After suffering an overwhelming defeat at Chicamamauga, Union General William Rosecrans withdrew to Chattanooga for refuge from Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s besiegement; eventually Federal General Ulysses S. Grant managed to open up a supply route and provide relief.
On June 7 and 8, Union Brigadier General James Negley ordered a comprehensive artillery bombardment against rebel-held city. While this attempt proved futile, it proved the Union could penetrate deeper into their enemy territory than expected.
Battle of Chickamauga
Chattanooga was an important military hub with rail lines connecting it with other parts of the nation, and both sides wanted control of this fertile region full of food-bearing soil and strategic points like Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.
The Battle of Chickamauga took place from September 18-20, 1863 and saw Confederate General Braxton Bragg lead his Army of Tennessee into southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia with the aim of besieging Chattanooga by positioning troops at river crossings and on high ground positions west and south of town. Bragg planned on starving out Union forces until they capitulated or surrendered under his pressure.
By late August, Bragg was increasingly dismayed and demoralized by an artillery bombardment from Federal gunners stationed well southwest of Chattanooga. Their gunners perched atop a hill just across the Tennessee River launched shells at will; one even struck a young girl, shattering her leg.
By September 12, Bragg’s army had become besieged by Major General William Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland. This military force had advanced from middle Tennessee into Chattanooga’s vicinity and threatened to cut off Bragg from Chattanooga; ultimately the outcome of this siege depended upon Bragg defending Chattanooga ridges vital to supply lines.
Battle of Stones River
The Battle of Shiloh was a bloody Union triumph. Though his forces experienced almost as many casualties as those from the South, Union General William Rosecrans celebrated it as a great victory and gained some much needed morale boost for his army after suffering setbacks throughout 1862. President Lincoln even supported Rosecrans despite growing tensions between himself and General-in-Chief Edwin Stanton and Secretary of War Henry Halleck; even more amazing, Rosecrans was allowed to remain under his command despite growing tensions between himself and Secretary Henry Halleck; so this victory helped rejuvenate both parties involved.
At Stones River, Union General William Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland was deployed along the west bank of Stones River near Murfreesboro in Tennessee, while Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s force of 38,000 men from Chattanooga were besieging it from across its southern edge.
Bragg attempted to surprise his opponents by attacking with an abrupt frontal assault, positioning his army on the eastern side of the battle line with the river and an important railroad running between. This allowed them to occupy high ground like Missionary Ridge that provided excellent defensive positions as well as protecting a vital supply route. But Federal defenders held off his assault, and after several days of fierce battles the Confederates army began retreating towards Chattanooga.
Battle of Chattanooga
After Union forces were routed at Chickamauga, General Braxton Bragg deployed his Army of Tennessee on the heights above Chattanooga in an attempt to cut off their supply lines by seizing Lookout Mountain on the south and Missionary Ridge on the east – both positions would serve as key chokepoints against an attack from Union troops. Since he didn’t have enough soldiers on hand for effective defense of these positions, Bragg relied on artillery instead to keep their opponent at bay.
On November 23, Grant observed columns of troops withdrawing from Chattanooga and suspected Bragg was strengthening Longstreet to counter an impending Burnside attack. To forestall this development, Thomas dispatched a force to reconnoiter Confederate defenses on Lookout Mountain.
Thomas used his presence to distract Bragg and prevent him from reinforcing his position, thus leading the Federals to successfully shell Confederate defenses and capture Lookout Mountain.
A successful bombardment led to a decisive Union victory at Chattanooga. This defeat put an end to any hope of Southern control in Tennessee and laid the groundwork for Atlanta Campaign that would ultimately end the Civil War. Chattanooga stands as one of America’s greatest battles.
Battle of Missionary Ridge
On the night of November 22 and all through 23rd, Federal artillery bombarded Chattanooga from riverbank positions along the Tennessee River and fired into the city, prompting an intense standoff between Union troops and Confederate defenses along the Tennessee. Prior to Grant receiving this note from Bragg, who ordered him to evacuate noncombatant civilians from Chattanooga – something Grant was reluctant to do but knew would ultimately result in Sherman’s victory over them – Grant received another note ordering noncombaants be evacuated before taking their position along riverbank positions along with Sherman himself, believing he would eventually overpower them all.
On November 24, at 2 am, two waves of boats unexpectedly attacked riverside Confederate pickets along Tennessee and transported two divisions across. By dawn, most of a pontoon bridge had been completed and at 3 p.m. Sherman ordered his attack, leading the blue wave of Federals out onto open ground while rebel artillery fired overhead.
Union soldiers attacked rifle pits at the foot of the ridge and moved rapidly uphill as they advanced toward its crest, quickly overwhelming it and reaching its crest. Bragg began his infamous pursuit along the ridge, hoping desperately to rally Tucker’s and Finley’s brigades while Gibson’s Louisiana Brigade disintegrated before him.
Missionary Ridge was one of the Civil War’s most decisive and devastating victories, altering the course of events as significantly as Chickamauga and Gettysburg. Chattanooga gave way for Union armies to advance on Atlanta and Savannah while Braxton Bragg’s Tennessee Army of Tennessee had to retreat in defeat.