Battle of Chattanooga 3
(also called Lookout Mountain)
Return to

Location: Chattanooga, TN
Dates: November 23 - 25, 1863
Union Commander:  Ulysses S. Grant, Major General
Confederate Commander:  Braxton Bragg, General

Battle Summary:
After a stunning victory at Chickamauga, in September 1863, Braxton Bragg's confederate Army of the Tennessee, had William S. Rosecrans' federal Army of the Cumberland locked up in Chattanooga.  With high mountains to the west, Confederate troops to the south, and east, and the Tennessee River to the north, Rosecrans' army was slowly beginning to starve.

Rosecrans' appeared demoralized.  His dispatches to the war department were frequent and seemed confused, causing Lincoln to say he was acting "confused and stunned like a duck hit on the head."  With the condition worsening in Chattanooga, Lincoln sent William T. Sherman's corps and Joseph Hooker's corps to the relief of Rosecrans.  Additionally, due to Rosecrans erratic behavior, Lincoln determined to send a stronger leader to Chattanooga - Ulysses S. Grant.

U.S. Grant was immediately summoned to Louisville, from Cairo, Illinois, to meet with a war department representative.  On October 17, in route to Louisville, at Indianapolis, Grant was surprised to find Secretary of War, Stanton, awaiting him.  Grant was handed two, nearly identical orders: the first order created the Department of the Mississippi, which combined the Armies of the Cumberland, Ohio and Tennessee and left the existing army commanders in place.  The second order created the Army of the Mississippi but changed the commander of the Army of the Cumberland from Rosecrans to Major General George Thomas.  Grant was told that he could choose either one.  He chose order # 2.

After arriving in Louisville, Grant, and Stanton, received news that the Army of the Cumberland was considering a retreat from Chattanooga.  Grant immediately drafted an order to Rosecrans announcing that he was now commanding the Army of the Mississippi, followed immediately by the order, from Washington, relieving Rosecrans and replacing him with George Thomas.  Upon receiving Grant's orders, Thomas wired him stating, "We will hold the town till we starve."

On the morning of October 20, Grant started his journey south, making it as far as Nashville.  Arriving in the Chattanooga on October 23, Grant was able to meet with his key lieutenants to be apprised of the situation in Chattanooga.  What he found was disheartening.  His army was literally boxed in at Chattanooga.  Troops were demoralized and had not had full rations for some time.  Confederate troops held the high ground to the north, and east (Missionary Ridge), Lookout Mountain to the southwest and the Tennessee River had them blocked in to the north, and to the west.

Grant's first order of business was to open the line to his supply line in northern Alabama.  This line, that crossed Moccasin Bend, and the Tennessee River in two places was called the "Cracker Line."

While the situation on the Union side was grave, the situation on the Confederate side was not much better.  Receiving letters from several of Bragg's commanding officers, threatening to resign if Bragg were not removed, Jefferson Davis boarded a train for Chattanooga, in early October.  Upon arriving, Davis did nothing to improve the command structure, keeping Bragg in overall command, he removed Lieutenant General Daniel H. Hill.  Additionally, he sent Lieutenant General James Longstreet to battle Ambrose Burnside in Knoxville and he sent Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk to Mississippi.  This had the net effect, of removing 15,000 troops from the Chattanooga area, weakening an already thinly stretched rebel line.

Grant was quick to act.  On November 23, the center wing of the army, under command of George Thomas, moved northeast of town and took the hill, "Orchard Knob."  This removed the forward most line of Confederate artillery and infantry. 

The next day, Major General Joseph Hooker's Corps assaulted the heights of Lookout Mountain.  His troops battled a small division commanded by Major General Carter Stevenson.  While most of the hard fighting took place near the Craven residence, on a terrace part way up Lookout Mountain, rebel artillery was present on the summit.  Unfortunately, they could not depress their cannon enough to hit the Union troops at the Craven House.  Hooker's troops ended up pushing Stevenson's division off Lookout Mountain to the Rossville Gap.  This portion of the battle became historic as the "Battle above the clouds," as much of it took place with a heavy fog concealing the summit.  On the morning of November 25, Union troops cheered when they saw the U.S. flag on the summit. 

Also on November 25, Grant sent his left wing commander, William T. Sherman to hit Bragg's right flank, commanded by William J. Hardee's division under Major General Patrick Cleburne.  With a poor understanding of the terrain near Tunnel Hill, Sherman's Corps struggled against Cleburne's troops.  At this point, Grant instructed Thomas to send his troops into the first set of pits below the hills of Missionary Ridge.  This would be a diversion that would allow Sherman's left wing and Hooker's right wing, then pushing Stevenson's division, to crush the two rebel flanks.  Not understanding their orders, Thomas' troops pushed past the first enemy works and continued right up the heights of Missionary Ridge.  Fortunately for these troops, their assault was successful, pushing Bragg's Army of the Tennessee, back into northern Georgia, near Dalton.

Campaign: Chattanooga III

Outcome: U.S. Victory

Troop Strengths
Union: 70,000
Confederate: 40,000

Casualties (estimated):
Union: 5,815 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Confederate: 6,667 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)

Battle Aftermath:
After the third battle of Chattanooga, Braxton Bragg wrote Jefferson Davis stating that the blame for the loss at Chattanooga was his.  Davis, being friends with Bragg, did not allow him to resign.  Instead, he brought him to Richmond as a special advisor to the president.  In his place, he put Joseph E. Johnston.  It would be Johnston's job to hold back the Union invasion into to northern Georgia, that William T. Sherman would make the following spring - a task he was also not fit for.  The battle for Chattanooga would lose eastern Tennessee for the Confederacy for the remainder of the war.  This was devastating as it was the rail gateway to the southern interior.   

Close Window