege of Chattanooga. A short time later, realizing that his Confederate troops had lost confidence in their leadership, General Bragg resigned his post.
The Union forces managed to hold control of Chattanooga throughout the rest of war and established it as a central hub for a Union supply line. That supply line proved to be very important and played a vital role in Union General Sherman’s march through the south and the capture of Atlanta.
Sources for the above includes: Today, September 20, 1863: Confederate Victory at Battle of Chickamauga; Today, November 23, 1863: Battle of Chattanooga; Today, November 24, 1863: Battle of Lookout Mountain; Battle of Chattanooga: Missionary Ridge – November 25, 1863; Battle of Missionary Ridge; Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge Battles; The Miracle of Missionary Ridge; Missionary Ridge, 25 Nov. ’63; Missionary Ridge; The Battle [of Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1864]; Battle of Missionary Ridge