Sunday, November 24, 2013

Battle of Lookout Mountain

Lookout Mountain
According to the Union plan for the Battle of Chattanooga, Joseph E. Hooker attacked the Confederate positions on Lookout Mountain 150 years ago today. Lookout Mountain is a 1,800 foot height rising above Chattanooga and the Tennessee River. The overall commander of the mountain was Brigadier General Carter Stevenson, a West Pointer and career military officer from Virginia. He placed his own brigade on the very summit, with three others on a bench below. Altogether, he had about 8,700 men. Although the mountain looks easy to defend, it actually was more difficult than it appeared. The bench was commanded by Union artillery, and the Federals outnumbered the Southern defenders with their force of 12,000 men. On September 24th, the mountain was wreathed in mist, causing the battle that day to be called romantically, though technically incorrectly, the Battle Above the Clouds.

Hooker's men were supposed to march at dawn, but they were delayed until 8:30 am. As they marched forward, they were covered by 13 Union batteries firing on the Confederate positions. The Federal forces encountered Confederate skirmishers at 9:30 and pushed them back with their superior forces. The Confederates had been told to fall back fighting, as they did not have the strength for a full defense. Stevenson's artillery on the summit of the mountain opened fire, and as the Union advanced close the gunners had to depress their weapons more and more. Finally, the Yankees reached a point where the guns could not be pointed downward any further, making the artillery on the summit useless. Lookout Mountain was too steep for an easy defense, since the cannon could not sweep the entire approach. But the rough ground made the advance hard for the Federal troops. A Union officer wrote of the battle:
[S]lowly yet steadily the assailing lines of battle swept up the rugged mountain, driving before them the enemy's heavy line of skirmishers, which gradually fell back upon the main line of battle.... At this moment the prospect, which to the spectator upon the fortified ridge directly opposite, and where the batteries were stationed, had been one of the most grand and imposing that can be conceived, was suddenly obscured. A dense cloud enveloped the side of the mountain, and though the summit was in full view above the cloud, the furiously contending forces upon the Northern slope were entirely hidden. The incessant clatter and rattle of musketry still continued, but on one, save those in the very midst of the deadly conflict, could declare how it was going, or who would prove triumphant.

Around the Cravens House, a Confederate regiment beat off one attack, but with the next, they were swamped and routed. Stevenson ordered two more brigades to join the original one in attempting to resist the Union drive, but it was of no use. They tried to form a line, but the Federals got around their flank in the mist and the rebels had to retreat. Finally, near sunset, Hooker ordered his men to halt. Although at points he thought he was about to be defeated, his men had captured half of the mountain after a hard fight through the woods, boulders and mist. He intended to continue the fight the next day. But the next day there would be no battle here. Bragg had ordered Stevenson to abandon the mountain which he did through the afternoon and night. Bragg pulled back the left of his army to focus on the defense of Missionary Ridge. This battle had cost Hooker 629 men, the Confederate defenders 1,251, over 1000 of which were captured.


TimeHunter said...

A very good report on the battle.

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