Saturday, November 23, 2013

Battle of Orchard Knob

Tennessee River
After the battle of Chickamauga, the Confederate army under Braxton Bragg pursued the Federals to Chattanooga, where a siege began. Ulysses Grant and reinforcements arrived in the town, and the Federals were able to reopen their supply line. Bragg divided his army, sending Longstreet to fight Bragg in east Tennessee. In the mean time, the Federal forces increased. Sherman's forces began arriving on November 20th.

Grant planned to use Sherman's and Hooker's men to attack Bragg, positioned on the heights around the town. Grant thought that Thomas's troops, who had been defeated at Chickamauga, would not be able to fight. On November 23rd, 150 years ago today, Grant got word that Bragg was abandoning his position. This was not true, he was just sending more men to East Tennessee. By this time, because of the Union reinforcement and the division of the Confederate army, Grant had 76,000 men available to fight, while Bragg had only 43,000.

Grant did not want the Confederates to escape, so he ordered Thomas to attack Orchard Knob, a small rise in front of the main Confederate position on Missionary Ridge. This movement was intended to be a reconnaissance in force to determine the strength of the enemy. At 1:30 pm almost 15,000 Federals moved out in long lines across the fields. They were moving on only 600 Confederates, who fired only one volley before making a hasty retreat.

Orchard Knob
This movement showed Bragg the Federal's intentions, and he recalled the troops he had just sent to Longstreet. Cleburne's division returned in time to participate in the battle, and they would do very good service. The Confederates had neglected to fortify Missionary Ridge during all the weeks of the siege, but the orders were finally given and that work began. But these new entrenchments were constructed with a fatal flaw. They were built on the very top of the ridge, rather than a little below it, on what is called the military crest. This meant that they would not be able see the Yankees for much of their climb up the hill.

Orchard Knob
The Union decided to continue their attack on Bragg, and the generals reworked their plans. The right would attack the Confederate positions on Lookout Mountain, Thomas would continue to press the center at Missionary Ridge, and Sherman would cross the Tennessee River to attack the top of Missionary Ridge on the left.


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