Chattanooga campaign

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Chattanooga campaign, Aug.-Nov., 1863, military encounter in the American Civil War. Chattanooga, Tenn., which commanded Confederate communications between the East and the Mississippi River and was also the key to loyal E Tennessee, had been an important Union objective as early as 1862 (see Buell, Don Carlos). In 1863, the Union general William Rosecrans, commanding the Army of the Cumberland, forced Braxton Bragg to withdraw his Confederate army from middle Tennessee (June-Aug.) and maneuvered him out of Chattanooga (Aug. 16–Sept. 8). Deceived into believing that Bragg was retreating upon Atlanta, Rosecrans pursued and was trapped by the Confederates at Chickamauga Creek, c.12 mi (20 km) S of Chattanooga. Strengthened by James Longstreet's corps, which had traveled some 650 mi (1,050 km) from Lee's army through Virginia and the Carolinas to join him, Bragg routed the Union right at the Battle of Chickamauga (Sept. 19–20). He could not crush the Union left under George H. Thomas, however; Thomas held off the enemy until Rosecrans ordered him to withdraw to Chattanooga. Bragg then took up a position extending along Missionary Ridge across Chattanooga Valley to Lookout Mt. and laid siege to the town. In a historic movement, Joseph Hooker and two corps from the Army of the Potomac circled nearly 1,200 mi (1,900 km) via Indianapolis to bolster the Union forces. But Rosecrans had lost control of the situation, and an alarmed federal administration at Washington called for U.S. Grant, who arrived at Chattanooga on Oct. 23, 1863. Generals W. F. Smith and Joseph Hooker executed a coup (Oct. 26–29) that restored a sorely needed supply line on the Tennessee River, so Grant was ready to move by late November. Sherman, who had brought up reinforcements from Vicksburg, commanded the left; Thomas, the center; and Hooker, the right. Bragg's forces had been weakened by the departure of Longstreet on an unsuccessful expedition to Knoxville. On Nov. 24, Hooker drove the Confederates from Lookout Mt. in the Battle above the Clouds. On Nov. 25, Sherman could make no headway against Missionary Ridge from its northern end, so Grant ordered the center to advance. Thomas's men—Philip Sheridan conspicuous among them—displayed great courage and boldness, proceeding to carry Bragg's position at the top; there Hooker's forces joined them in routing the Confederates. By nightfall Bragg was in full retreat to Georgia. The victory left Chattanooga in Union hands for the rest of the war.

See study by M. H. Fitch (1911); F. Downey, Storming of the Gateway (1960, repr. 1969).

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CHATTANOOGA CAMPAIGN (October–November 1863). After his victory at Vicksburg in July, Union General U. S. Grant advanced his army slowly eastward. In September, W. S. Rosecrans's Union army was defeated at Chickamauga. Rosecrans retreated to Chattanooga, endured the siege of Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg, and awaited Grant's assistance. Grant, placed in general command of all Union forces in the West, replaced Rosecrans with G. H. Thomas and instructed him to hold Chattanooga against Bragg's siege "at all hazards." Food was running short and supply lines were constantly interrupted. Grant's first act was to open a new and protected line of supply, via Brown's Ferry. Reinforcements arrived. Vigorous action turned the tables on Bragg, whose only act was to weaken himself unnecessarily by detaching General James Longstreet on a fruitless expedition to capture Knoxville. Bragg then awaited Grant's next move. President Jefferson Davis visited the army and tried, unsuccessfully, to restore confidence.

On 24 November 1863 Union General Joseph Hooker captured Lookout Mountain on the left of Bragg's line. The next day Grant attacked all along the line. The Confederate center on Missionary Ridge gave way; the left had retreated; only the right held firm and covered the retreat southward into northern Georgia. A brilliant rear-guard stand at Ringgold Gap halted Grant's pursuit. The Union troops returned to Chattanooga; the Confederate Army went into winter quarters at Dalton, Georgia.


Cozzens, Peter. The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battles for Chattanooga. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

McDonough, James L. Chattanooga: A Death Grip on the Confederacy. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984.

Sword, Wiley. Mountains Touched with Fire: Chattanooga Besieged, 1863. New York: St. Martin's, 1995.

Thomas RobsonHay/a. r.

See alsoChickamauga, Battle of ; Civil War ; Lookout Mountain, Battle on ; Vicksburg in the Civil War .