Civil War Engagements in the Chattanooga Area

Monday, July 2, 2012 - by Chuck Hamilton

 

The nation is mid-way through the second year of the sesquicentennial of the great civil war which ripped this country apart from 1861-1865.  Every chamber of commerce, every visitors bureau, every county and municipal government in the Tri-state area and beyond has been preparing for this and advertising events in search of the lucrative tourist dollars.  Except in the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County, where not a peep has been spoken.

Perhaps this is because the city’s premier private social and dinner establishment, the Mountain City Club, has its origins in the Society of the Army of the Cumberland.  Of course, that would only seem to highlight Chattanooga’s place in in the war.

As one of the most important transport hubs in the South, Chattanooga was vital to both sides and focus of the longest and bloodiest campaign in the western theater of the war.

Other than enlistment and mustering to troops, the first action the area saw was along South Chickamauga, where two of the nine railroad bridges destroyed in the East Tennessee Bridge Burnings the night of 8 November 1861.  One of the bridges served the Western & Atlantic, the other the East Tennessee & Virginia.

Though it never reached its intended destination, the goal of the Andrews’ Railroad Raid on 12 April 1862 was to reach Chattanooga after stealing the locomotive named General and destroying tracks and burning bridges along the way.  Due to the tenacity of the General’s conductor, the Union infiltrators did not get much accomplished and ran out of fuel three miles north of Ringgold, Georgia.  The men were held in Swaims Jail on Lookout Street in Chattanooga before being sent to Atlanta, Georgia, for trial.  Eight men, including Andrews, were hanged, and are now buried in the Chattanooga National Cemetery.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County area was occupied by Braxton Bragg’s (Confederate) Army of the Mississippi from 23 July through 28 August, 1862, in preparation for the Kentucky Campaign.  Bragg had moved the entire army by train from Corinth, Mississippi.  A monument from that occupation stands in the community of Silverdale, the cemetery for 155 Confederate soldiers who died in field hospitals nearby.

The (Confederate) Army of Tennessee occupied Chattanooga and Hamilton County from 4 July 1863 through 9 September 1863.  During this time, Irish Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s Division was stationed in the Tyner-Silverdale-Chickamauga Station area and built several redoubts in the area.  One stills stands at the former site of Tyner village, abandoned to the TNT plant in 1940, and the remains of another around the water tower overlooking Lee Highway at Highway 153.  Three more, long since destroyed, were atop the hill where Grace Memorial is now, where Tyner Junior stands, and in Harrison, now under the Chickamauga Reservoir.

The Chattanooga Campaign lasted 21 August-28 November 1863.  Though many historians divide the same period into a campaign for Chickamauga and a campaign for Chattanooga, in truth the entire maneuvering and combat from 21 August-28 November 1863 was centered around control of Chattanooga, making it three months and one week long.  Beginning with the start of the shelling of Chattanooga on 21 August, the Chattanooga Campaign ended with the actions at Shellmound, TN, and Tunnel Hill, GA, on 28 November.

The Battle of the Chickamauga (of Mud Flats) was by far the bloodiest two days of fighting in the entire war.  Called Mud Flats by the Confederacy, their Union opponents named it for the creek which ran through the battlefield.  The nearby town was still called Crawfish Springs at the time.  The Army of Tennessee, augemented by Longstreet’s Corps from the (Confederate) Army of Northern Virginia, decisively defeated their Army of the Cumberland opponents under Rosecrans.  It took two days for Bragg’s generals to convince him of the overwhelming victory his army had achieved.

The three engagements on 23 November 1863 dislodged the most forward positions of the (Confederate) Army of Tennessee.  The action at Lookout Mountain was to protect the Union rear.  The same evening of that battle, Sherman’s 15th Corps of the (Union) Army of the Tennessee (named for the river) secretly crossed the Tennessee River and seized what it thought was the north end of Missionary Ridge.  It was actually the detached Billy Goat Hill.

Bragg had earlier sent Longstreet’s Corps to besiege Buell’s (Union) Army of the Ohio in Knoxville, and had just ordered Cleburne’s Division to join him.  Just as the division was boarding the train at Tyner, orders came from Bragg to seize and hold the actual north end of the ridge against the coming attack.  Cleburne’s Division did so, one division against Sherman’s five, fighting from early evening through nightfall and all day beginning the next dawn, driving back the superior numbers again and again and again.

The local name for that section of the ridge, just beyond the tunnel of the East Virginia & Georgia Railroad, is Trueblood Hill, but records of both armies refer to it as Tunnel Hill, Tn., and consider that battle separate from the action that followed.  Today it makes up Sherman’s Reservation of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park.  Unfortunately, several years ago, the City of Chattanooga took the unilateral action of all-but closing off safe and easy access to this major site.

Gen. Grant, commanding all Union forces in the field, intended Sherman’s assault in secret to be the main attack against Bragg’s forces along the crest of the ridge.  In desperation, at about 3 pm he ordered the Army of the Cumberland soldiers of Gen. Thomas (who had replaced Rosecrans), to attack across the valley and seize the rifle pits (trenches) in the valley floor, but to go no further.  He feared those men were too demoralized to do much more.

That’s why he was so stunned when they took the ridge.  This assault, intended as a feint, is what historians call the Battle of Missionary Ridge, completely ignoring the sound trouncing which Cleburne’s Division had given to Sherman’s Corps.

Here I need to comment on the oft-made critique of Bragg about the placement of his rifle pits atop the ridge being on the “actual crest” rather than the “military crest”.  Bragg’s placement was, in truth, standard practice at the time; in fact, the rifle pits Sherman had his men dig along Billy Goat Hill were likewise on the “actual crest”.  The resounding defeat Bragg suffered at Missionary Ridge made the doctrine of the “military crest” standard practice.

Five engagements took place the day after the battles of Tunnel Hill, Tn., and of Missionary Ridge.  The battle at Tyner was fought to prevent any of the retreating troops from joining the siege at Knoxville.  The other four, attested to in the Official Record as well as numerous personal accounts, were fought between the two columns of the defeated Army of Tennessee and their Union pursuers. 

Beginning at Chickamauga Station, where Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis’ Division attacked the Confederates’ rear guard (Maney’s Brigade of Stewart’s Division and Lewis’ Brigade of Cleburne’s Division), the opposing forces waged continuous intermittent battle.  The next major episode of the day was within sight of the Shepherd house of Altamede, with the Confederates entrenched on Concord Ridge and the Union troops in the valley below.  That at Cat Creek was fought for several hours in the core of what is now East Brainerd, just beyond Concord Ridge.  The last action, beginning in the evening and lasting till twilight, took place in Graysville, GA, between Stewart’s Division and the vanguard of Hooker’s Corps from the Army of the Potomac.

Ironically and unintentionally, that day, 26 November 1863, was the first national Thanksgiving Day, proclaimed by Pres. Abraham Lincoln in the aftermath of the carnage at Gettysburg and Vicksburg and the Union loss at Chickamauga.

With the Army of Tennessee retreating from Catoosa Station just east of Whiteoak Ridge, Bragg ordered Cleburne’s Division to hold the pass at Ringgold Gap at all costs.  Sure it was a suicide mission, Cleburne let his men volunteer for the battle or retreat with the rest.  To a man, they all volunteered to stay and face Hooker’s Corps.  What followed was an example of courage reminiscent of the Greeks at Thermopylae, with the difference that Cleburne’s Division inflicted significant casualties on their enemies while taking very few of their own.

During the Atlanta Campaign, the Army of the Cumberland was part of Sherman’s forces invading the Deep South.  However, the base of the Union Army’s Department of the Cumberland and the Quartermaster Corps for its army remained in Chattanooga.  The main force supporting this occupation were the 14th, 16th, 18th, 42nd, and 44th U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) regiments of the first Colored Brigade of the Department of the Cumberland, later joined by the 1st U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery.  These troops all saw combat action, some in major battles and all against the numerous guerrilla outfits in the region.

The following is a list of battles, engagements, and skirmishes in the vicinity of Chattanooga during the Civil War, compiled from the Official Record of the War of the Rebellion, Wikipedia, Armstrong’s history of Chattanooga, James County: A Lost County of Tennessee, and numerous other books I’ve read on the war.  Certified battles are designated as such, while other encounters simply have the name of the town or geographic area they occurred.  Actions which were part of a larger attack or campaign are grouped together.

East Tennessee Bridge Burnings, 8 November 1861

Andrews’ Railroad Raid, 12 April 1862

Battle of Bridgeport, 24 April 1862

Jasper, 4 June 1862

Battle Creek, 21 June 1862

Rankin’s Ferry, 28 June 1862

Walden’s Ridge, 5 July 1862

Valley Road, 5 July 1862

Occupation by the (Confederate) Army of the Mississippi, 23 July-28 August 1862.

Battle of Fort McCook (near South Pittsburg), 27-28 August 1862

Shelling of Chattanooga, 7-8 June 1862

Decatur, Tn., 21 June 1862

The (Confederate) Army of Tennessee was created from the Army of the Mississippi and the Department of East Tennessee on 20 November 1862.

Occupation of Chattanooga and Hamilton County by the (confederate) Army of Tennessee, 4 July-9 September 1863.

Jasper, TN, 24 July 1863

Shellmound, TN, 21 August 1863

Beginning of the Chattanooga Campaign.

Shelling of Chattanooga, 21 August-8 September 1863

Thatcher’s Landing, 26 August 1963

Harrison’s Landing, 26-27 August 1963

Lookout Valley, 7 September 1863

Fryar’s Island, 9 September 1863

Lookout Mountain, GA, 9 September 1863

Occupation of Chattanooga by Union troops, 9 September 1863-spring 1864

Peavine Creek, GA, 10 September 1863

Battle of Davis’ Cross Roads, GA, 10-11 September 1863

Bluebird Gap, GA, 11 September 1863

Ringgold, GA, 11 September 1863

Tunnel Hill, GA, 11 September 1863

Lee & Gordon’s Mill, GA, 11-13 September 1863

Leet’s Tanyard, GA, 12 September 1863

Lafayette, GA, 14 September 1863

Catlett’s Gap, GA (Pigeon Mtn.), 15-18 September 1863

Lee & Gordon’s Mill, GA, 16 September 1863

Ringgold, GA, 17 September 1863

McLemore’s Cove, GA, 17 September 1863

Owen’s Ford, GA, 17 September 1863

Jay’s Mill, GA, 18 September 1863

Peavine Ridge, GA, 18 September 1863

Alexander’s Bridge, GA, 18 September 1863

Dyer’s Ford, GA, 18 September 1863

Battle of the Chickamauga (Mud Flats), 19-20 September 1863: 

Sequatchie Valley, 21 September 1863

Shallow Ford Gap, 22 September 1863 (atop Missionary Ridge)

Seige of Chattanooga, 22 September-25 November 1863

Wheeler’s Raid on the Union supply lines from Nashville, 1-9 October 1863

Battle of Brown’s Ferry, 27 October 1863

Battle of Wauhatchie, 28-29 October 1863

Third Battle of Chattanooga, 23-25 November 1863

Orchard Knob, 23 November 1863

Indian Hill, 23 November 1863 (elevated area of Highland Park)

Brushy Knob, 23 November 1863 (now Bald Knob, in the National Cemetery)

Battle of Lookout Mountain, 24 November 1863

Battle of Tunnel Hill, TN, 24-25 November 1863

Battle of Missionary Ridge, 25 November 1863

Battle of Tyner Station, 26 November 1863

Battle of Chickamauga Station, 26 November 1863

Battle of Shepherd’s Run (Hickory Valley), 26 November 1863

Battle of Cat Creek (Mackey Branch in Concord), 26 November 1863

Battle of Graysville, 26 November 1863

Battle of Ringgold Gap, 27 November 1863

Tunnel Hill, Ga., 28 November 1863

Shellmound, 28 November 1863

End of the Chattanooga Campaign.

 

Ooltewah, 21 January 1864

Chickamauga Station, 30 January 1864

Ooltewah, 18-19 February 1864

Tunnel Hill, Ga., 23 February 1864

First Battle of Dalton, 27 February 1864

Atlanta Campaign, 7 May-2 September 1864

Battle of Tunnel Hill, Ga., 7 May 1864

Battle of Dug Gap, 8 May 1864

Battle of Buzzard’s Roost, 9 May 1864

Battle of Rocky Face, 12 May 1864

First Battle of Resaca, 13-15 May 1864

Lay’s Ferry, 16 May 1864

The Atlanta Campaign did, of course, continue long after 16 May, but those actions took place outside what is considered the Tri-state area.

Wheeler’s raid behind Union lines, late summer 1864

Second Battle of Dalton, 14-15 August 1864 (involved the 44th USCT)

Graysville, 16 August 1864

Cleveland, 17 August 1864

Parker’s Gap, 4 September 1864

Nashville Campaign, 25 September-27 December 1864

Second Battle of Resaca, 12 October 1864

Third Battle of Dalton, 13 October 1864 (involved 14th USCT)

Seige of Decatur, AL, 26-28 October 1864 (involved 14th USCT)

Battle of Nashville, 15-16 December 1864 (involved 14th, 16th, 18th, & 44th USCT’s)

Ooltewah, 4 February 1865

Stevenson’s Gap, Al., 19th March 1865 (involved 101st USCT out of Nashville)

Guerrilla groups in the Tri-state area: while Champ Ferguson’s group in north Middle and Upper East Tennessee and those along the Missouri-Kansas border are very well known, the Tri-state area had more than its own share of “partisan rangers”, “regulators”, “home guards”, and other groups, some of whom were often little better than bandits.  Most activity occurred after the occupation by Union troops and the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign.  On the Union side, the chief troops in the fight were those of the First Colored Brigade based in Chattanooga, of which the 42nd USCT was most often the front.

Among the Confederate irregulars in the area were William Snow’s Scouts (in Snow Hill), Jenkins’ Scouts (lower Chickamauga Valley), Gatewood’s Regulators (based in McLemore’s Cove), Mead’s Alabama and Tennessee Cavalry (Sand Mountain), Gunter’s Partisan Rangers (Sand Mountain), and Doc Morse’s Guerrillas.  Findley’s 1st Georgia State Cavalry Home Guards (based in Bartow County) continued their activities as a resistance group after occupation of the region by the Union army.

Union irregulars in the region included several companies of the 1st Tennessee and Alabama Independent Vidette Cavalry and Long’s and Roberts’ Partisans.  Brown’s 1st Georgia Troops State Volunteers (USA) served as a counterpart to Findley’s group.

 

Chuck Hamilton

 

 


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