On these dates of November 23-25 of 1863 were fought the series of actions collectively known as The Battles for Chattanooga.

Monday – November 23, 1863 – Orchard Knob

George Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland made a first attempt (under the high command of Grant) to hit Braxton Bragg’s Army of the Tennessee and break the siege of Chattanooga. Thomas’ men charged forward toward Orchard Knob – a Confederate high ground position about a mile in front of their primary position on Missionary Ridge. Grant’s chief of staff, John Rawlins wrote, “This was successful with few casualties. I never saw troops move into action in finer style than Thomas’s did today. They are entitled to the highest praise for their soldierly bearing and splendid bravery.”lookout mountain

Tuesday – November 24, 1863 – Battle of Lookout Mountain

Three divisions of about 10,000 men under Joe Hooker had crossed Lookout Creek in the morning and begun the assault up the difficult slopes of Lookout Mountain. His orders from Grant were of the “demonstration” variety – not specifying an assault necessarily. But Hooker – never known to acknowledge much in the way of subtlety – sent them forward aggressively. The battle was fought in much fog on the mountain, which added to the flashing of effecsu and ultimately the naming of this as the “Battle above the Clouds.” In fact, the fighting was not especially intense nor the casualties high, but the way was cleared for the great assault of the next day.

Wednesday – November 25, 1863 – Battle of Missionary Ridge

General Thomas was given a supporting role in the center while Hooker and Sherman were to accomplish a double envelopment. These flanks attacks were slow to develop, and mid afternoon Thomas’ men went forward aggressively. They did not stop at the rifle pits at the base, as being under a fire from the crest they continued forward. This was not due to specific command, but was rather done as a necessity by those upon the scene. It proved greatly successful – though it was the material of what appears a rather significant revisionist effort by Grant after the War … an effort ungenerous to Thomas.

Thomas rode up the hill later and wrote, “I fell among some of my old soldiers, who always took liberties with me—who commenced talking and giving their view of the victory. When I attempted to compliment them for the gallant manner in which they made the assault, one man (as gaunt as a trained runner) very coolly replied: ‘Why, General, we know that you have been training us for this race for the last three weeks.’”

The Cemetery

George Thomas conceived the idea of a veterans cemetery on the slopes of Orchard Knob. This was the source of the popular system of military cemeteries. When he was asked if the men should be buried there by groupings recognizing their state of origin, he said, “No, no, no. Mix them up. Mix them up. I’m tired of states’ rights.”

Here is a link to a very cool description of the area where the battle took place.

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed 3-4 hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and am the editor of a Baltimore/Maryland sports blog called "The Baltimore Wire." My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with a Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

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