New York Herald

Author: George H. Thomas  | Date: 1890

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"Battle above the Clouds" (1863)


AS soon as communications with Bridgeport had been made secure, and the question of supplying the army at this point rendered certain, preparations were at once commenced for driving the enemy from his position in our immediate front on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. . . .

. . . Major-General Sherman, commanding Army of the Tennessee, having been ordered with the Fifteenth Corps to this point to participate in the operations against the enemy, reached Bridgeport with two divisions on the 15th [November]. He came to the front himself, and having examined the ground, expressed himself confident of his ability to execute his share of the work. The plan of operations was then written out substantially as follows: Sherman, with the Fifteenth Corps, strengthened with one division from my command, was to effect a crossing of the Tennessee River just below the mouth of the South Chickamauga, on Saturday, November 21, at daylight. . . . After crossing his force, he was to carry the heights of Missionary Ridge from their northern extremity to about the railroad tunnel before the enemy could concentrate a force against him. I was to co-operate with Sherman by concentrating my troops in Chattanooga Valley, on my left flank. . . . I was then to effect a junction with Sherman, making my advance from the left, well toward the north end of Mission Ridge, and moving as near simultaneously with Sherman as possible. . . .

. . . In consequence of the bad condition of the roads General Sherman’s troops were occupied all of Sunday in getting into position. In the meantime, the river having risen, both pontoon bridges were broken by rafts sent down the river by the enemy, cutting off Osterhaus’ division from the balance of Sherman’s troops. It was thought this would delay us another day, but during the night of the 22d, two deserters reported Bragg had fallen back, and that there was only a strong picket line in our front. Early on the morning of the 23d, I received a note from Major-General Grant, directing me to ascertain by a demonstration the truth or falsity of this report.

Orders were accordingly given to General Granger, commanding the Fourth Corps, to form his troops and to advance directly in front of Fort Wood, and thus develop the strength of the enemy. General Palmer, commanding the Fourteenth Corps, was directed to support General Granger’s right, with Baird’s division refused and en échelon. . . . The two divisions of Granger’s corps (Sheridan’s and Wood’s) were formed in front of Fort Wood; Sheridan on the right, Wood on the left, with his left extending nearly to Citico Creek. The formation being completed about 2 p. m. the troops were advanced steadily and with rapidity directly to the front, driving before them first the rebel pickets, then their reserves, and falling upon their grand guards stationed in their first line of rifle-pits, captured something over 200 men, and secured themselves in their new positions before the enemy had sufficiently recovered from his surprise to attempt to send re-enforcements from his main camp. Orders were then given to General Granger to make his position secure by constructing temporary breastworks and throwing out strong pickets to his front. . . . The troops remained in that position for the night. The Tennessee River having risen considerably from the effect of the previous heavy rain-storm, it was found difficult to rebuild the pontoon bridge at Brown’s Ferry. Therefore it was determined that General Hooker should take Osterhaus’ division, which was still in Lookout Valley, and Geary’s division, Whitaker’s and Grose’s brigades, of the First Division, Fourth Corps, under Brigadier-General Craft, and make a strong demonstration on the western slope of Lookout Mountain, for the purpose of attracting the enemy’s attention in that direction and thus withdrawing him from Sherman while crossing the river at the mouth of the South Chickamauga.

General Hooker was instructed that in making this demonstration, if he discovered the position and strength of the enemy would justify him in attempting to carry the point of the mountain, to do so. By 4 a. m. on the morning of the 24th, General Hooker reported his troops in position and ready to advance.

. . . Hooker’s movements were facilitated by the heavy mist which overhung the mountain, enabling Geary to get into position without attracting attention.

Finding himself vigorously pushed by a strong column on his left and rear, the enemy began to fall back with rapidity, but his resistance was obstinate, and the entire point of the mountain was not gained until about 2 p. m., when General Hooker reported by telegraph that he had carried the mountain as far as the road from Chattanooga Valley to the white house. Soon after, his main column coming up, his line was extended to the foot of the mountain, near the mouth of Chattanooga Creek. . . .

With the aid of the steamer Dunbar, which had been put in condition and sent up the river at daylight of the 24th, General Sherman by 11 a. m. had crossed three divisions of the Fifteenth Corps, and was ready to advance. . . .

. . . Instructions were sent to General Hooker to be ready to advance on the morning of the 25th from his position on the point of Lookout Mountain to the Summertown road, and endeavor to intercept the enemy’s retreat, if he had not already withdrawn, which he was to ascertain by pushing a reconnaissance to the top of Lookout Mountain.

The reconnaissance was made as directed, and having asertained that the enemy had evacuated during the night, General Hooker was then directed to move on the Rossville road with the troops under his command . . . carry the pass at Rossville, and operate upon the enemy’s left and rear. Palmer’s and Granger’s troops were held in readiness to advance directly on the rifle-pits in their front as soon as Hooker could get into position at Rossville. . . . About noon, General Sherman becoming heavily engaged by the enemy, they having massed a strong force in his front, orders were given for General Baird to march his division within supporting distance of General Sherman. Moving his command promptly in the direction indicated, he was placed in position to the left of Wood’s division of Granger’s corps.

. . . The whole line then advanced against the breastworks, and soon became warmly engaged with the enemy’s skirmishers; these, giving way, retired upon their reserves, posted within their works. Our troops advancing steadily in a continuous line, the enemy, seized with panic, abandoned the works at the foot of the hill and retreated precipitately to the crest, where they were closely followed by our troops, who, apparently inspired by the impulse of victory, carried the hill simultaneously at six different points, and so closely upon the heels of the enemy that many of them were taken prisoners in the trenches. We captured all their cannon and ammunition before they could be removed or destroyed.

After halting for a few moments to reorganize the troops, who had become somewhat scattered in the assault of the hill, General Sheridan pushed forward in pursuit, and drove those in his front who escaped capture across Chickamauga Creek. Generals Wood and Baird, being obstinately resisted by re-enforcements from the enemy’s extreme right, continued fighting until darkness set in, slowly but steadily driving the enemy before them. In moving upon Rossville, General Hooker encountered Stewart’s division and other troops. Finding his left flank threatened, Stewart attempted to escape by retreating toward Graysville, but some of his force, finding their retreat threatened from that quarter, retired in disorder toward their right, along the crest of the ridge, when they were met by another portion of General Hooker’s command, and were driven by these troops in the face of Johnson’s division of Palmer’s corps, by whom they were nearly all made prisoners.

. . . On the 26th, the enemy were pursued by Hooker’s and Palmer’s commands. . . . The pursuit was continued on the 27th. . . .

The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, First Series (Washington, 1890), XXXI, pt. ii, 92–97 passim.


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Chicago: George H. Thomas, "Battle Above the Clouds (1863)," New York Herald in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903), Original Sources, accessed June 29, 2022,

MLA: Thomas, George H. ""Battle Above the Clouds" (1863)." New York Herald, Vol. XXXI, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 4, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1903, Original Sources. 29 Jun. 2022.

Harvard: Thomas, GH, '"Battle Above the Clouds" (1863)' in New York Herald. cited in 1903, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 29 June 2022, from