Page images

defense to attack. The question was how to drive Bragg from his commanding positions on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. The woods and hills offered concealment to the attack in some places. But Lookout Mountain was a splendid observation post, twenty-two hundred feet high and crested with columns of rock. The Ridge was three miles east, the Mountain three miles south, of Cameron Hill, which stood just west of Chattanooga, commanding the bridge of boats that crossed the Tennessee.

The battle, fought with great determination on both sides, lasted three days - the twenty-third, twenty-fourth, and twenty-fifth of November. Sherman made the flank attack on Missionary Ridge from the north and Thomas the frontal attack from the west. Hooker attacked the western

flank of Lookout Mountain.

Thomas did the first day's fighting, which was all preliminary work, by advancing a good mile, taking the Confederate lines on the lower slopes of the Ridge, and changing their defensive features to face the Ridge instead of Chattanooga.

At two the next morning Giles Smith's brigade dropped down the Tennessee in boats and surprised the extreme north pickets placed by Bragg

at the mouth of the South Chickamauga to cover the right of the Ridge. By noon Sherman's men were over the Tennessee ready to coöperate with Thomas. Sherman had hidden his camp among the hills on the other side so well that his movements could not be observed, even from the commanding height of Lookout Mountain. The night surprise of Bragg's pickets and the drizzling rain of the morning prevented the Confederates from hearing or seeing anything of Sherman's attack in the early afternoon; so he found himself on the northern flank of Missionary Ridge before Bragg's main body knew what he was doing. When the Confederates did attack it was too late; and the twenty-fourth ended with Sherman entrenched against the flank on even higher ground than Thomas held against the center. Sherman's cavalry had meanwhile moved round the flank, on the lower level and much farther off, to cut Bragg's right rear connection with Chickamauga Station, whence the rails ran east to Cleveland, Knoxville, and Virginia. Hooker's work this second day was to feel the Confederate force on Lookout Mountain while keeping the touch with Thomas, who kept the touch with Sherman. Mists hid his earlier maneuvers. He closed in successfully, handled his men to

admiration, and gained more ground than either he or Grant had expected. Having succeeded so well he changed his demonstration into a regular attack, which became known as the "Battle above the Clouds." Step by step he fought his way up, over breastworks and rifle pits, felled trees and bowlders, through ravines and gullies, till the vanguard reached the giant palisades of rock which ramparted the top. The roar of battle was most distinctly heard four miles away, on Orchard Knob, where Grant and Thomas were anxiously waiting. But nothing could be seen until a sudden breeze blew the clouds aside just as the long blue lines charged home and the broken gray retreated. Then, from thirty thousand watching Federals, went up a cheer that even cannon could not silence.

At midnight Grant sent a word of encouragement to Burnside at Knoxville. He then wrote his orders for what he now hoped would be a completely victorious attack. The twenty-fifth of November broke beautifully clear, and the whole scene of action remained in full view all day long. Fearful of being cut off from their main body on Missionary Ridge the Confederates had left Lookout Mountain under cover of the dark. But by destroying the bridges across the Chattanooga River, which

ran through the valley between the Mountain and the Ridge, they delayed Hooker till late that afternoon, thus saving their left from an even worse disaster than the one that overtook their center and their right.

Sherman had desperate work against their right, as Bragg massed every available gun and man to meet him. This massing, however, was just what Grant wanted; for he now expected Hooker to appear on the other flank, which Bragg would either have to give up in despair or strengthen at the expense of the center, which Thomas was ready to charge. But with Hooker not appearing, and Sherman barely holding his own, Grant slipped Thomas from the leash. The two centers then met hand to hand. But there was no withstanding the Federal charge. Back went the Confederates, turning to bay at their second line of defense. Here again they were overborne by well-led superior numbers and soon put to flight. Sheridan, of whom we shall hear again in '64, took up the pursuit. Bragg lost all control of his men. Stores, guns, and even rifles were abandoned. Thousands of prisoners were taken; and most of the others were scattered in flight. The battle, the whole campaign, and even the war in the Tennessee sector, were won.

Vicksburg meant that the trans-Mississippi South would thenceforth wither like a severed branch. Chattanooga meant that the Union forces had at last laid the axe to the root of the tree.

« PreviousContinue »