Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry Fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry


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Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee

Campaign: Union Campaign to Conquer Tennessee

Date: 23-25 November 1863

Principal Commanders: Numerous Prominent Commanders Involved

Forces Engaged: Army of the Cumberland; Army of the Tennessee

Estimated Casualties: Union losses in the several engagements about Chattanooga were 753 killed, 4,722 wounded and 349 missing; Confederate losses were 361 killed, 2,180 wounded and 6,142 captured, 239 of whom were commissioned officers

Description: After the battle of Chickamauga the Union forces retired to Chattanooga, where for some time they were virtually in a state of siege. Although rifle-pits and earthworks were constructed to keep the Confederates from getting into the city, Bragg promptly moved up and constructed rifle-pits and earthworks to keep the Federals from getting out. The Confederate lines were gradually extended until they reached from the Chickamauga river above the city to the valley west of Lookout mountain, where Longstreet's corps cut off communication with Bridgeport. This made it extremely difficult to obtain supplies, the only route open being through the Sequatchie valley, and there they must be brought sixty miles in wagons, over rough roads. The situation was made worse, when, on October 1, Wheeler's cavalry made a raid upon the line of supplies at Anderson's cross-roads, where he captured a number of trains loaded with rations for the army, killed most of the mules and burned over 300 wagons. The loss of these supplies, and the arrival of bad roads with the wet fall season, reduced the daily rations until the smallest fragments of crackers and grains of corn were eagerly seized by the soldiers to stay the pangs of hunger. This unhappy condition of affairs was relieved by the capture of Brown's ferry on October 27, and the opening of a road to Kelley's ferry.

During this time a number of changes were made in the army and McCook and Crittenden, who had commanded the 20th and 21st Corps at the battle of Chickamauga, were relieved from their commands and ordered north to appear before a court of inquiry regarding their conduct in that engagement. The two corps were then united to form the 4th Army Corps, which was placed under the command of Maj.Gen. Gordon Granger. By an order of the War Department, under date of October 16, the Departments of the Cumberland, the Ohio and the Tennessee were consolidated into the Military Division of the Mississippi, and Maj.Gen. U.S. Grant was assigned to the command of the new division. By the same order Thomas succeeded Rosecrans in command of the Army of the Cumberland. This army was made up of the 4th corps (Granger's), consisting of Cruft's, Sheridan's and Wood's divisions; the 11th Corps, Maj.Gen. O.O. Howard, consisting of the divisions of Von Steinwehr and Schurz; Geary's division of the 12th Corps; the 14th Corps, Maj.Gen. John M. Palmer, embracing the divisions of Johnson, Davis and Baird; the engineer troops, under command of Brig.Gen. W.F. Smith; the artillery reserve, commanded by Brig.Gen. J.M. Brannan; the cavalry, under Col. Eli Long, and the post of Chattanooga (three regiments), under Col. John W. Parkhurst.

That portion of the Army of the Tennessee which participated in the operations around Chattanooga consisted of the 15th corps, commanded by Maj.Gen. Frank P. Blair, including the divisions of Osterhaus, Morgan L. Smith and Ewing, and John E. Smith's division of the 17th Corps, the whole being under the command of Maj.Gen. W.T. Sherman. Owing to changes, however, Sherman's immediate command at Chattanooga consisted of the 11th Corps, Davis, Division of the 14th, the 2nd and 4th Divisions of the 15th, and the 2nd Division of the 17th Maj.Gen. Joseph Hooker, commanding the 11th and 12th Corps, had under his immediate command the divisions of Cruft, Geary and Osterhaus, and detachments from the 14th corps. The effective strength of the Union forces at Chattanooga was from 60,000 to 70,000 men.

The Confederate army had also undergone some reorganization. Although Bragg had received reinforcements after the battle of Chickamauga, he depleted his forces almost on the eve of battle by sending Longstreet's Corps some 12,000 strong, and about 5,000 cavalry under Wheeler, against the Army of the Ohio, under Gen. Burnside, at Knoxville. On November 23, the Confederate troops around Chattanooga were Hardee's Corps, consisting of the divisions of Cheatham, Stevenson, Cleburne and Walker; Breckenridge's corps, including Hindman's and Breckenridge's divisions the latter now commanded by Brig.Gen. W.B. Bate; the reserve artillery, under Capt. F.H. Robertson, and about seven regiments of cavalry, the entire force numbering in the neighborhood of 45,000 men of all arms.

After the opening of the road to Kelley's ferry, by which supplies were assured, Grant turned his attention to the work of driving the enemy from his works in front. The Confederates had four lines of breastworks. The first was along the crest of Orchard knob, or Indian hill. Half a mile in the rear of this, near the foot of Missionary Ridge, was the second line. The third was about halfway up the slope, while the fourth and heaviest was along the crest of Missionary Ridge. The total length of the line was about 12 miles, with the right resting on the north end of Missionary Ridge and the left on Lookout Mountain. The Federal line of entrenchments was about a mile from the town, extending from the mouth of Citico Creek above to the bank of the river near the mouth of Chattanooga Creek below. All the elevations along the line were strongly fortified and well supplied with artillery. One of the strongest of these was called Fort Wood, which was almost in front of the enemy's strongest position on the ridge. It was equipped with 22 pieces of artillery, most of which were capable of throwing shells to the enemy's second line.

Late in October Grant ordered Sherman, then at Eastport, Mississippi, to move at once to Bridgeport, Tennessee, and then push on to Chattanooga. Sherman reported in person on November 15, and with him and Thomas the plan of battle was arranged. Sherman was to move his troops via Brown's ferry, keeping under cover of the woods, to a point opposite the mouth of the Chickamauga, where he was to cross and on the 21st assault the enemy's works on the north end of the ridge. Hooker, who had recently come from the Army of the Potomac with about 20,000 men, was to hold his position on the right, in Lookout Valley, with Geary's and part of Cruft's Divisions, to prevent the Confederate left from reinforcing the troops on the ridge. Thomas was to concentrate his troops in the valley well to the left, leaving one division to make a show of attacking the Confederate force in the upper part of the valley and men enough to defend the fortifications. As soon as Sherman began his assault Thomas was to move forward with his left, effect a junction with Sherman, and sweep the Confederates from the ridge. Howard was ordered to take a position on the 20th on the north bank of the Tennessee River, opposite the town and near the pontoon bridge, from which point he could move to the support of either Thomas or Sherman. Long's cavalry was to protect Sherman's left flank as far as might be necessary, then cross the Chickamauga and damage the enemy's line of communication as much as possible. It was expected that Sherman would be in position on the 19th, but muddy roads and floods retarded his movements. The breaking of the bridge at Brown's ferry cut off Osterhaus' division, which was then ordered to report to Hooker, and Davis' division was ordered to join Sherman in its stead. Sherman's movements across Lookout Valley had been discovered by the enemy on Sunday, the 22nd, and upon learning this Thomas ordered Howard to cross over into the town, in order to give the Confederates the impression that his command was Sherman, coming to reinforce Chattanooga. The ruse worked successfully. Howard crossed in full view of the enemy stationed on Lookout Mountain and took a position in the rear of Thomas. This little trick enabled Sherman to proceed according to the original program, and late on the 23d he reached the position from which he was to cross the river. W.F. Smith had prepared a number of pontoons in the north Chickamauga Creek, where they were kept concealed from the enemy until the time came to use them. Giles A. Smith's brigade was quietly ferried over, captured the pickets, and by daylight on the 24th Sherman had about 8,000 men entrenched on the east side of the Tennessee. A pontoon bridge was then thrown across the river and by 1 pm his whole force was over, prepared for the attack on Missionary Ridge.

On the 20th Grant received the following communication from Bragg: "As there may still be some non-combatants in Chattanooga, I deem it proper to notify you that prudence would dictate their early withdrawal." This was doubtless intended to convey the impression that an attack was contemplated. Two days later a deserter came into the Union lines bringing the information that Bragg was falling back. He was mistaken, however, having formed his conclusions from the fact that Buckner's Division was that day sent to reinforce Longstreet. In order to test the truth of the report Grant directed Thomas to move out early on the 23d, drive in the Confederate pickets and make the enemy develop his lines. Accordingly Granger and Palmer, supported by Howard, moved out directly in front of Fort Wood and drove in the pickets from Chattanooga to Citico Creeks. About 1 pm Sheridan's and P.M. Wood's divisions advanced at a double-quick, drove in the reserves and carried the line of works on Orchard knob before the Confederates were fully aware of their intentions. In this assault about 200 prisoners were taken. Granger immediately occupied the ridge, with Palmer in a threatening position on the right and Howard on the left, and the first line of the enemy's works was permanently in the possession of the Federals. The hill was fortified, the guns from Orchard Knob assisting materially in the attack on Missionary Ridge the following day.

Shortly after noon on the 24th Sherman formed his column for an advance on Missionary ridge, with M.L. Smith on the left, J.E. Smith in the center and Ewing on the right. A drizzling rain was falling and the clouds hung low over the valley, concealing the movement from the enemy's tower of observation on Lookout Mountain. The three divisions, en echelon, each preceded by a strong line of skirmishers, soon gained the foothills. Then the skirmishers, closely followed by their supports, crept up the face of the hill, and by 3:30 pm the north end of Missionary Ridge was in possession of the Union troops. Up to this time Sherman had been under the impression that the ridge was one continuous elevation, but he now found himself on two high points with a deep gorge between his position and the hill over the tunnel on the Chattanooga & Cleveland railroad, which was his main objective point. The two hills had been carried without loss, as but a small force of the enemy had been stationed there, and this force had retired after a slight skirmish as the Federals swept up the hill. About 4 pm the enemy made a demonstration on Sherman's left and a sharp engagement followed with artillery and musketry, the Confederates finally being repulsed. In this skirmish Gen. Giles Smith was severely wounded and the command of his brigade fell on Col. Tupper. During the night the hills taken by Sherman were entrenched and held by one brigade from each of his three divisions, ready for the assault on the opposite hill the next morning.

While these events were transpiring at Orchard Knob and the north end of Missionary Ridge Hooker had not been idle on the right. Late on the 23d he received orders to make a strong demonstration the next morning against the Confederate forces on Lookout Mountain, to draw Bragg's attention in that direction, in order to enable Sherman to gain his position unobserved. Later he was directed by Thomas to carry the point of the mountain if the demonstration should develop the practicability of such a movement. The Confederate force on the mountain consisted of six brigades under Stevenson, the greater portion being posted on the northern slope, about halfway between the palisades and the Tennessee river, where a line of earthworks had been thrown up, while lower down was a line of rifle-pits, redoubts, etc. constructed with a view of repelling any assault from the town or from Lookout valley. Early on the morning of the 24th Geary's Division and Whitaker's Brigade of Cruft's Division moved up Lookout Creek to Wauhatchie, where a crossing was effected, and then marched down the right bank, sweeping the enemy's pickets before them. As soon as Geary was well under way Grose's brigade advanced upon the Confederates at the bridge near the railroad, drove them away, and commenced repairing the bridge. The skirmishing at this point alarmed the enemy on the mountain, and soon lines of men could be seen filing down the slope to man the rifle-pits and entrenchments. The skirmish at the bridge and a heavy mist which overhung the mountain, concealed Geary's movements until he was on the enemy's flank and threatening their rear. Meantime artillery had been placed by Hooker's orders to cover the Confederate works. Wood's Brigade went about 800 yards up the stream and built a second bridge, which was completed by the time Geary had reached his position on the enemy's flank. At 11 am Wood and Grose crossed, joined Geary's left and moved down the valley. At noon the advance had driven the Confederates around the peak of the mountain. Geary was ordered to halt and reform his lines at this point, but his men, intent on nothing but victory, pursued the panic stricken enemy on up the mountain. On the high ground to the right was Cobham's Brigade, between the main line of the enemy's defense and the palisades, pouring an incessant fire into the Confederates, while Ireland's Brigade was closely pressing them on the flank. Close behind these two brigades came Whitaker and Creighton making the success of the Union arms certain and irresistible. Reinforcements were rushed forward to the enemy only to meet the fate of those who had preceded them, and after two or three sharp engagements the plateau was cleared. The last stand was made at the Craven house, where another body of reinforcements was added, but they were driven from this position and fled in confusion down to the valley. It was now 2 pm. The clouds, which had hung over the mountain top in the morning, had settled down until the valley was veiled from view. Those below could hear the rattle of musketry and the shouts of victory as the Federal forces pressed on toward the summit, but they could see nothing of what was taking place. This was the "Battle above the Clouds," which has since become famous in song and story. Hooker immediately fortified his position and about 4 o'clock sent word to Thomas that it was impregnable. Carlin's Brigade was sent to relieve Geary, whose troops were almost exhausted, and during the night repulsed an attempt to break the lines on the right. At sunrise on the 25th the Stars and Stripes were unfurled by the 8th Kentucky on the summit of the mountain. During the night the Confederates had abandoned the mountain, leaving behind them about 20,000 rations, all the camp and garrison equipage of three brigades, etc.

On the 24th Grant established his headquarters on Orchard Knob and about midnight sent word to Sherman to begin the attack at daylight. At the same time Hooker was ordered to push forward toward Rossville, take possession of the pass, and then move against Bragg's left and rear. On the morning of the 25th Bragg's entire army was posted along Missionary ridge, extending from Tunnel Hill to Rossville, Lookout Mountain and the valley being abandoned. Sherman began his attack with Corse's Brigade of Ewing's Division, while Cockerill Alexander and Lightburn were to hold the hill taken on the 24th. Lightburn was to send one regiment to cooperate with Corse, Morgan L. Smith was to move along the east base of the ridge, his right connecting with Corse, and Col. Loomis was to move along the west base, supported by two reserve brigades of J.E. Smith's Division. At sunrise Corse began his forward movement and advanced to a secondary crest about 80 yards from the enemy's entrenchments. This crest he held by calling up his reserves, and sent for reinforcements. Owing to the narrowness of the crest and the fact that it was covered by the enemy's fire a large force there was deemed unadvisable. Corse assaulted vigorously, maintaining a heavy contest for over an hour, but continued to hold the ground he had taken in his first attack. On the east side of the ridge M.L. Smith gained ground, while on the west Loomis managed to secure a position abreast of the tunnel, from which he could harass the Confederates, thus relieving the pressure at the north end of the ridge. The batteries of Callender and Wood, on the hills held by Ewing and Lightburn, and two pieces of Dillon's battery with Alexander's brigade, did all they could to clear the hill, but were compelled to direct their fire with great care to avoid endangering the Federal troops. About 10 am the fight raged furiously and Corse was severely wounded, the command of the brigade devolving on Col. Walcutt of the 46th Ohio. The fight was continued at the north end by Sherman's troops, with varying results, until about 3 pm. In his report he says: "I had watched for the attack of General Thomas, early in the day. Column after column of the enemy was streaming toward me. Gun after gun poured its concentric shot on us from every hill and spur that gave a view of any part of the ground held by us."

In carrying out his part of the order of the day, Hooker was delayed for several hours at Chattanooga creek, where the enemy had destroyed the bridge. As soon as the stringers of a new bridge were in position Osterhaus crossed with his infantry. The 27th Missouri, deployed as skirmishers, pushed forward to the gorge in Missionary Ridge, where they developed a considerable force of the enemy. This regiment was directed to keep the Confederates engaged in front, while Woods, brigade moved to the right of the ridge and four regiments of Williamson's to the left. Two regiments of the latter brigade were posted on the road to Chattanooga to guard against a surprise from that direction. The Confederates, finding that the flanks were turned, hastily evacuated the gap, leaving large quantities of ammunition, a house full of commissary stores, several wagons, ambulances, etc. By this time the bridge was completed and the remainder of the troops had crossed the creek. Osterhaus was ordered to move with his division along the east side of the ridge, Cruft along the crest, and Geary in the valley on the west side. In ascending the ridge Cruft encountered the enemy's skirmishers. The 9th and 36th Indiana were thrown forward, charged and drove them back, while the rest of the column formed in support. Then all three divisions, Osterhaus, Cruft and Geary advanced, driving everything before them and capturing a number of prisoners, Osterhaus alone taking 2,000.

Grant was waiting for Hooker to reach the Confederate left at Rossville before moving against the center. From an early hour the divisions of Wood and Sheridan had been under arms, the men anxiously waiting for the order to move forward. The destruction of the bridge had not only delayed Hooker, but had also delayed the attack of Thomas for which Sherman had looked "early in the day." The signal for the advance was six cannon-shots, to be fired in quick succession from headquarters on Orchard Knob. At 2:30 pm Baird's Division was sent out from the right of Orchard Knob to reinforce Sherman. A half-hour later Grant saw that Sherman's condition was growing more critical and decided to wait no longer to hear from Hooker. The six guns boomed out and with a cheer Wood's and Sheridan's men swept across the valley carrying the enemy's first line of works. Here they were supposed to stop and reform, but like Hooker's men at Lookout Mountain the day before, they rushed on over the second line. In his account of the engagement in "Battles and Leaders," Grant thus describes this charge: "Without awaiting further orders or stopping to reform, on our troops went to the second line of works over that and on for the crest - thus effectually carrying out my orders of the 18th for the battle and of the 24th for this charge. I watched their progress with intense interest. The fire along the rebel line was terrific. Cannon and musket balls filled the air, but the damage done was in small proportion to the ammunition used. The pursuit continued until the crest was reached, and soon our men were seen climbing over the Confederate barrier at different points in front of both Sheridan's and Wood's Divisions. The retreat of the enemy along most of his line was precipitate, and the panic so great that Bragg and his officers lost all control over their men. Many were captured and thousands threw away their arms in their flight."

Thus ended the battle of Missionary Ridge and the siege of Chattanooga. The broken and shattered Confederate army was pursued into Georgia, being routed at various points and more prisoners taken.

Result(s): Union victory

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