Sunday, December 15, 2013

November 25, 1863

November 25, 1863

Battle of Chattanooga
Nov. 23-25, 1863

Day 3:  Lookout Mountain
          Tunnel Hill
          Missionary Ridge

---Lookout Mountain:  As dawn rises in the morning, the eyes of the entire Federal army are turned to the peak of Lookout Mountain, as the first rays of the sun strike a Union flag on the abandoned mountain, where a Capt. Wilson and 5 enlisted men from the 8th Kentucky Infantry Regiment had scaled the steep sides of the mountain with the flag, finding no enemy there. 
A roar of cheering rose from troops on both sides of the mountain, and from the city, and is written about and embroidered for the Northern papers.  The battle is soon christened fancifully as the Battle above the Clouds, and electrifies the Northern popular imagination.  Hooker immediately pushes around the mountain and drives for Rossville Gap, at the southern foot of Missionary Ridge, to endanger the main Confederate line.  The Rebels in front of Hooker do not offer much resistance.

Tunnel Hill:  Sherman, having crossed most of his troops to the southeast bank of the river during the night, marches a division forward to what is supposed to be Tunnel Hill, the right anchor of the Rebel line, and finds that it is not the hill, but that they need to cross yet another narrow vale and up another mountain.  Brig, Gen. Ewing (Sherman’s brother-in-law) pushes his division up this slope, and finds that Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne, the best division commander in Bragg’s army, is firmly entrenched on the upper slopes of Tunnel Hill.  He places a brigade of Texans under Brig. Gen. James A. Smith in the center, wrapped around the narrow crest of the hill.  
Tunnel Hill.  Map courtesy of Civil War Trust

A brigade of Federals under Corse push up the hill and are shot down as they come.  Ewing begins deploying more brigades to come in at different angles, and Gen. Smith deploys his division on Ewing’s left flank.  But Cleburne has  put brigade under Lewis, Govan, and Lowery to guard his right, Cumming on the left, and Stevenson’s division links up directly on his left, so the Yankees can find no weaknesses to exploit.  A Rebel battery from Mississippi is atop the peak of Cleburne’s line, and takes heavy casualties, but the cannons cut large holes in the Federal formations.  When the Yankees get within a few yards of the Rebel earthworks, two regiments of Texans stand up and jump forward with bayonets and drive the Federals back down the slope.  Both Corse and Smith (the Texan) are badly wounded.  Col. Hiram Granbury takes command of the Texans and prepares to receive more attacks.  More Northern brigades try to assist as the attacks are renewed, and the fighting continues for another two hours as attacks continue all up and down the line.  Jenkin Lloyd Jones, a Wisconsin artilleryman, records his in journal:  “I staid under that hill, listening to the noise and rattle of the fight, mingled with the suppressed cheers of charging parties, and the groans of the wounded as they passed in long trains of ambulances, or the lighter hobbling back a-foot with bleeding and mangled limbs.”  

The Federal attacks are persistent, and Cleburne’s men are running out of ammunition, when Gen. Cumming proposes a charge downhill to break the Yankee confidence.  Cumming leads two Georgia regiments into Mathies’ Union line, and he breaks; his flank exposed, Loomis also withdraws, and the Union line begins to unravel.  Gen. Cleburne himself leaps over the earthworks, sword drawn, and leads Granbury’s Texans in a charge.  Gen. Sherman, having taken over 2,000 casualties, calls a halt to the attacks.  Tunnel Hill remains firmly in Confederate hands.

Meanwhile, Hooker’s troops are making inroads against Breckinridge’s Confederates, who are covering the Rebel left flank near Rossville Gap.  Advances by Cruft’s Yankees find a foothold on the southern end of Missionary Ridge, and Breckinridge will not be able to hold them long.

Missionary Ridge:  Gen. Grant, disappointed at Shermans’ failure to take the right end of Missionary Ridge, deliberates on his next action.  He does take heart that Hooker has compromised the Rebel’s left flank, though, and decides to go ahead with other attacks.  After consulting with Gen. Thomas, he asks the Army of the Cumberland to go forward across the valley to capture the Confederate rifle pits at the base of the steep-sloped ridge, as a temporary measure.  Thomas lines up four divisions---from left to right, Absalom Baird’s, Thomas Woods’, Phil Sheridan’s, and Richard Johnson’s, under overall command of Gordon Granger.  The troops of the Cumberland feel the moment very keenly, after spending months being the butt of jokes from the other Union troops for the Chickamauga defeat, for having to rescue the Cumberlands from the siege, and for being mostly inactive during the operations before this day---and clearly not trusted by the commanding general, Grant.  Brig. Gen. Hazen records that every man in his brigade—clerks, teamsters, cooks, servants, white or black—found guns and joined the attack formation.  The attack is an hour late because no one can find Gen. Granger, who is finally located sighting guns from the batteries on Orchard Knob and personally firing them.  Granger is recalled to his duty, and he orders the four division forward, 20,000 strong.  The Confederates note the parade-ground precision of the Federal advance, Thomas being a stickler for drill precision.  As they advance, the Union artillery opens fire from all directions, center, left, and right, ahead of the infantry formations, and begin riddling the crest of Missionary Ridge.  In turn, the Confederate guns had a clear shot at the advancing lines, and inflicted horrible losses on Granger’s divisions.  But all four blue divisions slam into the fortifications at the base of the ridge, and most of the Rebel regiments flee up the mountainside.  Some remain, the victims of muddled orders, and the Yankees capture them and send them to the rear.  But what the Cumberlands are supposed to do after that is unclear.  They had been given no further orders, and since their artillery could no longer support them, they are subject to a galling artillery fire from several directions, and marksmanlike rifle fire from above, on the crest of the ridge.  This is an unbearable position, and suddenly Union troops begin ascending the steep hillside.  Then begins one of the most remarkable events of the war.  Gen. Sheridan sees his troops going forward, and he leaps to the front and orders his whole division to go up.  Soon, the other three divisions are climbing up the ridge as well.  The men carry their rifles and equipment, and grip branches and weeds to pull themselves up—even using bayonets as climbing picks, driving them into the dirt and pulling themselves up by gripping the sockets with both hands, and then dragging rifles after them. 

Back on Orchard Knob, a disbelieving Grant sees the impossible sight and growls, “Thomas, who ordered those men up that ridge?”  Thomas says he does not know.  Grant turns to Granger and asks if he gave the order.  “No, they started without orders,” and added, “When those fellows get started, all hell can’t stop them.”  Fuming, Grant was heard to mumble, “It’s all right---if it turns out all right.  If not, someone will suffer.”

Back on Missionary Ridge, The Confederates are seized with confusion, and find that they cannot lower the cannon barrels low enough to fire on the blue-coats on the ridge slope.  The Rebel gunners light the fuses of shells and roll them down, and also throw large rocks down the slope.  But they soon stop doing this, since many of their own comrades are fleeing back up the slope head of the Yankees.  The Rebel also cannot easily see their comrades on the broken, crenellated crest of the ridge, and smaller units feel isolated.  The defenders of the crest get little or no instruction from their dumbfounded commanders, and panic spreads amongst the Southern troops.  But the unearthly determination of the climbing Yankee troops unnerves the Rebels, and not only do they break and retreat as the bluecoats reach the crest, but many simply throw down their rifles and run.  At the same time, Hooker’s men are pushing along the ridge from the south, and the Confederate line simply dissolves.  Bragg rides out amongst the fleeing soldiers, and they only ignore or openly scoff at him—and he is nearly captured himself.  One soldier from the 8th Kansas Infantry remembers:

Gray-clad men rushed wildly down the hill and into the woods, tossing away knapsacks, muskets, and blankets as they ran.  Batteries galloped back along the narrow, winding roads with reckless speed, and officers, frantic with rage, rushed from one panic-stricken group to another, shouting and cursing as they strove to check the headlong flight. In ten minutes, all that remained of the defiant rebel army that has so long besieged Chattanooga was captured guns, disarmed prisoners, moaning wounded, ghastly dead, and scattered, demoralized fugitives.

The formerly humiliated Cumberland troops are tossing haversacks, caps, and dancing, shouting, and crying for joy.  The flags of nearly 60 regiments fly from the crest.  Gen. Granger, who has ridden to the top of the ridge to join his formation, gleefully rides amongst the bluecoats, laughing and scolding in mock horror: “I’m going to have you all court-marshaled!  You were ordered to take the works at the foot of the hill and you have taken those at the top!  You have disobeyed orders!”  Only Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s division retreats in good order and manages to cover the retreat in an orderly fashion.  Union Victory.

U.S., 5,800                 

C.S., 6,700 (4,100 of those captured on Missionary Ridge)

November 24, 1863

November 24, 1863

Battle of Chattanooga
Nov. 23-25, 1863

Day 2:  Lookout Mountain

---In the early morning hours, Gen. Joseph Hooker, west of Lookout Mountain, leads three divisions forward to the slopes of Lookout Mountain, the brooding dominant feature over the city.  His goal is to sweep around the lower, gentler slopes of the northern spur of the mountain between the peak and the river.  His three divisions, oddly enough, come from the three different armies present, since Howard’s XI Corps was with Sherman preparing to attack the far right of the Confederate line: John Geary’s division of the XII Corps from the Army of the Potomac, Charles Cruft’s division from Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland, and a division from Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee on loan, under Peter Osterhaus.  
Battle for Lookout Mountain, courtesy of Civil War Trust

Hooker assigns Geary, reinforced with one of Cruft’s brigades, to cross Lookout Creek farther south, at Wauhatchie, and then sweep northward along the flank of the foothill slopes.  Osterhaus, with his division (and the other of Cruft’s brigades) crosses further north.  The morning is heavy with fog, and the progress is slow going, as the Federal troops stumble on the fissured, rock-strewn slopes of the mountain.  
A detail of James Miller's painting of the fight at Lookout Mountain, featuring Gen. Hooker at left on a white horse.

Meanwhile, Hooker’s artillery opens up, and begins shelling higher up the slope and up on the top of the mountain where the Rebel cannon are.  Even though 7,000 Rebel infantry are posted on the mountain, they are scattered in a variety of locations.  As the Yankees come sweeping around the northern shoulder of the lower plateau at about 10:00 AM, they meet only one gray brigade, under Brig, Gen. Walthall.  Neither Walthall’s division commander, John Jackson, nor Jackson’s superior Carter Stevenson, knew the ground, having just arrived to take command of the position.  So although the fog had favored the Confederates at first, soon it favored the Yankees as they make contact with Walthall’s lines, since his superiors could not see anything, or know where to send support.  As Geary’s division wheels left, he hooks up with Osterhaus’ division, just coming up from the river, and the blue line stretches far beyond the Rebel’s right flank at the Cravens farm, where their line is anchored. 
The Rebel defense near Craven House, detail from a painting by Mort Kunstler

Walthall’s 1,500 men cannot withstand the 10,000 Federals, and Walthall calls on Gen. Moore to come to his support with another brigade.  Moore is slow in arriving, and the Rebels give ground grudgingly, and fight for three hours before giving way before the Union onslaught.  Rebel guns atop the mountain find that they cannot depress the muzzles of their guns low enough to help their infantry far below.  
Today's view from the crest

Another brigade under Pettus comes down from the mountaintop and relieves Walthall, whose troops are exhausted.  
Gen. Joseph Hooker at Lookout Mountain

The Confederates have been pushed back some distance.  As dusk falls, an additional brigade of Federal troops come up on the Confederate right flank, but do not attack.  The battle finds a pause as dusk falls, the fog still thick.  That night, there is a total eclipse of the moon, and the Southern troops take it as a bad omen for their cause.  That night, Gen. Bragg decides that they cannot hold Lookout Mountain.  The day’s fighting inflicts 480 casualties on the Union forces, but over 1,200 on the Confederate.  Gen. Grant, however, in his memoirs, years later, called the battle “one of the romances of the war.”
Battle of Lookout Mountain.  Click to enlarge.
Meanwhile, Gen. Sherman and his 26,000 men move along the Tennessee River, including a special contingent of troops who are pulling a fleet of pontoon boats upstream past the city.

---Outside of Knoxville, Gen. Longstreet, having bottled up Gen. Burnside’s Federal Army of the Ohio in Knoxville, prepares for an assault on the Federal defenses—specifically, on Fort Sanders, the bastion of the northwest corner of the city.  He has Col. Porter Alexander line up over 30 cannon for a bombardment.  Meanwhile, the Federals are beginning to go on short rations: they are killing their mules and other draft animals and dumping them into the Holston River.  The Rebels haul the animals out and remove the horseshoes, for their own use.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

November 23, 1863

November 23, 1863

Battle of Chattanooga
Nov. 23-25, 1863

Day 1:  Orchard Knob

---Union scouts are surprised to find that Cleburne’s division has withdrawn from their lines during the night. 

Meanwhile, Sherman’s troops have been taking up position on the Federal right.  Grant hopes that Sherman can crush the Rebel right, and thus cut off Longstreet from Bragg.  Gen. Thomas Wood’s pickets are reporting that Rebel deserters are suggesting that Bragg is falling back.  Grant orders a reconnaissance in force, and Wood’s division is chosen to advance across the valley to the only eminence between the river and Missionary Ridge, Orchard Knob, a high, round hill upon which the Confederates have established a fortified advance post with rifle pits.   
The view today from Orchard Knob toward Missionary Ridge

On Woods’ right will be another division under Philip Sheridan, and another on Sheridan’s right under Absalom Baird.  On Wood’s left will advance O.O. Howard’s skeletal XI Corps from the Army of the Potomac.  This force of 14,000 men in blue step off at about 12 Noon.  On Missionary Ridge, a higher vantage point, Gen. Bragg and Gen. Breckinridge observe the movement, Bragg musing that it must be some kind of review.  Breckinridge retorts, “General, in about fifteen minutes, you are going to see the damnedest review you ever saw. I am going to my command.”  Bragg sends a message to Cleburne to stop entraining his troops for Knoxville, but still waits and watches.  Soon, the Federal line hits the first rifle pits before Orchard Knob, and the two Rebel regiments defending it find themselves overwhelmed.  Some of the Rebels flee, and others decide to fight it out, but they are chased off or captured in short order.  Alarmed, Bragg sends a dispatch to Cleburne to return his division immediately.  But, Bragg is now caught without Longstreet and without Johnson’s division, which has already left for Knoxville.

On the Confederate side, Gen. Patton Anderson, one of Bragg’s division commanders, wants to send Gen. Manigault’s brigade to re-take Orchard Knob.  Manigault asks for supporting brigades on either flank, but finds that Anderson is supplying only flanking skirmishers.   

Brig. Gen. Arthur Manigault, CSA

He goes to Anderson and calls the order “reckless stupidity.”  Anderson calls Manigault a coward, but finally rescinds the order.  Bragg is now convinced that the main Federal attack will come on his right flank, and so, as darkness falls, he sends orders to strip Lookout Mountain of most of its troops and send them to the right.

---Jenkin Lloyd Jones, with Sherman’s men and at some distance from the Orchard Knob engagement, writes in his journal of what he heard and saw, and pondered on the cruelty of war:

3 P. M. Heavy volleys of musketry are heard in the direction of Chattanooga, which is said by a correspondent passing by to be a reconnoitering party to ascertain if they are evacuating, which is supposed to be the case. But I don’t credit it.

5 P. M. A fierce engagement is in progress. Since my last writing the well-timed volleys soon grew into a continual rattle, and the cannonading fell heavy and fast. I climbed the bluff as soon as possible to take a better view. Here I found the summit covered with spectators, and every tree loaded as with grapes. The lines most of the time were enveloped in smoke, and we could not discern which were the gainers. The firing commenced well on to the right in the rear of Chattanooga, but fast crossed over toward the left. The artillery’s roar, reverberating through the valleys and from mountains, made a deep and impressive sound as though the whole country was in convulsion. From Lookout the heaviest guns were fired. The flash could be seen as it vomited its load of destruction twenty-two seconds before the report arrived, and its echo was answered by half a dozen smaller guns from Moccasin Point in quick succession; but it was so much lower I do not think it was of much effect. Two distinct charges were made (I know not by which party) and the musketry fire unceasing, and heavy columns of fresh smoke arose, a pall for those departed to their eternal rest. As I sat upon the brow of that eminence I could think of the many groans that were now uttered on the field of strife, where friend and foe lay as an equal in the gore of their own blood, while many more lay with the ghastliness of death upon their features, that but a few hours before beamed with life and animation, and whose hearts melted with love and hopes in the future. Sad! sad! But it does not stop here. How many hearts will bleed. How many mothers’ hearts will be heavy in anguish when the news will reach them of the fate of their offspring and object of their care and love. How little is this realized by the crowd surrounding. Their thoughts are light and trifling; they think not of death or futurity. Removed from all destruction, accustomed to look at death as of minor importance, they feel not the due importance. But such is war. Although a soldier and inured to meet the foe with determination and calmness, I must say, Oh what a cruel and wicked thing is war! A deer ran along the mountain and the attention of the masses was drawn from the conflict and gleefully passed to the animal. This was not in keeping with the state of my mind, and I left and returned to my tent, the musketry having nearly ceased.

November 22, 1863

November 22, 1863

---Gen. Bragg receives information that the Yankees are on the move, referring to Sherman’s move to the Federal left.  Indeed, Bragg somehow gets the idea that Sherman is moving up the Tennessee River in order to cut off Longstreet from Bragg.  Therefore, Bragg orders the division of Bushrod Johnson and of Patrick Cleburne---over 11,000 troops---to pull out of line and march to Chickamauga Station for a possible moved to Knoxville.  This reduces his Army of Tennessee to about 35,000 men, facing a Union force of nearly twice as many troops.  Oddly enough, Bragg does indeed anticipate an eminent attack on his position---yet he still sends away the troops.

---Sarah Morgan, a young Southern woman of New Orleans, living at the home of her Unionist half-brother, writes in her journal of the news of another brother in the Confederate army having been captured at Bristoe Station:

Sunday, November 22d.

A report has just reached us that my poor dear Gibbes has been taken prisoner along with the rest of Hayes’s brigade.

November 21, 1863

November 21, 1863

--- Harper’s Weekly publishes an editorial that expressed the feelings of many in the North, since it had been obvious since Gettysburg (and more so since the small victories at Bristoe Station and Rappahannock Station, and the huge Federal build-up at Chattanooga which was soon to be loosed upon the heads of the Confederates besieging that city) that the Confederacy certainly could have no chance of victory:


THE war has now reached a point at which the continued resistance of the rebels is a mere question of endurance. They are suffering privations as severe as were ever borne by a belligerent people, Their currency is depreciated in the ratio of 12 to 1, and while the soldiers and civil employees of Government are paid in this depreciated currency on the scale which was fair when that currency was at or near par, provisions, clothing, and all the necessaries of life have adjusted themselves to the depreciation, so that it takes a soldier’s wages for a month to support his family for a day. Of manufactured articles—boots, shoes, dry goods, hardware of all kinds, agricultural implements, etc. —the stock has fallen so low that fabulous prices are asked and obtained by its fortunate possessors. The capture of Morris Island has nearly closed the port of Charleston, and within a month the blockade of Wilmington—the only port at which any considerable blockade running is now done—will also be sealed. When this happens, no more foreign goods will enter the Confederacy till the peace. . . .

This picture is not exaggerated. Yet it is hardly possible to conceive a more complete aggregate of wretchedness. Without food, without clothes, without coal, without hope of succor from abroad, and with the ever-present Federal anaconda tightening its grip round them week by week and month by month, sometimes moving fast, sometimes slowly, but never losing an inch of ground once occupied, can it be possible to conceive a people in more cruel straits than the rebels? Hew long can they endure such a complication of miseries? To which side shall they look for relief? . . .

---Jenkin Lloyd Jones, a Union artilleryman with the Wisconsin artillery, has just arrived at Chattanooga with Sherman’s column.  They are quickly put on a battle footing, as he notes in his journal:

3 P. M. A circular has just been received from General Sherman to hold ourselves in readiness to march at any moment. Three days’ cooked rations and one blanket is all that is to be taken along, the ambulances to follow to the river and there await orders. The enemy have been playing from Lookout all day and it is told that sharp musketry is going on, but that general engagement will probably not come off until we cross the river, which it is said we will do to-night if the rain will not sweep off our pontoon. The crisis is fast approaching and it cannot be long ere we meet in deadly contest; of the final result I have but little doubt. I am confident in the ability of those contesting for the right. But alas! many must of necessity close their eyes in death. It is not for me to ask whom or when, but to trust to Him that noticeth the fall of a sparrow, and endeavor to do my duty. I pray that strength may be given me to meet my fate with courage.

---John Beauchamp Jones, of the War Department of the Confederate States, writes in his journal once again of the scarcity rampant in the Rebel capital:

We are a shabby-looking people now—gaunt, and many in rags. But there is food enough, and cloth enough, if we had a Roman Dictator to order an equitable distribution.

The Secretary of War is destined to have an uncomfortable time. After assuring the Legislature and the people that provisions in transitu would not be impressed*, it is ascertained that the agents of the Commissary-General are impressing such supplies, and the Secretary is reluctant to interfere, the Commissary-General being understood to have the support of the President.

A committee of the Grand Jury yesterday submitted a paper to the President, on the subject of provisions—indicating the proximity of famine, and deprecating impressments. The President sent it to the Secretary, saying Mr. Seddon would no doubt take measures to keep the people of Richmond from starving; and directing the Secretary to “confer” with him. But to-day he is off to the army, and perhaps some may starve before any relief can be afforded.

A genteel suit of clothes cannot be had now for less than $700. A pair of boots, $200—if good. I saw to-day, suspended from a window, an opossum dressed for cooking, with a card in its mouth, marked “price, $10.” It weighed about four pounds. I luxuriated on parsnips to-day, from my own little garden.

 (* confiscated by the Army commissary troops)

A young Confederate soldier trying to look warlike and obviously failing to do so

---The S.S. Banshee, a blockade runner, is captured just off Cape Fear, near Wilmington, North Carolina, by the Navy vessels U.S.S. Delaware and U.S.S. Fulton.

---In Little Rock, Arkansas, a Union meeting is held, and a large crowd gathers, to declare their intent to form a new Union state government.  A large number of people take the oath of allegiance to the United States and also enlisted in a Home Guard unit.