Gen. Grant's official report
of the battles of Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge.
Headq'rs military division of the Miss. in the field, Chattanooga, Tenn., Dec. 24, 1863.Col. J. C. Kelton, A. A. G., Washington, D. C.: Colonel: In pursuance of G O No. 337, War Department, of date Washington, October 16, 1863, delivered to me by the Secretary of War at Louisville, Ky, on the 18th of the same month, I assumed command of the "Military Division of the Mississippi, " comprising the Departments of the Ohio, the Cumberland, and the Tennessee; and telegraphed the order assuming command, together with the order of the War Department referred to, to Maj Gen A E Burnside, at Knoxville, and to Maj Gen W S Rosecrans, at Chattanooga. My action in telegraphing these orders to Chattanooga in advance of my arrival there, was induced by information furnished me by the Secretary of War of the difficulties with which the Army of the Cumberland had to contend in supplying itself over a long mountainous and almost impassable road from Stevenson, Ala, to Chattanooga, Tenn, and his fears that Gen Rosecrans would fall back to the north side of the Tennessee river. To guard farther against the possibility of the Secretary's fears, I also telegraphed to Maj Gen. Thomas on the 19th October from Louisville, to hold Chattanooga at all hazards; that I would be there as soon as possible. To which be replied on the same date, "I will hold the town till we starve." Proceeding directly to Chattanooga, I arrived there on the 23d October, and found that General Thomas had, immediately on being placed in command of the Department of the Cumberland, ordered the concentration of Maj Gen Hooker's command at Bridgeport, preparatory to Securing the river and main wagon road between that place and Brown's Ferry, immediately below Lookout Mountain. The next morning after my arrival at Chattanooga, in company with Thomas and Brig Gen. W. F. Smith Chief Engineer, I made a reconnaissance of Brown's Ferry and the hills on the south side of the river and at the mouth of Lookout Valley. After the reconnaissance the plan agreed upon was for Hooker to cross at Bridgeport to the south side of the river with all the force that could be spared from the railroad, and most on the main wagon road by way of Whitesides to Wauhatchie, in Lookout Valley. Maj Gen. J M Palmer was to proceed by the only practicable route north of the river from his position opposite Chattanooga to a point on the north bank of the river opposite Whitesides, then to cross to the south side and hold the road passed over by Hooker. In the meantime, and before the enemy could be apprised of our intention, a force under the direction of Brig Gen W F Smith, Chief Engineer, was to be thrown across the river, at or near Brown's Ferry, to seize the range of hills at the mouth of Lookout Valley, covering the Brown's ferry road, and orders were given accordingly. It was known the enemy held the north of Lookout Valley with a brigade of troops, and the road leading around the foot of the mountain from their main camp in Chattanooga Valley to Lookout Valley. Holding these advantages, he would have had little difficulty in concentrating a sufficient force to have defeated or driven him back. To remedy this the seizure of the range of hills at the mouth of Lookout Valley, and covering the Brown's Ferry road, was deemed of the highest importance. This, by the use of pontoon bridges at Chattanooga and Brown's Ferry, would secure to us by the north bank of the river across Moccasin Point, a shorter one by which to reinforce our troops in Lookout Valley, than the narrow and tortuous road around the foot of Lookout Mountain afforded the enemy for reinforcement. The force speeled for this expedition consisted of five thousand men, under command of General Smith, Chief Engineer, eighteen hundred of which, under Brig. Gen. H. B Hazen, in sixty pontoon boats, containing thirty armed men each, floated quietly from Chattanooga past the enemy's pickets, to the foot of Lookout Mountain, on the night of the 27th of October, landed on the south side of the river at Brown's Ferry, surprised the enemy's pickets stationed there, and seized the hills covering the ferry, without the loss of a man killed, and but four or five wounded. The remainder of the force, together with the materials for a bridge, were moved by the north bank of the river across Moccasin Point to Brown's Ferry, without attracting the attention of the enemy; and before day dawned the whole force was ferried to the south bank of the river, and the almost inaccessible heights rising from Lookout Valley at its outlet to the river, and below the mouth of Lookout Creek, were secured. By 10 o'clock, A M, an excellent pontoon bridge was laid across the river at Brown's Ferry, thus securing to us the end of the desired road nearest the enemy's forces, and the shorter line over which to pass troops, if a battle became inevitable. Positions were taken up by our troops from which they could not have been driven except by vastly superior forces, and then only with great loss to the enemy. Our artillery was placed in such position as to completely command the roads leading from the enemy's main camp in Chattanooga Valley to Lookout Valley. On the 28th Hooker emerged into Lookout Valley at Wauhatchie, by the direct road from Bridgeport, by way of Whitesides to Chattanooga, with the Eleventh Army Corps, under Major Gen Howard and Geary's Division, of the Twelfth Army Corps, and proceeded to take up positions for the defence of the road from Whiteside, over which he had marched, and also the road leading from Brown's Ferry to Kelley's Ferry, throwing the left of Howard's Corps forward to Brown's Ferry. The division that started, under command of Palmer, for Whitesides, reached its destination and took up the position intended in the original plan of this movement. These movements, so successfully executed secured to us two comparatively good lines by which to obtain supplies from the terminus of the railroad at Bridgeport, namely: the main wagon road, by way of Whitesides, Wauhatchie, and Brown's Ferry, distant but twenty-eight miles, and the Kelly's Ferry and Brown's Ferry road, which, by the use of the river from Bridgeport to Kelly's Ferry, reduced the distance for wagoning to but eight miles. Up to this period our forces at Chattanooga were practically invested, the enemy's lines extending from the Tennessee river above Chattanooga to the river at and below the point at Lookout Mountain, below Chattanooga, with the south bank of the river picketed to near Bridgeport, his main force being fortified in Chattanooga Valley, at the foot of and on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, and a brigade in Lookout Valley. True, we held possession of the country north of the river, but it was from sixty to seventy miles over the most impracticable roads to army supplies. The artillery horses and mules had become so reduced by starvation that they could not have been relied upon for moving anything. An attempt at retreat must have been with men alone, and with only such supplies as they could carry. A retreat would have been almost certain annihilation, for the enemy occupying positions within gunshot of and overlooking our very fortifications, would have unquestionably pursued retreating forces. Already more than ten thousand animals had perished in supplying half-rations to the troops by the long and tedious route from Stevenson and Bridgeport to Chattanooga over Waldron's Ridge. They could not have been supplied another week. The enemy was evidently fully apprised of our condition in Chattanooga, and of the necessity of our establishing a new and shorter line by which to obtain supplies if we would maintain our position; and so fully was he impressed with the importance of keeping from us these lines — lost to him by surprise, and in a manner he little dreamed of — that in order to regain possession of them a night attack was made by a portion of Longstreet's forces on a position of Hooker's troops (Geary's division of the 12th corns) the first night after Hooker's arrival in the Valley. The attack failed, however, and Howard's corps, which was moving to the assistance of Geary, finding that it was not required by him, carried the remaining heights held by the enemy west of Lookout Creek. This gave us quiet possession of the lines of communication heretofore described, south of the Tennessee river. Of these operations I cannot speak more particularly — the sub-reports having been sent to Washington without passing through my hands. By the use of two steamboats, one of which had been left at Chattanooga by the enemy, and fell into our hands and one that had been built by us at Bridgeport and Kelly's Ferry, we were enabled to obtain supplies with but eight miles of wagoning. The capacity of the railroad and steamboats was not sufficient, however, to supply all the wants of the army, but actual suffering was prevented. Ascertaining from scouts and deserters that Bragg was dispatching Longstreet from the front, and moving him in the direction of Knoxville, Tenn., evidently to attack Burnside, and feeling strongly the necessity for some move that would compel him to retain all his forces and recall those he had detached, directions were given for a movement against Missionary Ridge, with a view to carrying it and threatening the enemy's communication with Longstreet, of which I informed Burnside by telegraph on the 7th November. After a thorough reconnaissance of the ground, however, it was deemed utterly impracticable to make the move until Sherman should get up, because of the inadequacy of our forces, and the condition of the animals then at Chattanooga, and I was forced to leave Burnside for the present to contend against superior forces of the enemy until the arrival of Sherman with his men and means of transportation. In the meantime reconnaissances were made and plans were matured for operations. Dispatches were sent to Sherman informing him of the movement of Longstreet, and the necessity of his immediate presence at Chattanooga. On the 14th November I telegraphed to Burnside as follows: Your dispatch and Dana's just received. Being there, you can tell better how to resist Longstreet's attack than I can direct. With your showing, you had better give up Kingston at the last moment, and save the most productive part of your possessions. Every arrangement is now made to throw Sherman's forces across the river, just at and below the mouth of Chickamauga creek, as soon as it arrives. Thomas will attack on his left at the same time, and together it is expected to carry Missionary Ridge, and from there push a force on to the railroad between Cleveland and Dalton.--Hooker will at the same time attack, and, if he can, carry, Lookout Mountain. The enemy now seems to be looking for an attack on his left flank. This favors us To further confirm this, Sherman's advance division will march direct from Whiteside to Trenton. The remainder of his force will pass over a new road just made from Whiteside to Kelly's Ferry, thus being concealed from the enemy, and leave him to suppose the whole force is going up Lookout Valley. Sherman's advance has only just reached Bridgeport.--The rear will reach there on the 16th. This will bring it to the 19th us the earliest day for making the combined movement as desired. Inform me if think you can sustain yourself until that time. I can hardly conceive of the enemy breaking through at Kingston and pushing for Kentucky. If they should, however, a new problem will be left for solution. Thomas has ordered a division of cavalry to the vicinity of Sparta. I will ascertain if they have started, and inform you. It will be entirely out of the question to send you ten thousand men, not because they cannot be spared; but how could they be fed after they get even one day east of here.
General In-Chief a dispatch of date of the 14th, in reference to Burnside's position, the danger of his abandonment of East Tennessee, unless immediate relief was afforded, and the terrible misfortune such a result would be to our arms; and also dispatches from Mr. C A Dana, Assistant Secretary of War, and Col Wilson, of my staff, sent at the instance of Gen Burnside, informing me more fully of the condition of affairs as detailed to them by him, I telegraphed him as follows:
The reconnaissance and its results preparations for the Grand attack.
Gen Sherman's instructions and movements.Sherman, with the following communication: Enclosed herewith I send you a copy of instructions to Major Gen Thomas. You having been over the ground in person, and having heard the whole matter discussed, further instructions will not be necessary for you. It is particularly desirable that a force should be got through to the railroad between Cleveland and Dalton, and Longstreet thus cut off from communication with the South; but, being confronted by a large force here, strongly located, it is not easy to tell how this is to be effected until the result of our first effort is known. I will add, however, what is not shown in my instructions to Thomas, that a brigade of cavalry has been ordered here, which, if it arrives in time, will be thrown across the Tennessee above Chickamauga, and may be able to make the trip to Cleveland or thereabouts.
Sherman's forces were moved from Bridgeport by way of Whiteside--one division threatening the enemy's left flank in the direction of Trenton, crossing at Brown's Ferry, up the north bank of the Tennessee, to near the mouth of South Chickamauga, where they were kept concealed from the enemy until they were ready to force a crossing.--Pontoons for throwing a bridge across the river were built and placed in North Chickamauga, near its mouth, a few miles further up, without attracting the attention of the enemy. It was expected we would be able to effect the crossing on the 21st of November; but, owing to heavy rains, Sherman was unable to get up until the afternoon of the 23d, and then only with Gens Morgan's, L. Smith's, John E Smith's, and Hugh Ewing's divisions of the 15th corps, under command of Major Gen Frank P Blair, of his army. The pontoon bridge at Brown's Ferry having been broken up by the drift consequent upon the rise in the river and rafts sent down by the enemy, the other division (Osterhans's) was detained on the south side, and was on the night of the 23d ordered, unless it could get across by eight o'clock the next morning, to report to Hooker, who was instructed in this event to attack Lookout Mountain, as contemplated in the original plan.
Gen. Bragg's rebel movements.A deserter from the rebel army, who came into our lines on the night of the 22d of November reported Bragg falling back. The following letter from Bragg, received by flag of truce on the 20th, tended to confirm this report:
Headq'rs Army of Tennessee, in the field, Nov. 20, 1863.Maj Gen U S Grant, commanding United States forces, &c, Chattanooga: General: As there may still be some non combatants in Chattanooga, I deem it proper to notify you that prudence would dictate their early withdrawal.
The first day's Contest.On the night of the 23d of November Sherman, with three divisions or his army, strengthened by Davis's division of Thomas's, which had been stationed along on the north side of the river, convenient to where the crossing was to be effected, was ready for operations at an hour sufficiently early to secure the south bank of the river just below the mouth of South Chickamauga. By dawn of day the pontoons in North Chickamauga were loaded with thirty armed men each, who floated quietly past the enemy's pickets, landed, and captured all but one of the guard--twenty in number — before the enemy was aware of the presence of a foe. The steamboat Dunbar, with a barge in tow, after having finished ferrying across the river the horses procured from Sherman with which to move Thomas's artillery, was sent up from Chattanooga to aid in crossing artillery and troops, and by daylight of the morning of the 24th of November eight thousand men were on the south side of the Tennessee and fortified in rifle trenches. By twelve o'clock M. the pontoon bridges across the Tennessee and the Chickamauga were laid, and the remainder of Sherman's force crossed over, and at half-past 12 P. M. the whole of the northern extremity of Missionary Ridge to near the railroad tunnel was in Sherman's possession. During the night he fortified the position thus secured, making it equal, it not superior, in strength to that held by the enemy. By three o'clock of the same day Colonel Long, with his brigade of cavalry, of Thomas's army, crossed to the south side of the Tennessee and to the north of South Chickamauga creek, and made a raid on the enemy's lines of communication. He burned Tyner's Station, with many stores, cut the railroad at Cleveland captured nearly a hundred wagons and over two hundred prisoners. His own loss was small. Hooker carried out the part assigned him for this day equal to the most sanguine expectations. --With Geary's division, (Twelfth corps) and two brigades of Stanley's division, (Fourth corps,) of Thomas's army, and Osterhans's divisions, (Fifteenth corps,) of Sherman's army, he scaled the western alone of Lookout Mountain, drove the enemy from his rifle pits on the northern extremity and slope of the mountain, capturing many prisoners, without serious loss. Thomas, having done on the 23d, with his troops in Chattanooga what was intended for the 24th, battered and strengthened his advance positions during the day, and pushed the Eleventh corps forward along the south bank of the Tennessee river, across Citico creek, one brigade of which, with Howard in person, reached Sherman just as he had completed the crossing of the river. When Hooker emerged in sight of the northern extremity of Lookout Mountain, Carlin's brigade, of the Fourteenth corps, was ordered to cross Chattanooga creek and form a junction with him. This was effected late in the evening and after considerable fighting. This was the night of the 24th and the forces maintained an unbroken line, with open communications from the north end of Lookout Mountain through Chattanooga Valley to the north end of Missionary Ridge.
The second day's Contest.On the morning of the 25th Hooker took possession of the mountain top with a small force, and with the remainder of his command, in pursuance of orders, swept across Chattanooga Valley, now abandoned by the enemy, to Rossville. In this march he was detained four hours building a bridge across Chattanooga creek. From Rossville he ascended Missionary Ridge, and moved northward toward the centre of the now shortened line. Sherman's attack upon the enemy's most northern and most vital point was vigorously kept up all day. The assaulting column advanced to the very rifle pits of the enemy, and held their position firmly and without wavering. The right of the assaulting column being exposed to the danger of being turned, two brigades were sent to its support. These advanced in the most gallant manner over an open field on the mountain side to near the works of the enemy, and laid there partially covered front fire for some time. The right of these two brigades rested near the head of a ravine or gorge in the mountain side, which the enemy took advantage of, and sent troops, covered from view, below them to their right rear. Being unexpectedly fired into from this direction they fell back across the open field below them, and reformed in good order in the edge of the timber. The column which attacked them was speedily driven to its entrenchments by the assaulting column proper. Early in the morning of the 25th the remainder of Howard's corps reported to Sherman, and constituted a part of his forces during that day's battle, the pursuit, and the subsequent advance for the relief of Knoxville. Sherman's position not only threatened the right flank of the enemy, but, from his occupying a line across the mountain and to the railroad bridge across Chickamauga creek, his rear and stores at Chickamauga Station. This caused the enemy to mass heavily against him. This movement of his being plainly seen from the position I occupied on Orchard Knoll, Baird's division, of the Fourteenth corps, was ordered to Sherman's support; but, receiving a note from Sherman informing me that he had all the force necessary, Baird was put in position on Thomas's left.
The attack upon the enemy's centre.The appearance of Hooker's column was at this time anxiously looked for and momentarily expected, moving north on the ridge, with his left in Chattanooga valley and his right east of the Ridge. His approach was intended as the signal for storming the rige in the centre with strong columns; but the time necessarily consumed in the construction of the bridge over Chattanooga creek detained him to a later hour than was expected. Being satisfied from the latest information from him that be must by this time be on his way from Rossville, though not yet in sight, and discovering that the enemy, in his desperation to defeat or resist the progress of Sherman, was weakening his centre on Missionary Ridge, determined me to order the advance at once. Thomas was accordingly directed to move forward his troops, constituting our centre — Baird's division, (Fourteenth corps,) Wood's and Sheridan's divisions, (4th corps,) and Johnson's division (Fourteenth corps) with a double line of skirmishers thrown out, followed in easy supporting distance by the whole force — and carry the rifle pits at the foot of Missionary Ridge, and when carried to reform his line in the rifle pits, with a view to carry the top of the ridge. These troops moved forward, drove the enemy from his rifle pits at the base of the ridge like bees from a hive, stopped but a moment until the whole were in line, and commenced the ascent of the mountain from right to left almost simultaneously following closely the retreating enemy without further orders — They encountered a fearful volley of grape and canister from nearly thirty pieces of artillery, and musketry from still well filled rifle pits on the summit of the ridge. Not a waver, however, was seen in all that long line of brave men. Their progress was steadily onward until the summit was in their possession. In this charge the casualties were remarkably few for the fire encountered. I can account for this only on the theory that the enemy's surprise at the audacity of such a charge caused confusion and the purposeless aiming of their pieces.
The Rebels in full retreat — relief for Knoxville.The nearness of night, and the enemy still resisting the advance of Thomas's left, prevented a general pursuit that night; but Sheridan pushed forward to Mission Mills. The resistance on Thomas's left being overcome, the enemy abandoned his position near the railroad tunnel in front of Sherman, and by twelve o'clock at night was in full retreat; and the whole of his strong positions on Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga Valley, and Missionary Ridge, were in our possession, together with a large number of prisoners, artillery, and small arms. Thomas was directed to get Granger, with his corps, and detachments enough from other commands, including the force available at Kingston, to make twenty thousand men, in readiness to go to the relief of Knoxville upon the termination of the battle at Chattanooga; these troops to take with them four days rations, and a steamboat loaded with the rations to follow up the river. On the evening of the 25th November orders were given to both Thomas and Sherman to pursue the enemy early the next morning with all their available force, except that under Granger, intended for the relief of Knoxville.
The pursuit — Ringgold.On the morning of the 26th Sherman advanced by way of of Chickamauga Station, and Thomas's forces, under Hooker and Palmer, moved on the Rossville road towards Grangeville and Ringgold. The advance of Thomas's forces reached Ringgold on the morning of the 27th, where they found the enemy in strong position in the gorge and on the crest of Taylor's ridge, from which they dislodged him after a severe fight, in which we lost heavily in valuable officers and men, and continued the pursuit that day until near Tunnel Hill, a distance of twenty miles from Chattanooga. Davis a division (14th corps) of Sherman's column, reached Ringgold about noon of the same day. Howard's corps was sent by Sherman to Red Clay to destroy the railroad between Dalton and Cleveland, and thus cut off Bragg's communication with Longstreet, which was successfully accomplished. Had it not been for the imperative necessity of relieving Burnside I would have pursued the broken and demoralized enemy as long as supplies could have been found in the country.--But my advices were that Burnside's supplies would only last until the 3d December. It was already getting late to afford the necessary relief. I determined, therefore, to pursue no further. Hooker was directed to hold the position he then occupied until the night of the 30th, but to go no further South at the expense of a fight. Sherman was directed to march to the railroad crossing of the Hiawassee, to protect Cranger's flank until he was across that stream, and to prevent further reinforcements being sent by that route into East Tennessee.
Granger had not yet got off, nor would he have the number of men I had directed. Besides, he moved with reluctance and complaints. I therefore determined, notwithstanding the fact that two divisions of Sherman's forces had marched from Memphis and had gone into battle immediately on their arrival at Chattanooga, to send him with his command; and orders in accordance therewith were seat him at Calhoun to assume command of the troops then with Granger, to addition to those with him, and proceed with all possible dispatch to the relief of Burnside. Gen. Elliot had been ordered by Thomas, on the 25th of November, to proceed from Alexandria, Tennessee, to Knoxville with his cavalry division, to aid in the relief of that place. The approach of Sherman caused Longstreet to raise the siege of Knoxville and retreat eastward on the night of the 4th of December. Sherman succeeded in throwing his cavalry into Knoxville on the night of the 3d. Sherman arrived in person at Knoxville on the 6th, and after a conference with Burnside in reference to "organizing a pursuing force large enough to either overtake the enemy and beat him, or drive him out of the State." Burnside was of the opinion that the corps of Granger, in conjunction with his own command, was sufficient for that purpose, and on the 7th addressed to Sherman the following communication: Knoxville, and I am satisfied that your approach served to raise the flag. The emergency having passed, I do not deem, for the present, any other portion of your command but the corps of General Granger necessary for operations in this section; and, inasmuch as General Grant has weakened the forces immediately with him in order to relieve us, thereby rendering portions of General Thomas's less secure, I deem it advisable that all the troops now here, except those commanded by General Granger, should return at once to within supporting distance of the forces operating against Bragg's army. In behalf of my command, I again desire to thank you and your command for the kindness you have done us. A E Burnside, Maj Gen. Leaving Granger's command at Knoxville, Sherman, with the remainder of his forces, returned by slow marches to Chattanooga. I have not spoken more particularly of the result of the pursuit of the enemy, because the more detained reports accompanying this do the subject justice. For the same reason I have not particularized the part taken by corps and division commander. To Brigadier General W F Smith, Chief Engineer, I feel under more than ordinary obligations for the masterly manner in which he discouraged the duties of his position, and desire that his services be fully appreciated by higher authority. The members of my staff discharged faithfully their respective duties, for which they have my warmest thanks.