Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for the Battle Above the Clouds

Day 2 of a month of Alphabet blogging.  Todays letter is B and my historical fact deals with the Battle Above the Clouds in Chattanooga, TN.  My Great-Grandfather fought in this battle and was wounded.  He was hospitalized in one of the many caves within the mountain and while there carved out a walking stick.  If you look in the little hole there is a newspaper account of the battle.  It is amazing.  I possess this stick and it is one of my most valued treasures.  I have had several museums ask for it....but I love getting it out from time to time, gazing into the hole, and seeing my history. 

The viewing hold is the light circled area in the top photo.  Lookout Mountain is carved into one side of the cane.  J. D. Sasser (James Dison) was his name.

In the Battle at Lookout Mountain on November 24, 1863 an esstimated casualty count was in the neighborhood of 1,231.  The Union army had 710 and the Confederates had around 521.  The story goes something like this...."General Carter Stevenson [CS] was worried. Troops from Chattanooga had been pouring across Brown's Ferry and into Lookout Valley. Even the Rebel 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, 1863, Stevenson signaled the Army of Tennessee commander Braxton Bragg about his concern. Unknown to the Confederates at the time, the Union Army had broken the Rebel 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. It had been assumed that Bragg had left enough men to protect the easily defendable peak, but he had not. General Ambrose Burnside [US] 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 Brigadier General 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 Rebel commanders feel this was an impregnable fortress, so did Joe Hooker.   Once Geary's men reached about two-thirds 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. Brigadier General 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 10:00am 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 Rebel defenders."  The Union soldies used thin ladders to climb the hillside.  Some of those ladders were later used to construct a baby crib at the Craven's House. But, just when the Union soldies thought they had won " 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 General Hooker ordered Geary to maintain his position, however, all was not stagnant on the Rebel lines. Brigadier General Edmund Pettis moved his men into position to support Walthall and at 2:30 the Rebel line began to advance, although still greatly outnumbered. The advance was short-lived. The Battle Above the Clouds ended abruptly at 4:00pm when Stevenson received orders to withdraw from his position on Lookout Mountain and joined Bragg on Missionary Ridge."  Everytime I look into my great-grandfather's walking stick....I see remnants of this battle, think about my great-grandfather's part in this not-so-well-known battle, and I smile.

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