Chattanooga – Gateway to Union Victory and Reconciliation - After Bloody Chickamauga
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
Richmond may have been the Confederacy’s capitol, but it wasn’t necessarily the lynchpin to Federal victory in the Civil War. No, it was taking Chattanooga, on the Tennessee River, that enabled Union troops under General William Sherman to march to the sea, destroying any vestige of Confederate will and ability to fight.
Learn about key battles related to this strategic city at several stops close to Chattanooga. Start first at the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center. A completely updated, high definition, and sometimes graphic movie depicts the battles. The center is located within the City of Fort Oglethorpe. Fort Oglethorpe, now closed, was the 6th Cavalry’s home from 1919-1942. The 6th’s museum is on historic Barnhardt Circle.
Chickamauga, named after nearby Chickamauga Creek, was fought Sept. 19-20, 1863. Some 110,000 soldiers clashed. With more than 16,000 Union and 18,000 Confederate casualties, Chickamauga was the war’s bloodiest battle in the western theater. A gap in the Federal line nearly resulted in a rout of General William Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland. Gen. George Thomas (the “Rock of Chickamauga”) saved the day, consolidating a portion of the forces at Horseshoe Ridge, fending off repeated assaults, allowing soldiers to retreat to Chattanooga.
Confederate General Braxton Bragg laid siege, occupying the high ground at Lookout Mountain to Chattanooga’s south and Missionary Ridge to the east. By November, General Ulysses S. Grant was in command of the Union troops. On Nov. 24, 1863, Union forces used heavy fog to advance and seize Lookout Mountain in what was called, “The Battle Above the Clouds.” The Confederate troops reinforced Missionary Ridge. Federal flank attacks there the next day got nowhere so Grant ordered a second attack into the Confederate center. To the defenders’ dismay, the rifle pits at the base of the ridge were overrun. Yelling “Chickamauga,” the attackers rapidly fought their way up and over the steep, rugged ridge sending Bragg’s army frantically retreating into Georgia.
The Chickamauga National Military Park has a 7-mile self-guiding auto tour, monuments, historical tablets, hiking trails and horse trails. Point Park National Park on Lookout Mountain tells the story of the “Battle Above the Clouds.”
In 1889, at Chickamauga Battlefield’s Crawfish Springs, 14,000 soldiers who had fought there on both sides staged the “Blue and Gray Barbecue.” This historic reconciliation set the stage for the legislation creating Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park, the nation’s first such park, dedicated in 1890.