The American Civil War, day by day - Page 77 - Politics | PoFo

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November 12, Tuesday

A new bombardment lasting four days opens against Fort Sumter.

Skirmishing breaks out near Cumberland Gap, Tennessee; at Corinth, Mississippi; Roseville, Arkansas; Greenleaf Prairie, Indian Territory; and there are more operations about St. Martinsville, Louisiana, in the Bayou Teche country.

At Little Rock, Arkansas, unionists confer on means of restoring the state to the Union.

The daughter of Federal Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase is married in Washington. President Lincoln attends the wedding of Kate Chase and Rhode Island senator William Sprague.
November 13, Friday

As the Federal guns still thunder in Charleston Harbor, Federal cavalry reach Charleston, West Virginia, in the expedition from Beverly. Other action occurs at Mount Ida, Arkansas; near Winchester, Virginia; Blythe’s Ferry on the Tennessee River; and at Palmyra, Tennessee. A Federal reconnaissance operates around the entrances of the Cape Fear River, North Carolina. In California, Union troops skirmish with Amerinds near the Big Bar, on the south fork of the Trinity River.

As General Dodge works at rebuilding the additional rail line From Nashville to Chattanooga, the Federal forces in Chattanooga continue to subsist at the ragged edge of hunger. The most that can be said, as Grant will acknowledge, is that “actual suffering” is prevented. And the problem remains of replacing the thousands of horses and mules that have perished in the Confederate siege. Today General Sherman arrives in Bridgeport with the advance of his troops.

The events of Longstreet’s journey north to Knoxville, Tennessee, have deepened his discouragement. Those trains that finally appear along his route of march are “almost comical in their inefficiency.” The locomotives are so decrepit that they can’t pull the cars up some of the grades with the soldiers aboard. It has taken eight days for all of Longstreet’s men to travel the sixty or so miles to Sweetwater. A fresh blow awaits Longstreet there. He had been led to believe that supplies would be available at Sweetwater. His men are on short rations, and they have come from summery Virginia with few clothes or blankets and no wagon transport. But Major General Carter L. Stevenson, commanding at Sweetwater, has no surplus supplies to offer. And to add to Longstreet’s woes, at this point Bragg begins to berate him for falling behind schedule. Longstreet perseveres as best he can and leads his men northward. But he has little heart for the coming confrontation with an adversary he faced eleven months ago, on the bloody hills of Fredericksburg. Still, he sends three brigades of Wheeler’s cavalry ahead on a dash to Knoxville. Wheeler’s mission is to occupy the commanding heights on the south bank of the Holston River across from the town.
November 14, Saturday

All is quiet on the major fronts in Virginia and at Chattanooga, but the bombardment continues at Charleston. Cavalry fight at Huff’s Ferry, Tennessee, and in east Tennessee at Maryville, Little River, and Rockford. In Virginia fighting breaks out at Tyson’s Cross Roads, and small affairs occur on the eastern shore. Other action includes a five-day Federal scout from Martinsburg, West Virginia; a Federal expedition from Helena, Arkansas; skirmishing at Danville, Mississippi; and Union operations from Maysville to Whitesburg and Decatur, Alabama.

In an important Confederate command change, Brigadier General N.B. Forrest is assigned to Federally controlled west Tennessee.

The Confederate government says force and confiscation should be used if necessary to collect the tax in kind from reluctant farmers in North Carolina.
Doug64 wrote:The Confederate government says force and confiscation should be used if necessary to collect the tax in kind from reluctant farmers in North Carolina.

The same policy was to be followed by both the Reds and the Whites during the Russian Civil War a few decades later. This sort of thing is both necessary and to be expected during a Civil War. Armies, after all, are not economically productive, yet still have to be fed.

Sucks to be a farmer during a civil war though. :hmm:
@Potemkin, yup, that “in kind” is important. It isn’t a matter of inflation, really, at this point Confederate currency is only just beginning its two-step implosion after the Battle of Gettysburg back in July. But soldiers can’t eat money.
November 15, Sunday

General Sherman leaves his four divisions at Bridgeport on the Tennessee, while the general himself goes into Chattanooga to confer with Grant and inspect the fortifications facing the Confederates lines before moving his troops closer to the city. All along Missionary Ridge are the tents of the rebel beleaguering force. The lines of trenches from Lookout up toward the Chickamauga are plainly visible; and rebel sentinels, in a continuous chain, are walking their posts in plain view, not a thousand yards off. “Why, General Grant, you are besieged,” Sherman states, and Grant agrees. Up to this moment Sherman had no idea that things are so bad.

Curiously, the Confederates are enduring privations almost as severe as those suffered by the soldiers they have entrapped. Supplies are available, but the Confederate distribution system has broken down. Living conditions for the Confederates are often abysmal. Unsufficiently sheltered, continually drenched with rain, the men are seldom able to dry their clothes; and a great deal of sickness is the natural consequence. Blankets are scarce, and tents scarcer. “There is a tradition amongst these flats that there has been a time in the past when it wasn’t raining.” The ground “is knee-deep in mud and slush, and the air so dark and dank that it may be cut with a knife.”

There is some desultory firing between the lines, but it rarely assumes major proportions. When Grant arrived he found that Thomas’s men had barely enough ammunition for one day’s fighting. On the Confederate side there are so few cartridges that in at least one unit any soldier who fires his musket without receiving permission is fined 25 cents. During the lull, as always, fraternization becomes commonplace in spite of the rules against it. Brigadier General John Beatty reports that “the pickets of the two armies are growing quite intimate, sitting about on logs together, talking over the great battle, and exchanging views as to the results of a future engagement.”

When Wheeler’s cavalry, sent ahead of Longstreet’s army, approach Knoxville, they find their path blocked by two regiments of Burnside’s cavalry under Brigadier General William P. Sanders, an officer highly respected for his skill and energy. Although his troopers are outnumbered and less experienced than those of Wheeler, Sanders is able to slow the Confederate approach to a crawl. And when Wheeler finally pushes his way to the heights south of the town, he finds them heavily fortified and unassailable. There is nothing to do but rejoin Longstreet’s main force.

Meanwhile, as Longstreet’s Confederate infantrymen are in the process of crossing the Tennessee River thirty miles south of Knoxville, Longstreet receives a startling report: His enemy is on the other side of the river, just five miles to the east, and evidently withdrawing before the Confederates. Longstreet smells a victory. He has all but outflanked the Federals. If he reaches Lenoir’s Station, about eight miles to the northeast, before Burnside arrives there, he can cut the Federals’ line of retreat and destroy them.

The bombardment of Fort Sumter slows, with 2,328 rounds fired since November 12th. Only two men have been killed and five wounded.

Skirmishing occurs in Newton County, Arkansas; Pillowville, near Loudon, and at Lenoir’s Station, Tennessee; and on John’s Island, South Carolina, near Charleston. Federal cavalry operates for four days from Charles Town, West Virginia, to Woodstock, New Market, Edenburg, and Mount Jackson, Virginia.

Federal authorities in west Tennessee and north Mississippi tighten prohibitions against trading with the enemy or war profiteers, and consorting with guerilla bands. Federal occupation of the area has become a difficult problem, with much winking at rules and regulations.
November 16, Monday

Longstreet’s attempt to cut off Burnside’s line of retreat at Lenoir’s Station fails, Burnside is moving too fast—by the time the Confederate troops arrive, the Federals have pulled out. Before long, however, the Confederates get another opportunity to cut Burnside off. The approaches to Knoxville narrow to a single road at Campbell’s Station, a crossroads about fifteen miles southwest of Knoxville. At 2 am, while Burnside’s troops, led by his wagon trains, are withdrawing to Campbell’s Station through a downpour, a Southern sympathizer shows Longstreet a route to the crossroads that is shorter and undefended by the Federals. Longstreet immediately sends McLaws driving down this road, with cavalry in the lead, in another effort to get between Burnside and Knoxville. At the same time, Jenkins’ division presses Burnside’s rearguard. As McLaws’ men hurry along, they happen to brush the Federal right flank. Burnside, now alerted to the danger, speeds Brigadier General John F. Hartranft’s division toward Campbell’s Station. It is a deadly race—in the mud. Between 5 am and daybreak, the Federal wagons cover only two miles in heavy muck. At last, orders are issued to abandon scores of the wagons—to the great pleasure of Longstreet’s hungry, ill-clad, poorly equipped soldiers who come along behind. The vanguards of both forces are rushed through the mired roads toward Campbell’s Station. For a time, the outcome is uncertain. The Federal soldiers arrive first, around noon, but only by about a quarter of an hour; Hartranft has scarcely positioned his troops to cover the crossroads when they come under fire from McLaws’ men.

Longstreet has learned from intelligence reports that he outnumbers the Federals and he has little doubt that he can drive them from Campbell’s Station—but to send Burnside reeling back into the safety of the Knoxville defenses will serve no purpose. On the other hand, Longstreet will note, “as the enemy stood he was ours.” If Longstreet can flank the Federals, he might still get between them and Knoxville and destroy them at his leisure. Accordingly, Longstreet orders Jenkins to send two brigades from his division on a sweep wide to the right. These brigades, under the command of Brigadier General Evander Law, are to knife between Burnside and Knoxville and fall on the Federal rear. To distract Burnside while Law is getting into position, General McLaws is ordered to attack the Federal right and pin down the enemy forces there. The muddle that now ensues will become the subject of much dispute after the war. A bitter professional rivalry between Jenkins and Law has been festering for some time, and this ill will may contribute to the controversy. McLaws carries out his assignment—his attack forces the troops of Burnside’s right to fall back—but the rest of the Confederate movement misfires. A few minutes after McLaws launches his attack, Jenkins will write in his official account, “greatly to my surprise, I received a message from General Law that in advancing his brigade had obliqued so much to the left as to have gotten out of its line of attack.” Law’s men may have been confused by the terrain; at any rate, by the time they can be redirected, Burnside, having watched the Confederate movement from a nearby hill, has moved to defend his rear. By nightfall the Confederate opportunity has passed. Law’s “causeless and inexcusable movement,” charges Jenkins, “lost us the few moments in which success from this point could be attained.”

Other fighting is about Kingston, east Tennessee. Federal troops of General Banks’ command enters Corpus Christi, Texas, in their continuing campaign to gain a base on the Texas coast. At Charleston 602 rounds are fired. Federal monitors engage the batteries on Sullivan’s Island, with USS Lehigh aground under fire and badly damaged before getting off. In Louisiana a Union expedition operates from Vidalia to Trinity; in West Virginia a skirmish breaks out near Burlington; in Virginia an affair occurs at Germantown.

President Lincoln sends his familiar query: “What is the news?”, this time to Burnside in Knoxville, Tennessee, who replies that Longstreet has crossed the Tennessee and that the Federals have slowly retired to Knoxville.

General Grant is an offensive-minded soldier, and he has found it intolerable to be cooped up in Chattanooga, surrounded by towering hills and trapped by a threatening enemy. To defeat the Confederates and retain the town, Grant will have to attack an enemy entrenched on high ground, and he plans his offensive carefully. Grant has three forces at his disposal; he elects to give the pivotal role in the assault to the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by his old friend, General Sherman. There are few people in the world Grant trusts as he does Sherman—and he has faith in Sherman’s army, for it is his own former command. Grant views the other two forces with less enthusiasm. He suspects that General Joseph Hooker and his XI and XII Corps has been sent to him as the castoffs of the Army of the Potomac. His third force, the Army of the Cumberland, has been through a crushing defeat, and he is worried about the soldiers’ state of mind.

To make best use of Sherman and his army, Grant has contrived an artful plan. The target will be the Confederate right—at the junction of Bragg’s supply line from the south and his line of communication with Longstreet to the north. Sherman is to march upriver from Bridgeport to Brown’s Ferry, cross to the north side of the Tennessee and move into the hills north of Chattanooga. This movement cannot be hidden from the watchful Confederates on Lookout Mountain, but Grant hopes to confuse them about where the Federals are going. As Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee nears Lookout Mountain, one division is to be detached for a feint against Bragg’s left. The rest of Sherman’s army will disappear from Confederate view marching northward—as if to Knoxville. But once safely out of sight on the north side of the river, the men will make camp and lie hidden. Then, in a rapid nighttime move, Sherman is to bridge the river—General William Smith is already hard at work making the necessary pontoons—whisk his men across and, before Bragg knows what is happening, roll up the Confederate right flank along Missionary Ridge. Bragg will thus be cut off from his supply base at Chickamauga Station and driven away, if not destroyed. Hooker and Thomas are to play supporting roles. Grant first planned to have Hooker’s XII Corps attack Lookout Mountain, but he decides that this will not be necessary—the height will lose its importance if Sherman takes Missionary Ridge. Grant instead assigns Hooker’s troops to move around Lookout Mountain and threaten the Confederate left at Rossville Gap. Major General Oliver O. Howard is to place XI Corps in reserve on the north side of the Tennessee River, across from Chattanooga. Thomas is to give artillery support to Sherman and later to assault the enemy center. Today Grant takes Sherman to view the field and points out the objective for the Army of the Tennessee. Sherman stares through a telescope at the left end of Missionary Ridge, then closes up the glass with an audible snap and says, “I can do it!” The attack is scheduled for daylight on the 21st.
November 17, Tuesday

The engagement at Campbell’s Station, Tennessee, ends in frustration for Longstreet’s Confederates. The Federals held the crossroads last night until most of their wagons were safely past, then they follow the trains into the town before dawn. In the meantime, there is a brisk, if not very damaging, exchange of artillery fire. “This has been called a battle by the other side,” Longstreet will later observe dryly, “but it was only an artillery combat, little, very little, musket ammunition being burnt.” Federal losses are about 300, including 31 killed; Confederate casualties amount to 22 dead and 152 wounded. Still, Burnside has cause for satisfaction. The withdrawal to Knoxville under Confederate pressure has been well executed, and has delayed Longstreet—reputed to be one of the South’s best generals—for almost a week. Now Burnside’s army is safely within Knoxville’s defenses.

General Sherman has hurried from Chattanooga back to Bridgeport, and today has his lead units on the road for the 27-mile march.

The bombardment at Charleston roars on. Near Corpus Christi, Texas, Federals capture a Confederate battery at Aransas Pass. There are skirmishes at Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, and near Willow Creek on the Trinity River, California. Averell’s Federal cavalry reach New Creek, West Virginia; and Union scouts probe around Houston, Missouri, for ten days.

In Washington President Lincoln has apparently composed a portion of the remarks he is to give at the dedication of the new military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the nineteenth.
November 18, Wednesday

A special train of four cars leave Washington for Gettysburg. Although depressed because Tad is ill and Mrs. Lincoln very upset, the President relates a few stories en route. Upon arrival at Gettysburg Lincoln speaks briefly to a crowd outside the Wills House, where he is staying, and retires to work on his remarks. Just what President Lincoln writes this night or exactly what version he uses the next day will remain subjects of debate by scholars.

General Sanders’ cavalry have been deployed to cover the last leg of Burnside’s retreat to Knoxville. Sanders successfully held Longstreet at bay—but at great cost. Today Sanders is killed in a skirmish. He has bought time for Burnside’s troops to complete their fortifications. According to Longstreet’s artillery commander, Colonel Edward Porter Alexander, every day of delay adds to the strength of the enemy’s breastworks. In a few days the Federals have a second defensive line inside the first. Hoping to receive additional troops from Bragg or from western Virginia, Longstreet waits and examines the ground. Knoxville is situated on the north bank of the Holston River, a major tributary of the Tennessee. The formidable Federal defenses form three sides of a rectangle enclosing the town against the river. On the west the Confederates face a short line that runs north to a substantial fort. There the line turns eastward and extends across the back of the town; here the guns and muskets cover open fields, flooded by two creeks that flow through the town into the Holston. The Federal line then turns south, to link up again with the river. It is apparent from the beginning, according to Colonel Alexander, that the imposing feature of the Federal defenses—the fort at the northwest corner—is also its weakest link. The redoubt is named Fort Sanders in honor of Burnside’s slain cavalry chief. It has thick earthen walls eight feet high and is fronted by a twelve-foot-wide ditch—the depth of which is about to become a critical factor. Cannon emplaced in bastions projecting from the corners of the fort completely enfilade the ditch in front. But the fort has a significant flaw—it is situationed only 120 yards from a broad creekbed in which large numbers of troops can assemble completely under cover. All things considered, says Alexander, it is the one point of the lines which it is possible to assault with any hope of success. But Longstreet seems to be in no hurry.

Military operations include skirmishing near Germanna Ford, Virginia; at Trenton, Georgia; Carrion Crow Bayou, Louisiana; and on Shoal and Turkey creeks, Jasper County, Missouri. For several days Confederates operate against US gunboats and transports near Hog Point, Mississippi, and there are lengthy explorations by Federals from Vienna toward the Blue Ridge in Virginia and from Skipwith’s Landing to Roebuck Lake, Mississippi.
November 19, Thursday

On horseback the President of the United States rides in a procession to the military cemetery newly established for those who fell in the Battle of Gettysburg. After a detailed, colorful, two-hour address by the orator of the day, Edward Everett, the President rises and in a few words comments on the task at hand—that of officially dedicating the cemetery:

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Some of the audience appear moved, others just respectful. Some newspapers comment favorably; others give it normal or passing coverage. President Lincoln himself feels that perhaps the brief talk has fallen flat. Stories that the President’s words are ignored will not be substantiated, but it seems to have excited few at first. Somewhat ill, the President returns this night to Washington, his task complete; but the message is never to be forgotten.

As President Lincoln speaks, the guns echo at Dr. Green’s Farm near Lawrenceville, Arkansas, and near Grove Church, Virginia. Federals scout from Memphis, Tennessee, to Hernando, Mississippi. In Tennessee the action is at Meriwether’s Ferry near Union City, at Mulberry Gap, and at Colwell’s Ford. In Charleston Harbor one man is wounded as 694 shells are fired; 200 Federals in small boats attempt to assault Fort Sumter, but withdraw after being discovered.

President Davis writes officials in the Trans-Mississippi of his distress over the loss of a large part of Arkansas, and suggests what might be done.
Lincoln understood something very important - and, more to the point, was able to express his understanding in terms which everyone could understand - he understood that the Civil War, unlike any other war in its history, even the Revolutionary War, was a struggle for the soul of America. What sort of nation was the United States to be? Would it - and even should it - survive at all? Lincoln saw the vision on the mountaintop, and he came down and shared that vision with the American people.
November 20, Friday

Firing intensifies at Charleston, with 1,344 rounds. Three men die, and eleven are wounded. Light skirmishing occurs at Camp Pratt, Louisiana, and Sparta, Tennessee.

President Davis asks General J.E. Johnston for more help for General Bragg at Chattanooga.

Since beginning their march from Bridgeport to Chattanooga three days ago, Sherman’s footsore soldiers have had the elements conspire against them. Rains have fallen and the roads turned to mud, so that only today does the vanguard of Sherman’s three divisions reach the pontoon bridge at Brown’s Ferry. The rest of his army is strung all the way back to Bridgeport. It is impossible to make tomorrow’s deadline for the attack; only one of Sherman’s divisions can be brought into line by then, and the others won’t even be across the bridge at Brown’s Ferry. Grant reluctantly yields to reality, but he presses Sherman: “Can you not get up for the following morning?”

General Bragg is deeply worried about the fate of Knoxville. Today, he makes an attempt to immobilize Grant and prevent him from strengthening Burnside any further. He decides to employ a subterfuge of his own, sending Grant a curious communication under a flag of truce. “As there may still be some noncombatants in Chattanooga,” Bragg writes, “I deem it proper to notify you that prudence would dictate their early withdrawal.” Grant puzzles over this message. That it is a heavyhanded attempt at deception is evident; for some reason Bragg wants Grant to think he is planning an attack. But why?

President Lincoln receives a note from orator Edward Everett about yesterday’s address at Gettysburg: “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” In reply President Lincoln says, “I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure.”
November 21, Saturday

General Sherman does his best to meet Grant’s request to be ready to assault the Confederates besieging Chattanooga tomorrow. He urges his troops forward in a fresh downpour that began yesterday and continues through today. The roads grow much worse, and the river begins to rise, threatening the pontoon bridge at Brown’s Ferry. When all of Sherman’s divisions but one are across, the bridge finally gives way—stranding the remaining men, commanded by Brigadier General Peter J. Osterhause. Grant quickly orders Osterhaus to join Hooker’s troops in Lookout Valley, and Sherman’s other divisions disappear into the hills above Chattanooga. Soon after the Army of the Tennessee is safely hidden from the Confederates, Howard’s XI Corps, in the same hills, emerges within their enemy’s sight, crosses the bridge at Chattanooga, and moves behind General Thomas’ defenses. This puts the finishing touch to Grant’s rose. He hopes that the Confederates, having seen soldiers crossing at Brown’s Ferry and, a short time later, seeing soldiers moving across the river into Chattanooga, will conclude that they are the same soldiers. To make up for the loss of Osterhaus, Grant assigns Sherman one of Thomas’ divisions, commanded by Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis.

Other action includes an affair at Jacksonport, Arkansas; another at Liberty, Virginia; a Federal scout near Fort Pillow, Tennessee; a Federal expedition from Island No. 10 to Tiptonville, Tennessee; and a Union expedition from Bealeton toward Thoroughfare Gap, Virginia.

In Virginia, General Meade receives a detailed intelligence report which puts the strength of the Army of Northern Virginia at less than 40,000 effectives, as compared to his own current 84,274 in the Army of the Potomac. Actually, Lee’s total is 48,586; Meade has just under, not just over, twice as many troops as his opponent. But in any case, the preponderance is encouraging.

At the White House, President Lincoln is ill with varioloid, a mild form of smallpox.
November 22, Sunday

Much time has been lost, but General Grant is just about ready. Sherman’s advance is rescheduled for the 24th. As Grant had hoped, the Confederates are thoroughly confused. Bragg, watching all those enemy troops moving around, frets about Sherman’s location. Is the Army of the Tennessee preparing for a flanking attack on Lookout Mountain? Is it headed toward Knoxville? Or is Sherman merely reinforcing Thomas in Chattanooga? Bragg finally concludes that Sherman is marching on Knoxville, and today he orders Simon Buckner’s and Patrick Cleburne’s divisions to entrain for the north to reinforce Longstreet. Buckner leaves immediately. Cleburne marches his troops to the railroad yards and awaits the return of the train carrying Buckner and his men.

For Grant, the mystery of Bragg’s intentions deepens today, when a Confederate deserter comes to the Federals with a report that Bragg is pulling back from Missionary Ridge. The report is, of course, false. The deserter may have misinterpreted Buckner’s departure today as a general withdrawal. In any case, the report galvanizes Grant. He urgently needs to know whether the Confederates are actually withdrawing. If so, this will be the ideal moment to strike them. Someone must test the Rebel reflexes. Sherman isn’t ready; but Thomas is.

On the Texas coast Banks moves against Fort Esperanza and Matagorda Island; by the end of the month he will control the fort, the island, and the nearby area. Skirmishing breaks out at Winchester, Tennessee; Fayette and Camp Davies, Mississippi; near Houston, Missouri; and on Lake Borgne, Louisiana.
November 23, Monday

Early in the morning, General Grant gives General Thomas his instructions. In Chattanooga Valley, the plain lying between the town and Missionary Ridge to the east, there is a wooded mound called Orchard Knob. For weeks Confederate troops have held the valley, including the hillock; their entrenchments in the cotton fields give the place the appearance of a prairie-dog village. Thomas is to conduct a reconnaissance in force toward Orchard Knob to see if the Confederate positions in the valley are still occupied. At his discretion, he can seize Orchard Knob. As Thomas is fully aware, the entire operation will be closely watched by friend and foe alike. The Chattanooga Valley and its surrounding hills form a magnificent ampitheater; both the Confederates on their eminences and the Federals camped along the river bluffs of the town can clearly see all that occurs on the plain between them. Grant later writes that it is “the first battle field I have ever seen where a plan could be followed, and from one place the whole field be within one view.”

Onto this stage at noon marches the division of Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood, whose shift of position on the field of Chickamauga two months ago brought disaster to the Army of the Cumberland. On Wood’s right marches Major General Philip Sheridan’s division, which also fled before Longstreet’s onslaught on that September day. The men of Thomas’ army are still smarting over the memory of the rout—and over Grant’s scarcely concealed suspicion that the experience has ruined them as a fighting force. They are eager to prove him wrong. Brigadier General Absalom Baird’s division will lend support on the Federal right, and Howard’s corps is in reserve on the left. As the troops march briskly out of the Chattanooga defenses, Grant watches from one of the nearby hills, surrounded by high-ranking officers. It is an inspiring sight that men everywhere stop to watch. On the hills looming over the plain, clusters of Confederates can be seen staring at the display. Like many of the Federals, they believe for a moment that Thomas is staging a grand review. Then a signal cannon booms, and Thomas’s men start forward, moving with the steadiness of a machine. Drummers march beside the advancing troops, beating the charge. Charles Dana, standing next to Grant, is awestruck. The spectacle, he will say, is one of singular magnificence.

Suddenly the Confederates realize they are under attack and scurry for cover. The Confederate pickets fall back to the lines that have been established before Orchard Knob. Firing opens from their advanced rifle pits, followed by a tremendous roll of musketry and roar of artillery. The watchers in Chattanooga hear a faint cheer from the Knob. And all at once it is over. The entire movement is carried out in such an incredibly short time that at half past three Dana is able to send a telegram to Stanton describing the victory. For a victory it has been. Instead of simply driving in Bragg’s pickets, the Federals have seized the ground. “You have gained too much to withdraw,” Thomas says in a message to Wood. “Hold your position and I will support you.” For Grant, the extension of his lines toward the Confederate center is unexpected but welcome—this movement secures the Federals a line fully a mile in advance of the one they occupied in the morning. On Grant’s orders the captured Confederate fortifications are revised so that they face the Confederates, and during the night the works are strengthened.

It has been a minor action, but one with noteworthy results. The skirmish makes it abundantly clear to Grant that Bragg is still on the scene, but the fight also serves to rouse the Confederate commander from his apathy. There is no mistaking that Grant is in a mood to act. Hastily, Bragg recalls Cleburne’s division from Chickamauga Station, where it is just about to board the train to Knoxville, and puts it back in the line around Chattanooga. Then Bragg pulls a division off Lookout Mountain and places it in the Missionary Ridge defences. In the game of cat-and-mouse that Grant and Bragg have been playing, Grant has seized the advantage, and he intends to keep it. General Sherman’s men by now are all in position, hidden in the woods eight miles northeast of Chattanooga. Few of them know what their role is to be; the secrecy cloaking Sherman’s plans is so tight that civilians in the area of his encampment are placed under guard to keep any word from leaking out. In North Chickamauga Creek, which leads into the Tennessee River, 116 pontoons lie hidden and waiting.

At Knoxville both Federal and Confederate troops try limited assaults on the siege and besieged lines. The Federals are only partially successful against an enemy parallel and the Confederates drive in Union pickets. Far to the south, skirmishes erupt at Cedar Bayou in the Rio Grande operations, Texas; and at Bayou Portage on Grand Lake in the lengthy Louisiana Teche operations. Until December 18th Federal expeditions move from Springfield to Howell, Wright, and Morgan counties, Missouri.

President Davis confers with Lee at Orange, Virginia. It is Davis’s first visit with the Army of Northern Virginia since its departure from Richmond, nearly sixteen months ago, to accomplish the suppression of Pope on the plains of Manassas, and he cannot fail to note the signs that Lee is aging, which indeed are unmistakable. But mainly he is impressed anew by Lee’s clear grasp of the tactical situation, his undiminished aggressiveness in the face of heavy odds, and the evident devotion of the veterans in his charge. Davis’s admiration for this first of his field generals—especially by contrast with what he observed in the course of his recent visit to the Army of Tennessee—is as strong as it was four months ago when he listed his reasons for refusing Lee’s suggestion that he be replaced as a corrective for the Gettysburg defeat.

In Washington an ailing Lincoln wonders whether Burnside can hold Knoxville.
November 24, Tuesday

Just before midnight at Chattanooga, thirty Federal scouts row across the Tennessee River to the south bank. They boldly walk up to the Confederate pickets from behind, announce themselves as the relief and capture the sentries without firing a shot. While the scouts secure the landing, one brigade of Sherman’s soldiers slips down to the water’s edge on the north bank and waits for the boats. At 2 am General Smith’s pontoons noiselessly ground on the north shore; their passage down the river from their hiding place has been so quiet that even the Federal pickets had been unaware of the boats’ approach. The troops begin to board the pontoons to be ferried across, and work starts on the bridge. As each boat returns from ferry service, it is inserted into the structure. The bridge will have to be extraordinarily long—1,350 feet—because the rising waters have so widened the river; rain is, in fact, still falling. A steamer shows up and helps with the ferrying. Despite the intense activity, Sherman will later recall, “I have never beheld any work done so quietly, so well.” Soon 2,000 men are across. It isn’t until the Federal troops begin digging entrenchments that the silence is broken. The Quaker who owns the land comes rushing up and begins berating the soldiers for digging up his farm. They jeer, and the altercation draws a sudden burst of artillery fire from the Confederate batteries. Two men are wounded, and the farmer narrowly escapes injury; Captain Byers will recall that a shell hole “twice as broad as his big hat” opened almost at the farmer’s feet.

Around noon the bridge is complete, and about this time General Howard arrives, leading the first regiments of his three divisions now assigned to support Sherman. Sherman wastes no time. Once his troops have crossed the creek, he deploys them in three infantry columns and, about 1 pm, sends them up the hill just east of the river. Astonishingly, there is virtually no opposition as the attackers ascend. It is not until they reach the summt that Confederate cannon open up on them. With great difficulty, Sherman’s troops drag their own artillery to the top—the slope is too steep for horses, and the soldiers have to pull the cannon up with ropes. Soon a brisk exchange of shells begins.

At last, Sherman, peering about in the rain and mist, has his first opportunity to take stock—and he receives a shock. He is on the wrong hill. Sherman’s objective is the northmost part of Missionary Ridge, known locally as Tunnel Hill because of the railroad tunnel that passes under it. His maps show Missionary Ridge as a continuous range running almost to the river, and the visual observation of Grant and Sherman a few days ago seemed to confirm this. In fact, the stunned general can now see that there is a sharp break in the ridge, and the hill closest to the river—the one on which he is standing—is a separate eminence. A deep valley separates him from Tunnel Hill. His labors have left him as far from his objective as ever—and he has lost all chance of surprise. Grimly, Sherman orders the soldiers to fortify the nameless mound. It is not much use to the Federals, but it will be a threat if the Confederates capture it. As the short November day draws to a close, Sherman’s soldiers dig in and prepare for a bloody fight tomorrow.

While Sherman has been taking his position against Missionary Ridge northeast of Chattanooga, General Hooker to the city’s southwest is also on the move. It has been a wry comment around the Federal campfires for weeks: “On some fine morning General Hooker is going to take Lookout.” Yet despite the inactivity, and despite Joseph Hooker’s tarnished reputation, the general is still considered a fighter. Thus, in the gray, wet gloom of dawn, Hooker’s men find themselves in line with sixty rounds of ammunition, one day’s rations—and orders to attack Lookout Mountain. Hooker’s ultimate objective isn’t Lookout Mountain itself. He plans instead to advance across Lookout Creek and around the mountain through the narrow gap between its lower slopes and the Tennessee River. If he sees an opportunity he will take the height, but his primary mission is to push beyond it and clear the Confederate forces from the valley between Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. Then he will take possession of Rossville Gap and be in position to threaten the Confederate left and rear. General Hooker has under his command 10,000 men in three divisions, one from each of the Federal armies on the field: Brigadier General John Geary’s division of Hooker’s own XII Corps, Brigadier General Charles Cruft’s division of IV Corps in the Army of the Cumberland, and a division of Sherman’s XV Corps commanded by Brigadier General Peter J. Osterhaus.

Hooker begins the movement across Lookout Creek around 8 am. He has determined to surprise the Confederates by attacking from two directions. He therefore divides his forces, sending Geary—with his division plus one of Cruft’s two brigades—south to Wauhatchie, where the creek is fordable. There, near the scene of Geary’s night battle with Longstreet’s brigades, the Federals wade across, taking prisoner forty Confederate pickets and driving off the rest. With his men feeling their way blindly through the dense fog that shrouds the mountain, Geary leads his troops halfway up the western slope. Then they begin to work their way northward, along the base of an almost vertical cliff, toward a rendezvous with the rest of the Federal force at the gap between the mountain and the river. Enemy resistance has been light so far, but the march is “laborious and extremely toilsome, over the steep, rocky, ravine-seamed, torrent-torn sides of the mountain.” Meanwhile, Osterhaus’ division and Cruft’s other brigade, under Colonel William Grose, cross a bridge a mile and a half north of the ford that Geary has used. The opposing pickets stationed around the bridge have been there for days, and they are by now old friends. One of the advancing Federals calls out a warning to the Confederate that started forward to greet them, and as the astonished Confederate dives for cover, the attacking infantry open fire. In addition, Federal batteries west of the creek, and those across the Tennessee on Moccasin Bend, begin a supporting cannonade.

At first the Confederates on the slopes of Lookout Mountain are merely amused by the Federal activity. The artillery fire isn’t very effective because of the fog. The defenders watch, fascinated, as shells hurtle out of the mess and fall short. But they soon realize their feeling of security is entirely illusory, as they hear the rattle of small arms. In all, 7,000 Confederates are on Lookout Mountain—a force of sufficient strength to fend off many times their number if they were concentrated at the point of the Federals’ attack. But the troops are scattered all over the mountain. Only a fraction is in position to defend the plateau at the north end of the height. Moreover, the general in charge of the Confederate forces on Lookout is unfamiliar with the terrain and the deployment of his troops. Earlier, Braxton Bragg moved General William Hardee and most of his corps from Lookout Mountain to Missionary Ridge to deal with Sherman’s threat. As a result, General John Breckinridge, commanding Bragg’s other corps, has had to extend his left to cover Lookout. That assignment has gone to the capable Major General Carter L. Stevenson, but he didn’t arrive until after dark last night. Details of the defense has been left to a lackluster division commander, Brigadier General John K. Jackson.

Worse for the defenders, Hooker’s plan of attack is working with remarkable precision, despite the fog and the difficult terrain. About 10 am Geary’s troops round the shoulder of the mountain at the Cravens farm and make contact with the Confederate defenders under Brigadier General Edward C. Walthall. As sharp fighting erupts, Geary anchors his right on the base of the cliffs rising above the farm and wheels his line forward until his left smoothly joins with the right flank of Osterhaus’ arriving division. Now the Federal line extends about a half mile from the Cravens farm down the slope to the Chattanooga road at the foot of the mountain.

To resist the advance of this 10,000-man line, Walthall has only 1,489 troops in breastworks athwart the narrow passage between the mountain and the Tennessee River. And the Confederate gunners on the summit now find to their dismay that they can’t depress their cannon enough to be of any help to Walthall. The Federal batteries, moreover, have found the range and are delivering a punishing barrage. The Confederates have been taken completely by surprise, and scores of them are captured before they can fire a shot. Walthall, realizing his predicament, calls for reinforcements from General John C. Moore farther to the right. But support is late in coming. Moore’s men have a difficult time finding their way in the fog. In the meantime, the Federals attack again and again, both with volleys and hand-to-hand. Walthall’s men yield grudgingly. By 1 pm, after three hours of fighting, the Confederates have been driven roughly 400 yards east of the Cravens house, into a second line of entrenchments.

Around this time Moore’s men, groping their way forward in the fog, arrive off Walthall’s right, find the trenches there occupied by Federals, and have to fight their way into them. Moore is impressed by his enemy: “I have never before seen them fight with such daring and desperation.” At 1:30 pm a fresh Confederate brigade under Brigadier General Edmund W. Pettus appears on the scene, having been ordered down from the mountaintop by General Jackson. By now Walthall is in the most desperate straits. According to Pettus, Walthall reports that he has lost a large part of his command; that his ammunition is nearly exhausted, and that he cannot hold the position. Under fierce, unrelenting fire, Pettus’ brigade relieves Walthall’s and moves into line beside Moore’s troops. Walthall falls back, re-forms and resupplies his men, then wades back into the fight on the left of Pettus’ position, where the Federal pressure has been heaviest all day. Earlier, Walthall had countered that pressure by placing four companies of sharpshooters on the high ground at the base of the cliffs; Federals drove the riflemen away and now occupy the prime position, firing with lethal effect down on the defenders. At Walthall’s suggestion, Pettus sends an Alabama regiment scrambling upward to the left. In fierce fighting they manage to reoccupy the slope and again direct fire on the attackers below; and with the help of the Alabamians, the battered Confederate line is able to hold fast.

The Federals are growing weary and short of ammunition. Night is coming fast, the gloom hastened by the persistent fog—which at least once during the day stopped the engagement entirely because the soldiers simply couldn’t see where their enemy was. A brigade dispatched by General George Thomas struggles up the mountain, each man laden with as many cartridges as he can carry. But by the time Thomas’ reinforcements arrive, it is too dark to continue fighting.

The battle for Lookout Mountain has been followed with intense interest by the Federal forces on the plain below. Hooker’s operations aren’t visible except at moments when the clouds rise, but the sound of his artillery and musketry is heard incessantly. In the weeks since Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain—looming like “an everlasting thunderstorm”—has taken on a sinister character. In Confederate hands, the great mountain is a malevolent force that has kept Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland bottled up and starving in Chattanooga. During all those weeks, there has not been a man in that army who hasn’t prayed for the day when the enemy will be driven off the peak for good. At dusk the clouds blow away, and the observers are given a grand sight—parallel fires of the two armies, extending from the summit of the mountain to its base, looking like streams of burning lava, while in between, the flashes from the skirmishers’ muskets glow like giant fireflies.

During the night, staring at the cold, clear sky, the soldiers of the two armies are treated to a rare sight: an almost total eclipse of the moon. It is viewed on both sides as a bad omen—for the Confederates. Some in the Union army decide the eclipse is a bad sign for Bragg “because he was perched on the mountaintop, nearest the moon.” And a number of Confederate soldiers are stricken with a sense of impending disaster.

At Knoxville, the waiting has been hard on both armies. Burnside has built a pontoon bridge across the Holston to collect supplies from the south side of the river, where his cavalry continue to hold the high ground. Still, food and forage are scarce. Despite the efforts of sympathetic residents of the area, the Federals soon are on reduced rations, subsisting on a slender daily issue of salt pork and a bread that has more roughage than nutrition. Many draft animals are slain so they won’t have to be fed, and their carcasses are thrown in the river.

The Confederate besiegers are, if anything, in more desperate straits than the besieged: They are a long way from their nearest base, and they are among unfriendly people. Moreover, Longstreet’s divisions weren’t well supplied to begin with. Besides food and forage, the Confederates badly need shoes for both men and horses. With Longstreet’s concurrence, his troops appropriate footwear from captured Federals. After Burnside’s Federals begin to slaughter draft animals and dump them in the river, the Confederates downstream fish out the carcasses and skin them for leather for shoes.

Meanwhile, Longstreet has pondered a plan of attack. The situation calls for a straightforward assault: Alexander’s artillery would bombard Fort Sanders and soften up the defenses, sharpshooters would take the rifle pits outside the walls, and finally the infantry would charge. Four of Alexander’s howitzers have been put on skids to give them a lofty trajectory; they can now be used as mortars to lob shells over the fort’s walls. In addition, thirty guns are aimed at the little fort. All is ready by today. But tonight, Longstreet learns that reinforcements—two brigades, 2,600 men under Brigadier Generals Bushrod Johnson and Archibald Gracie Jr.—are on their way from Bragg, and he decides to wait for them.

Action at Kingston, Tennessee, marks the Knoxville Campaign. Elsewhere, action occurs at and near Sparta, Tennessee; Woodville and Little Boston, Virginia; Cunningham’s Bluff, South Carolina; and Clarksville, Arkansas. Until the 27th troops fight during a Union raid on the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad with skirmishing at Charleston and Cleveland, Tennessee. In Missouri there are four days of Union scouts from Salem to Bushy and Pigeon creeks, Gladen Valley, and Dry Fork. Some 270 rounds fired against Fort Sumter leave three killed and two wounded.

General Zebulon Vance of North Carolina tells his legislature, “We know, at last, precisely what we would get by submission, and therein has our enemy done us good service—abolition of slavery, confiscation of property, and territorial vassalage.” The Richmond Examiner proclaims, “Our sole policy and cunningest diplomacy is fighting; our most insinuating negotiator is the Confederate army in line of battle.”
November 25, Wednesday

As the sky lightens over the peak of Lookout Mountain looming over Chattanooga, the delighted Federal troops on the slopes below discover that the Confederates have departed during the night; Bragg had glumly concluded that his troops had little chance of holding the contested gap, and he feared that they would be flanked—perhaps cut off and annihilated—this morning. Too, he anticipates a heavy attack from Sherman on the right flank, and so in the darkness he shifted his troops to Hardee’s command on the north end of Missionary Ridge. At first light, Captain John Wilson and five men from a Kentucky regiment climb unopposed to the summit of Lookout Mountain and stage a thrilling pangeant. Just before sunrise, carrying a furled US flag, they step out onto an overhanging rock. They wait for the sun, and just as its rays hit the peak, the men let loose the flag—to the great delight of the thousands watching from below. There are wild cheers from Chattanooga Valley, the town itself, and the Federal-held hills.

The frowning eminence of Lookout Mountain has been well publicized throughout the North during the Chattanooga siege, and news of its conquest will generate intense excitement in the Union. The event will soon become enshrined in legend as the Battle above the Clouds; and by his capture of the famous mountain, Joseph Hooker takes a step toward regaining the reputation that has been tarnished by Chancellorsville. But Lookout wasn’t a major battle—it was more like a “magnificent skirmish”—the Federal losses were remarkably light, about 480 men in all. Comfederate losses are considerably higher—totaling 1,251 men, including 1,054 captured or missing. Grant will later scoff at the mythology that will envelope the battle. He will say reports of a magnificent victory at Lookout Mountain are “one of the romances of the war,” and then add: “It is all poetry.” Still, the achievement isn’t without its rewards. Chief among these is the welcome end to the difficulties of supply. With Lookout back in Federal hands, the complicated Cracker Line is no longer necessary. Trains can run unimpeded from Bridgeport to Chattanooga, and steamers can once again follow the river all the way into the city. (They are cordelled—pulled by towlines—through The Suck.) And General Hooker’s troops are now available for further fighting, and Grant immediately orders them to set out for Rossville Gap in Missionary Ridge to find—and attack—Bragg’s left flank.

At the same first light, Sherman pushes his skirmishers toward his objective, Tunnel Hill. Sherman enjoys an overwhelming superiority of numbers. He has six divisions totaling 26,000 men against only 10,000 troops in the two Confederate divisions under Patrick Cleburne and Carter Stevenson, who arrived during the night from Lookout Mountain. But the rugged terrain, which greatly favors the defenders, helps to compensate for the Confederate deficit in numbers. In order to reach the Confederate line a half mile away, Sherman’s troops have to descend the hill that they occupy, plunge into a little valley, cross an open field under fire, then climb a steep slope against troops who are dug in behind log-and-earth breastworks.

Sherman encounters annoying problems merely in the deploying of his troops in the difficult terrain, and it isn’t until mid-morning that he is able to take the offensive. But even then his attacks are piecemeal and poorly coordinated. About 10 am, after having smoked several cigars while prowling his lines, Sherman signals the advance with a laconic word to his brother-in-law and 4th Division commander, Brigadier General Hugh Ewing: “I guess, Ewing, if you’re ready you might as well go ahead.” Ewing launches one of his brigades, under Brigadier General John A. Corse, straight at the forbidding side of Tunnel Hill while Colonel John M. Loomis’ brigade moves southward along the western base of the ridge toward the tunnel. Another division follows Ewing’s in reserve, while a third angles off toward the north to try to turn the Confederate right.

The Federals face a strong, compact line fashioned by Patrick Cleburne. Secured on the left by Stevenson’s division, which has filed into place south of the tunnel, Cleburne’s line runs north for several hundred yards, following the ridge of Tunnel Hill to its summit; then the defenses angle sharply eastward to run along a spur that descends to Chickamauga Creek. Cleburne has bolstered the line with artillery batteries at three key positions: on the ridge directly above the tunnel, in the angle at the summit, and in the north-facing leg of the line. And to man the breastworks in the crucial center position atop the hill, Cleburne has chosen the tough Texas brigade of Brigadier General James A. Smith. As the Federal advance begins, Corse’s four regiments head straight for Smith’s Texans; in quick response, all three Confederate batteries open fire on the blue line. But the Confederate infantry wait. Cleburne has decided not to contest the Federal advance with rifle fire until the enemy is upon his main line. So the soldiers watch the formations approach. Then the Federals reach the base of the ridge and disappears from view while they swarm up the rocky 600-foot incline.

Eighty yards from the Confederate breastworks, Corse’s Federals crest a lower ridge and finds a series of entrenchments that were abandoned earlier by the Confederates. There the attackers gather themselves and launch a charge straight at the angle and the four 12-pounder Napoleons of Lieutenant H. Shannon’s battery. Cleburne now gives the signal, and his troops level a volley at the approaching Federals. It slows but does not stop them. And as the Federals draw closer, it becomes apparent that the angle in the center of Smith’s line is a woefully weak spot. The Federal infantry is now able to bring the defenders in the salient under a devastating crossfire. The Confederate gunners bear the brunt of this fire, but they valiantly stand fast. Before long Shannon is wounded, and the highest-ranking survivor is a corporal. But assisted by infantrymen, the crews continue to work their guns furiously, scything great gaps in the Federal formations. Still the Federals come on, into the teeth of “a terrific storm of musket balls and canister,” until Corse’s men have pushed to within fifty steps of Cleburne’s line. Then two of Smith’s Texas regiments stand up, leap over their protective breastworks, and take on the Federals with clubbed muskets and bayonets, driving the attackers back to the trenches on the lower ridge. General Corse has been badly wounded, as has his opposite number, James Smith. Colonel Charles C. Walcutt takes Corse’s place and leads another charge against the Texans—now commanded by Colonel Hiram B. Granbury. With this attack a few Federals reach the Confederate works, but they die there, and the rest are thrown back yet again. For two hours the struggle contiunues, the Federals grimly coming on time after time, the Confederates stopping them and then countercharging, with Cleburne himself in the vanguard.

Farther south on Corse’s right, Loomis’ Federal brigade has encountered two Georgia regiments from Stevenson’s division. The outnumbered Georgians, one regiment on each side of the railroad track where it emerges from the tunnel, yield ground grudgingly as Confederate artillery pounds the advancing Federals. Soon Loomis’ troops slow under the devastating barrage; then they halt and take cover. Since Walcutt’s troops have far outdistanced those of Loomis, a gap now exists in the Federal line on the west slope of the hill. In order to close this hole and spur on his stalled offensive, Loomis calls for reinforcements. Two Pennsylvania regiments from XI Corps clamber up the slope and pitch into the battle, followed by a brigade led by Brigadier General Charles L. Matthies. Matthies’ four regiments become mixed and their line ragged, but they inch their way upward until they are tantalizingly close to the Confederate breastworks. Their ranks halt near a burning farmhouse, unable to go one step farther and utterly unwilling to take one step back.

The battle now rages all along the line. Walcutt’s men are pouring a withering fire into the center of Cleburne’s line—“a continuous sheet of hissing, flying lead,” concentrated on “a spece of not more than 40 yards.” At 2 pm Major General Carl Schurz finds Sherman seated on a stone fence overlooking the battlefield, watching the action. Sherman is in “an unhappy frame of mind,” his hopes of overwhelming the enemy’s right flank and thus striking the decisive blow of the battle dashed. It is a stinging disappointment. He gives vent to his feelings “in language of astonishing vivacity.” About 3 pm, one of Stevenson’s Confederate commanders, Brigadier General Alfred Cumming, offers to lead a bayonet charge. General Hardee approves. Cumming sends two Georgia regiments through a narrow opening in the Confederate breastworks and reassembles the troops under withering fire. Then he leads a charge that slams into General Matthies’ left flank. At that moment Patrick Cleburne leaps atop the Confederate breastworks and, with a flourish of his sword, leads Smith’s Texans in a charge on Matthies’ center. After ten minutes of savage hand-to-hand fighting, Matthies’ troops flee down the mountainside. His left flank exposed, Loomis is also forced to retreat. The Confederates capture eight flags and 500 prisoners, and the slope is littered with hundreds of Federal dead and wounded. Only Corse’s four regiments, still under Walcutt, remain on the ridge, slugging it out with the Texans and holding their ground.

At last Sherman calls a halt. His army has been stopped cold. After suffering nearly 2,000 casualties his troops are still no closer to taking Tunnel Hill than when they started. He sends word to Grant that his men can do no more. But to Sherman’s message Grant dispatches a two-word response: “Attack again.” Sherman follows orders, but he sends in only 200 men from Brigadier General Joseph Lightburn’s brigade. Lightburn’s troops fare no better than the other Federals; as they scale the slope of Tunnel Hill their ranks are cut to pieces by the Confederates’ fire, and soon the survivors are reeling back to the Federal lines. A correspondent standing near Sherman watches him light a fresh cigar, draw deeply on it twice, and then turn to an aide. “Tell Lightburn to entrench and go into position.” There will be no more attacks on Tunnel Hill today.

Grant is convinced that there is no point in sending Thomas against the center of Bragg’s line until a Confederate flank has been turned. By midmorning Sherman’s failure to make an impression on the Confederate right lends new urgency to Hooker’s advance on Bragg’s left. Hooker responds with alacrity to Grant’s 10 am order to move on Rossville Gap, and he has his command at Chattanooga Creek before noon. But the Confederates have partially destroyed the bridge over the flooded stream, and it takes Hooker three hours to make repairs on the span and get his infantry and artillery across. Hooker finally arrives at Rossville Gap and attacks the Confederate left around 3 pm.

By now Breckinridge, confident in the strength of the Confederate center but worried about his left, has determined to take personal command of the far left flank, defended by Brigadier General Hanry D. Clayton’s Alabama brigade. Meanwhile Bragg takes direct control of Breckinridge’s other two divisions. Breckinridge arrives to find a rapidly developing disaster. Hooker’s forces have driven two of Clayton’s regiments from Rossville Gap, and Cruft’s Federal division has gained a foothold on the southern slope of Missionary Ridge itself. Just as Breckinridge takes command of Clayton’s remaining two regiments, Cruft attacks again. Breckinridge is heavily outnumbered, and his line to the immediate north has been thinned to reinforce Cleburne; unable to get additional troops, he can do nothing more than fall back as slowly as possible. While Geary’s division strikes the Confederates from the west and Peter Osterhaus’ troops go around to the enemy rear through the gap, Cruft’s men drive north, onto the crest of the ridge. The Federals rout the defenders, taking hundreds of prisoners, among them Breckinridge’s son, Cabell, who is serving as an aide to his father. Finally, the destruction of the Confederate flank that Grant has been looking for is under way; but it is Hooker, not Sherman, who is accomplishing it.

Grant and his aides are still attempting to watch the unfolding events from Orchard Knob. The Confederates defending Missionary Ridge have found the range of the little hill by now, and artillery shells are landing uncomfortably close. The crest of Missionary Ridge is in clear sight. Bragg’s headquarters is in full view, and officers—presumably staff officers—can be seen coming and going constantly. Grant also thinks he can see Confederate reinforcements—“column after column”—being rushed to Cleburne. In this he is mistaken, but the prospect worries him. With darkness not far off, he decides to wait no longer but to send Thomas forward immediately to relieve the pressure on Sherman. Still lacking confidence in the Army of the Cumberland, Grant gives Thomas only a limited objective: His forces are to take the Confederate rifle pits at the foot of Missionary Ridge and then await further instructions.

Grant has no way of knowing that the obstacle confronting Thomas is far less formidable than it appears. Bragg has left Breckinridge with only three divisions to defend four miles of line, and he has even further weakened the defenses with faulty command decisions. Unfamiliar with defensive warfare, Bragg has divided his forces along most of his line, sending half of each regiment into the rifle pits located 200 yards in front of the base of the ridge while deploying the rest on the crest. Then Bragg issued instructions for the men in the rifle pits, if attacked, to fire one volley and withdraw up the hill. Even worse for the Confederates, thanks to an incompetent engineer, the still-unfinished breastworks along the top of the ridge have been laid out incorrectly. They are sited at the geographic crest—the highest elevation—instead of being placed at the so-called military crest, which is the elevation that commands the maximum field of fire down the slope.

On the Federal side, there is a strange delay in executing Grant’s order to attack the rifle pits. The general commanding the attacking corps is Gordon Granger, one of the heroes of the Chickamauga defense; but on this day something curious happens to him. He becomes so fascinated by the artillery fire from Orchard Knob that he is completely distracted. He takes over the operation of some of the cannon himself, “sighting the guns with all the enthusiasm of a boy,” and shouting with the men whenever a shot hits. When an hour has passed and Thomas’ men haven’t yet moved, Grant discovers that Granger has never ordered the attack. Suddenly Granger attracts a good deal of notice, being rebuked by both Thomas and Grant.

When the order to advance is at last transmitted, the move forward begins “in an incredibly short time.” The men of the much maligned Army of the Cumberland, still resentful of Grant’s slights, can hardly wait to attack. Crazy to charge, in at least one brigade “all servants, cooks, clerks found guns in some way” and pushed into the ranks. Once again, the preliminary formation provides a stunning spectacle. As before, Thomas, the consummate drillmaster, forms his ranks with precision, the lines ruler-straight, bands playing, banners fluttering. The troops form up with Absalom Baird’s division on the left, then Thomas Wood’s, Philip Sheridan’s, and Richard Johnson’s. When they emerge onto the plain, 20,000 strong, they are a fearsome sight to the Confederates watching from the mountaintop a mile away. At the signal—six rapid cannon shots from the Federal artillery—the great mass of soldiers start forward, rolling toward the Confederate line with all the ponderous, relentless, menacing force of molten lava. From both sides of the field comes the thunder of artillery. Bragg’s headquarters makes an irresistible target and is riddled by shot. The Confederate guns, on their part, blast great holes in the Federal lines. But the attackers continue inexorably forward without firing, skirmishers in front. Soon the main body breaks into a ponderous run and catches up with the skirmishers. The Confederate infantry hold their fire until Thomas’ army has marched to within 200 yards. Then they loose a withering volley. Yet still the Federals press on, and most of the Confederates, obeying Bragg’s orders, scurry up the ridge. This movement proves ruinous for the Confederates: It encourages the Federals, who think they are watching their enemy take flight, and dismays the defenders higher on the ridge who don’t know that the friendly forces are retreating under orders. Furthermore, Bragg’s order wasn’t conveyed to everyone in the rifle pits—some of the Confederates stay and fight in pointless sacrifice.

The objective is taken, and taken swiftly. Many of the Confederates who stayed behind are captured. The Federal soldiers lie there, panting but exultant. As Confederate prisoners are led back toward town, a Union soldier jeers at them, “You’ve been trying to get there long enough! Now charge on to Chattanooga!” The Federal gunners cease firing to avoid hitting their own infantrymen. Moreover, the triumphant Federals find that they are now exposed to a galling rifle fire from the Confederate entranchments above them. A sudden restlessness sweeps the ranks of men milling at the base of the ridge. A moment later Grant, watching through his binoculars, sees an astonishing sight. A number of blueclad soldiers are starting up the hill. He watches in disbelief as more men follow. Soon long lines of Federal soldiers can be seen laboriously pushing their way up the slope. Grant wheels furiously on Thomas, who is standing beside him. “Thomas,” he barks, “who ordered those men up the ridge?” The impassive Thomas replies, “I don’t know. I did not.” Grant turns fiercely on Granger. “Did you order them up, Granger?” “No,” Granger denies, “they started without orders.” Then, with quiet satisfaction, he adds, “When those fellows get started, all hell can’t stop them.” His jaw set, Grant returns to his field glasses. He is watching a general’s nightmare: a battle gone out of control. He has never contemplated a major assault by Thomas’ force. All questions of morale aside, the Army of the Cumberland is probably no stronger—and possibly weaker—than the Confederate force opposing it on the mountain. Moreover, the center of Bragg’s line is presumably its strongest point; certainly the terrain there is forbidding. This unplanned attack against a near-impregnable defensive position is an invitation to disaster. At one point Grant considers calling the men back. Then he decides to wait a few minutes. “It’s all right,” he mutters, “if it turns out all right.” Then he adds, “If not, someone will suffer.”

As Grant deliberates, the Army of the Cumberland is advancing. Under heavy fire from above, the Federals have—in the felicitous phrase used later by the Comte de Paris, a French nobleman who had served on McClellan’s staff—“fled forward,” toward their tormentors. Sheridan, feeling certain that the advance is in violation of orders, has dispatched a staff officer to General Granger asking if it is the first line or the ridge that is to be taken. By the time the messenger returns, confirming that only the first line is to be held, the spontaneous assault is underway. “But believing that I could carry they ridge,” Sheridan will later recall, “I could not order those officers and men who were so gallantly ascending the hill to return.” The slope is now a scene of swarming activity. In some of the steeper spots, men are scrambling on their hands and knees. Other soldiers are “clambering over rocks and through bushes, lifting themselves by thrusting their bayonets into the ground or by catching hold of limbs and twigs.” The Federals are heavily burdened, carrying nine-pound muskets as well as forty rounds of ammunition. In addition, most of the troops are wearing overoats, for the weather has turned bitter cold. Nevertheless, they scarcely hesitate as they crawl and claw their way up the incline. A member of Bragg’s staff, watching the scene with growing incredulity, concludes that the Federals must be drunk. The ascending soldiers detect the confusion they are causing among their enemy, and are heartened by it. They see those defending the heights becoming more and more desperate as they approach the top. The Confederates shout “Chickamauga” as though the word itself is a weapon; they thrust cartridges into guns by the handsful, they light the fuses of shells and roll them down, they seize huge stones and throw them, but nothing can stop the force of the charge.

Now the Confederates on the ridge begin to suffer again from Bragg’s mistakes. The men from the bottom of the slope are racing frantically for the safety of the summit. In the process they are interfering with the defensive fire: The Confederates above are afraid of hitting their own men. Moreover, many of the riflemen on the poorly positioned works now find they cannot see the approaching enemy without exposing themselves to Federal fire. Some of the defenders maintain a savage fusillade—General Manigault, for one, had insisted on laying out his own works and had placed them far enough down the slope to be effective. But there is something unearthly about those panting climbers. Nothing seems to daunt them. The Confederates on Missionary Ridge have demonstreated their courage repeatedly in the last few months, but now, as the eerily determined Federals begin reaching the crest of the ridge, the resolution of the defenders ebbs. Men throw down their arms and flee, and their panic proves contagious. Hooker’s troops have driven Breckinridge back two and a half miles from his position on the left, almost as far as Bragg’s headquarters on the center at the ridge; Breckinridge now joins the commanding general, who is trying to stop the rout. A few moments before, when the Union advance had hesitated at the foot of the hill, he thought that the attack had been stopped. He is riding along the crest waving his hat and congratulating his men when the whole position suddenly caves in around him. Reportedly, Bragg rides up to groups of his fleeing soldiers, standing in their path and crying: “Here’s your commander!” But the soldiers only jeer and brush past. Breckinridge’s response to the chaos around them is more practical, if less soldierly: “Boys,” he shouts, “get away the best you can.” Indeed, both he and Bragg narrowly escape capture. Gray-clad men rush wildly down the hill and into the woods, tossing away knapsacks, muskets, and blankets as they run. Batteries gallop back along the narrow, winding roads with reckless speed, and officers, frantic with rage, rush from one panic-stricken group to another, shouting and cursing as they strive to check the headlong flight. In ten minutes, all that remain of the defiant rebel army that has so long besieged Chattanooga is captured guns, disarmed prisoners, moaning wounded, ghastly dead, and scattered, demoralized fugitives.

The watchers on Orchard Knob see the ragged lines of blue reach the crest—in several places at the same time—and “in a few moments the flags of 60 Yankee regiments float along Missionary Ridge from one end to the other.” A great victory cry sweeps the ridge as the Federal soldiers realize what they have done. They throw their haversacks in the air until it is a cloud of black spots; officers and men mingle indiscriminately in their joy. General Granger rides gleefully through the celebrating men, shouting, “I’m going to have you all court-martialed! 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!” some Federal officers manage to pull their forces together and continue the drive northward along the crest, flanking the few Confederates who are still holding their ground. Federal soldiers seize batteries and turn the guns on the fleeing Confederates. When no primers can be found, the Federals fire the cannon by shooting muskets over the vents to ignite the charge. Some artillery units attempt to escape, and the Federals shoot the horses. Philip Sheridan is seen seated triumphantly astride one of the guns that almost killed him just a few minutes before. Another officer who tries the same theatrics burns himself on the scorching barrel and is unable to sit down for a fortnight. The US Army Quartermaster General, Montgomery C. Meigs, had come out from Washington a few weeks ago to survey Chattanooga’s supply situation in the aftermath of the Confederate siege. At the start of the battle he had been standing with General Grant on Orchard Knob. Now, unaccountably, Major Connolly sees Meigs on Missionary Ridge in the midst of all the jubilation, “wild with excitement, trying himself to wheel one of those guns on the rebels flying down the opposite side of the mountain,” and furious because he can’t find a lanyard with which to fire the gun. Missionary Ridge now belongs to the Union.

But not quite all of it. At the north end of the ridge, General Cleburne is for a time unaware of the disaster that has befallen the rest of the Army of Tennessee—at that end of the line, the Confederates think the battle has all gone their way. Cleburne’s soldiers are actually cheering their victory over Sherman when their corps commander, General Hardee, rides up with word that the Confederate center has collapsed and Cleburne is in danger of being flanked. Cleburne, the only Confederate general involved in the fighting who has not been routed, is charged with protecting the retreat. Slowly and reluctantly, but in good order, he withdraws from Tunnel Hill and deploys his troops as a rearguard for the broken army.

Sheridan, soon after his arrival at the summit of the ridge, has climbed down from his cannon, rounded up his battered troops—they have suffered 1,304 casualties, more than half the Federal losses in the attack—and leads them down the hill after the fleeing Confederates, who are clearly visible on the road leading toward Chickamauga Station. Darkness is descending, but Sheridan captures a number of supply wagons and artillery pieces before he is forced to halt for the night. Grant later credits him with seizing most of the prisoners, artillery, and small arms taken this day. Despite the sometimes desperate fighting on Missionary Ridge, casualties are relatively low for a major battle: Federal engaged are put at more than 56,000 (and others available), with 753 killed, 4,722 wounded, and 349 missing for a total of 5,824; Confederate engaged around 46,000, with 361 killed, 2,160 wounded, and 4,146 missing for a total of 6,667, many of these prisoners. The road into Georgia is at least partially opened for the Federals.

This night, as Cleburne protects their rear, Bragg’s demoralized Confederates gather at Chickamauga Station and make preparations to retreat deep into Georgia. Officers spend the night trying to bring some order to the chaos. Bragg is distraught., looking “hacked and whipped and mortified and chagrined at defeat.” Captain Buck, carrying a message to Bragg, finds him curiously agitated and unlike himself—obviously suffering, says Buck, from “nervous anxiety.”

There remain the siege lines at Knoxville, where Burnside is daily becoming more hard pressed. Brigadier General Danville Leadbetter—Bragg’s chief engineer and the man that laid out Knoxville’s defenses when it was in Confederate hands, has arrived. He encourages Longstreet to consider attacking the side of town opposite Fort Sanders, an idea that will prove utterly impractical and further delay the attack.

In Virginia, General Lee receives a report from a scout that each soldier of the Army of the Potomac on the other side of the Rapidan has been issued eight days of rations. He alerts his outposts to watch for a movement, upstream or down, and sits back to await developments. If the length of the numerical odds disturbs him, he can recall the victory he scored against even longer odds, seven months ago, on practically this same ground. “With God’s help,” a young officer writes home this night, “there shall be a Second Chancellorsville as there was a Second Manassas.”

On this day and the 26th, 517 rounds are thrown against Sumter at Charleston. Skirmishes break out in Crawford County, Arkansas; near Houston on the Big Piney and near Waynesville and Farmington, Missouri; at Camp Pratt and near Vermillian Bayou, Louisiana; Sangster’s Station, Virginia; Greenville, North Carolina; and Yankeetown, Tennessee.

From Britain the unfinished CSS Rappahannock sails to France to avoid probable detention by the British.
November 26, Thursday

The Confederates retreating from Chattanooga have managed to withdraw from Chickamauga Station—aboard trains and on foot—without further damage, but they leave behind abundant evidence of their disarray. The first Federals to arrive at the depot this morning find fires everywhere: Shattered wagons, wrecked artillery pieces, discarded pontoons, and huge piles of grain are all burning in the streets. Sherman and Thomas pursue Bragg through Chickamauga Station toward Graysville and Ringgold, Hooker leading the chase.

At Knoxville, after a fruitless reconnassaince with General Leadbetter, Longstreet is scanning the enemy fort through his field glasses when he notices a Federal soldier walking across the ditch in front of Fort Sanders. Unaware that a plank is being used for this purpose, Longstreet concludes happily that the ditch is shallow enough to be crossed without undue difficulty. Nor does the steep earthen walls seem to present an acute problem: Jankins has proposed that if the attackers have trouble scaling the walls, they can dig footholds in them. The assault is scheduled for noon on the 28th.

Though the siege of Chattanooga has been shattered beyond any hope the Confederates might have of renewing it, President Lincoln has a closer reason to fret, not sixty miles southwest of Washington—the front on the Rapidan in Virginia is coming to life. Though in this case the Union force is on the offensive, the Commander in Chief has learned from long experience that the strain of waiting for news of an expected success is quite as great as waiting for news of an expected failure—particularly since experience has also taught him, all too often, that anticipated triumphs have a way of turning into the worst of all defeats; Chancellorsville, for instance. Meade at last has resumed his movement southward, having taken a two-week rest from the exertion of crossing the Rappahannock. After taking four days to consider the ramificiations of the intelligence report on Lee’s army he received and examine the map, yesterday he distributed a circular directing his five corps commanders to be ready to march at 6 o’clock. Now, half an hour before sunrise the lead elements of his army are over the Rapidan, entering the gloomy western fringe of the Wilderness in whose depths Joe Hooker came to grief last May, just short of seven months ago.

Lee’s two corps are strung out along the south bank of the river, one east and the other west of Clark’s Mountain, their outer flanks respectively at Mine Run and Liberty Mills, some thirty miles apart. Meade’s plan calls for a crossing by the downstream fords, well beyond the Confederate right, and a fast march west, along the Orange Turnpike, for a blow at the rebel east flank before Lee can bring up his other corps in support. Unlike Hooker, Meade plans no feints or diversions, preferring to concentrate everything he has for the main effort. He is relying entirely on speed, which should enable him to strike before his adversary has time to get set for the punch, and on the known numerical advantage, which will be far greater than two to one if he can mass and commit his fifteen infantry divisions before the rebel six achieve a concentration. All this has been explained to his subordinates, whose marches have begun on schedule from their prescribed assembly areas near Ely’s and Germanna fords, well downstream from the apparently unsuspecting greybacks in their works across the way. Aside from a heavy morning fog, which screens the movement from enemy lookouts on Clark’s Mountain—more evidence, it would seem, of the interposition of the Almight Hand in favor of the Union on this Thanksgiving Day—the weather is pleasant, a bit chilly but all the more bracing for that, and the blue troops step out smartly along the roads and trails leading down to the various fords that have been assigned them so that a nearly simultaneous crossing can be made by several columns. That too is part of the the design combining speed and power.

As always, there are hitches: only this time, with speed of such vital importance, they are even more exasperating than usual. What is worse, they begin to crop up almost at the outset. Meade has planned, for instance, to avoid the need for a slow-rolling wagon train that would take up road space and require a heaver guard; but he has neglected the human factor. In the present case, as it turns out, that factor is embodied in the person of William French, successor to Sickles as chief of III Corps, which has been enlarged to three divisions, the same as the other four. A Maryland-born West Pointer nearing fifty, French is a tall, high-stomached man with an apoplectic look and a starchy manner. So far in the way, though he has taken part in all the army’s major fights except the two Bull Runs and Gettysburg, he has not distinguished himself in action. Today—and tomorrow too, for that matter, as developments will show—his performance is a good deal worse than undistinguished. Assigned to cross at Jacob’s Ford, which means that he will have the lead when the five corps turn west beyond the river, since it is the nearest of the three fords being used, he is not only late in arriving and slow in crossing, but when he finds the opposite bank too steep for his battery horses to manage, he sends his artillery down to Germanna Ford and snarls the already heavy traffic there. It is dusk before he completes his crossing and calls a halt close to the river, obliging those behind him to do likewise. There are other frustrations. An engineering unit miscalculates the Rapidan’s width and builds a pontoon bridge that falls one pontoon short of the far bank.

All of this movement hasn’t gone unnoticed. When Stuart reports in the morning that the Federals are crossing in force by the lower fords, Lee sends word for Hill to take up the march from beyond Clark’s Mountain to join Ewell, whose corps is on the right, and shifts army headquarters from Orange to Verdiersville, a dozen miles east on the plank road. He doesn’t know yet whether Richmond or the Army of Northern Virginia is Meade’s objective, but in any case he decides that his best course is to move toward him, either for an interception or a head-on confrontation. In the absence of Ewell, who is sick, II Corps is under Early; Lee tells him to move eastward, down the pike toward Locust Grove, and keep going until he encounters something solid. Skirmishing flares at and near Raccoon Ford and Morton’s Ford.

In other action there is skirmishing near Woodson, Missouri; Brentsville, Virginia; Plymouth and Warm Springs, North Carolina; as well as a Union scout from Columbia, Kentucky, to the south side of the Cumberland River.

President Lincoln is still confined to his room with varioloid.
November 27, Friday

In Virginia south of the Rapidan, William French and the Army of the Potomac’s III Corps step off smartly to make up for time lost yesterday, then promptly take the wrong fork in the road and have to countermarch. By the time they get back on the right track, the sun is past the overhead and the movement is a full day behind schedule. Red-faced and angry, for Meade is prodding him hard by now, French sets out once more through the woods that screen his approach to the Rebel flank, supposedly a mile away, only to run into butternut skirmishers who oblige him to call a halt and deploy his lead division. Having done so, he starts forward again; but not for long. As General Warren’s lead elements on the left flank passed through the settlement of Locust Grove, they collided with Brigadier General Henry Hay’s division. Both sides entrenched and a stand-off ensued. At 4 pm French’s troops finally move up on Warren’s right flank and run into a Confederate division commanded by Major General Edward Johnson.

Although Johnson’s veterans are outnumbered 3-1, they attack. Brigadier General George H. Steuart launches his brigade against French’s right flank. As the Confederates sweep fprward, they are suddenly rocked by canister fire from two Federal batteries. Steuart’s troops falter, then turn back, leaving behind them 170 casualties. To Steuart’s right, three of Johnson’s brigades charge across a field on Payne’s farm, cheering as they run. From the cover of dense brush on the other side of the field, two Federal divisions level a withering fire. The Confederates are staggered and they pause in confusion. Brigadier General James A. Walker, commander of the Stonewall Brigade, fears that his men might break and spurs his horse forward. He grabs the flag of one of his regiments, leaps his horse over a fence, rides into the field, and rallies his troops. With a cheer, they rush on. But it is all for nothing. The Confederates are stymied by the thickets from which the Federals are firing. It is found impossible to maintain an unbroken line, and each brigade commander, in turn, finding himself unsupported on either side, orders back his brigade.

The Confederates have been halted, but they have punished the Federals. Dusk ends the brief but savage action, in which the Federals have lost 950 men to the Confederates’ 545. And Johnson’s attack proves costly to the Federals in another way—it convinces French that he faces overwhelming odds and rivets him in place. Now Lee has Early fall back through the darkness to a previously selected position on a ridge on the far side of a creek known as Mine Run, which flows due north into the Rapidan. Hill will arrive tomorrow and extend the line southward, taking post astride the turnpike and the plank road east of Verdiersville, while Early covers the approaches to Bartlett’s Mill on the far left, near the river. Anticipating with satisfaction his first purely defensive full-scale battle since Fredericksburg, just two weeks short of a full year ago, Lee instructs his men to get busy with their shovels, preparing for a repetition of that butchery. There is skirmishing at Payne’s Farm, Robertson’s Tavern or Locust Grove, action near New Hope Church, and near Wilderness Church. Fighting also occurs at Catlett’s Station, Virginia.

In Georgia, General Hooker catches up with the Army of Tennessee’s rearguard at Ringgold, about fifteen miles south of Chattanooga. Just beyond Ringgold is a mountain pass so narrow that it barely accommodates, side by side, a railroad track, a stream, and a wagon road. General Cleburne hides the greater part of his force in this natural trap, while his cavalry lure Hooker into the ambush. As the Federals enter the pass, the Confederates suddenly smash them with artillery and musket fire. Hooker’s troops reel. But they quickly recover, and a fierce engagement follows—small, but hard fought. For six hours, Cleburne holds fast. Then, when Bragg’s army is at a safe distance, Cleburne adroitly slips away. He has commanded about 4,200 men in this action, and his losses total only 221. Hooker’s casualties come to 442—about the same number that he lost at Lookout Mountain. Additional fighting takes place at Pea Vine Valley, and Pigeon Hill, Tennessee; and Grayville, and Taylor’s Ridge, Georgia.

Kentucky sees skirmishing at Monticello and La Fayette. Some 280 rounds are fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. At Columbus, Ohio, General John Hunt Morgan and several of his officers escape from the Ohio State Penitentiary and manage to reach Confederate territory. Presumably they tunneled their way from the cellblock and then got over a wall, but for years there will be rumors that the tunnel is a blind and that money actually changed hands.

President Davis, greatly perturbed over Tennessee, advises Bragg to concentrate rapidly, almost impossible under the new circumstances.
November 28, Saturday

Coming up through a driving rain, which makes for heavy marching, the bluecoats of the Army of the Potomac find themselves confronted by a seven-mile line of entrenchments whose approaches have been cleared for overlapping fields of fire. They take one look at the rebel works, sited forbiddingly along a ridge on the dominant west bank of the boggy stream of Mine Run, and decide that for the high command to send down orders for an assault would amount to issuing death warrants for most of the troops involved. Their generals rather think so, too, when they come forward to reconnoiter, Warren and Segdwick on the left and right, French in the center, and Sykes and Newton in reserve. By sundown the rain has slacked and stopped, giving way to a night so cold that the water freezes in the men’s canteens.

In the West, Grant finally calls off the pursuit of Bragg’ army. The Federal army is low on rations, and he doesn’t think it can live off the barren country below Chattanooga. He decides he has to stay close to his supply line. It has also been made clear to him that he has a responsibility more urgent than chasing Bragg. Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Ohio is still besieged by James Longstreet in Knoxville, and Grant has been told that Burnside only has enough rations to last until December 3rd, now five days away. President Lincoln, Secretary of War Stanton, and General Halleck are all clamoring for the rescue of Burnside. “Well done,” reads Lincoln’s message of congratulations to Grant. “Many thanks to all. Remember Burnside.” Halleck deals with the good news cursorily—“I congratulate on the success thus far of your plans”—before hastening to the real point of his wire: “I fear that General Burnside is hard-pressed and that any further delay may prove fatal. I know that you will do all in your power to relieve him.” In fact, Grant had taken the first steps toward lifting the siege of Knoxville even before the fighting began at Chattanooga. He had ordered Thomas to send Granger’s entire Reserve Corps north as soon at Bragg was no longer a threat. Now, with the Confederate army in full flight, Grant sends word to Thomas to get Granger moving.

The Federal relief column will have a little more time; at Knoxville it rains all day and Longstreet has ordered another delay of the assault on Fort Sanders. By now, he and his men are hearing rumors of a Federal victory at Chattanooga. The reports, though unconfirmed, prompt McLaws to urge Longstreet to end the siege of Knoxville and retreat to Virginia; if Bragg has indeed been defeated the whole army will surely be turned on Longstreet. Perhaps so, says Longstreet. He is no admirer of Bragg’s. But if he now retreats, Longstreet reasons, a defeated Bragg will be left “at the mercy of his victors.” They must attack, he says. “There is neither safety nor honor in any other course.” But late in the night Longstreet makes a sudden and inexplicable change that dismays Colonel Alexander. The infantry attack will be launched at dawn, without benefit of the carefully prepared artillery barrage. Apparently Longstreet thinks surprise will be of greater benefit than the cannonade. Yet he loses the element of surprise by ordering the skirmishers to take the outlying Federal rifle pits immediately after moonrise.

At 11 pm the Confederate skirmishers advance. Sharp fighting continues for two hours; when it is over, about fifty of the Federal soldiers have been taken prisoner, and the rest have been driven back into their own lines. The action, strange as it is, does indeed improve the Confederate position and place sharpshooters within range of the Federal defenders on the walls of the fort. But it is also a clear signal of the impending attack. When the Confederates charge in a few hours, the Federals who will bear the brunt of the attack—a regiment from New York—will be waiting for them.

General Bragg telegraphs Richmond from Dalton, Georgia, “I deem it due to the cause and to myself to ask for relief from command and investigation into the causes of the defeat.”

A skirmish takes place near Molina, Mississippi. Operations against the Memphis & Charleston Railroad in west Tennessee by Forrest’s men lasts until December 10th.

Between today and December 14th a total of 1,307 shot and shell are fired at Sumter and surrounding batteries around Charleston. Still there is no sign of surrender or evacuation.
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