Edmund Pettus, an Historical Figure of Both Selma and Chattanooga

Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - by John Shearer
General Edmund Pettus
General Edmund Pettus

When students of American history hear the name Edmund Pettus, they might think of the bridge at Selma, Ala., named for him.

At that site in 1965, civil rights marchers were attacked by state troopers while beginning a walk to Montgomery to demand better voting rights for African-Americans. The event infamously became known as Bloody Sunday.

However, a century earlier, Edmund Pettus was on Lookout Mountain in another bloody event that also dealt with Americans trying to resolve disharmony – the Civil War.

Although his name is not often mentioned in Chattanooga as much as some of the more familiar commanding generals like Ulysses S. Grant or Braxton Bragg, he was still here as a Confederate brigadier general.

In fact, a historical marker at Point Park mentions his name.

Born in 1821 in Alabama, Edmund Winston Pettus attended Clinton College in Smith County, Tenn. A veteran of the Mexican-American War, he also served as a lawyer and judge.

When the Civil War broke out, the 40-year-old volunteered with the Confederacy. He served at Stones River and Vicksburg and was promoted to brigadier general and given command of the Army of Tennessee shortly before the battles in Chattanooga in November 1863.

On the day of the Battle of Lookout Mountain on Nov. 24, his brigade was said to have performed nobly, as it moved down from the top of the mountain and became engaged in conflict around the Cravens House.

The Confederates had held Chattanooga under siege since the Battle of Chickamauga two months earlier, and the Lookout Mountain battle was one of the beginning efforts by the Union to take control of Chattanooga.

Because of its railroads and the Tennessee River, Chattanooga was considered important logistically to control by the Union.

The battle of Lookout Mountain was fought under foggy conditions and Gen. Pettus remarked later of having trouble seeing.

However, what was clear, at least to historians later, was that the Confederates had little chance to beat the Union forces at Lookout Mountain.

Gen. Pettus and the others were said to have done a good job holding off the others as long as they did, despite the fact that the division commander, Brig. Gen. John Jackson, reportedly did not help adequately.

Gen. Pettus was sent later that day to the extreme Southern slope of Missionary Ridge and fought in equally futile action there on Nov. 25.

He also fought against Gen. Sherman around Atlanta.

By all accounts, he was a very brave and distinguished military leader.

In 1897, more than 30 years after the Civil War ended, he was elected as a U.S. senator from Alabama. He was said to be the last Confederate military commander to serve in Congress.

He continued as a senator until his death in 1907 while vacationing in Hot Springs, N.C., just across the state line from Newport, Tenn.

He was buried in Selma.

The bridge named for him was constructed in 1940.

It later helped carry civil rights marchers to the mountaintop, but in 1863, Gen. Edmund Pettus had literally enjoyed his own mountaintop experience fighting ably for the Confederacy on Lookout Mountain.


Jcshearer2@comcast.net


Program on Preserving and Storing Documents at TN State Library May 3

Preserving important family records will be easier than ever for people who attend the next in the Tennessee State Library and Archives' (TSLA) series of workshops. Carol Roberts, conservation manager in TSLA's Preservation Services Section, will host the workshop on basic cleaning, repair and storage techniques people can use to extend the life of important family papers, collections ... (click for more)

Catoosa County Historical Society Meeting April 14

The Catoosa County Historical Society will meet on Monday, April 14, at 7 PM in the Old Stone Church Museum, Ringgold, GA. The speaker, Steve McAllister, who resides in Madisonville, TN, will have a book signing after his presentation on the six primary flags of the Confederacy. The title of his book is  The War for Southern Independence; Truths and Facts That Have Been ... (click for more)

Catoosa Man Convicted Of Sexual Abuse Of 5 Young Girls Gets Life Plus 250 Years

A Catoosa County man convicted of the sexual abuse of five young girls and possession of child pornography has been sentenced to life plus 250 years. James Martin Ferris, 34, was found guilty after a recent trial. The day after his conviction, Judge Ralph Van Pelt set the sentence. Ferris on June 5, 2013, was indicted by the Catoosa County Grand Jury on 46 counts.   ... (click for more)

Rev. Jesse Jackson To Be Guest Speaker At City-Wide Peace And Love Rally On Friday

Rev. Jesse Jackson will be the speaker at the City Wide Peace and Love Rally at Olivet Baptist Church, 740 East ML King Blvd.,  on Friday, from 5:15-7 p.m. Rev. Jackson is the founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Cedric Pendleton, actor and humanitarian with Have and Have Nots/House of Payne/Fantasia Story, will be the special guest. (click for more)

Use The Current Rail System Already In Place - And Response

Why spend $20 million or more on an unproven system to run from the Southside of Chattanooga when we already have the beginnings of a system?  The question apparently has surfaced of why the Choo Choo City doesn't have a rail line. We do have a rail line with the Tennessee Valley RR Museum and their hardware. And they already make runs from the Southside to close to Enterprise ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: UAW Voices In Detroit

Today we are going to eavesdrop on somewhat of an open conversation that was held far to the north after the United Auto Workers surprisingly dropped a legal challenge with the National Labor Relations Board in Chattanooga the first thing on Monday morning. The NLRB judge certified the VW workers’ February vote to turn away the UAW at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen manufacturing plant ... (click for more)