Edmund Pettus, an Historical Figure of Both Selma and Chattanooga

Wednesday, October 7, 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


Kayak Tour of Chattanooga's History June 27

The Chattanooga History Center will partner with Outdoor Chattanooga to a kayak tour on the Tennessee River on June 27, 2015 beginning at 8:30 am. Join us for a leisurely, beginner-friendly kayak tour and be a true pioneer and get a unique perspective on Chattanooga’s story. Riding the river under your own power, you will get in touch with the environment that has attracted ... (click for more)

Guided Bicycle Tour on Chattanooga's Transportation History July 11

The Chattanooga History Center and Outdoor Chattanooga will conduct a leisurely bike ride through downtown Chattanooga. Participants will learn about the various ways people have cycled through and mobilized the city. A Transportation History of Chattanooga will be guided by a CHC historian and Outdoor Chattanooga staff & volunteers. It will begin at Outdoor Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Bradley County Commission Rejects 10-Cent Tax Rise For Lake Forest MS; Firefighters Get $3,000 Raise

With a small crowd of demonstrators sitting in the back of the room with signs that read, “Vote no on property tax increase,” the Bradley County Commission on Monday night finally rejected a proposed 10-cent property tax increase that would have added funds to the construction of a new academic building at Lake Forest Middle School.   Funding for renovations at ... (click for more)

11 Attorneys Apply In 2nd Round For Replacing Judge Stern

Eleven attorneys have applied in the second round of applications to replace Rebecca Stern as judge of Criminal Court's Division II. The applicants are: Christian J. Coder Chattanooga Tracy Cox Signal Mountain Amanda B. Dunn Chattanooga Ardena Juanita Garth Chattanooga Thomas Clifton Greenholtz Ooltewah Andrea DeFay Hayduk ... (click for more)

Could The Marriage Decision Spark A New Independence Day?

I confess that this year I am having a hard time with the idea of celebrating the 4th of July Independence Day. It is not because I am not thankful to God for what was done on that day, what it represents, and the blessings I’ve experienced that flow from it. On the other hand, I want to think that maybe this year’s celebration will mark a period in our history in which a new movement ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Hay Fields Of July

Oh my goodness, July has just arrived and during my formative years, it was the most hated month of the year. When I was 12 years old, my wonderful grandfather decreed the days of begging for money to go to the picture show and burgers at the Krystal were over, that I was on the payroll for a dollar an hour and, in our family, folks worked for what they spent. Now my grandfather, ... (click for more)