Skip to main content

Missionary Ridge, Battle of

Missionary Ridge, Battle of (1863).After the Battle of Chickamauga (September 1863), the defeated Union army retreated into Chattanooga, Tennessee. The victorious Confederate army virtually besieged it there by occupying high ground west, south, and east of the city, practically cutting off Union supplies.

The federal government reacted by sending reinforcements— Gen. Joseph Hooker and 10,000 men from Virginia, and William Tecumseh Sherman and 20,000 men from Mississippi. More important, it sent a new commander: Ulysses S. Grant. Grant opened an adequate supply line and prepared his combined armies for battle. Meanwhile, Confederate commander Braxton Bragg was plagued by backbiting and noncooperation from his subordinates.

By late November, Grant was ready. His plan was that Hooker should threaten the Confederate left on Lookout Mountain to the southwest of the city and George H. Thomas the Confederate center along Missionary Ridge to the east, while Sherman broke the Confederate right on Tunnel Hill. On 24 November, Hooker actually drove the Confederates off Lookout Mountain; but the terrain around Tunnel Hill proved deceptively difficult, the Confederate defense skillful and stubborn. Sherman's 25 November attacks got nowhere. To ease pressure on Sherman, Grant ordered Thomas to take a line of Confederate rifle pits at the base of Missionary Ridge. Confusion regarding orders and the impossibility of remaining at the base of the ridge under fire from the Confederates on the crest led Thomas's troops to continue their charge and—astoundingly—take the ridge. Why? First, ravines on the slope covered the attackers. Second, the confederate defensive line was poorly sited. Third, the Confederate troops' morale was low since they had lost confidence in Bragg. And fourth, Thomas's Federals were unusually aggressive, determined to blot out the shame of their recent debacle at Chickamauga. In all, 56,000 Federals engaged 46,000 Confederates on Missionary Ridge. Casualties were 5,824 Union men to 6,667 Confederates.

As a result of the battle, Bragg was removed from command. His army retreated to Dalton, Georgia, and the stage was set for the start of Sherman's Atlanta campaign the following spring.
[See also Civil War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]


James L. McDonough , Chattanooga—A Death Grip on the Confederacy, 1984.
Peter Cozzens , The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battles for Chattanooga, 1994.
Steven E. Woodworth , Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1998.

Steven E. Woodworth

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Missionary Ridge, Battle of." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . 19 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Missionary Ridge, Battle of." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . (January 19, 2019).

"Missionary Ridge, Battle of." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved January 19, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.