To many of the Federal soldiers watching the Stars and Stripes unfurl atop Lookout Mountain on the morning of November 25, 1863, it seemed that the battle to relieve Chattanooga was complete. The Union Army of the Cumberland was no longer trapped in the city, subsisting on short rations and awaiting rescue; instead, they were again on the attack.
Ulysses S. Grant did not share their certainty. For Grant, the job he had been sent to accomplish was only half-finished. Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee still held Missionary Ridge, with other Rebels under James Longstreet threatening more Federals in Knoxville, Tennessee. Grant’s greatest fear was that the Rebels would slip away before he could deliver the final blows necessary to crush Bragg completely.
That blow landed on the afternoon of November 25. Each of Grant’s assembled forces—troops led by Union Generals William T. Sherman, George H. Thomas, and Joseph Hooker—all moved to the attack. Stubbornly, Bragg refused to retreat, and instead accepted battle. That decision would cost him dearly.
But everything did not go Grant’s way. Despite what Grant’s many admirers would later insist was his most successful, most carefully planned battle, Grant’s strategy failed him—as did his most trusted commander, Sherman. Victory instead charged straight up the seemingly impregnable slopes of Missionary Ridge’s western face, as the men of the much-maligned Army of the Cumberland swarmed up and over Bragg’s defenses in an irresistible blue tide.
Caught flat-footed by this impetuous charge, Grant could only watch nervously as the men started up . . .
All Hell Can’t Stop Them: The Battles for Chattanooga—Missionary Ridge and Ringgold, November 24-27, 1863—sequel to Battle Above the Clouds—details the dramatic final actions of the battles for Chattanooga: Missionary Ridge and the final Confederate rearguard action at Ringgold, where Patrick Cleburne held Grant’s Federals at bay and saved the Army of Tennessee from further disaster.