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The Fighting Along Missionary Ridge at the Battle of Chattanooga, 1863

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College, and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters

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the-fighting-along-missionary-ridge-at-the-battle-of-chattanooga-1863

Introduction

The civil war is a watershed event in American history. When Jefferson Davis the Southern President seceded from the Union, the war was imminent. I will not go into the reasons for the war which were many with slavery being one of them. Basically, it was a war in which the South wanted to establish their life as they wanted without any interference from anyone. The war lasted 4 years and saw a see-saw struggle initially, which finally resulted in a Union victory. One of the more important battles of this war was the Battle of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The city was a vital rail hub and its capture was important as it opened the gate to capture the Deep South including Atlanta. In the ultimate analysis, the Confederate defeat at Chattanooga sounded the death knell of the Southern dream.

The Battle of commenced on November 23 when General Grant sent General Thomas (1816-70), to probe the center of the Confederate line. Thomas has been dubbed as the Rock of Chickamauga; The reason? He stood his ground against the Confederates at the Battle of Chickamauga.

This was a masterstroke and led to a complete victory when the Yankees captured Orchard Knob. The Rebels had no choice and retreated higher up Missionary Ridge. On November 24, the Union forces under Major General Joseph Hooker (1814-79) captured Lookout Mountain on the extreme right of the Union lines. The Battle of Lookout Mountain heralded the stage for the Battle of Missionary Ridge.


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The battle

Prior to this battle, the morale of the Confederates was high as they had bested the Union army at the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19–20, 1863). The Union army had retreated to Chattanooga. They were pursued by the Confederate army who succeeded in bottling up the Union army in a tight semicircle. General Grant took over command of the Union army in October and shored up the defenses. His coming had a significant effect on morale as he decided to go on the offensive.

He started by opening a supply route to the beleaguered Union army by driving the Confederate army from the Tennessee River. He now planned for a major offensive in November. On 23 November he instructed his assistant General George Thomas to launch a probe against the Confederates on Missionary Ridge. This was an important landmark as its control gave the army a clear view of the countryside as well as Chattanooga.

The morale of the rebel soldiers had been slowly ebbing and a simple maneuver turned into a significant win for the Union army. The Confederate force retreated and went up the strategic ridge, leaving the lower areas in control of the Union army.

The stage was now set for the battle as the Union army captured Lookout Mountain on one side of the Confederate force. This was on 24 November. General Joseph Hooker under the overall command of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's with about 56,000 men, captured Lookout Mountain. The disheartened Confederate troops who had held it since the Battle of Chickamauga for the last 2 months simply caved in. This left the Confederate left wing dangerously weak. Hooker's troops captured the mountain and drove off the Confederates and now he was ready for the battle at Missionary Ridge.

Grant now planned a threefold assault on the Confederate positions on Missionary Ridge. From the left, General Sherman attacked with his troops. While from the right an attack was mounted by the Union army under General Joseph Hooker. Both these elements of the Union army made heavy weather against strong resistance. There was severe fighting but the confederates held on.

As per the plan, Grant now ordered the Central thrust. The Union army now launched an offensive to relieve the forces of Sherman and hooker. This was the most significant phase of the battle as the Union forces made excellent headway against the Confederate force. Many factors went against the Confederate army one of which was a poor generalship. This had resulted in defensive trenches being dug which did not serve their purpose. The result was that the center of the Confederate force collapsed like a house of cards. General Bragg the confederate general sounded the bugle of retreat and pulled his troops away from Chattanooga. It was a colossal defeat for the Confederates and it had its repercussions as general Bragg resigned soon after.

Braxton Bragg (1817-1876) was a U.S. Army officer who was called from retirement and became a general during the Civil War (1861-65). He was promoted to full general after General Albert Sidney Johnston’s death at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. He was captured by the Union forces in 1865 but paroled. His plantation was captured and he had to look for civil employment. He died in 1876 aged 59. His opponent Ulysses Grant became the 18th president of the USA. One must remember the winner takes all and the loser gets nothing.


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The end

Casualties on both sides were heavy. The Confederates lost 6600 killed the Union army lost 5800 men. The battle fought from 23-25 November was a feather in the cap of general Ulysses S Grant who was soon promoted as commander of all Union forces. Grant missed an opportunity to destroy the Confederate Army when he chose not to pursue the retreating Rebels, but Chattanooga was secured. Sherman resumed the attack in the spring after Grant was promoted to Commander in chief of all Federal forces. Sherman’s troops captured Atlanta in early September 1864 and in November embarked on the so-called March to the Sea. This was another plus for the Union army as they captured the port of Savannah in late December. The dice had however already spun against the South and though the war continued through April of 1865, it was all over bar the shouting.

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 11, 2020:

Thanks Peggy, all credit to general Grant. I am more fascinated by his world tour much later when he also visited India. Truly a great man.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 11, 2020:

Thank you Denise for commenting

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 10, 2020:

I have an ancestor who was apparently at Chattanooga. It was a terrible time for the US and I wish they could have found another way than war. I can only imagine the aftermath of that battle.

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 10, 2020:

There were so many losses on both sides. As Pamela wrote, "this was a dark time in the history of the U.S." You did an excellent job of showcasing this significant battle.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 10, 2020:

Thank you Pamela for sparing time and commenting

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 10, 2020:

This is a very interesting article, and this article explainss the beginning of the end of the Civil War. This was a dark time in the history of the US.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 10, 2020:

Thanks Tom, the US army has exorcised the ghost of discrimination against the blacks and now the US will have a black general as defense secretary. That's coming a long way forward.

tom on December 09, 2020:

two all black infantry divsions buffalos in italy ww2 ,after korea mixed race units,rev king killed,same day us units raised southern stars flag bases in nam,wasp dominated us.most decorated us soldier macarthur

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 09, 2020:

Thanks, Tom, I saw the movie Gettysburg. The wheel has turned full circle and now Biden has appointed a black as defence secretary. Let's see how he shapes.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 09, 2020:

Yes, Thanks Tom, McArthur had a rich military lineage but now historians don't rate him a "great " general. I think Yamashita was a better tactician. Blacks at least in the deep south were not better than Dalits. At least Dalits lived but in the South, many blacks were hunted like animals and hung on the first tree for even a trivial offense. Woe betides if you married a white woman. No wonder so many blacks with white wives escaped to Russia. The US Army was also not immune to this and 19 blacks were hanged I think in 1917 after a farcical court-martial and one defendant lawyer for over 100 accused. Thankfully Congress acted after this crime. The Civil war was a necessity in US history and helped forge a nation and the result is what we see today.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 09, 2020:

Wonderful Tom, I didn't know that Grant visited India though I knew he made a world tour. I think the world tour of Grant was unique and he was not happy at the status of women in India. The KKK was a byproduct of the civil war and till the thirties they had a lot of clout but now they are a spent force. The blacks gained very little in the deep South and I remember watching a movie on Cassius Clay where ina park even the water drinking fountains were different for blacks and whites. All this ultimately led to his conversion to Islam.

tom on December 09, 2020:

macarthur boy colonel charge saved the day,us civil war temp ranks for teen aged officer,medal of honor awarded many years later,confederate greats stonewall jackson and lee,ken burns tv series civil war best,movie on black troops glory 1989,movie gettsyburg

tom on December 09, 2020:

grant was drinker and ex clerk,he visited india after his term as president over,tanks named after sherman,lee grant,after civil war klu kex klan formed,brazil has confederate refugees called csa confederates of south america.tank general lee was called general grant by british,there was also admiral shermann ,not relatec to general,us one million casualties in civil war, if no war .us wouldhave never become a worldpower.south no railways,no navy ,no industries,red indians and blacks fought for union,rest of the world neutral,cotton prices increased

tom on December 09, 2020:

missio nary ridge resulted in shermans march to south,24 th wisconsin battalion led 19year old acting lt col arthur macarthur charged and won the battle ,sheridan awarded him medal of honour ,he rtd as lt gen ,his son douglas macarthur,only father and son medal of honour,17 years after this battle douglas was born ,if arthur was killed us and world history would have been different,details in william manchesters biography of douglas macarthur,civilwar caused maximum us deaths,just 13 years after civil war us fully recovered,blacks are better than dalits,three times nominated for medal of honour,awarded once douglas,douglas praised gandhji in his condolence message and praise, indian brigade in japan,kps menon diplomat was impressed

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 09, 2020:

Yes, racial profiling was an issue but it still exists. Thank you Lt Col for commenting.

Lt Col Parduman Singh on December 09, 2020:

Excellent birds-eye view of an important battle of the American civil war. It's not much read these days but never the less for students of military history it is important. The only sobering point is that deep prejudices still run deep on racial lines in the South.