Civil War Battles
State War Records
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The battle of Lookout Mountain was also known as the "Battle Above The Clouds" after the war ended.
On the other flank , while Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman was making his initial attack, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker had moved out with 3 divisions. His mission was to get into the Chattanooga Valley and occupy Rossville Gap. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant realized that once the battle started, Hooker's previous mission of protecting the vital line of communication down Lookout Valley had no further importance. Accordingly, Howard's Corps had been withdrawn from Hooker's Command and moved to Chattanooga before the battle started. Grant originally planned to move Hooker's other 2 divisions to Chattanooga so they could advance on Rossville Gap with having to fight their way past Lookout Mountain. But difficulties with the pontoon bridge made this impossible, and resulted in Hooker's having 3 divisions instead of 2. Grant accordingly, ordered to attack around Lookout Mountain.
The Confederates were holding Lookout Mountain to guard against an Union approach from Trenton. Sherman had, in fact, sent Ewing's division toward that place as a diversion; it rejoined his main body for the attack on Missionary Ridge.
Lookout Mountain drops precipitously several hundred feet from a plateau nearly 1,100 feet above the river. The top was occupied by 2 Confederate brigades. Walthall's brigade (Cheatham) blocked the narrow passage around the northern face of the mountain, and Moore's brigade of the same division was posted up the slope from it.
Geary's division, reinforced by one Cruft's brigades, crossed Lookout Creek above the Wauhatchie at about 8:00 A.M. Osterhaus and the rest of Cruft's division followed. Contact was made at about 10:00 A.M., and a sharp fight took place around Craven's Farm ("the White House"). A heavy fog covered the scene as both sides brought up reinforcements.
About noon, the defenders were driven from Craven's Farm to a new position about 400 yards away. Here they were reinforced by the 2 brigades from the plateau, and held this position from 2:00 P.M. until after midnight, when they were ordered to withdraw.
Gen. Carter Stevenson was worried. Troops from Chattanooga had been pouring across Brown's Ferry and into Lookout Valley. Even the Confederate attack that destroyed Baldy Smith's bridge only slowed troop movement to the western side of Lookout Mountain. More than 10,000 Union soldiers were in position, appearing ready to attack roughly 1,000 Rebels on the slopes and at the top of Lookout Mountain. On the evening of November 23, Stevenson signaled Army of Tennessee commander Braxton Bragg about his concern.
Unknown to the Confederates at the time, the Union Army had broken the Confederate code. George Thomas, commander of the Army of the Cumberland, knew the contents of the message before Bragg did. He ordered Joseph Hooker to test the strength of the Confederate forces on the mountain on November 24, the day before the planned attack on Missionary Ridge.
That was a good idea. It had been assumed that Bragg had left enough men to protect the easily defend peak, but he had not. Gen. Ambrose Burnside in Knoxville was a serious problem and Bragg had stripped his troops to the bare minimum to send men to the northeast Tennessee city. It was a mistake that may have cost the Confederacy the war. "Fighting Joe" Hooker came up with a brilliant plan to mitigate the advantage the Rebels had by controlling Lookout Mountain. Rather than trying to take the top of the mountain his men would cross Lookout Creek, move up the slope of the mountain, then sweep the Confederates towards the north end of the mountain. It worked like a charm.
At 8:30am men under Brig. Gen. John Geary bridged Lookout Creek near an old dam and began their work. They moved up the mountainside capturing unprepared Rebel pickets. As Lookout Mountain rises its slope becomes steeper and about 300 feet below the top the slope is near-vertical and strewn with large boulders. Not only did the Confederate commanders feel this was an impregnable fortress, so did Hooker.
Once Geary's men reached about 2/3 of the way up the slope they stopped climbing and began to move in a line parallel to the top of the mountain. The Confederates were prepared for a force coming up the hill, not at them from the side. Now they pulled back under fire, giving ground up slowly but steadily. Brig. Gen. Edward Walthall, whose Mississippians were guarding the slopes, tried to coordinate a defense but failed. By noon Geary's men were approaching the front of the mountain.
A fog began to cover much of the top half of the mountain at 10:00 A.M. that morning, obscuring the view of the participants of the battle and the men in the Chattanooga Valley. It was this meteorological phenomena that gave the fighting on Lookout Mountain its nickname, "The Battle Above the Clouds." Through the fog Confederate artillery shells and canister would pass over the heads of the advancing soldiers. Occasionally the fog would lift briefly so that the Union Army in the Chattanooga Valley could see the action.
Halfway up on the northern slope of Lookout Mountain a plateau holds the home of Robert Cravens, a wealthy industrialist who played an important role during the first 50 years of Chattanooga's history. Cravens' House had been covered with fog for most of the morning. As Union troops approached the level ground the fog lifted. Not only could the men on Lookout Mountain see each other, but the men in the valley below could see the action as well. With a sudden burst, the Union soldiers appeared and captured the plateau from unprepared Confederate defenders. Then the Confederates battled back, trying to buy time for their fellow soldiers to establish a line east of the home. The fog then returned.
Relentlessly, Hooker's juggernaut march on. It seemed as if nothing would prevent the Union Army from surrounding Lookout Mountain and trapping the artillery on the top. Then the Confederates got a series of unexpected breaks. Geary halted the forward advance of the Union line to regroup. While Geary was regrouping Hooker ordered Geary to maintain his position, however, all was not stagnant on the Confederate lines.
Brig. Gen. Edmund Pettis moved his men into position to support Walthall and at 2:30 P.M., the Confederate line began to advance, although still greatly outnumbered. The advance was short-lived. The battle ended abruptly at 4:00 P.M. when Stevenson received orders to withdraw from his position on Lookout Mountain and joined Bragg on Missionary Ridge.