Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

Sherman’s cavalry took up its line of march soon after the
bridge was completed, and by half-past three the whole of it was
over both bridges and on its way to strike the enemy’s
communications at Chickamauga Station. All of Sherman’s command
was now south of the Tennessee. During the afternoon General
Giles A. Smith was severely wounded and carried from the field.

Thomas having done on the 23d what was expected of him on the
24th, there was nothing for him to do this day except to
strengthen his position. Howard, however, effected a crossing
of Citico Creek and a junction with Sherman, and was directed to
report to him. With two or three regiments of his command he
moved in the morning along the banks of the Tennessee, and
reached the point where the bridge was being laid. He went out
on the bridge as far as it was completed from the south end, and
saw Sherman superintending the work from the north side and
moving himself south as fast as an additional boat was put in
and the roadway put upon it. Howard reported to his new chief
across the chasm between them, which was now narrow and in a few
minutes closed.

While these operations were going on to the east of Chattanooga,
Hooker was engaged on the west. He had three divisions:
Osterhaus’s, of the 15th corps, Army of the Tennessee; Geary’s,
12th corps, Army of the Potomac; and Cruft’s, 14th corps, Army
of the Cumberland. Geary was on the right at Wauhatchie, Cruft
at the centre, and Osterhaus near Brown’s Ferry. These troops
were all west of Lookout Creek. The enemy had the east bank of
the creek strongly picketed and intrenched, and three brigades
of troops in the rear to reinforce them if attacked. These
brigades occupied the summit of the mountain. General Carter L.
Stevenson was in command of the whole. Why any troops, except
artillery with a small infantry guard, were kept on the
mountain-top, I do not see. A hundred men could have held the
summit–which is a palisade for more than thirty feet
down–against the assault of any number of men from the position
Hooker occupied.

The side of Lookout Mountain confronting Hooker’s command was
rugged, heavily timbered, and full of chasms, making it
difficult to advance with troops, even in the absence of an
opposing force. Farther up, the ground becomes more even and
level, and was in cultivation. On the east side the slope is
much more gradual, and a good wagon road, zigzagging up it,
connects the town of Chattanooga with the summit.

Early on the morning of the 24th Hooker moved Geary’s division,
supported by a brigade of Cruft’s, up Lookout Creek, to effect a
crossing. The remainder of Cruft’s division was to seize the
bridge over the creek, near the crossing of the railroad.
Osterhaus was to move up to the bridge and cross it. The bridge
was seized by Gross’s brigade after a slight skirmish with the
pickets guarding it. This attracted the enemy so that Geary’s
movement farther up was not observed. A heavy mist obscured him
from the view of the troops on the top of the mountain. He
crossed the creek almost unobserved, and captured the picket of
over forty men on guard near by. He then commenced ascending
the mountain directly in his front. By this time the enemy was
seen coming down from their camps on the mountain slope, and
filing into their rifle-pits to contest the crossing of the
bridge. By eleven o’clock the bridge was complete. Osterhaus
was up, and after some sharp skirmishing the enemy was driven
away with considerable loss in killed and captured.

While the operations at the bridge were progressing, Geary was
pushing up the hill over great obstacles, resisted by the enemy
directly in his front, and in face of the guns on top of the
mountain. The enemy, seeing their left flank and rear menaced,
gave way, and were followed by Cruft and Osterhaus. Soon these
were up abreast of Geary, and the whole command pushed up the
hill, driving the enemy in advance. By noon Geary had gained
the open ground on the north slope of the mountain, with his
right close up to the base of the upper palisade, but there were
strong fortifications in his front. The rest of the command
coming up, a line was formed from the base of the upper palisade
to the mouth of Chattanooga Creek.

Thomas and I were on the top of Orchard Knob. Hooker’s advance
now made our line a continuous one. It was in full view,
extending from the Tennessee River, where Sherman had crossed,
up Chickamauga River to the base of Mission Ridge, over the top
of the north end of the ridge to Chattanooga Valley, then along
parallel to the ridge a mile or more, across the valley to the
mouth of Chattanooga Creek, thence up the slope of Lookout
Mountain to the foot of the upper palisade. The day was hazy,
so that Hooker’s operations were not visible to us except at
moments when the clouds would rise. But the sound of his
artillery and musketry was heard incessantly. The enemy on his
front was partially fortified, but was soon driven out of his
works. During the afternoon the clouds, which had so obscured
the top of Lookout all day as to hide whatever was going on from
the view of those below, settled down and made it so dark where
Hooker was as to stop operations for the time. At four o’clock
Hooker reported his position as impregnable. By a little after
five direct communication was established, and a brigade of
troops was sent from Chattanooga to reinforce him. These troops
had to cross Chattanooga Creek and met with some opposition, but
soon overcame it, and by night the commander, General Carlin,
reported to Hooker and was assigned to his left. I now
telegraphed to Washington: “The fight to-day progressed
favorably. Sherman carried the end of Missionary Ridge, and his
right is now at the tunnel, and his left at Chickamauga Creek.
Troops from Lookout Valley carried the point of the mountain,
and now hold the eastern slope and a point high up. Hooker
reports two thousand prisoners taken, besides which a small
number have fallen into our hands from Missionary Ridge.” The
next day the President replied: “Your dispatches as to fighting
on Monday and Tuesday are here. Well done. Many thanks to
all. Remember Burnside.” And Halleck also telegraphed: “I
congratulate you on the success thus far of your plans. I fear
that Burnside is hard pushed, and that any further delay may
prove fatal. I know you will do all in your power to relieve

The division of Jefferson C. Davis, Army of the Cumberland, had
been sent to the North Chickamauga to guard the pontoons as they
were deposited in the river, and to prevent all ingress or egress
of citizens. On the night of the 24th his division, having
crossed with Sherman, occupied our extreme left from the upper
bridge over the plain to the north base of Missionary Ridge.
Firing continued to a late hour in the night, but it was not
connected with an assault at any point.



At twelve o’clock at night, when all was quiet, I began to give
orders for the next day, and sent a dispatch to Willcox to
encourage Burnside. Sherman was directed to attack at
daylight. Hooker was ordered to move at the same hour, and
endeavor to intercept the enemy’s retreat if he still remained;
if he had gone, then to move directly to Rossville and operate
against the left and rear of the force on Missionary Ridge.
Thomas was not to move until Hooker had reached Missionary
Ridge. As I was with him on Orchard Knob, he would not move
without further orders from me.

The morning of the 25th opened clear and bright, and the whole
field was in full view from the top of Orchard Knob. It
remained so all day. Bragg’s headquarters were in full view,
and officers–presumably staff officers–could be seen coming
and going constantly.

The point of ground which Sherman had carried on the 24th was
almost disconnected from the main ridge occupied by the enemy. A
low pass, over which there is a wagon road crossing the hill, and
near which there is a railroad tunnel, intervenes between the two
hills. The problem now was to get to the main ridge. The enemy
was fortified on the point; and back farther, where the ground
was still higher, was a second fortification commanding the
first. Sherman was out as soon as it was light enough to see,
and by sunrise his command was in motion. Three brigades held
the hill already gained. Morgan L. Smith moved along the east
base of Missionary Ridge; Loomis along the west base, supported
by two brigades of John E. Smith’s division; and Corse with his
brigade was between the two, moving directly towards the hill to
be captured. The ridge is steep and heavily wooded on the east
side, where M. L. Smith’s troops were advancing, but cleared and
with a more gentle slope on the west side. The troops advanced
rapidly and carried the extreme end of the rebel works. Morgan
L. Smith advanced to a point which cut the enemy off from the
railroad bridge and the means of bringing up supplies by rail
from Chickamauga Station, where the main depot was located. The
enemy made brave and strenuous efforts to drive our troops from
the position we had gained, but without success. The contest
lasted for two hours. Corse, a brave and efficient commander,
was badly wounded in this assault. Sherman now threatened both
Bragg’s flank and his stores, and made it necessary for him to
weaken other points of his line to strengthen his right. From
the position I occupied I could see column after column of
Bragg’s forces moving against Sherman. Every Confederate gun
that could be brought to bear upon the Union forces was
concentrated upon him. J. E. Smith, with two brigades, charged
up the west side of the ridge to the support of Corse’s command,
over open ground and in the face of a heavy fire of both
artillery and musketry, and reached the very parapet of the
enemy. He lay here for a time, but the enemy coming with a
heavy force upon his right flank, he was compelled to fall back,
followed by the foe. A few hundred yards brought Smith’s troops
into a wood, where they were speedily reformed, when they
charged and drove the attacking party back to his intrenchments.

Seeing the advance, repulse, and second advance of J. E. Smith
from the position I occupied, I directed Thomas to send a
division to reinforce him. Baird’s division was accordingly
sent from the right of Orchard Knob. It had to march a
considerable distance directly under the eye of the enemy to
reach its position. Bragg at once commenced massing in the same
direction. This was what I wanted. But it had now got to be
late in the afternoon, and I had expected before this to see
Hooker crossing the ridge in the neighborhood of Rossville and
compelling Bragg to mass in that direction also.

The enemy had evacuated Lookout Mountain during the night, as I
expected he would. In crossing the valley he burned the bridge
over Chattanooga Creek, and did all he could to obstruct the
roads behind him. Hooker was off bright and early, with no
obstructions in his front but distance and the destruction above
named. He was detained four hours crossing Chattanooga Creek,
and thus was lost the immediate advantage I expected from his
forces. His reaching Bragg’s flank and extending across it was
to be the signal for Thomas’s assault of the ridge. But
Sherman’s condition was getting so critical that the assault for
his relief could not be delayed any longer.

Sheridan’s and Wood’s divisions had been lying under arms from
early morning, ready to move the instant the signal was given. I
now directed Thomas to order the charge at once (*16). I watched
eagerly to see the effect, and became impatient at last that
there was no indication of any charge being made. The centre of
the line which was to make the charge was near where Thomas and I
stood, but concealed from view by an intervening forest. Turning
to Thomas to inquire what caused the delay, I was surprised to
see Thomas J. Wood, one of the division commanders who was to
make the charge, standing talking to him. I spoke to General
Wood, asking him why he did not charge as ordered an hour
before. He replied very promptly that this was the first he had
heard of it, but that he had been ready all day to move at a
moment’s notice. I told him to make the charge at once. He was
off in a moment, and in an incredibly short time loud cheering
was heard, and he and Sheridan were driving the enemy’s advance
before them towards Missionary Ridge. The Confederates were
strongly intrenched on the crest of the ridge in front of us,
and had a second line half-way down and another at the base.
Our men drove the troops in front of the lower line of
rifle-pits so rapidly, and followed them so closely, that rebel
and Union troops went over the first line of works almost at the
same time. Many rebels were captured and sent to the rear under
the fire of their own friends higher up the hill. Those that
were not captured retreated, and were pursued. The retreating
hordes being between friends and pursuers caused the enemy to
fire high to avoid killing their own men. In fact, on that
occasion the Union soldier nearest the enemy was in the safest
position. Without awaiting further orders or stopping to
reform, on our troops went to the second line of works; over
that and on for the crest–thus effectually carrying out my
orders of the 18th for the battle and of the 24th (*17) for this

I watched their progress with intense interest. The fire along
the rebel line was terrific. Cannon and musket balls filled the
air: but the damage done was in small proportion to the
ammunition expended. The pursuit continued until the crest was
reached, and soon our men were seen climbing over the
Confederate barriers at different points in front of both
Sheridan’s and Wood’s divisions. The retreat of the enemy along
most of his line was precipitate and the panic so great that
Bragg and his officers lost all control over their men. Many
were captured, and thousands threw away their arms in their

Sheridan pushed forward until he reached the Chickamauga River
at a point above where the enemy crossed. He met some
resistance from troops occupying a second hill in rear of
Missionary Ridge, probably to cover the retreat of the main body
and of the artillery and trains. It was now getting dark, but
Sheridan, without halting on that account pushed his men forward
up this second hill slowly and without attracting the attention
of the men placed to defend it, while he detached to the right
and left to surround the position. The enemy discovered the
movement before these dispositions were complete, and beat a
hasty retreat, leaving artillery, wagon trains, and many
prisoners in our hands. To Sheridan’s prompt movement the Army
of the Cumberland, and the nation, are indebted for the bulk of
the capture of prisoners, artillery, and small-arms that day.
Except for his prompt pursuit, so much in this way would not
have been accomplished.

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