Battle of Missionary Ridge, 25 November 1863

Battle of Missionary Ridge, 25 November 1863

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Battle of Missionary Ridge, 25 November 1863

IntroductionThe PlanSherman AloneThe Miracle of Missionary RidgeAftermathBooks


Battle during the American Civil War that ended the Confederate siege of Chattanooga. The city had fallen to Union forces on 9 September after a skilful campaign commanded by General William Rosecrans, but he had gone on to defeat at the battle of Chickamauga (19-20 September), just to the south of Chattanooga. A large part of his army had fled back to the town, while General George Thomas had managed to rally enough men to prevent a total rout and had inflicted enough damage on Braxton Bragg's Confederate army to take the shine off the Confederate victory.

In the aftermath of the battle, Rosecrans's army was besieged in Chattanooga. The town is overlooked by mountains, and by occupying Lookout Mountain to the west and Missionary Ridge to the east, Bragg had blocked almost all supply routes into the town. He was convinced that the Union forces in the town would soon be started into surrender.

The Union response to events at Chattanooga was immediate and overwhelming. Even before Chickamauga it had become clear that Rosecrans was vulnerable, and reinforcements were being rushed towards him. General Sherman was ordered to march east from the Mississippi, while another force was dispatched west from the Army of the Potomac and put under the command of Joe Hooker, only recently removed from command of that army.

General U. Grant was placed in overall command of all Union forces in the west. His first move was to replace Rosecrans with Thomas, and then he also headed to Chattanooga (arriving on 24 October). Once there he discovered that Rosecrans's chief engineer, General W. F. Smith, had already worked out a plan that would open a new supply route. All that had been lacking was the will to try it out, and Grant supplied that.

Two days after his arrival, the plan was put into place. By the end of October the 'cracker line' was firmly in place. The supply situation improved immediately. Now Grant could turn to his second problem - the Confederate army that still surrounded Chattanooga.

That army held a very strong position. From the foot of Lookout Mountain their front line crossed the Chattanooga Valley, before turning north to run along the foot of Missionary Ridge to the Tennessee River. The ridge itself was heavily fortified, with three lines of trenches - one at the base, one halfway up and one at the top. Missionary Ridge was the key to the position. As long as Bragg could maintain his line on the ridge he could easily protect his lines of communication, based on Chickamauga Station on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, and would threaten Federal control of Chattanooga and east Tennessee.

The Plan

Grant decided that the centre of Bragg's position on Missionary Ridge was far too strong to be assaulted. Instead he planned to attack both flanks of Bragg's line at the same time, forcing him to weaken the centre. Only then would an attack be launched up the front of Missionary Ridge.

These flank attacks were to be launched by Sherman and Hooker's armies. Neither of these armies were in Chattanooga. Having established the 'cracker line', Hooker's men had remained in Lookout Valley. A small Confederate force still held Lookout Mountain. Grant had to decide whether Hooker should fight his way through this army, or use the bridges of the cracker line to bypass them. His choice was made for him by the Tennessee River. Heavy rain caused the river to rise, making the pontoon bridge unsuitable for a large army. On 24 November Hooker fought his way around the northern edge of Lookout Mountain. On the morning of 25 November he was in place to march across Chattanooga Valley to attack Bragg's left flank at Rossville Gap.

Sherman's army only began to arrive in the vicinity of Chattanooga on 20 November. As they reached Brown's Ferry, they crossed over to the northern bank of the Tennessee River, and set up a hidden camp behind the hills north of Chattanooga. This faced Bragg with the possibility that Sherman's men were marching north to the relief of Knoxville, then being besieged by Longstreet. Instead, they were preparing to cross the Tennessee to the north of Bragg's line on Missionary Ridge and attack along the line of the ridge. These two attacks would force Bragg to reinforce his flanks, at which point Grant's final army, Thomas's Army of the Cumberland, would be ordered to attack Missionary Ridge.

The preparations for this plan went well. The first moves took place a day early, on 23 November (Battle of Orchard Knob), after a Confederate deserter suggested that Bragg was about to withdraw. This moved the Federal front line about a mile closer to Missionary Ridge, and gave Grant a better position from where to observe the battle. The following day saw Hooker's men make contact with the rest of the army (Battle of Lookout Mountain, 24 November). They were now in place for their march across the Chattanooga valley.

That just left Sherman. He first had to get a force across the Tennessee River, then build a pontoon bridge to allow his cavalry and artillery to cross over, and then attack Bragg's right flank. To get the troops across and the bridge built, Sherman had 116 pontoon boats, each capable of ferrying thirty men across the river before becoming part of the pontoon bridge. These boats were concealed in the North Chickamauga river, which flows into the Tennessee river from the north, a little upstream of Missionary Ridge.

Sherman began to move at 2.00 a.m. on 24 November. The first wave of boats surprised the Confederate pickets on the south bank of the Tennessee, and by daylight two complete divisions (8,000 men) had been ferried across. Between daylight and noon the pontoon bridge was completed and the rest of his force crossed over. Finally, at 1.00 p.m. Sherman ordered the advance.

His aim was to assault the northern end of Missionary Ridge in preparation for the main assault on the following day. For some time it appeared that his force had achieved an almost bloodless victory. The same fog that restricted the view on Lookout Mountain also prevented Bragg from seeing what was happening beyond his right flank.

Unfortunately, Sherman's maps were not accurate. They showed Missionary Ridge as being continuous, but in fact the ridge ends in a series of hills. The most northerly of these stands higher than the nearby ridge, and with a 200 foot drop between itself and the main ridge. It was this hill that Sherman's men captured at around 3.30 p.m. Now finally Bragg realised what had happened, and made two unsuccessful attempts to drive Sherman off. Sherman was now in place to launch his part of the following day's attack.

Sherman Fights Alone

The events of 25 November did not follow Grant's plan. As the Confederates had evacuated their positions in the Chattanooga Valley they had blocked the roads and destroyed the main bridge over Chattanooga Creek. Even though Hooker left his positions on Lookout Mountain early in the morning, he had to rebuild the bridge and it took him four hours to cross the creek. His army didn't reach Missionary Ridge until very late in the day.

Meanwhile, Sherman had launched his attack on time. From his position on Orchard Knob Grant could see Confederate reinforcements being sent along the ridge to reinforce their right flank. Sherman's attack straddled the ridge - one column attacked along the summit of the ridge, another along the eastern base and a third along the western base. The attack on the eastern flank made the most progress, threatening Bragg's railroad supply line, but otherwise the attack made little progress. It was being opposed by Major General Patrick Cleburne's division, probably the strongest in Bragg's line, and the last to leave the line at the end of the battle.

By mid-afternoon, it was clear that Grant's plan was not working as expected. Hooker had still not appeared at the southern end of Missionary Ridge. Sherman's attack had now stalled, and he was in imminent danger of being pushed back.

The Miracle of Missionary Ridge

Grant's response was to order a general attack by Thomas's men, who had spend the day waiting for just that order. Grant's order was for an attack on the first line of Confederate rifle pits at the base of Missionary Ridge (although Sheridan at least was not clear as to which line of rifle pits being referred to, and sent a messenger to ask for clarification).

Woods and Sheridan's divisions, the veterans of Orchard Knob, were to play a key part in the assault, with two more divisions protecting their flanks. The order was sent at 3.30 p.m. and the attack was launched soon afterwards.

What happened next has become known as the ‘miracle of missionary ridge'. The Federal divisions swept up to the first line of Confederate trenches, sending their defenders fleeing up the hill. Without waiting for any orders, regiment by regiment the soldiers of Thomas's army of the Cumberland began to advance up the ridge!

Their officers were briefly left behind by this move, but quickly caught up and began to organise the attack. Back on Orchard Knob, an angry Grant wanted to find out who had ordered the attack, but it quickly became clear that nobody had issued any such orders. Now the attack had begun, Wood and Sheridan were ordered to continue with it if they felt they could capture the ridge.

They could and did. After an hour of very heavy fighting, Federal troops reached the top of Missionary Ridge in at least six positions, one of which was very close to Bragg's own headquarters. Once on top of the ridge, they were able to seize Confederate guns and used them to fire along the line. All along the Confederate line Bragg's men panicked and fled. Only Cleburne's division did not join in the collapse, retreating in good order once it was clear that they would otherwise be cut off.

Although the success of this attack was extraordinary, any idea that it was easy can be dispelled by looking at the casualty figures. Between them Sheridan and Wood lost 2,337 killed and wounded in the hour it took to capture Missionary Ridge. This represents close to half of the total Union losses in the battle, and was more men than Sherman lost in two full day's fighting (1,697 killed and wounded). The miracle was that the assault succeeded at all.

Why it succeeded has been the subject of endless debate. Bragg himself suggested that his men's morale had suffered as a result of their superb viewpoint. From the top of Missionary Ridge they had been able to see a vast Federal host preparing to attack, and that sight had unnerved them. Grant though that Bragg's biggest mistake was sending Longstreet with 15,000 men to attack Knoxville, leaving the army at Chattanooga vulnerable.

Bragg probably placed too many men at the base of Missionary Ridge. As they retreated up the slope, they helped shield their attackers from further up the hill. Bragg's lines may not have been placed in the best positions along the ridge, creating blind spots that allowed the Federal attacker to reach close to the summit in relative safety. However, the high Federal losses on the slopes of Missionary Ridge suggest that the Confederate positions were perfectly acceptable. A more credible suggestion is that Grant's plan had not entirely failed. Sherman's attack had forced Bragg to move large numbers of men north to protect his right flank. This left the positions on the top of the ridge critically weakened when the final assault began. Although Bragg ordered troops back from his right to his centre, they couldn't reinforce the entire line in time to prevent some Union forces reaching the summit.


Just enough of Bragg's army remained intact to protect the retreat of the rest. Cleburne's division finally halted the pursuit at Ringgold, Georgia on 27 November. Grant turned back and sent men to the relief of Knoxville, where Longstreet's siege was about to end in failure.

Union losses were 752 killed, 4713 wounded and 350 captured or missing (many from Sherman's command), out of a total of 60,000 men. Confederate casualties were reported at 361 killed, 2180 wounded and 4,146 missing or captured from around 40,000 men (although Grant himself reported taking 6,000 prisoners).

The battle of Missionary Ridge secured Union control of Chattanooga. With that came control of east Tennessee. Worse, one of the few rail links between Virginia and the rest of the Confederacy had run through East Tennessee and Chattanooga. Finally, from Chattanooga Union army could march into Georgia and threaten the heart of the Confederacy. Coming at the end of a year that had seen the fall of Vicksburg and defeat at Gettysburg, the Confederate failure at Chattanooga handed the initiative for 1864 to the Union.


Missionary Ridge

On November 25, 1863, more than 50,000 Union soldiers stormed the Confederate defenses along Missionary Ridge east of Chattanooga. The attack stretched from the Rossville Gap at the Georgia border all the way up to Tunnel Hill at the northern end of Missionary Ridge. By the end of the day the Confederate Army of Tennessee was retreating towards Dalton, Georgia and Chattanooga was firmly in Union hands. It was, as one Confederate officer later described it, "The death knell of the Confederacy."

Along the crest of Missionary Ridge are a series of eight reservations and monuments that preserve and tell the story of key areas of the Battle of Missionary Ridge. Most of these reservations and monuments are located in residential neighborhoods along a narrow road at the crest of the ridge. Several tablets and cannon are located on private property in residents' yards. Please be respectful of these residents, and do not block or park in private driveways, or enter private property without the owner's consent.

All park properties along Missionary Ridge are open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Map of Missionary Ridge

Iowa Reservation at Rossville

Located in the Rossville Gap just three miles north of Chickamauga Battlefield, the Iowa Monument is the southernmost reservation of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park on Missionary Ridge. During the battle Union troops from General Joseph Hooker's command, fresh off their victory at Lookout Mountain the day before, attacked the southern flank of the Confederate positions just north of here. But it was other Union soldiers who would leave their permanent mark on the landscape. After the Battle of Missionary Ridge, thousands of Iowans celebrated their victory with a grand review through the Rossville Gap. Although these men did not fight in the gap during the battle, their fond memories of the celebratory march inspired them to place a large monument at the site. The monument is located at the intersection of Highway 27 and West Crest Road in Rossville, Georgia.

On South Crest Road, just a few miles north of the Iowa Monument at Rossville, is the Bragg Reservation. This reservation preserves the location of Confederate General Braxton Bragg's headquarters during the Battle of Missionary Ridge. This area is where General George Thomas's Army of the Cumberland broke the center of the Confederate line on Missionary Ridge.There is a small parking at the Bragg Reservation, which consists of several cannon and tablets. The largest feature here is the Illinois Monument.

On South Crest Road just north of the Bragg Reservation is the Ohio Reservation. It was here that the Union soldiers of Thomas Wood's Division of IV Corps attacked Missionary Ridge. Among these men where many Ohioans. After the war, Ohio erected a large monument to the men that fought here. In 2014, middle schoolers from Reynoldsburg, Ohio raised the money necessary to repair drummer boy statue on this Ohio Monument, which had been damaged years before. The monument is located in between several private homes. Please park only in designated areas and do not walk onto private property.

By the time General John Turchin led his troops up the slope of Missionary Ridge, he was an experienced soldier. Born in Russia, Turchin was educated at the Imperial Military Academy in St. Petersburg, and served several years in the Russian Army throughout Europe before immigrating to the United States. Defending this area against Turchin's men were Arthur Manigault's Alabamians and South Carolinians. There is a tablet and two cannon at the Turchin Reservation. Be aware that there is no public parking here and North Crest Road is is too narrow to park on the side of the road at this location. To park turn down a side street, or park at DeLong Reservation and walk back. Do not block or park in private driveways.

At DeLong Reservation on North Crest Road, just north of the Turchin Reservation, is a monument to the 2nd Minnesota Infantry that fought at this area. In addition to the 2nd Minnesota Monument are several tablets and cannon.

Colonel Edward Phelps personally led his brigade up the slope of Missionary Ridge. Just as he reached the crest, he was struck and killed by a Confederate bullet at this spot. The monument is an upward facing cannon. There is no parking at this location. Please do not block or park in private driveways.

73rd Pennsylvania Reservation

While Union forces were largely successful in their attacks along Missionary Ridge, the Confederacy held the upper hand along the ridge's northern hills. The 73rd Pennsylvania suffered mightily during the engagement. These men, part General Oliver Howard's XI Corps, were veterans of many of the major engagements of the eastern theater of war, having fought at Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. As they charged Confederate rifle pits in the hills at the north end of Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga, the unit was cut off from the rest of the brigade. As a result, nearly the entire regiment was killed, wounded, or captured. Only twenty five men avoided capture. Today there is a monument to the 73rd Pennsylvania, as well as several tablets explaining the military operations in the area. The 73rd Pennsylvania Monument is located at the intersection of Glass Street and Campbell Street just off of North Crest Road. There is no parking at this location. To visit either park in a public space in the commercial area of Glass Street and walk, or park at the Sherman Reservation and hike down a short trail that connects the Sherman Reservation and the 73rd Pennsylvania Reservation.

Visitors gather for a ranger-guided tour of Sherman Reservation at the north end of Missionary Ridge.

Located at the northern end of North Crest Road is the Sherman Reservation. At fifty acres, this is the largest of the reservations on Missionary Ridge, and preserves the area where General William T. Sherman's troops assaulted the Confederate defenses on Tunnel Hill. General Patrick Cleburne successfully fended off Sherman's men, but was eventually forced to retreat as the rest of the Confederate Army retreated eastward off of Missionary Ridge. There is a small parking area at the intersection of Lightfoot Mill Road and North Crest Road. A small trail leads into the reservation, which contains several monuments, tablets, and cannon. There is also a connector trail allowing visitors to hike between the Sherman Reservation and the 73rd Pennsylvania Reservation down the hill along Glass Street.

The New York Monument at Ringgold Gap, Georgia

Twenty miles east of Chickamauga Battlefield and tucked away next to the Ringgold Wastewater Treatment Plant is a monument erected by the state of New York. In the aftermath of the Battle of Missionary Ridge, the Confederates retreated south with the Union Army in close pursuit. On November 27, 1863, a small Confederate force under the command of General Patrick Cleburne made a stand at Ringgold Gap.

Despite being vastly outnumbered, they inflicted tremendous casualties on the Union forces, many of whom were from New York. The Confederate victory gave the army enough time to retreat and reorganize in preparation for the summer campaign in Georgia. This small monument is dedicated to those New Yorkers who fought and died in this valley. It is located at the south end of Depot Street in Ringgold, Georgia.

Battles For Chattanooga: Background

After the Confederate victory at Chickamauga in northwest Georgia in September 1863, the Union army retreated to the vital railroad junction of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Confederate General Braxton Bragg (1817-76) quickly laid siege to the city, cutting off access to Union supplies. In response, President Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) ordered Major General Ulysses S. Grant (1822-85) to Chattanooga. Grant, who arrived in October, soon refortified the city, opening up a desperately needed supply line, and began maneuvers to lift the siege.

Did you know? The name 𠇌hattanooga” is derived from a Creek Indian word meaning “rock coming to a point,” a reference to Lookout Mountain.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sherman repulsed by Cleburne's men on Missionary Ridge, 1863

By the night of the 24th, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant erroneously believed that Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman had gained Tunnel Hill at the north end of Missionary Ridge in the battle earlier that day. 1 Based on this supposition, at midnight he issued an order for Sherman to attack the Confederates in his front on the morning of today's date in 1863. Sherman's objective was to turn Bragg's flank, which meant seizing the position from South Chickamauga Creek to Tunnel Hill. At the same time he issued orders to Maj. Gen. George Thomas to simultaneously attack the Confederates' center on Missionary Ridge. Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker would join the attack from his newly won position at Lookout Mountain, move to the south end of the ridge near Rossville, and then advance northward on Missionary Ridge.

By noon on the north end of Missionary Ridge, where Great Grandfather Nathan R. Oakes was fighting in Mark P. Lowrey's Brigade of Patrick Cleburne's Division, the Confederates had repulsed every assault by Sherman's troops. Sherman now had 6 divisions under his command—nearly a third of the army's strength at Chattanooga. Before noon, Sherman was sent another division, Baird's, for good measure. In total, Sherman had nearly 30,000 troops available to him. Confronting Sherman were just 6 brigades of about 4,000 Confederates: Smith's, Govan's, and Lowrey's of Cleburne's Division Brown's and Cummings's of Stevenson's Division and Maney's of Walker's Division.

Until that moment, most of the Confederates atop Missionary Ridge could not have imagined that enemy soldiers would attempt the climb, especially under incredible cannon and rifle fire. But amazingly, that's just what Thomas's men did. The Confederates were simply shocked and overwhelmed. Batteries couldn't depress their guns enough to fire in the invaders. Bragg had no reserves to send forward to fortify the positions being overrun. Hundreds of Confederates simply surrendered while thousands fled. In less than an hour and a half from the time the advance began, the Federals were in control of most of the ridge position that the Confederates had held for the past 2 months. Neither Grant nor Thomas could have imagined that Thomas's attack — what was designed to be secondary to Sherman's — would actually be the decisive one today. It was, in fact, the turning point of the battle.

On the south end of the ridge Hooker had finally advanced his men from Lookout Mountain, and units began reaching Rossville Gap at the south end of Missionary Ridge. Around 4 PM, they began their attack. With little resistance from the corps of Maj. Gen. John C. Breckenridge 2 his troops moved northward along the top and both sides of the ridge until they met up with Thomas's men. By the evening of the 25th, the Hooker's and Thomas's forces held the middle and south ends of Missionary Ridge, and the Confederates were in retreat. Except for the north portion of the ridge, where Cleburne's and Cheatham's Divisions of Hardee's right wing still held on, Missionary Ridge was entirely under Federal control.

That Rebel charge began at 4:00 PM, and, along with hand-to-hand fighting, it sent the Federals running. In less than an hour, another charge was organized to drive the remaining forces from the base of Tunnel Hill. Overall, it was magnificent fighting, that resulted in capturing several stand of colors and many prisoners. More importantly. it haling Sherman's attempts to capture Tunnel Hill, taking his force out of action for the rest of the battle.

For 7 hours, and against odds nearly 7 to 1, Cleburne's men had held Tunnel Hill against determined forces. 3 But the Confederate success had come at great cost in terms of the brave lives lost. Cleburne's work was not in vain, although he was about to receive disheartening news from further down the line. Even as his men were cheering their triumph on the right, the left of the Confederate line had collapsed and was being carried away. By 6:00 PM, only Hardee's and Cleburne's troops stood in the path of a complete Federal sweep of Missionary Ridge.

In the general retreat of Bragg's army that day, Cleburne’s Division, the only organized Confederate force left, served as rear guard. Cleburne will do everything in his power to save the army. He immediately ordered Brig. Gen. States Rights Gist, commanding Walker’s division, to form his troops across the ridge. Next, he ordered all vehicles that could be spared to cross the Chickamauga Creek. He sent Lucius Polk orders to send a force to the Shallow Ford Bridge and hold it at all cost. He also sent Govan’s brigade to meet the enemy’s advance on the Shallow Ford Road.

Battle of Missionary Ridge, 1863

Stereograph from the Panorama of the Battle of Missionary Ridge, Confederate General Braxton Bragg's Headquarters, painted in 1885. It was painted by Eugen Bracht's Berlin-based panorama company and first exhibited in Kansas City in 1886. It was destroyed by a tornado in Nashville, Tennessee. From Bennett's series "Wanderings Among the Wonders and Beauties of Western Scenery." View the original source document: WHI 25891

Wisconsin's Role

Fourteen Wisconsin units &mdash seven Wisconsin Infantry regiments and seven Light Artillery batteries &mdash participated in breaking the siege at Chattanooga. The 15th and 24th Wisconsin Infantry regiments were among the forces that charged up Missionary Ridge, broke through the Confederate ranks, and seized the strategic location.

Among the men charging up the slope that day was 18-year-old Arthur MacArthur, adjutant of the 24th Wisconsin Infantry. When the regiment's color-bearer was shot, he picked up the regimental flag. He carried it the rest of the way up the slope and planted it on the crest. For his performance in this battle, McArthur was awarded a Medal of Honor, promoted from first lieutenant to major, and given command of the regiment. He was the father of the famous World War II leader, General Douglas MacArthur.

Links to Learn More
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[Source: Report on the Nation's Civil War Battlefields (Washington, 1993) Estabrook, C. Records and Sketches of Military Organizations (Madison, 1914) Love, W. Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion (Madison, 1866).]

The last man to be lynched in Chattanooga, Ed Johnson grew up on Missionary Ridge in a poor black family. His earliest work as a child was at the fertilizer mine on the Ridge.

Nevada Taylor was the pretty blonde 21-year-old daughter of the caretaker for Chattanooga’s premier graveyard in the early 1900’s, Forest Hills Cemetery, located in St. Elmo near the foot of the Incline Railway.

On a particularly dark evening on January 23rd, 1906, about 6p, Nevada was making her way home from her job as a bookkeeper at W.W. Brooks grocery on Market Street. She had just gotten off the bus. As she walked toward her father’s house through the gravestones, she was attacked from behind, choked with a leather strap and raped. When later questioned by the Sheriff, Nevada wasn’t sure at first if the attacker was black or white. Then she said it was a Negro man with big muscles and “a soft, kind voice.”

It’s hard to appreciate the public outrage this incident caused. The month prior (December of 1905) a black man had raped a 15-year-old white girl living at the Vine Street Orphanage. One week later a 16-year-old girl had been severely stabbed by an escaping black burglar. The day after that a black man attacked a white schoolgirl in downtown Chattanooga. This was followed by a Chattanooga constable being shot by an infamous black gambler.

The two local newspapers, the morning Times and the afternoon News, competed with each other for inflammatory and indignant rhetoric about these incidents, as if attempting to be more likely quoted at the local saloons. “Desperadoes Run Rampant in Chattanooga” blared the headlines.

The prevailing sentiment put forward was that a message needed to be sent to the black population or no white woman in Chattanooga would be safe. Sheriff Joseph F. Shipp, a former Confederate captain, was up for re-election soon.

24-year-old Ed Johnson was identified by one white man after a $375 reward for information was posted. The several witnesses who saw him elsewhere that night were denigrated in court as untrustworthy due to their being either black themselves, or at a saloon where Ed was working that night. Nevada Taylor was at first unable and later very reluctant to identify him as her attacker. The court records reflect a tainted and biased process.

At this time, to be white and disagree that Ed Johnson was guilty was to invite violence upon yourself. To be black and say anything about the incident was to do the same. Yet the citizenry and their newspapers loudly objected to the idea that any local trial could be anything but fair.

Two local black attorneys appealed Johnson’s conviction first to the state and then to the federal courts. The Supreme Court reviewed the case and issued a stay of execution for further review. To local residents, only barely deterred from a previous lynching attempt on Johnson, this was too much.

Aided by intentionally weak security measures at the jail, on the night of March 19th, 1906, a lynch mob broke into the county jail in downtown Chattanooga, dragged Ed Johnson to the Walnut Street Bridge, beat him, hung him and shot him (in that order) until he was dead. They hung him from the second cross railing back from the city side of the bridge because another black had previously been lynched from the first railing of the nearly-new bridge, with the intention, one man yelled, of working their way across the bridge.

Despite the beatings and threats and promises of leniency if he would confess his crime, Ed Johnson’s last words were, “God bless you all. I am an innocent man.” Those were the words placed on his tombstone.

The Pleasant Garden Cemetery, established in 1891 as one of the first black cemeteries in the state of Tennessee, is located on the southeast side of Missionary Ridge, just below the crest, in the community of Ridgeside, not far from Shallowford Road. Ed Johnson’s grave is there.

Burials at Pleasant Garden continued into the late 1960’s. The property is now privately owned. Although it includes hundreds, probably thousands of graves, it fell into such neglect that it was practically unrecognizable as a cemetery by the late 1990’s. Efforts are now underway to at least stop further decay of the grounds.

(Much of this information is from the book, "Contempt of Court" by Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips, 1999.)


After their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga, the 40,000 men of the Union Army of the Cumberland under Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans retreated to Chattanooga. Confederate General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee besieged the city, threatening to starve the Union forces into surrender. Bragg's troops established themselves on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, both of which had excellent views of the city, the Tennessee River flowing through the city, and the Union's supply lines. The only supply line that was not controlled by the Confederates was a roundabout, tortuous course nearly 60 miles long over Walden's Ridge from Bridgeport, Alabama. Heavy rains began to fall in late September, washing away long stretches of the mountain roads. On October 1, Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler's Confederate cavalry intercepted and severely damaged a train of 800 wagons—burning hundreds of the wagons, and shooting or sabering hundreds of mules—at the start of his October 1863 Raid through Tennessee to sever Rosecrans's supply line. Toward the end of October, Federal soldiers' rations were "four cakes of hard bread and a quarter pound of pork" every three days. ΐ] The Union Army sent reinforcements: Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker with 15,000 men in two corps from the Army of the Potomac in Virginia and Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman with 20,000 men from Vicksburg, Mississippi. On October 17, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant received command of the Western armies, designated the Military Division of the Mississippi he moved to reinforce Chattanooga and replaced Rosecrans with Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas. Α] Thomas launched a surprise amphibious landing at Brown's Ferry on October 27 that opened the Tennessee River by linking up his Army of the Cumberland with Hooker's relief column southwest of the city, thus allowing supplies and reinforcements to flow into Chattanooga over what was called the "Cracker Line". In response, Bragg ordered Lt. Gen. James Longstreet to force the Federals out of Lookout Valley. The ensuing Battle of Wauhatchie (October 28󈞉) was one of the war's few battles fought exclusively at night. The Confederates were repulsed, and the Cracker Line was secured. Β]

Sherman arrived with his 20,000 men of the Army of the Tennessee in mid-November. Grant, Sherman, and Thomas planned a double envelopment of Bragg's force, with the main attack by Sherman against the northern end of Missionary Ridge, supported by Thomas in the center and by Hooker, who would capture Lookout Mountain and then move across the Chattanooga Valley to Rossville, Georgia, and cut off the Confederate retreat route to the south. Γ]

On November 23, Sherman's force was ready to cross the Tennessee River. Grant ordered Thomas to advance halfway to Missionary Ridge on a reconnaissance in force to determine the strength of the Confederate line, hoping to ensure that Bragg would not withdraw his forces and move in the direction of Knoxville, Tennessee, where Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside was being threatened by a Confederate force under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet. Thomas sent over 14,000 men toward a minor hill named Orchard Knob and overran the Confederate defenders. Grant changed his orders and instructed Thomas's men to dig in and hold the position. Δ]

Surprised by Thomas's move and realizing that his center and right might be more vulnerable than he had thought, Bragg quickly readjusted his strategy. Bragg assigned Col. Warren Grigsby's brigade of Kentucky cavalry to picket the Tennessee river northeast of Chattanooga and ordered Brig. Gen. Marcus Joseph Wright to bring his brigade of Tennessee infantry from Cleveland, Tennessee, by train to Chickamauga Station. He recalled all units he had recently ordered to Knoxville if they were within a day's march. Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne's division returned after dark from Chickamauga Station, interrupting the process of boarding the trains. Bragg began to reduce the strength on his left by withdrawing Maj. Gen. William H. T. Walker's division from the base of Lookout Mountain and placing them on the far right of Missionary Ridge, just south of Tunnel Hill. He assigned Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee to command his now critical right flank, turning over the left flank to Maj. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson. Bragg's concern for his right proved justified and his decisions were fortuitous. In the center, Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge ordered his men to begin fortifying the crest of Missionary Ridge, a task that Bragg had somehow neglected for weeks. Unable to decide whether to defend the base or the crest of the Ridge, the divisions of Brig. Gens. William B. Bate and J. Patton Anderson were ordered to move half of their divisions to the crest, leaving the remainder in the rifle pits along the base. James L. McDonough wrote of the upper entrenchments, "Placed along the physical crest rather than what is termed the military crest . these works severely handicapped the defenders." Ε]

November 24 was dark, with low clouds, fog, and drizzling rain. Sherman's force crossed the Tennessee River successfully in the morning then took the set of hills at the north end of Missionary Ridge, although he was surprised to find that a valley separated him from the main part of the ridge. Alerted by Grigsby's cavalry that the enemy had crossed the river in force, Bragg sent Cleburne's division and Wright's brigade to challenge Sherman. After skirmishing with the Confederates, Sherman ordered his men to dig in on the hills he had seized. Cleburne, likewise, dug in around Tunnel Hill. Ζ]

At the same time, Hooker's command succeeded in the Battle of Lookout Mountain and prepared to move east toward Bragg's left flank on Missionary Ridge. The divisions of Stevenson and Cheatham retreated behind Chattanooga Creek, burning the bridges behind them. Η]

On the night of November 24, Bragg asked his two corps commanders whether to retreat or to stand and fight. Cleburne, concerned about what Sherman had accomplished, expected Bragg to retreat. Hardee also counseled retreat, but Breckinridge convinced Bragg to fight it out on the strong position of Missionary Ridge. Accordingly, the troops withdrawn from Lookout Mountain were ordered to the right wing to assist in repelling Sherman. ⎖]

The Battle of Chattanooga:

By 23 November 1863, 70,000 Federal troops were amassed in battle of Chattanooga. The Federal breakout began with General Thomas seizing Orchard Knob from the Confederates, and driving the Confederate line back. The next day, Joseph Hooker led the Federal attack at the Battle of Lookout Mountain, known as the “The Battle above the Clouds,” and used his six-to-one advantage in men to defeat the Confederates.

But the key battle was the Battle of Missionary Ridge. It was begun on 24 November and engaged with a fury on 25 November. Again the Federals had six to one odds in their favor, but the three Confederate lines ascending the steep ridge threw back Federal attacks all day—at times in hand to hand combat.

General Thomas, however, refused to be denied victory. He brought up 23,000 Federals on a two mile-long line and sent them charging a full mile under fire. The bluecoats crashed into and overwhelmed the 3,200 Confederates in the rifle pits at the base of the ridge. As retreating Confederates scrambled out of the way, fire poured down on the Federals from the Confederate second line: artillery fire, musket fire, an inferno of blazing fire. The Yankee junior officers on the spot thought they had no choice: they had to charge straight up the mountain through that avalanche of artillery shells and bullets.

Grant, seeing the blue uniforms move up, thought it was suicide and demanded to know who had given the order to attack up the ridge. No one knew, but the bluecoats kept moving, dodging behind whatever cover they could find as they made their ascent. Soon they had captured the second line of Confederate rifle pits, the defenders scrambling higher to the final line. Though the fire remained fierce and deadly, the Union troops got a break. As the Federals ascended, the Confederate artillery‘s field of fire diminished to nothing, it being impossible to depress the barrels any farther. The Confederate gunners were reduced to lighting fuses on canister shells and rolling them and cannon balls down the ridge.

Grabbing the flag of the 24th Wisconsin from an exhausted color sergeant, eighteen-year-old Lieutenant Arthur MacArthur (father of future general Douglas MacArthur) led the final charge: “On Wisconsin!” he cried. Soon the Federals were over the top, and as MacArthur planted his regiment’s colors in front of what had been Braxton Bragg’s headquarters he was greeted with the sight of Confederate uniforms melting away down the reverse slope of the ridge.

Phil Sheridan led the Federals’ pursuit, which continued the next day. Only the fighting courage of Patrick Cleburne’s shielding division (Cleburne was known as “the Stonewall Jackson of the West”) allowed the Confederates to escape. The charge up Missionary Ridge had decided the contest. Told that Confederate generals had considered Missionary Ridge impregnable, Grant replied, “Well, it was impregnable.”4 But the bravery of men like Arthur MacArthur and Phil Sheridan had changed that.

Missionary Ridge

The Battle of Missionary Ridge was fought on November 25, 1863, as part of the Chattanooga Campaign of the American Civil War. Following the Union victory in the Battle of Lookout Mountain on November 24, Union forces under the command of Major General Ulysses S. Grant assaulted Missionary Ridge and defeated the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by General Braxton Bragg — forcing the Confederate forces to retreat to Georgia.

George L. Banks

Rank: Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company C, 15th Indiana Infantry

Born: October 13, 1893, Lake County, Ohio

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: As color bearer, led his regiment in the assault, and, though wounded, carried the flag forward to the enemy’s works, where he was again wounded. In a brigade of 8 regiments this flag was the first planted on the parapet.

James B. Bell

Rank: Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company H, 11th Ohio Infantry

Born: August 9, 1835, Branot, Ohio

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: Though severely wounded, he was the first of his regiment on the summit of the ridge, planted his colors inside the enemy’s works, and did not leave the field until after he had been wounded 5 times.

Henry V. Boynton

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: 35th Ohio Infantry

Born: July 22, 1835, West Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: Led his regiment in the face of a severe fire of the enemy was severely wounded.

Charles W. Brouse

Rank: Captain

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company K, 100th Indiana Infantry

Born: December 30, 1839, Indianapolis, Indiana

Place / Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: To encourage his men whom he had ordered to lie down while under severe fire, and who were partially protected by slight earthworks, himself refused to lie down, but walked along the top of the works until he fell severely wounded.

Robert B. Brown

Rank: Private

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company A, 15th Ohio Infantry

Born: October 2, 1844, New Concord, Ohio

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: Upon reaching the ridge through concentrated fire, he approached the color bearer of the 9th Mississippi Infantry (C.S.A.), demanded his surrender with threatening gesture and took him prisoner with his regimental flag.

Freeman Davis

Rank: Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company B, 80th Ohio Infantry

Born: February 28, 1842, Newcomerstown, Ohio

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation:This soldier, while his regiment was falling back, seeing the 2 color bearers shot down, under a severe fire and at imminent peril recovered both the flags and saved them from capture.

George Green

Rank: Corporal

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company H, 11th Ohio Infantry

Born: July 16, 1840, England

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: Scaled the enemy’s works and in a hand-to-hand fight helped capture the flag of the 18th Alabama Infantry (C.S.A.).

Thomas Graham

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company G, 15th Indiana Infantry

Born: September 16, 1837

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: Seized the colors from the color bearer, who had been wounded, and, exposed to a terrible fire, carried them forward, planting them on the enemy’s breastworks.

Philip Goettel

Rank: Private

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company B, 149th New York Infantry

Born: September 2, 1840, Syracuse, New York

Place/Date: At Ringgold, Georgia, November 27, 1863

Citation: Capture of flag and battery guidon.

Hiram R. Howard

Rank: Private

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company H, 11th Ohio Infantry

Born: February 17, 1843, Urbana, Ohio

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: Scaled the enemy’s works and in a hand-to-hand fight helped capture the flag of the 18th Alabama Infantry (C.S.A.).

Simeon T. Josselyn

Rank: First Lieutenant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company C, 13th Illinois Infantry

Born: January 14, 1842, Buffalo, New York

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: While commanding his company, deployed as skirmishers, came upon a large body of the enemy, taking a number of them prisoner. Lt. Josselyn himself shot their color bearer, seized the colors and brought them back to his regiment.

Leverett M. Kelley

Rank: Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company A, 36th Illinois Infantry

Born: 1841, Schenectady, New York

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: Sprang over the works just captured from the enemy, and calling upon his comrades to follow, rushed forward in the face of a deadly fire and was among the first over the works on the summit, where he compelled the surrender of a Confederate officer and received his sword.

John S. Kountz

Rank: Musician

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company G, 37th Ohio Infantry

Born: March 25, 1846, Richfield, Ohio

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: Seized a musket and joined in the charge in which he was severely wounded.

Arthur MacCarthur, Jr.

Rank: First Lieutenant/Adjutant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: 24th Wisconsin Infantry

Born: Springfield, Massachusetts

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: Seized the colors of his regiment at a critical moment and planted them on the captured works on the crest of Missionary Ridge.

Axel H. Reed

Rank: Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company K, 2d Minnesota Infantry

Born: March 13, 1835, Hartford, Maine

Place/Date: At Chickamauga, Georgia, September 19, 1863 At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: While in arrest at Chickamauga, Ga., left his place in the rear and voluntarily went to the line of battle, secured a rifle, and fought gallantly during the 2-day battle was released from arrest in recognition of his bravery. At Missionary Ridge commanded his company and gallantly led it, being among the first to enter the enemy’s works was severely wounded, losing an arm, but declined a discharge and remained in active service to the end of the war.

William Schmidt

Rank: Principal Musician

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company G, 37th Ohio Infantry

Born: July 10, 1846, Tiffin, Ohio

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: Rescued a wounded comrade under terrific fire.

John J. Toffey

Rank: First Lieutenant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company G, 33d New Jersey Infantry

Born: June 1, 1844, Pawling, New York

Place/Date: At Chattanooga, Tennessee, November 23, 1863

Citation: Although excused from duty on account of sickness, he went to the front in command of a storming party and with conspicuous gallantry participated in the assault of Missionary Ridge was here wounded and permanently disabled.

James C. Walker

Rank: Private

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company K, 31st Ohio Infantry

Born: November 30, 1843, Harmony, Ohio

Place/Date: At Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863

Citation: After 2 color bearers had fallen, seized the flag and carried it forward, assisting in the capture of a battery. Shortly thereafter he captured the flag of the 41st Alabama and the color bearer.

The battle

Prior to this battle, the morale of the Confederates was high as they had bested the Union army at the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19�, 1863). The Union army had retreated to Chattanooga. They were pursued by the Confederate army who succeeded in bottling up the Union army in a tight semicircle. General Grant took over command of the Union army in October and shored up the defenses. His coming had a significant effect on morale as he decided to go on the offensive.

He started by opening a supply route to the beleaguered Union army by driving the Confederate army from the Tennessee River. He now planned for a major offensive in November. On 23 November he instructed his assistant General George Thomas to launch a probe against the Confederates on Missionary Ridge. This was an important landmark as its control gave the army a clear view of the countryside as well as Chattanooga.

The morale of the rebel soldiers had been slowly ebbing and a simple maneuver turned into a significant win for the Union army. The Confederate force retreated and went up the strategic ridge, leaving the lower areas in control of the Union army.

The stage was now set for the battle as the Union army captured Lookout Mountain on one side of the Confederate force. This was on 24 November. General Joseph Hooker under the overall command of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant&aposs with about 56,000 men, captured Lookout Mountain. The disheartened Confederate troops who had held it since the Battle of Chickamauga for the last 2 months simply caved in. This left the Confederate left wing dangerously weak. Hooker&aposs troops captured the mountain and drove off the Confederates and now he was ready for the battle at Missionary Ridge.

Grant now planned a threefold assault on the Confederate positions on Missionary Ridge. From the left, General Sherman attacked with his troops. While from the right an attack was mounted by the Union army under General Joseph Hooker. Both these elements of the Union army made heavy weather against strong resistance. There was severe fighting but the confederates held on.

As per the plan, Grant now ordered the Central thrust. The Union army now launched an offensive to relieve the forces of Sherman and hooker. This was the most significant phase of the battle as the Union forces made excellent headway against the Confederate force. Many factors went against the Confederate army one of which was a poor generalship. This had resulted in defensive trenches being dug which did not serve their purpose. The result was that the center of the Confederate force collapsed like a house of cards. General Bragg the confederate general sounded the bugle of retreat and pulled his troops away from Chattanooga. It was a colossal defeat for the Confederates and it had its repercussions as general Bragg resigned soon after.

Braxton Bragg (1817-1876) was a U.S. Army officer who was called from retirement and became a general during the Civil War (1861-65). He was promoted to full general after General Albert Sidney Johnston’s death at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. He was captured by the Union forces in 1865 but paroled. His plantation was captured and he had to look for civil employment. He died in 1876 aged 59. His opponent Ulysses Grant became the 18th president of the USA. One must remember the winner takes all and the loser gets nothing.

Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Bloggers really are a shameless bunch, snatching an idea from one of their colleagues, and running off on a new tangent with it.

Keith Harris, who blogs at Cosmic America, got the ball rolling this time by posting a video clip of Grant author Joan Waugh, discussing the persistent rumors of drunkenness that swirled around Grant throughout the war and after. Waugh’s own position on the subject is not entirely clear, but she describes the sort of “default” position taken by many historians — that his drinking didn’t interfere with his abilities “when it counted,” — and follows up by explaining that she admonishes her students to be “mature about judging our presidents and other leaders,” recognizing their human foibles, and asking rhetorically whether Lincoln, after suffering through a series of failed Union generals, would “appoint a raging drunk to lead the Union army?”

Professor Brooks D. Simpson, himself a Grant biographer, takes strong exception to the notion that Grant only drank when nothing much was going on. He outlines three specific occasions when Grant had what appears to have had serious alcohol-related incidents when engaged in active military operations, one of which — a fall from his horse at New Orleans in October 1863 — put him effectively out of action for weeks. “When you are a general in command of an army,” Simpson writes, “something important is always going on, and it would be bad business for a general to assume a lull in the fighting to relax before being surprised. Think Shiloh.”

Simpson doesn’t discuss Grant’s drinking at Chattanooga, but it was attested by Ambrose Bierce, at the time a staff officer under General William Babcock Hazen. Bierce thought well of Grant, but as Simpson himself noted in a 2007 piece for the Ambrose Bierce Project, the writer chafed mightily at the fatuous accolades and near-deification of the man that followed Grant’s death in July 1885. Among the things that stirred Bierce’s ire — and it didn’t take much, truly — were the general’s eulogists who built complex rationalizations around his imbibing or, worse, averred he never touched the bottle. A few months after Grant’s passing, Bierce set out his own, utterly unapologetic perspective on the subject:

For my part, I know of nothing in great military or civic abilities incompatible with a love of strong drink, nor any reason to suppose that a true patriot may not have the misfortune to be dissipated. Alexander the Great was a drunkard, and died of it. Webster was as often drunk as sober. The instances are numberless. When the nation’s admiration of Grant, who was really an admirable soldier, shall have accomplished its fermentation and purged itself of toadyism, men of taste will not be ashamed to set it before their guests at a feast of reason. . . .

My own observation – take it for what it is worth – is that it was some time afterward. As late as the battle of Mission[ary] Ridge (November 25,1863) it was my privilege to be close to him for six or seven hours, on Orchard Knob – him and his staff and a variable group of other general and staff officers, including Thomas, Granger, Sheridan, Wood and Hazen. They looked upon the wine when it was red, these tall fellows – they bit glass. The poisoned chalice went about and about. Some of them did not kiss the dragon my recollection is that Grant commonly did. I don’t think he took enough to comfort the enemy- not more than I did myself from another bottle but I was all the time afraid he would, which was ungenerous, for he did not appear at all afraid I would. This confidence touched me deeply.

Many times since then I have read with pleasure and approval the warmest praises of Grant’s total abstinence from some of the gentlemen then and there present.

Such virtues as we have
Our piety doth grace the gods withal.

These gentlemen were themselves total abstainers from the truth.

One wonders whether, 125 years after his death, the fermentation of Grant’s legacy in this regard is even yet accomplished. Not quite yet, for some.

Bierce excerpt from David J. Klooster and Russell Duncan, eds., Phantoms of a Blood-Stained Period: The Complete Civil War Writings of Ambrose Bierce (University of Massachusetts, 2002). Image: Chromolithograph of a painting by Thure de Thulstrup, “Battle of Chattanooga” (depicting the Battle of Missionary Ridge) of the Chattanooga Campaign. Library of Congress.

Watch the video: Shermans Assault on Missionary Ridge - with Park Historian Jim Ogden