How Thomas won the Battles of Chattanooga
Historian Andrew White claims ". . . . There is a peculiar American institution
that the correctness of belief is decided by the number of people who can be induced to believe it - that (historical) truth
is a matter of majorities (or polls)." Or, as historian, Martin van Creveld, claims ". . . . Much of what we are given to
believe is based on . . . "a sad testimonial to the readiness of many historians to copy each other's words without giving
the slightest thought to the evidence on which they are based" The cry of many authors regarding new thinking or reinterpretation
of historical persons or events is "Revisionism," as though their words, once spoken, like scripture, may never be changed.
Every other historical issue is debated as a matter of course, but influential
pressure groups have made certain parts of the Civil War an exception. Anyone should be encouraged to critically investigate
the battles and commanders of the Civil War in the same way they are encouraged to investigate any other historical event.
This is not a revolutionary point of view. The culture of critical review was developed millennia ago by Greek philosophers
like Socrates, and was renewed centuries ago during the Enlightenment.
Also, there must be made a differentiation between "Historian" and "author."
Too many newspapermen and others not possessing any historical credentials have ventured into the writing of history. Their
narratives, while making interesting reading many times are historically false. Their motives usually are financial.
As Winston Churchill wrote: - ‘History will be kind to me, for I
shall write it.'
Longstreet's role in the West from the time of his first agitations to
focus more resources to that theater through his return to the ANV in 1864 generally get small chapters or scattered paragraphs
in books covering this topic. The Knoxville campaign itself could be the subject
of a book length manuscript. (William Piston, while searching for a subject for his doctoral thesis, toyed with the idea of
writing such a book but abandoned the idea in part because he was advised not enough interest existed in the subject.)
Historians, on the horns of a dilemma, have called George H. Thomas
methodical, meticulous, deliberate, detailed, exact, purposive, and recalling Creveld above, - slow. Conversely, these
same "historians" take as a given that the Army of the Cumberland's charge at Missionary Ridge was "spontaneous," "impulsive"
"unintended," and "unplanned!" Most of these suppositions are based on Dana's original description of the charge as "divinely
inspired." Rather than tax their energy tracking down the truth or properly analyzing the situation, they rely on "majorities"
to defend their confiscation of the term. In addition, when Dana claims the Lord's intervention aided the charge, it's accepted
as gospel. However, when Dana later alludes to Grant's "illness" (drunkenness) on the trip to Satartia, they revile him as
a liar or unreliable." Yet they never attempt to reconcile this predicament, depending instead on the readers to sustain credibility,
by their lack of curiosity or knowledge.
Thomas (remember, he was thorough) formed the strategy in meetings with
with his subordinates, twice (T. J. Woods recollection). In turn, they passed it onto their junior officers and lastly to
the enlisted men. Despite Grants fluctuating sequences of orders, Thomas's use of what was left of the Army of the Cumberland,
in the looming conflict were coordinated. Thomas, always conscious of his men's lives and never eager to charge entrenched
positions, did the best with what he had, and did it thoroughly
Obviously, Thomas prepared his men for the final charge up Missionary Ridge
to Sherman's right as directed by Grant. This was his appointed task in all but Grant's last plan. The same evidence also
shows that Thomas' conceived the tactics and strategy finally used at Chattanooga. Thomas wanted his flanks cleared and protected
and Bragg's flanks attacked. Grant only wanted Sherman to become a successful commander and initially ignored Thomas's suggestions
to use Hooker to attack Bragg's lef t. Thomas accomplished one of these details on the 23rd when ordered by Grant to make
a "demonstration" to see if Bragg were retreating (the order was predicated on the word of two Confederate deserters). General
Thomas turned the ordered demonstration into a charge to take back lightly held Orchard Hill, a couple miles east of Chattanooga.
By this move Thomas positioned his remaining forces two miles closer to Missionary Ridge, secured his left flank by connecting
to Sherman's right, which he was to connect with when Sherman got into position and attacked. In addition, Thomas with Grant's
permission, ordered Hooker to deploy from Lookout Mountain, move through Rossville and up Bragg's left flank. Grant did not
care, he was determined to make a General of Sherman.
Missionary Ridge rises 500 to 700 feet before Chattanooga with an incline
in places around 45degrees. Thomas had four Divisions (about 18,000 troops) deployed in a 3-mile wide line. They charged Confederate
rifle pits at the foot of the mountain chasing the few Rebels whose orders were to shoot once and then move up the hill. Instead
of the traditional close-order charge in Line of Battle, because of the terrain, each regiment rushed up forming a loose triangular
wedge with the regimental flag at its peak. The men scaled the ridge, dodging from one piece of cover to the next, timing
their advance over exposed ground to the firing pace of the Rebel defenders. At the same time Hooker was running Stewart's
division off the ridge. At the crest, they broke through a line of Confederate artillery, turning the Rebel cannon on the
retreating defenders. Bragg and the Army of Tennessee fled into Georgia.
On September 23, Grant ordered Thomas to stage a demonstration to discover
if Bragg were retreating, Thomas changed that simple order of "demonstration" to a massive charge by Woods and Sheridan's
Divisions supported by Howard, and took Orchard Hill. Once there, Wood signaled back for further order's. Thomas ordered Wood
to hold his position and he would reinforce them. This cleared Thomas's left flank, enabling quick communications with Sherman
(he no longer had to cross the Tennessee twice to connect) and allowing connection with him as he swept southward down the
ridge sweeping Bragg's forces in front of them, as Grant had ordered. Additionally it placed his troops a mile closer
to Missionary Ridge. Then, Thomas sought permission from Grant to allow Hooker to use one of Sherman's divisions (Osterhaus'
who took over from Charles R. Woods). Osterhaus could not cross the river because of damage to Sherman's original bridge.
He negotiated a switch with Grant sending another (Howard's) division of the Army of the Cumberland to Sherman letting Hooker
use Sherman's orphaned troops. Thomas was standing with Grant to see if Hooker had successfully turned Bragg's left flank.
When Grant finally issued the last of several battle changes, Hooker had not yet signaled any success. Grant ordered the Army
of the Cumberland to charge and take the rifle pits at the base of Missionary. When he saw the Cumberlanders going to the
top, eclipsing Sherman's star, he angrily demanded who ordered those men to advance beyond the rifle pits. General Hooker
later claimed Grant stated "Damn the battle. I had no part in it!" Fuller claimed Grant also stated that "it had better turn
out all right or someone would suffer."
Grant's First Plan (November 14th, 1864):
Grants plan to attack Bragg on Missionary Ridge is first disclosed in a
telegraph, dated November 14, 1863, to Burnside:
". . . . Thomas will attack on his left at the same time, and together
(with Sherman) it is expected to carry Missionary Ridge, and from there push a force onto the railroad between Cleveland and
Dalton. Hooker will at the same time attack, and, if he can, carry Lookout Mountain . . . "
Here, Hooker has no role in the main fight. This leaves Bragg's left unhindered
to either counter attack or enfilade Thomas's right. Of course, Thomas immediately recognizes this flaw.
Grant's Second Plan (November 18th, 1864)
On the 18th, in an order to Thomas he reveals further details:
"Maj. Gen. GEORGE H. THOMAS:
All preparations should be made for attacking the enemy's position on Missionary
Ridge by Saturday at daylight. Not being provided with a map giving names of roads, spurs of the mountains, and other places,
such definite instructions cannot be given as might be desirable. However, the general plan, you understand, is for Sherman,
with the force brought with him, strengthened by a division from your command, to effect a crossing of the Tennessee River
just below the mouth of Chickamauga, his crossing to be protected by artillery from the heights on the north bank of the river
(to be located by your chief of artillery); and to secure the heights from the northern extremity to about the railroad tunnel
before the enemy can concentrate against him. You will co-operate with Sherman. The troops in Chattanooga Valley should be
well concentrated on your left flank, leaving only the necessary force to defend fortifications on the right and center, and
a movable column of one division in readiness to move whenever ordered. This division should show itself as threateningly
as possible on the most practicable line for making an attack up the valley. Your effort then will be to form a junction with
Sherman, making your advance well toward the northern end of Missionary Ridge, and moving as near simultaneously with him
as possible. The juncture once formed, and the ridge carried, communications will be at once established between the two armies
by roads on the south bank of the river. Farther movements will then depend on those of the enemy.
Lookout Valley, I think, will be easily held by Geary's division and what
troops you may still have there belonging to the old Army of the Cumberland. Howard's corps can then be held in readiness
to act either with you at Chattanooga or with Sherman. It should be marched on Friday night to a position on the north side
of the river, not lower down than the first pontoon bridge, and there held in readiness for such orders as may become necessary.
All these troops are to be provided with two days' cooked rations in haversacks and 100 rounds of ammunition on the person
of each infantry soldier. Special care should be taken by all officers to see that ammunition is not wasted or unnecessarily
fired away. You will call on the engineer department for such preparations, as you may deem necessary for carrying your infantry
and artillery over the creek." (No mention of Hookers role except for Geary holding Lookout Valley)
On November 20, 1863, C. H Dana (Stanton's spy and Grant's friend) reports
"The attacking force from within Thomas' lines is to consist of the three
divisions of Wood, Sheridan, and Baird. The first two moves directly across Citico Creek to join Sherman, if possible, while
Baird makes a feint against the enemy's center, and covers the right flank of the moving column. That flank is also covered
by the fire of twelve 20 and 30 pounder rifled guns in the forts on our left and center. Howard's corps is ordered to march
immediately into Chattanooga, that he may be seen by the enemy and lead the latter to believe all the troops moving through
Lookout Valley are coming here." Dana perceptively points out that ". . . . Whether Howard's forces are needed to support
Sherman's or Granger's column in the battle to-morrow, it appears that they can reach their destination more promptly by moving
on this side of the river rather than on the north side" (Here is the first mention of clearing rebels from the south side
of the Tennessee and Thomas's left flank to allow better maneuverability). Dana's insight was in all likelihood gathered by
his attendance at discussions where Thomas argued with Grant to clear his flanks. To move artillery, Granger borrows horses
from Sherman, (the Army of the Cumberland's horses were disabled by lack of forage and food).
Dana also noted Sherman's poor judgment marching from Memphis and placing
his trains with the Infantry, slowing the march and creating problems maneuvering on north Missionary, and creating additional
"The continued movement of Sherman, Thomas, and Howard, which should have
been executed Saturday morning, November 20, is still paralyzed by the fact that Woods' (Brigadier General Charles R. Woods
division, now led by Osterhous), of Fifteenth Corps, (Army of Tennessee), is still behind and, its advance having scarcely
reached the mouth of Lookout Valley, while its rear guard is still far back on the road to Bridgeport. A lamentable blunder
has been committed in moving Sherman's forces from Bridgeport, with the enormous trains they brought from West Tennessee following
in usual order in rear of each division, instead of moving all the troops and artillery first. Grant says the blunder is his;
that he should have given Sherman explicit orders to leave his wagons behind; but I know that no one was so much astonished
as Grant on learning they had not been left, even without such orders. It is yet doubtful whether the movement can be executed
by to-morrow morning, and though Sherman's troops have been carefully concealed in the valleys on the northern shore of the
Tennessee, it is impossible that the enemy, who has seen them march through Lookout Valley, should not have discovered where
they have been placed. Meanwhile the evidence that Bragg is retreating from Chattanooga to a line covering the communications
of Longstreet accumulates . . .
. . . . Last night two deserters came in at midnight reporting that Bragg's
artillery had been sent off; that the trains were all ordered in from up Chattanooga Valley: that the troops were moving off,
and that by this evening only a picket line would be left here in our front. Grant has ordered reconnaissance to ascertain
truth of these reports . . . ." Thomas, in his report to Halleck dated, December 31, 1863, stated that his orders sometime
after the 15th and before the 21st were :
"Major-General Sherman, commanding Army of the Tennessee, having been ordered
with the Fifteenth Corps to this point to participate in the operations against the enemy, reached Bridgeport with two divisions
on the 15th. He came to the front himself, and having examined the ground, expressed himself confident of his ability to execute
his share of the work. The plan of operations was then written out substantially as follows: Sherman, with the Fifteenth Corps,
strengthened with one division from my command, was to effect a crossing of the Tennessee River just below the mouth of the
South Chickamauga, on Saturday, November 21, at daylight: his crossing to be protected by artillery planted on the heights
on the north bank of the river. After crossing his force, he was to carry the heights of Missionary Ridge from their northern
extremity to about the railroad tunnel before the enemy could concentrate a force against him. I was to co-operate with Sherman
by concentrating my troops in Chattanooga Valley, on my left flank, leaving only the necessary force to defend the fortifications
on the right and center, with a movable column of one division in readiness to move wherever ordered. This division was to
show itself as threateningly as possible on the most practicable line for making an attack up the valley. I was then to effect
a junction with Sherman, making my advance from the left, well toward the north end of Mission Ridge, and moving as near simultaneously
with Sherman as possible. The junction once formed and the Ridge carried, communications would be at once established between
the two armies by roads running on the south bank of the river. Further movements to depend on those of the enemy. Lookout
Valley was to be held by Geary's division of the Twelfth Corps, and the two brigades of the Fourth Corps ordered to co-operate
with him; the whole under command of Major-General Hooker. Howard's corps was to be held in readiness to act either with my
troops at Chattanooga or with General Sherman's, and was ordered to take up a position on Friday night on the north side of
the Tennessee near the first pontoon bridge, and there held in readiness for such orders as might become necessary. General
Smith commenced at once to collect his pontoons and materials for bridges in the North Chickamauga Creek, preparatory to the
crossing of Sherman's troops, proper precautions being taken that the enemy should not discover the movement. General Sherman
then returned to Bridgeport to direct the movements of his troops."
Now, on the 23rd of November, 1864, Grant orders Thomas to make a demonstration
on his front (to determine if Bragg is pulling back as reported by two Rebel deserters) and Thomas takes Orchard Knob, securing
his important left flank.
Why take Orchard Knob?
Grant ordered Thomas to make a demonstration to ascertain the accuracy
of two prisoners, captured recently claiming that Bragg was retreating. To advance his own plans, Thomas leapt at this opportunity,
which advanced his forces a mile closer to Missionary Ridge and cleared his left flank. He could now connect with Sherman's
right, without having to cross the Tennessee twice. Ordered to take Orchard Knob, about one mile from Chattanooga, the advance
was made shortly after noon, and along the way, eliminated Breckenridge's Confederate breast works and rifle pits laid out
along the western base, on Thomas's front, knob and the ridge to it's south. Prior to his clearing Orchard Knob, any move
to connect with Sherman (as directed by Grant) by moving up the Chattanooga bank of the Tennessee opened Thomas's right flank
to attack by Bragg. If he tried to connect on the North Bank, he would have to cross the river twice. More important, the
move cleared the left or Chattanooga side of the Tennessee River, providing free use of the area up to Sherman's position.
This made obedience to Grant's original order to hook up and support Sherman's right, easily within reach.
Hooker, by clearing the Union right flank at Lookout Mountain, made movement
up and down the Chattanooga side of the Tennessee River trouble-free. Thomas's strategies of clearing his flanks had been
proposed to Grant, but were continuously rebuffed. Thomas, seeing the problems, in one bold move eliminated two of them.
Another problem was also eliminated. Between the Union position and Orchard
Knob was a stand of timber, ½ to ¾'s of a mile in width, masking rebel movements. In addition, the ground between the timber
and the Union position was low and swampy in spots, making troop movement difficult, this put him in a better position to
remove potential threats to his future advance. It also reduced the distance his troops had to move to get to Missionary
Taking Orchard Knob and removing Breckenridge's outposts accomplished half
of Thomas's plan. This was the first offensive move in the campaign and Grant had to call on the Cumberlanders to do it. Francis
McKinney states ". . . . That from this point on . . . Thomas saturated the Battles for Chattanooga with his military talent."
This move forced the Confederates to withdraw troops from their left or
Lookout, to strengthen their center facing Thomas's front, leaving Hooker a lesser force to contend with. Thomas argued to
Grant that Hooker must be released to attack the Rebel flank and take advantage of this opportunity. Thomas argued that for
him to make a frontal attack on what was thought to be a Confederate citadel, he must engage their flanks. Sherman had done
nothing. But, it was believed that he had diverted a substantial number of Confederates to his front (which was untrue, Cleburne
had fended off Sherman's six divisions with a division and two brigades). Grant finally agreed, conditionally. Grant's original
plan was for Sherman to make the attack with Thomas and Hooker providing a diversion. Grant grudgingly agreed to Thomas's
recommendation to let Hooker use a division (Osterhaus's) of Sherman's located at Brown's Ferry and unable to move up, if,
Sherman could not move in time. Sherman couldn't move, but Fighting Joe Hooker did.
Dana further reports to Stanton that:
" Sherman wrote Grant this morning (November 23, 1863, 3:30PM) expressing
his sorrow and mortification at the failure of his forces to get up. It seems that Blair reported his whole command at Stevenson
before they had really arrived, which led Sherman to make erroneous calculations. But the fault of marching with trains Sherman
attributes to himself, Grant's orders that he should get all his troops here before Friday night having been positive, and
it was his own duty to see that nothing hindered his arrival."
Sherman's whimpering reply is typical. He blames the failure on Blair rather
than accepting the fault himself.
At 4:00AM Hooker notified Thomas he was ready to move. At 8:00AM, Geary's
troops were fording the Lookout Creek. Around 2:00PM Hooker rounded the point at Lookout Mountain and stopped. He notified
Thomas he was out of ammunition. Thomas promptly had Carlin's Brigade (14th Corps) take ammunition to him. At 4:00PM Hooker
notified Thomas it was too dark to advance further. At 5:15PM Carlin reported to Hooker with the ammunition. At sunrise next
day, Hooker planted Old Glory on Lookout Mountain's highest peak for all to see. Bragg, in the meantime abandoned Lookout
Mountain and the Lookout valley to use troops to strengthen his left on Missionary Ridge. Hooker headed next to Rossville
to attack Bragg's left flank. Thomas's strategy continued relentlesly.
With Thomas's orders to Hooker, both flanks of Grant's armies were now
engaged and both of Bragg's flanks were now at risk. Thomas could move from flank to flank without crossing the river supporting
either Sherman's right or Hooker's left. Most important was that he knew Sherman was at least tying up some of Bragg's troops
on his left flank. Hooker, still to be heard from could be counted on the tie up the left flank. Until he heard from Hooker,
Thomas did not want to move.
Soon, after noon, Grant's order to Thomas starts confusing the issue.
NOVEMBER 24, 1863--12.40 p.m.
"Maj. Gen. GEORGE H. THOMAS:
General Howard reports enemy moving on Schurz' front. Hold reserves of
Granger, or a portion of his force, if there are no reserves to spare, to be in readiness to move to Howard's assistance,
if he is attacked.
At 1:00PM, Grant further orders Thomas:
"CHATTANOOGA, November 24, 1863--1 p.m.
Maj. Gen. GEORGE H. THOMAS, Chattanooga:
Sherman's bridge was completed at 12 m., at which time all his force was
over, except one division (Osterhaus's). That division was to cross immediately when his attack would commence. Your forces
should attack at the same time, and either detain a force equal to their own or move to the left to the support of Sherman,
if he should require it.
Grant's Third Plan (November 24th, 1864)
Then, later on November 24th, 1863 Grant gives Thomas new orders:
"HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, Chattanooga, Tenn., November
Maj. Gen. GEORGE H. THOMAS, Commanding Army of the Cumberland:
GENERAL: General Sherman carried Missionary Ridge as far as the tunnel,
with only slight skirmishing. His right now rests at the tunnel and on top of the hill; his left at Chickamauga Creek. (Grant
is in error here, Sherman was one ridge short of the tunnel. Either Sherman reported incorrectly or Grant misunderstood.)
I have instructed General Sherman to advance as soon as it is light in
the morning, and your attack, which will be simultaneous, will be in co-operation.
Your command will either carry the rifle-pits and ridge directly in front
of them or move to the left, as the presence of the enemy may require. If Hooker's present position on the mountain can be
maintained with a small force, and it is found impracticable to carry the top from where he is, it would be advisable for
him to move up the valley with all the force he can spare and ascend by the first practicable road.
In a dispatch to Halleck dated: November 25, 1863--12 p.m., Thomas said:
"It will be perceived from the above report that the original plan of operations
was somewhat modified to meet and take the best advantage of emergencies, which necessitated material modifications of that
plan. It is believed, however, that the original plan, had it been carried out, could not possibly have led to more successful
Within one day, Grant has given Thomas three dissimilar orders and the
last tells him one of his options is to carry the rifle pits and ridge directly in front of them. Thomas gets these orders
to his Corps commanders and the next day (November 25th, 1864), they are prepared to take the ridge in conjunction with Sherman's
move. This is important to remember, on the 24th, the day before the real attack, Grant ordered Thomas to carry the rifle
pits and ridge in front of them. In fact, all except the last, of Thomas's orders from Grant, emphasize he connect with Sherman
and carry the ridge. Not until half an hour before the assault on the 25th, did Grant verbally, modify the order to stop at
the rifle pits and await further orders.
Grant's 4th Plan (November 25th, 1864)
Grant's last plan was created when he found out Sherman had not taken
Tunnel Hill. Sherman was to attack as originally planned and Hooker was to turn Bragg's left (as Thomas had been requesting).
As soon as this was accomplished Thomas was to hit Bragg's center. Thomas, with Grant on Orchard Knob could not move without
Grant's orders. It appears that Sherman never got these orders, hence the strange telegraph to Grant on the 25th "Where is
Thomas?" Thomas's reply, "I am here," not specifying that he was at Grant's side waiting for Sherman to follow through with
his ordered move.
Had Sherman used any of the genius historians credit him, the plans might
have worked. But, because of Sherman's poorly directed assaults, unimaginative tactics and poor almost non existent reconnaissance,
Grant keeps changing the plans. His last change in plans to Thomas (November 25th, 1863, 3:00PM), was verbal and ordered an
attack to take and hold the rifle pits and await further orders. The attack to begin at 3:30PM. It was Grants agitated reaction
to Sherman's bungling that caused the confusion. Grants future description of the battle, going exactly as planned, is a misrepresentation.
The confusion is that the orders to take the rifle pits at the base of the mountain were issued verbally at 3:00PM, the attack
to begin at 3:30PM. Only Wood, of the four division commanders, appears to have been present at the change. So aides were
sent to Sheridan, Johnston and Baird with the change. Obviously, Johnston never got the new orders and Sheridan got a distorted
version. Baird, sent to aide Sherman, got the new orders just as he arrived on the front, having been returned to Thomas by
Sherman as not needed.
Dana further reports that:
"The rebels having sent the great mass of their troops (incorrect) to crush
Sherman, Grant gave orders at 2 p.m. for an assault upon their lines in front of Thomas, but owing to the fault of Granger,
who devoted himself to firing a battery instead of commanding his corps, Grant's order was not transmitted to the division
commanders until he repeated it an hour later. Accordingly it was not executed until after 4 p.m., . . . .
Montgomery Meigs reported:
". . . . Some regiments pressed on and began to swarm up the steep sides
of the ridge. Here and there a color was advanced beyond the line. The attempt . . . . (to charge Missionary). . . . appeared
most dangerous; but the advance was supported, and the whole line ordered to storm the heights, upon which not less than forty
pieces of artillery, and no one knew how many muskets, stood ready to slaughter the assailants."
The report of Surgeon Alonzo J. Phelps, Medical Director noted:
"On Wednesday, the 25th November, General Sherman, on our left attacked
the enemy, and fought until past midday. At about half past 3 o'clock in the afternoon the divisions of Wood and Sheridan,
of this corps, were ordered to assault the rifle-pits of the enemy at the base of the ridge, which was distant about three-fourths
of a mile. They moved forward steadily, carried the rifle-pits, and halted not until they had stormed and taken possession
of the heights beyond. Here, in less than an hour, these two divisions lost over 2,100 men in killed and wounded."
" . . . . During the week commencing on the 15th and ending on the 22d
of November, the subordinate commanders of the Army of the Cumberland were summoned twice to department headquarters to have
the plan of operations explained to them and to receive their instructions. . . . " If you remember, Grant on the 18th ordered
Thomas that " . . . . Your effort then will be to form a junction with Sherman, making your advance well toward the northern
end of Missionary Ridge, and moving as near simultaneously with him as possible. The juncture once formed, and the ridge carried,
. . . . "
Granger stating in the O. R.'s said "It was designed that after having
effected a juncture with these troops I should change the direction of my column, and move along the northwestern side and
base of Mission Ridge, taking the enemy in front and flank." Wood was to: "form a junction with the right flank of General
Sherman's force, swing to the right and sweep along the lower slope and the base of Mission Ridge."
So, while Granger was sweeping the slope and base of the ridge, Sherman
was to be on his left (i.e., on the crest of the ridge).
Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood, 3rd Division, 4th Corps, (Granger) in
his report states:
"SIR: As early as the 15th day of November, ultimo, it was generally
known among the higher commanders of the troops assembled in Chattanooga that a movement was in contemplation to cause the
investment, which had then continued nearly sixty days, to be raised. . . . "
When Wood received orders from Granger to prepare to move on the ridge
". . . . Immediately on receipt of this order, I summoned my brigade commanders
to my headquarters, to give them full and minute explanations in regard to the manner in which I intended to execute the instructions
I had received. I desired also to explain in person the part the command of each was to perform in the operations. The disposition
of the division, as was then explained to the brigade commanders, and as was subsequently most successfully carried out, .
. . ."
Then, at 3:00PM on the 25th, Wood received new orders that:
". . . To lessen the opposition General Sherman was encountering, it was
determined that a movement should be made against the rebel center. I was ordered (at Grant's direction) to advance and carry
the enemy's intrenchments at the base of Mission Ridge and hold them . . . .
. . . .When the first line of intrenchments was carried, the goal for which
we had started was won. Our orders carried us no farther. We had been instructed to carry the line of intrenchments at the
base of the ridge and there halt. But the enthusiasm and impetuosity of the troops were such that those who first reached
the intrenchments at the base of the ridge bounded over them, and pressed on up the ascent after the flying enemy. Moreover,
the intrenchments were no protection against the enemy's artillery on the ridge. To remain would be destruction--to return
would be both expensive in life and disgraceful. Officers and men all seemed impressed with this truth. In addition, the example
of those who commenced to ascend the ridge so soon as the intrenchment were carried was contagious."
Sheridan, 2nd Division, 4th Corps, (Granger) claimed confusion as to the
direction of the orders.
"While riding from right to left, and closely examining the first line
of pits occupied by the enemy, which seemed as though they would prove untenable after being carried, the doubt arose in my
mind as to whether I had properly understood the original order, and I dispatched Captain Ransom, of my staff, to ascertain
from General Granger whether it was the first line that was to be carried or the ridge."
General George D. Wagner, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 4th Corps, (Granger)
"About 2 p.m. on the 25th, I was informed by General Sheridan that we were
to carry the enemy's works at the foot of the ridge, and possibly storm the heights, and was directed to make dispositions
accordingly. . .(Later) I was informed by a staff officer that it was General Granger's order not to go beyond the works at
the foot of the ridge. Part of my command, however, was already beyond that point, but I directed it to return to the works,
and sent an officer to General Sheridan asking permission to carry the heights, as I saw we must do that or we could not remain
in the works, the enemy having complete control of them with his artillery. However, before hearing from him, I ordered the
command to storm the ridge, . . . . "
General Hazen 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 4th Corps, (Granger) understood
". . . . At about 3 p.m. this day I received orders to move forward with
the remainder of the division and take possession of the enemy's works at the foot of Mission Ridge, taking cover behind them,
and there to await further orders."
Brigadier General Sam Beatty 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 4th Corps, (Granger)
reacted to circumstances:
The advance of my brigade was the Seventy-ninth Indiana, Col. Fred. Knefler,
and the Eighty-sixth Indiana, Col. George F. Dick. These regiments advanced with spirit and drove the enemy from his rifle-pits
and works at the foot of the ridge.
The fire of the enemy was so hot here, and enfiladed us so completely,
that Colonel Knefler, commanding the two regiments, was not ordered to halt, and pushed on up the hill."
Colonel Emerson Opdyke, the hero of Chickamauga and Franklin, 125th Ohio,
3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 4th Corps, (Granger) during the battle commanded a ‘Demi-Brigade' reported:
" . . . The troops to our left were soon running and yelling, and to obey
the order to maintain my position on the prolongation of their right, my command also passed from the quick step to the run.
This soon brought us three-eighths of a mile, and to the rifle-pits at the foot of the ridge, but the men were quite out of
breath, and I regretted to see the troops to my left move on up the ridge before they had time to rest a few minutes. But
they passed the rifle-pits, following the retreating enemy under a terrific fire of canister and musketry until nearly half
way up, when the line halted. The men lay down, and most of them found considerable protection behind stumps, fallen trees,
&c. Soon the brigade to my left fell back to the rifle-pits. Those of my men who had not protection also took shelter
in the rifle-pits, and those who had protection remained where they were and maintained a deliberate and effective fire upon
the enemy. A few minutes of needed rest was now given, the tremendous fire of the enemy meanwhile doing but little harm, and
left us to contemplate the unparalleled grandeur and sublimity of the scene. The second and third lines came up to the pits
and took shelter in them. "Forward" soon passed along the lines; then the whole moved up slowly in the face of an indescribable
fire of all arms, and forced the enemy either to flee in disorder or surrender at their guns."
In the "Army of the Cumberland," an official history (using Thomas's private
papers) of Thomas's command, Van Horne asserts that Grant:-
". . . . in his official report stated that it was his (Grant's) design
that the lines should be readjusted at the base for the assault of the summit; but no such instructions were given to corps
or division generals." Nor was it discussed when Grant made the changes on Orchard Hill after Sherman was thwarted at Tunnel
Hill. Neither Fullerton or Wood mention it.
Later, in reply to Grant's assertions in his Memoir's, that he intended
that the charge to the ridge was to be made, instead of stopping at the rifle pits at the bottom General Thomas J. Wood asserted:
"This statement of General Grant is absolutely refuted by the anger displayed
by him (which display was witnessed by many living men, and has been publicly attested by several responsible witnesses) when
he saw my division commence the assault of Missionary Ridge, accompanied by the breathing out of threatenings and slaughter,
against myself especially if the assault failed. General Grant's statement in his memoirs on this point is further refuted
by the fact that, from the division commanders down to the humblest private in the two divisions most conspicuous in the assault,
no man has ever yet been found who does not say the orders received peremptorily ordered him to halt at the base of the Ridge.
If General Grant intended the assault of the crest of the Ridge to follow immediately on the heels of the initial success,
with simply a halt for re-formation and without further orders, he certainly kept that intention severely to himself."
While Grant's fourth change of orders specified a charge to the base and
no command to scale the Ridge, it must be assumed that an officer as meticulous as Thomas, explored with his subordinates,
all options to carry the ridge in conjunction with Sherman. So, they were prepared for most any contingency. They certainly
knew that to move to the base was only a halfway measure ordered to create a diversion and enabling Sherman to move. Any military
man, worth his salt, did not deal in halfway measures. Thomas never did. In addition, Grant's partiality to Sherman and antipathy
to Thomas was well known. If we parse the words Thomas uses in reply to Grant's query as to "who ordered the troops to assault"
he can truthfully say "I (he personally) did not." But, he sure had them ready for that contingency.
Brigadier General Richard W. Johnston 1st Division, 14th Corps, (Palmer)
was not confused, and gives no indication that his goal was anything other than the top of Missionary Ridge. :
"About 3.45 p.m. the advance was sounded on my left, which was promptly
conforming to by my command, and it moved forward steadily across the valley and toward the base of Missionary Ridge. My skirmishers
soon became engaged with the enemy, who were sheltered by their rifle-pits, but without faltering, and under a galling fire
of musketry and artillery, they moved forward, driving the enemy from his first line of intrenchment. Notwithstanding the
steepness of the mountain, the division moved steadily forward, driving the rebels from their works, and soon the summit was
reached, and the colors planted upon the enemy's boasted stronghold."
Brigadier General August Wallace, 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 14th Corps,
(Palmer) reports that:
". . . . I understand since that the order was given to take only the rifle-pits
at the foot of the ridge; by what accident, I am unable to say, I did not understand it so; I only understood the order to
advance (to the top)."
Brigadier William P. Carlin, 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 14th Corps, (Palmer)
recently returned from supplying Hooker with ammunition reported:
". . . I received instructions from General Richard W. Johnson to prepare
to advance against the enemy on Mission Ridge. Forming in two lines, on the right of the Second Brigade, my second line en
echelon to the right, I advanced with the advance of the Second Brigade. The brush and streams in the wooded valley caused
some disorder in the ranks, but the line continued gallantly forward. On reaching the open ground in front of the line of
rifle-pits at the base of the ridge, the enemy opened on us with artillery, which, however, seemed only to stimulate our gallant
soldiers and to give them the first intimation of what they were expected to do. The advance was continued without interruption
till we reached the base of the ridge, when the firing from the infantry, as well as artillery, posted on the ridge, became
very animated. After a short pause the whole line charged for the summit of the ridge. But the fire of the enemy was too heavy;
our line halted, and a portion of it retired to the base of the ridge, where a steady fire was kept up against the enemy.
In front of the left of my brigade was a rifle-pit about half way up the
ridge, which was occupied by the enemy. After a few volleys they were driven from it and it was occupied by the Forty-second
Indiana, One hundred and fourth Illinois, and Eighty-eighth Indiana. The steady valor of these regiments finally drove the
enemy from the ridge, when my whole line advanced to the summit."
Carlin's report indicates that he received instructions from his Division
Commander, General Johnson. The report states that the only reason for their return to the base was because confederate fire
from the summit was "animated." Otherwise, the movement was up to the summit, not to the base to wait for further orders.
So, Johnson apparently did not receive even a verbal order of Grant's latest change of plan and could not communicate the
changes to his subordinates. Thus Johnson proceeded with the plan he had been briefed on originally by his commander
Brigadier Absalom Baird 3rd Division, 14th (Palmer) Corps, reported he
was verbally ordered to:
" . . . . prolong the line formed by General Granger's corps toward the
left, and partially fill up the long interval between him and General Sherman. It was then about noon, . . .
When established, my right joined the left of General S. Beatty's brigade,
of Wood's division, (4th Corps) at a point not far to the north of Orchard Knob, my left extending well off toward the tunnel.
My brigades were posted in their order from right to left, General Turchin on the right, Colonel Van Derveer in the center,
and Colonel Phelps on the left, and the division was in two lines, the first deployed, with a heavy skirmish line in front
and on the left, which was otherwise uncovered. The interval between my left and General Sherman was perhaps 2 miles in extent,
communication being open between us by passing round to the rear, . . . I had just completed the establishment of my line,
and was upon the left of it, when a staff officer from Major-General Thomas brought me verbal orders to move forward to the
edge of the open ground which bordered the foot of Mission Ridge within striking distance of the rebel rifle-pits at its base,
so as to be ready at a signal, which would be the firing of six guns from Orchard Knob, to dash forward and take those pits.
He added, this was intended as preparatory to a general assault on the mountain, and that it was doubtless designed
by the major-general commanding that I should take part in this movement, so that I would be following his wishes were I to
push on to the summit. I gave the necessary orders to the Third Brigade, and, passing on to the right, was in the act of communicating
them to Colonel Van Derveer, of the Second, when firing from Orchard Knob began. . . . . I at once directed General Turchin
to push to the front, and without halting to take the rifle-pits;. then conforming his movements to those of the troops on
his right, to endeavor to gain the summit of the mountain along with them. . . ."
Brigadier General John B. Turchin, 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 14th Corps
(Palmer) in his O. R. reports:
"On the 25th, the division was ordered to the left, and at 1:00 p.m. took
position on the left of the Fourth Army Corps, my brigade being on the left of Beatty's brigade, Wood's division. As was afterward
ascertained, the order was that, at the signal of six guns fired in succession, the whole line of the center, including our
division, would advance and storm the enemy's position on Mission Ridge,. . . ."
Major James A. Connolly (an officer in Baird's division) states:
" . . . . we halted and formed line of battle in that strip of woodland,
facing Mission Ridge. This, I confess, staggered me; I couldn't understand it; it looked as though we were going to assault
the Ridge, and try to carry it by storm, lined and ribbed as it was with rifle pits, and its topmost verge crowded with rebel
lines, and at least 40 cannon in our immediate front frowning down on us; we never could live a moment in the open spaces
of 600 yards between the strip of woods in which we were formed, and the line of rifle pits at the base of the mountain, exposed
as we would be to the fire of the 40 cannon massed, and from five to eight hundred feet immediately above us, also to the
infantry fire from the rifle pits.
I rode down along the line of our Division, and there I found Woods Division
formed on our right and facing the Ridge just as we were; I rode on and came to Sheridan's Division formed on Woods right
and facing the same. Here was a line of veteran troops nearly two miles long, all facing Mission Ridge, and out of sight of
the enemy. The purpose at once became plain to me, and I hurried back to my own Division, and on asking Gen. [Baird] he replied:
"When 6 guns are fired in quick succession from Fort Wood, the line advances to storm the heights and carry the Ridge if possible.
Take that order to Col. [Edward H. Phelps]" (commanding the third brigade of our Division) "and tell him to move forward rapidly
when be bears the signal."
A few moments elapse, it is about half past three o'clock P. M., when suddenly,
6 guns are rapidly fired from Fort Wood. "Forward!" rings out along that long line of men, and forward they go, through the
strip of woods, we reach the open space, say 600 yards, between the edge of the woods and the rifle pits at the foot of the
Ridge. "Charge!" is shouted wildly from hundreds of throats, and with a yell such as that valley never heard before, the three
Divisions (60 regiments) rushed forward; the rebels are silent a moment, but then the batteries on top of the Ridge, open
all at once, and the very heavens above us seemed to be rent asunder; shells go screaming over our heads, bursting above and
behind us, but they hurt nobody and the men don't notice them; . . .and (I) catch up with our madcaps at the first rifle
pits, over these we go to the second line of pits, over these we go, some of the rebels lying down to be run over, others
scrambling up the hill which is becoming too steep for horses, and the General and staff are forced to abandon the direct
ascent at about the second line of rifle pits; the long line of men reach the steepest part of the mountain, and they must
crawl up the best way they can 150 feet more before they reach the summit, and when they do reach it, can they hold it? The
rebels are there in thousands, behind breastworks, ready to hurl our brave boys back as they reach their works."
Colonel Marshall F. Moore, 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 14th Corps (Palmer)
"The command was now given to charge, and our line moved off at double-quick,
with loud cheers, the sound of which was mingled with the roar of artillery and exploding shells. Our skirmishers had now
become engaged with the enemy, who were occupying a line of rifle-pits at the base of the ridge. Upon these our main line
charged and speedily drove them out. Here a large number of prisoners were taken. At these rifle-pits our men halted for a
few moments to take breath. At the command forward they moved on up the hill promptly, in the face of a heavy fire of musketry
and a galling fire of grape, canister, and shell from the batteries to our left, which still kept up an oblique fire across
the slope of the hill. Just above the rifle-pits I was struck down by a piece of shell, but soon recovering, I found our line
slowly advancing in the face of a very destructive fire from the rifle-pits on the crest of the ridge. Under this fire our
line, though checked, did not waver. Led by gallant officers, our men continued to advance, and when within a few rods of
the summit, raised another shout and rushed forward, driving the enemy from his last stronghold in splendid style."
General James D. Morgan, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 14th Corps, (Palmer)
in his report said:
". . . The Tenth Illinois, Colonel Tillson commanding, was then ordered
forward to relieve the Twenty-first Kentucky. This fine regiment was promptly deployed as skirmishers, and moved forward,
and upon reaching the line of the enemy's fire, with a cheer, in which the Twenty-first Kentucky most heartily joined, both
regiments most gallantly charged up the ridge, and was soon in possession of the heights."
So, evidence shows that the 14th Corps apparently did not receive the fourth
verbal iteration (change) of Grant's plans and proceeded to attack the Missionary Ridge according to the plans developed by
Thomas prior to Grant's final change.
Granger (4th Corps) ordered directly by Thomas, in front of Grant, did
get Grant's changes out to some of his divisional commander and as we have read, they were verbal.
Francis McKinny in his excellent biography of Thomas sums up the eleven
Divisional commanders understanding of their orders:
"Historians seem to be unanimous in the belief that the orders to the Fourth
and Fourteenth Corps were to halt and await further orders after they had taken the rifle pits at the base of the Ridge. There
is no doubt that this was the understanding of Grant, Granger and Wood. Sheridan, who got his orders from an aide, was doubtful
whether his objective was the base of the Ridge or the crest. He sent to Granger for a clarification but the signal guns boomed
before the aide returned.
Palmer, the other corps commander, made no mention of the order in his
battle report but both his division commanders believed their objective to be the crest. Of the eleven brigade commanders
engaged in the assault only one stated positively that he was to halt at the foot of the Ridge and await orders. Two seemed
to feel that to continue the advance or to halt was optional. Four stated that their commands were under orders from the division
commander to continue to the crest of the Ridge. The remaining four considered the top of the Ridge to be their objective."
Now why would any historian worth his salt call that charge a miracle?
It was Thomas's plan all the way. Dana, Stanton's spy, in with his report to Stanton, claimed the charge a "miracle." Rhetorically,
one may say that Grant and his "historian," Badeau started that exaggeration and of course Grant's intimate coordinated liar,
Sherman, chimed in with his fabrications claiming it was Grant's plan to have Sherman divert Rebel troops (Bragg's) from Thomas's
front to make his charge up the hill easier. But, that magnifies Grant's deficiency in issuing those orders. What General
takes a majority of his troops from the main striking force and sends them for a diversion on the flank? Sherman had 30,000+
troops (six Divisions) on Bragg's right flank and Thomas had 20,000 (four Divisions) on Bragg's front.
The confusion in the reports was that finally on the 25th when it became
obvious that Sherman was not going to carry the Ridge from the Union left, as planned and Grant changed the plans and directed
Thomas's attack to relieve pressure on Sherman. Wood was present at this moment of Grant's last change to carry the rifle
pits at the foot of the Ridge as was his commander Granger who gave the orders to Wood. Staff officers were sent to give the
change in orders to the other division commanders. Some got the orders, some got confused orders, some apparently, did not
and carried out the orders they had been given earlier. Thomas, not knowing the status of Hooker's drive, apparently hesitated
to give the order. He was concerned that at least one Union flank (Sherman's) was crumbling. Under Rawlins goading, Grant
finally ordered Thomas to move and he did. But, he had held out for as long as possible trying to find out if Hooker had covered
his (Thomas's) right. When he could hold out no longer, he gave the order.
Further evidence of Thomas's tactical maneuvering to control his flanks
are supported by General John M. Brannen, Chief of Artillery, Army of the Cumberland:
"In addition to the heavy guns on the line of intrenchment, by the night
of the 23d I had two 20-pounder Parrots on Moccasin Point, a point on the north side of the river, commanding the approach
to Lookout Mountain and its most northern extremity. These guns, with the Tenth Indiana Battery and the Eighteenth Ohio Battery,
under A Capt. W. A. Naylor, Tenth Indiana Battery, subsequently did good service during Hooker's assault on Lookout Mountain,
rendering it impracticable for the rebels to concentrate on the north side of the mountain to resist his attack.
The Tenth Indiana and Eighteenth Ohio Batteries had previously been stationed
on this point for some weeks, and had succeeded in cutting off, in a great measure, the enemy's communication with Lookout
Mountain by the northern route.
I had also seven field batteries on the line, viz: C and M, First Regiment
Illinois Light Artillery; M, First Regiment Ohio Artillery; F and G, First Ohio Volunteer Artillery; Sixth Ohio and Seventh
Indiana Batteries, so arranged at the defensible points as to insure a safe retreat should the attacking line be repulsed.
. . . .
On the night of the 23d, I had the following batteries placed in position
on the north side of the river at several points, to cover the crossing of General Sherman's command and prevent a force moving
to oppose him until he had taken up position and established communication with our left"
All this activity is planned to make sure that Hooker is able to assault
Lookout with maximum support, even in the case of a possible retreat and to cover Sherman's flank.
If you follow events closely, you see Thomas's strategy develop. He takes
Orchard Knob instead of demonstrating as Grant ordered and lessens the distance to Missionary and more importantly opens his
(Thomas's) left flank which allows direct communication with Sherman. He argues with Grant to let Hooker use some of Sherman's
stranded (Osterhaus) troops and Hooker clears Thomas's right flank (I'm not sure that Thomas was not aware of Hooker's progress.
The semaphore messaging was working very well before Hooker's march. Though I can't find evidence of it's operations during
the battle, I believe it was working). This now allows him to move freely to either flank to supply reinforcements or supplies
and move to support Sherman as ordered by Grant. He removes the impediment on his left flank of having to cross the Tennessee
River to get to Sherman. Sherman, not able to move, does tie up a a division and a couple of Cleburne's brigades on Bragg's
right and keeps his attention focused on the problem (Sherman had 30,000 men to Cleburne's 4,500). Thomas is in the position
he planned to be. But an additional impediment for Thomas was to make his commander understand and persuade him to follow
his moves. He had to do it in a fashion that made Grant think the triumph and glory would eventually be Sherman's. Thomas,
not caring who did it, but that it be done, gave Grant an overwhelming victory, in a style not seen on any other battlefield,
Thomas provided Grant the impetus for his next promotion.
After Sherman's attack fails, it is getting late and Grant finally accedes
to Thomas's plans. The Army of the Cumberland provides the victory.
"NOVEMBER 23, 1863.
General REYNOLDS, Chief of Staff:
I send you the following rebel message. It is not quite complete:
Enemy all north of east. Troops were massed from left to center. Those
on the right moved to center. South from Raccoon, on mountain, were in line in full sight, east. If they intend to attack,
I think it will be on our left. Bridges gone.
C. L. STEVENSON.
Captain, and Chief Signal Officer.
NOVEMBER 23, 1863.
Major-General REYNOLDS, Chief of Staff
GENERAL: I send two more rebel messages, the first one taken from Lookout
and the other from Missionary Ridge :(*)
I observed from this point the movements of the enemy until --. The object
seemed to be to attract our attention. The troops in sight were formed from center to left. Those on the right moved to center.
Troops from Raccoon were in line in full sight. If they intend to attack my opinion is it will be upon our left. Both of their
bridges are gone.
On whose left did General S. think your attack would be made? Respectfully
Captain, and Chief Signal Officer.
Thomas received these messages about the same time Stevenson did and adjusted
his plans accordingly.
Thomas and Hooker won the battle. Sherman, in the meantime, with more than
half the Infantry on the field and three of Thomas's divisions, was getting a lesson in defensive fighting by the Irishman,
Cleburne. The redoubtable Irishman reported "I suffered the following losses in the three brigades of my division engaged,
viz: 42 killed, 178 wounded, and 2 missing." Sherman, portrayed as a "genius" by many, obviously had poor retentive powers.
He had to learn the same lessons again from Joe Johnston at Kennesaw.
Hooker in fact, enhanced the completeness of the charge by getting onto
the left flank and rear of Bragg's line and confusing the Confederate's positioned there. Although not mentioned in the O.
R.'s you can see Hooker's advance "because the unit tablets on Missionary Ridge, which have been around for a 100 years or
so, tell the entire story. For example, the tablet locating Stewart's Division's position at a point 0.4 mi. south of Bragg's
and Breckenridge's headquarters states the following:
"In the afternoon of the Nov. 25th its position was attacked on the left
and left rear by Hooker's command, and in front by the divisions of R.W. Johnson and Sheridan. Being thus compelled to yield
position the division retreated toward Ringgold."
On Missionary Ridge, a bronze tablet indicates Bragg's Headquarters. About
15 yards from that tablet (Bragg's HQ), is another designating Osterhaus's position east of the ridge.
Twenty-five yards from the Bragg tablet and 20 yards across from the Osterhaus
eastern position is another tablet showing Harker's position (West of the ridge). Further south on the crest are tablets showing
Geary's and the rest of Hookers positions as he advanced along the ridge.
Hooker, with Geary's, Cruft and Osterhaus's Divisions rapidly advancing
upon Bragg's left flank and Osterhaus leading the others on the east side (or rear) of the Confederate flank, had advanced
past Stewart's position on the line and was responsible for the collapse of the Confederate left and the complete breakdown
of his left flank and retreat to the rear. Osterhaus reported he had captured 2000 rebels. A. P. Stewart's report showed he
had almost that many lost.
Geary's reports in his OR:
"The ascent was a work of strong exertion, manfully accomplished amid such
cheers as only attest glorious victory. My line of battle gained the summit. Johnson's division, of the Fourteenth (Palmer's)
Corps, having just attained the adjoining cliff on the left, and my command holding in abeyance a rebel brigade striving to
escape, our junction was complete and the left of the ridge was ours at 6 p.m., together with Stuard's [?] brigade, of Breckinridge's
corps. Success rewarded the prowess of our whole army, and the entire ridge was ours."
And Cruft adds:
General Osterhaus' division was ordered to lead the column, this command
to follow, and General Geary's command to bring up the rear.
Everything being in readiness, and the supporting lines in position, the
advance was sounded, and the lines moved steadily up and encountered the enemy with great spirit and enthusiasm, and, after
a few moments, broke his line and started him in a total rout. The column marched on, with a steady fire from the front line,
without breaking step, and drove the enemy before them, completely clearing the ridge for a distance of between two and 3
miles, and until it intersected the column of Major-General Palmer, moving out from Chattanooga on a line at right angles
to our advance. Here the troops were halted and bivouacked for the night. So sudden and well conceived was this flank movement
that it seemed to have taken the enemy wholly by surprise. Prisoners captured stated that the force of the enemy encountered
upon the ridge was the division of General Stewart. Very many of the enemies were killed outright in this attack, and some
40 badly wounded were afterward cared for by our surgeons in the field. Two hundred and fifty-seven prisoners were captured
and held during the assault. The whole ridge was swept of the enemy, who, in their retreat, ran down the east slope of it,
and many fell into the hands of General Osterhaus' command. The casualties of my command in this engagement were slight, not
exceeding four killed and 30 wounded.
The men were encamped along the ridge near the headquarters which the rebel
general, Stewart, had occupied in the morning."
Bragg's troops on the left had been watching Hooker's activities all day,
from his advance on Lookout to Rossville to the three divisions' heading toward and behind them. Then, the added charge of
Johnston's, Sheridan's and Woods toward them caused the complete collapse of the Confederate flank which Bragg had so much
In addition, on the ridge crest in Stovall's sector (about 1 mile from
Bragg's HQ) there are other tablets which indicate that Hooker units were there at 5 P.M..
Hooker, maligned and denigrated by all, some of which of course, he brought
on himself, nevertheless fought bravely and well for Thomas. Afterwards he had nothing but praise for Thomas.
Sherman, embarrassed at failing in his ‘starring' role and fastening
himself firmly to Grant's coattails, continued his campaign to elevate Grant as a great commander and to slander Thomas.
Grant, continued his campaign to elevate Sherman by implying a greater
role in the Cumberlanders magnificent victory, than was signified by the facts. There was no room in his pantheon of heros
other than Sherman and perhaps, Sheridan.
While Sherman and Grant fabricate excuses for Sherman's martial maladroitness,
claiming the maps were all laid out wrong, Howard, that honest, bible thumping, born again Christian, reports that:
"From the map it will be noticed that the Atlanta railroad, passing south
of Fort Wood, runs northeast nearly parallel with the river. The East Tennessee railroad, passing north of Fort Wood, crosses
the other before entering the tunnel through Mission Ridge. My line cut both these roads, and its left rested just across
the Citico on the river."
This is an indication that the maps Thomas's staff prepared were adequate
and available. Sherman's complaint that the maps did not show the second valley beyond his position, were inaccurate, maybe
more CYA. In the "Atlanta Campaign," McPherson used the same language in excusing his failure to cut the railroad at Resaca.
"At 9 a.m. of the 24th,. . . . General Sherman had now effected a crossing
of the Tennessee just below the mouth of South Chickamauga. I was directed to open communication with him by a brigade. General
Steinwehr detailed Colonel Buschbeck's, which I accompanied in person, with a small escort of cavalry. Some skirmishing occurred
on our right, and thinking we might meet resistance from that quarter, I had Krzyzanowski's brigade, of General Schurz' division,
brought forward as a support. Very little opposition being made, the junction with Sherman was effected just as he was placing
the last boat of the bridge."
Howard's Corps now was able to move freely on the south bank of the Tennessee
because of Thomas's action on the 23rd.
"At 10.45 a.m. my head of column arrived at the pontoon bridge, where I
halted and massed my troops, starting to report in person to General Sherman. He sent me the order through Lieutenant-Colonel
Meysenburg, of my staff, and afterward repeated it to me, to take post on his left, closing a space that had just been left
vacant by troops that had been pushed farther to the right in support of the main attack along the ridge.
The corps was placed as directed, its left resting on Chickamauga Creek,
near Boyce's Station, and its front well covered by a good line of skirmishers. The right rested high up the ridge, on a work
constructed and occupied by a part of General Blair's corps. Here, again, my troops covered themselves with breastworks. The
report that General Sherman had reached the tunnel was premature.
Instead of finding a continuous ridge of land, as one would suppose, looking
from Chattanooga, that portion of Mission Ridge north of the East Tennessee railroad is broken into transverse ridges, with
deep ravines between them. The enemy's troops had possession of the first ridge or hill north of the tunnel, on my arrival,
and a fierce contest was going on between them and the attacking party for its possession."
Howard above states he has observed from "Chattanooga" or is claiming the
map indicates that the ridge " . . . . north of the East Tennessee railroad is broken into transverse ridges, with deep ravines
between them." . . . . How can Howard know this and Sherman not? Howard's observation indicates faulty reconnaissance by Sherman.
Sherman damn's his competence in his own Memoirs that "on the Morning of the attack (25th), he arose early and went to examine
his right flank and saw the ridge was not continuous, but, a series of serrations. He should have done that the evening before.
It's a repetition of the situation in his march from Memphis to Chattanooga. There he allowed his trains to march with their
respective divisions instead of moving the troops in advance of the slower wagons. When Grant found out he was astonished,
but, rapidly moved to excuse it.
"News arrived in the evening (November 25th) that General Thomas had carried
Mission Ridge by direct assault, that General Hooker had moved to Rossville and got upon the enemy's left flank, and that
the enemy were in full retreat.
The enemy left our front during the night. The battle of Chattanooga was
over, and it was a success. The news flew like wildfire, and the Chickamauga hills echoed with our soldiers' victorious cheer.
By direction of General Sherman, about 5 a.m. of the 26th, the corps crossed
the Chickamauga, near its mouth, by a pontoon bridge, already there, and proceeded toward Chickamauga Station, ascending the
creek. At 7 a.m. we overtook Davis' division that had crossed in the night. The fog was so dense that you could not discern
a horse at 100 yards. If Davis had crossed the river at night, why couldn't the rest of Sherman's troops.
General Davis reported to me on my arrival, as the senior officer. I desired
him to keep the lead, and make his own dispositions. We pushed forward carefully till the fog cleared away, being delayed
somewhat by reports that the enemy were moving in force toward our left.
We reached Chickamauga Station at 12 m., Davis' advance skirmishing with
the enemy. Two siege guns, about 1,000 bushels of corn, 10 pontoons, and considerable flour were captured here. Large quantities
of flour and corn were burning when we arrived. General Sherman joined us at this point, and the pursuit was continued.
It took Davis and Howard seven hours to get from before Tunnel Hill to
Chickamauga Station, the Confederates supply and storage area. If they had crossed the river together They could have captured
almost all Bragg's stores and munitions and perhaps even cut off the retreat.
Continuing the pursuit, " . . . . Just before dark Davis' advance came
upon the enemy's rear guard posted on the farther edge of a small opening in a forest, some 3 miles this side of Graysville.
Two brigades were deployed, and soon succeeded in dislodging and driving this force. In the meantime, I had brought up my
command and posted von Steinwehr's division on Davis' right, and massed Schurz' division in reserve. We encamped at this point.
November 27, march resumed at 6 a.m."
The above refutes any claim by Sherman or Grant to his (Sherman's) participation
in the assault. Sherman quit his attack at 2:30PM on the 25th and sat all night and only started a pursuit, after Cleburne
withdrew from his front at 5:00AM on the 26th.
Later, Sherman upset by the "Thanks of Congress" properly received by Thomas
and Hooker whined like a spoiled child:
"Meigs's comments (regarding Thomas's charge up Missionary Ridge) bothered
Sherman and Ellen (his wife) .
. . . After watching the battle for Missionary Ridge from Orchard Knob,
Meigs described to Secretary of War Scanton the defeat of the Army of the Tennessee and the magnificent charge of the Army
of the Cumberland. Stanton had published the letter as, Cump complained to John, as
"semi-official. Meigs apologized to me for using Thomas's name instead
of mine throughout, which he charged to a copyist, but made no amends for the repulse,"
Ellen proposed to correct the situation. She wanted John to get from Stanton
a copy of Sherman's campaign report, which she would give
"to the world. The Army of the Tennessee, or rather the 15th Army Corps
marched from Memphis to Chattanooga-passed the Army of the Cumberland & took the post of honor and of danger on the extreme
left, bore the heaviest of the enemies fire & had the enemy massed against them for four hours before the Army of the
Cumberland advanced to make the preconcerted attack on the centre which had been left comparatively easy by the action of
the 15th Corps. After an unfaltering struggle in which they were entirely victorious they started in pursuit after which they
were turned about & marched without blankets & many of them without shoes to Knoxville where they arrived in time,
only in consequence of the fact that they were well disciplined, brave and thorough soldiers and under skillful generals.
The weather during their march to & from Knoxville was quite severe and without blankets they kept warm at night only
by standing around camp fires which we would consider a fatigue & which to them must have been a poor rest after the long
days' marches. The way was tracked with blood from their cut & bruised feet. They tore down towns to build bridges &
overcame obstacles which were keeping Gordon Granger back & would have prevented him (although first ordered) from raising
the siege of Knoxville. . . . But a grateful Congress recognizes the services & returns thanks to Thomas & Burnside
& Hooker & their armies, overlooking the men on whom they relied & whom the records will prove to have lost more
heavily than any of them." General Sherman evidently did not discuss his battles with his wife or, habituated lying affected
them both. As we can see below, Hooker, with a significantly smaller force, suffered almost as many casualties as Sherman
and accomplished substantially more on the battlefield.
Casualties at the Battle of Missionary Ridge
O Officers. A Aggregate
M Enlisted Men. C Captured or missing
--Killed-- -Wounded- -----C-----
M O M O M Aggregate
Total Army of the Cumberland 49 482 281 3,178 8 13
Total Army of the Tennessee 20 202 112 1,151 19 191 1,695
Total Hooker's Command 15
119 83 660 4 46 1,086
The lack of recognition irked Sherman, too. He informed his brother, Senator
"that Resolutions of thanks have been introduced in Congress to Hooker
and his Army, and Thomas & his Army, but not one word of Sherman & the Army of the Tennessee. Now it is known to all
the Army, that the best fighting in Hookers Army was done by one of my Divisions viz Osterhaus the 1st Division 15th Corps,
which could not join me because a Bridge across the Tennessee at Browns Ferry was broken, and which I volunteered to leave
with Hooker (Lie #1 Grant held them from Hooker till after Sherman's failure on M.R.), rather than delay the impending
Battle - The Army of the Tennessee marched rapidly (Lie # 2, he started in September and arrived at Chattanooga on November
15, 1863) from Memphis to Chattanooga, crossed the Tennessee and began the Battle (after four days delay) most important
point of that Battle and failed), and afterward without rest or preparation, in consequence of the slow & dilatory movement
of a part of the Army of the Cumberland (Lie # 3. One of Grant's drinking pals got lost and the orders to Thomas to start
Granger were delayed 8 hours) I was required with the Army of the Tennessee to march 130 miles further shoeless to relieve
Knoxville, All these things are known officially to the War Dept and if thanks are voted to the rest & the Army of the
Tennessee left out I must construe it as personal and quit I want the Army of the Tennessee to have its share of official
recognition but for myself I ask nothing. . . . The truth is General Thomas a particular friend of mine did not go outside
the entrenchments of Chattanooga at the time of Battle or after (Lie #4. Thomas was wiht Grant on Orchard Hill). I was
with my men all the time. And I repeat one Division of my troops did Hookers best fighting...." (Probably good reason
to give the rest of Shermans's troops to Hooker).
I want a pretext to get rest, and if this injustice be done the Army of
the Tennessee, because I led it, I will quickly avail myself of the opportunity to seek rest in another quarter of the World."
Possessing powerful friends, Sherman in February 1864 got his congressional
vote of thanks. In his Memoirs he placed the resolution immediately after his official report, the inference being that the
second developed naturally from the first."
Would an attack by Sherman after Thomas's charge have made a difference
in the battle? Probably! Cleburne led two brigades from their right to fend off Baird and Wood. He later acted as rearguard.
If he had just been kept occupied, the rout could have been worse and the and pursuit could have been more deadly. Sherman
was *not* heavily engaged since 2:30PM. Refer to Cozzens, Sword, McDonough, or any other responsible writer.
Even if, upon receiving Grant's order after Thomas' troops carried the
ridge, Sherman attacked, the results could have been significant.
With their rear and flank in peril, the Confederate right wing might not
have hung on so hard, as well. Any attack would have made it harder for Cleburne to have accomplished what he did in sealing
off the advance along the ridge and in forming a rearguard. Even a feint and demonstration by Sherman at this point may have
done some real good. But Sherman disobeyed Grant's order.
"CHATTANOOGA, November 27, 1863--1 p.m.(Received 2:00 p.m.)
Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,November 27, 1863.
This has just been received. I respectfully forward. Have ordered Elliott
to move to Kingston as rapidly as possible, join Byrd, and fall upon the flanks of the enemy. Will get Granger ready as soon
as possible, if you desire he should go.
GEO. H. THOMAS,
Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding.
Several prisoners state that Longstreet was ordered back from Knoxville
the first or second day of the fight. It is positively known, both from citizens and prisoners, that Buckner was ordered to
the support of Longstreet, and that one train-load left the first day of battle, and more were just ready to start when the
battle commenced. These troops were all brought back and participated in the defeat. Granger will be all ready to start for
Knoxville this evening, and will go unless it is positively learned that Longstreet has fled.
"CHATTANOOGA, November 28, 1863.
Maj. Gen. J. G. FOSTER, Cumberland Gap:
After three days' fighting we have defeated Bragg and driven him completely
out of this portion of the country; captured near 7,000 prisoners; 42 cannon, and many colors. Our forces are still in pursuit
beyond Ringgold. The Fourth Corps, Major-General Granger commanding, left here to-day with orders to push with all possible
speed through to Knoxville.
Sherman is already in motion for Hiwassee, and will go all the way if necessary.
All the cavalry have been ordered to march into East Tennessee by the most practicable route, joining with yours to harass
Communicate this information to Burnside as soon as possible and at any
cost, with directions to hold out to the very last moment, and we shall not only relieve him but destroy Longstreet.
U. S. GRANT,
"November 29, 1863
Grant expected Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger's expedition to leave for Knoxville
on Nov. 27 in the evening. See telegrams to Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, Nov. 27, 1863.
On the same day, 7: 00 p.m., Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas transmitted orders
for Granger's departure. O.R., I, xxxi, part 2, 139; letter to Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, Nov. 27, 1863. Granger's column
finally left Chattanooga during the afternoon of Nov. 28. O.R., I, xxxi, part 2, 70-71, 91, 139.
One reason for this delay was the six-hour lapse between USG's and Thomas's
orders for Granger to start, occasioned by time lost in conveying USG's letter to Thomas from Ringgold, Ga., to Chattanooga.
This dispatch was carried by "a staff officer," Col. Clark B. Lagow, who had accompanied USG in the field after the battle
of Chattanooga until this point and who had gone on a similar errand the previous day. Memoirs, II, 91; William Wrenshall
Smith, "Holocaust Holiday . . ." Civil War Times Illustrated, XVIII, 6 (Oct., 1979), 37. On Nov. 26, in the evening, Lagow
had caused USG's party some delay in returning to Chattanooga by erroneously reporting the reconstruction of a bridge over
Chickamauga Creek. Ibid; p. 38; diary of James Harrison Wilson, Nov. 26, 1863, Historical Society of Delaware, Wilmington,
Lagow was, according to Charles A. Dana, "a worthless, whisky-drinking,
useless fellow" who, by Nov. 1, USG had decided to dismiss. Recollections of the Civil War (New York, 1898), p. 74; see letter
to Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, Oct. 26, 1863. In his diary for Nov. 14 and 15, Smith wrote: "Quite a disgracefull party—friends
of Col Lagow, stay up nearly all night playing &c. The Gen breaks up the party himself about 4 oclock in the morning.
. . . Lagow don't come to table to-day. He is greatly mortified at his conduct last night. Grant is much offended at him and
I am fearful it will result in his removal. . . ." AD, Mrs. John W. Mcllvaine, Washington, Pa. On Nov. 17, Brig. Gen. John
A. Rawlins wrote to Mary E. (Emma) Hurlbut. ". . . Matters have changed and the necessity of my presence here made almost
absolute, by the free use of intoxicating liquors at Head Quarters which last nights devellopements showed me had reached
to the General commanding. I am the only one here (his wife not being with him) who can stay it in that direction & prevent
evil consequences resulting from it. I had hoped but it appears vainly his New Orleans experience would prevent him ever again
indulging with this his worst enemy; . . ." ALS, Warren A. Reeder, Hammond, Ind. On the same day, Rawlins wrote to USG. "I
again appeal to you in the name of every thing a friend, an honest man, and a lover of his country holds dear, to immediately
desist from further tasting of liquors of any kind no matter by whom asked or under what circumstances, not even under the
delusive belief that it will aid you now to recover your wonted vitality and energy. If you do not the bitterest imprecations
of an outraged and deceived people struggling in blood to preserve their liberties and their nationality, will be invoked
from every loyal home that looks toward the tented field for the ones they love, and the God of justice will answer that invocation
throughout the 'Eternity of ages,' I tell you General, of indulgence in intoxicating liquors when it becomes criminal, as
is the case where it unfits one for the discharge of the obligations he owes his country, family and friends. In all humanity
or heaven there is no voice of palliation or excuse. This very moment every faculty of your mind should be clear and unclouded,
the enemy threatens your lines with immediate attack, Burnsides one of your Generals trembles where he stands, the authorities
at Washington fear he will yield, they look to you to save him, Since the hour Washington crossed the icefilled Delaware with
his bare-footed patriots to the attack of Trenton, so much of weighty responsibility, has not been imposed by your Government
upon one man as it has now imposed upon you. Nor has the man lived since then from whom so much is expected, Do you realise
this? If so, you will drink not another drop of that which unmans you. Two more nights like the last will find you prostrated
on a sick bed unfit for duty. this must not be. You only can prevent it, and for the sake of my bleeding country and your
own honor I pray God you may." ALS, OClWHi. Rawlins endorsed this letter. "This letter was written hastily with a view to
handing to the one to whom it is addressed but on reflection it was not given to him, but I talked to him upon the subject
to which it relates, which had the desired effect." AES, ibid.
On Nov. 18, Lagow wrote to Brig. Gen. Lorenzo Thomas. "I have the honor
to tender my resignation as Colonel & A. A. D. C. U. S. A. to take effect December 1st 1863, on account of disability
and respectfully urge its acceptance." LS, DNA, RG 94, ACP, L243 CB 1863. On Nov. 30, USG endorsed this letter. "Approved
and respectfully forwarded to Hd Qrs. of the Army, Washington, D. C." AES, ibid. On Nov. 18, 7: 30 p.m., Dana had telegraphed
to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. "Col Lagow, additional A D C having resigned Genl Grant would prefer that he should
not be dismissed." Telegram received, DLC-Edwin M. Stanton. O.R; I, xxxi, part 2, 60. See Memoirs, I, 255. In his diary for
Nov. 30, Smith wrote; "Lagow sent in his resignation a few days before the battle. He saw Gen Rawlins wanted him off the staff,
and after the unfortunate spree that the General himself broke up, he saw that he was treeted coldly by him. He today heard
his resignation had been approved and sent to Washington for acceptance, and he resolved to go home immediately. He went with
a sore, depressed spirits. . . ." AD, Mrs. John W. Mcllvaine. See letter to Julia Dent Grant, Feb. 17, 1864."
CHATTANOOGA, November 29, 1863--8 p.m.(Received 10.30 p.m.)
Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief:
The Fourth Corps started yesterday for relief of Burnside. Sherman was
sent to the Hiwassee, and I have sent orders to him to take command of the whole, and organize a sufficient force for the
object to be accomplished, and send the remainder of the troops here. I made this change, knowing Sherman's promptness and
ability. If Burnside holds out a short time he will be relieved. Should Longstreet succeed in capturing Knoxville, he himself
will be captured, I think.
U. S. GRANT,