Grant to the rescue

From distant Washington, D.C., President Lincoln observed Rosecrans's situation with disappointment and disgust. His commander did not seem up to the task of command. Lincoln famously referred to Rosecrans, as noted by historian Tyler Dennett, as "confused and stunned like a duck hit on the head." Lincoln ordered a shake-up of commands, uniting the departments of the Ohio, Cumberland, and the Tennessee into the Military Division of the Mississippi. He then relieved Rosecrans and placed Ulysses S. Grant in command. Since Grant's orders from Lincoln gave him the authority to sack Rosecrans, the new commander wasted no time doing so. Already, General Halleck had sent General Sherman with four divisions from Vicksburg to Chattanooga, but he had to rebuild the railroad line along the way, slowing down Sherman's men for weeks. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton then asked Lincoln to transfer the 11th and 12th Corps by train from the Army of the Potomac out to help with Rosecrans's situation. Lincoln agreed and activated Joseph Hooker to command them.

Stanton then called several railroad presidents to Washington to discuss how to quickly deliver thousands of Union troops to Chattanooga. Less than 48 hours after the meeting, Federal forces were on their way to Tennessee, with Chattanooga more than 1,200 miles (1,900 km) away. Within two weeks, 20,000 Union troops had reached the railhead near Chattanooga, along with artillery, horses, and tons of equipment. Historian James McPherson referred to this move of forces across the country as "the longest and fastest movement of such a large body of troops before the twentieth century." The rescue of Rosecrans's army was in action.

Grant reached Chattanooga by October 23 and ordered the opening of a new supply route called the Cracker Line. It fell to the 11th Corps—which had been beaten so badly at Chancel-lorsville and suffered greatly at Gettysburg—to open the supply route. The unit fought well during a night skirmish on October 28 to 29, which helped them gain confidence and regain some face. With Grant on the scene, many Federals had a confidence they had not had with Rosecrans. Historian Bruce Catton notes the feelings expressed by one Union officer, who thought, after Grant's arrival, "we began to see things move. We felt that everything came from a plan." Ironically, Rosecrans's staff had actually been the planners of much of the operation that unfolded after Grant reached Chattanooga.

Things were, indeed, moving. Confederate forces could do little but watch. Sherman arrived with his 17,000 men of the Army of the Tennessee, which were added to the 20,000 Hooker had delivered from the Army of the Potomac. General Thomas had been on the scene from the beginning with his 35,000-man Army of the Cumberland.

Bragg's possibilities were shrinking. He still held the high ground on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, but he was facing increasing numbers of Federals and disagreement and rebellion among his own side. He blamed the officers under his command for the failures during the Chickamauga battle. He suspended General Leonidas Polk and a pair of other generals, raising the anger of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who declared he would no longer serve under Bragg. Other generals sent around a petition calling for Bragg's removal. Anger among the Confederate commanders grew so intense that President Davis took a special train on October 6 and made his way to Chattanooga to meet with Bragg and his officers.

In the end, Davis just moved several of Bragg's generals to other battle areas and sent Longstreet off to Knoxville,

Tennessee, to try and recapture the city. Longstreet's mission ultimately failed. Bragg kept his command, Davis left, and few Confederates were any happier than they had been before President Davis's arrival.

Once Longstreet and his 15,000 men left Bragg, there was no possible way for the Confederates to keep their positions in

Life of the Common soldier

While generals find their way into history books, it is important to remember that common soldiers, often volunteers, are the ones who fight the war. Before the Civil War, they had been farmers, shop clerks, factory workers, dockhands—even college professors—who had never been in combat before.

Each man entered the ranks of his respective army with his own sense of cause. Southerners fought to maintain a way of life, to support the existence and expansion of slavery, or in opposition to racial equality. Northerners fought to keep the Union intact and to keep slavery out of the western territories—a struggle that had raged before the war.

Since enlisted men lived an outdoor existence in tents, bad weather, disease, poor food, and a lack of sanitation made camp life miserable. In addition, camp life was often routine and dull. Between battles, troops often drank alcohol. Soldiers who could not afford to buy liquor would often make their own. Recipes included such ingredients as bark juice, tar-water, turpentine, sugar, and lamp oil.

Homesickness was a constant pull for many soldiers farther from home than they had ever been. Soldiers became even more nostalgic for home when they listened to the popular music found in the camps. Such sentimental songs as "Weeping Sad and Lonely," "The Vacant Chair," and others expressed emotional longings that never went away.

the field much longer. The initiative for the coming battle automatically fell to General Grant. Grant had in mind a strategy that went beyond the simple freeing of the troops from Chattanooga. Once the Confederates were removed from the region, he then wanted to follow up with a march into Georgia. The future direction of the war in the western battle areas depended on what might happen next at Chattanooga.


It was clear to the Union leaders that the Confederates would need to be driven from their high ground positions. Grant rejected any suggestion to send men toward Missionary Ridge in a direct frontal assault. At the base of the ridge, the Rebels were well dug in, situated in three lines of trenches or rifle pits. Instead, Grant ordered attacks on both the Confederate flanks, sending Sherman toward the enemy's left and Hooker to the right to storm Lookout Mountain. The mountain commanded the landscape at 1,600 feet (490 m) in height above the Tennessee River. At his center, he placed General Thomas's Army of the Cumberland. Grant was uncertain these men had the capacity to mount a serious attack. After all, they had been beaten soundly at Chickamauga and now needed to be rescued. According to historian James McPherson, Grant thought Thomas's men "could not be got out of their trenches to assume the offensive." He would soon be proven wrong. By placing the veterans of Chickamauga in such a secondary role, Grant may have been unknowingly challenging them to prove themselves once more in battle.

As the Union forces began to move against the Confederates on the higher elevations, they met with success and failure. Hooker moved brilliantly, moving his three divisions on November 24 against three Confederate brigades in command of the northern slope of Lookout Mountain. As the Union men moved awkwardly up the mountain, amid scatters of large

Images Rosecrans Army

Grant shrewdly reduced the role of General George Thomas's men, the recently defeated Union soldiers from the Battle of Chickamauga, as a subtle reminder of their failure. When the fighting began, however, it was Thomas's men who broke the Confederate line of defense at the battle of Missionary Ridge (above).

Grant shrewdly reduced the role of General George Thomas's men, the recently defeated Union soldiers from the Battle of Chickamauga, as a subtle reminder of their failure. When the fighting began, however, it was Thomas's men who broke the Confederate line of defense at the battle of Missionary Ridge (above).

boulders and downed trees, they reached an elevation shrouded in a thin fog. This gave the name often used in later years to describe the fighting: Battle Above the Clouds.

Ultimately taking fewer than 500 casualties, Hooker and his men drove the Confederates out of their positions and down Lookout Mountain's opposite slope. Bragg had no choice but to abandon his defenses on Lookout and pull his men back to Missionary Ridge. Through the night, once the clouds cleared out, troops on both sides were able to watch a total eclipse of the moon. By the next morning, a Union unit of volunteers from

Kentucky reached the peak of Lookout Mountain and planted a large U.S. flag, visible to both armies below.

But the fight up the mountain had taken all day on November 25. Meanwhile, on the Union left flank, Sherman faced a more difficult assault than Hooker. Lookout Mountain had proven hard to defend for the Confederates, but it was the Federals who faced challenges from the terrain. The ground was swampy and uneven and defended by one of the South's most capable division commanders, Major General Patrick R. Cleburne. Both flanks failed to accomplish their goals by mid-afternoon.

In the end, Grant sent General Thomas's men forward to make a limited assault against the first of the three rifle pits of the Confederates on Missionary Ridge. In part, Grant meant to occupy the Rebels at their center to keep Bragg from sending reinforcements to support Cleburne's lines. In all, 23,000 Union men, involving four divisions, were sent toward the ridge across a stretch of ground 2 miles (3 km) long along an open plain that led straight into the Confederate lines. For some, it looked like Pickett's Charge all over again, only with Union men exposing themselves to destruction at Rebel hands. The odds appeared even more in the South's favor, since Bragg's men had already had two months to entrench, plus Missionary Ridge lay at a higher elevation than Cemetery Ridge.

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