The Battle of Chattanooga took place 150 years ago tommorrow, on November 23, 1863. Over three days, Union forces drove Confederate troops from Chattanooga, Tennessee, into Georgia. This battle set the stage for Union General William T. Sherman’s triumphant march to the sea.
The Battle of Chattanooga proved to be one of the most dramatic turnabouts in American military history. Union forces captured both the steamboat and the railhead center just after their September defeat at Chickamauga. Early in the fall of 1863, Rebel forces pressed into the mountains and bluffs overlooking Chattanooga and prevented the Federal Army’s escape.
Command posts were located at Lookout Mountain, 2,000 feet above the Tennessee River Valley. From that height Confederates sieged Chattanooga. Forces fired on river and rail traffic that entered the village from Union-controlled western Tennessee. East of Chattanooga, atop Missionary Ridge, Confederate forces blocked the only rail line to the northeast and Virginia. U.S. troops were frustrated by the Confederate blockade, under command of Major General William S. Rosecrans, and seemed destined to fall.
But their fate changed in mid-October. On the 19th, Rosecrans was replaced by Major General George Thomas, under command of General Ulysses S. Grant. Not long after, Major General Joseph Hooker drove into the area with 20,000 Union forces. Grant followed on the 22nd. Within the next few days, Union engineers constructed a pontoon bridge west of town. They directed supplies into Chattanooga. By mid-November, General Sherman arrived with 17,000 more men. The Union Army was ready to fight.
On the 23rd, Thomas’ troops overtook the Confederates who occupied Orchard Knob between Chattanooga and Missionary Ridge. The following day, in what is known as the “battle above the Clouds,” Hooker’s men were victorious at Lookout Mountain. On the last day of battle, November 25th, the Union Army crushed the Rebel line at Missionary Ridge and sent the Confederates south toward their final defeat.
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