The Union army decided to capture the town so they could use it as a supply base for invading other southern states.
The town sat nestled in the East Tennessee mountains, and the mountains made it hard for the Union army to attack Chattanooga. Imagine how difficult it would be to get thousands of soldiers, cannons, and wagons up and down mountains and through narrow passes.
The Union army commanded by General William S. Rosecrans set out for Chattanooga. When they arrived, they were excited to see that the Confederates commanded by General Braxton Bragg had already left the town. However, they did not go far.
The two armies met south of Chattanooga in Georgia. In the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19 and 20, 1863, the Confederates defeated the Union army.
The Union soldiers retreated back into Chattanooga. General George Thomas earned the nickname "The Rock of Chickamauga" by holding the Confederates troops off so the remaining Union troops could reach Chattanooga.
The Confederates surrounded the city, and the federal troops became increasingly desperate for supplies such as food.
On November 24, the Union army attacked the Confederate army and drove the Confederates from their position on top of Lookout Mountain. The next day, Union troops faced Confederate troops firing down on them from Missionary Ridge. Without being ordered to do so, they pushed up the mountain and routed the Confederates, raising the flag.
Newspapers romanticized the episode by calling it the "Battle Above the Clouds." By the end of the day, the Confederate army faced defeat.
To read more about these battles and the men who fought there:
Read a Union soldier’s account of the battle
- Hand-colored lithograph titled “View of Anderson, Tennessee.” The camp was a supply depot for Union soldiers in Chattanooga. Tennessee State Museum (TSM) Collection, 80.15.1
- Colored lithograph of the "Battle of Chattanooga--General Thomas' charge near Orchard Knob on Nov. 14, 1863. Produced in 1888 by Kurtz and Allison, Art Publishers, Chicago, IL. Library of Congress
- Drawing in ink, “Confederate battle line at Chickamauga, Sept. 20, 1863” by Walton B. Taber. This sketch was commissioned by Century Magazine in the 1888s. TSM Collection, 82.126.3
- Photograph of Union General Ulysses Grant on Lookout Mountain in 1863. On the back, written in pencil is: “Left to right, Gen. Grant, Gen. Rawlings, Gen. Webster, Col. Lagow and Col. Killer.” TSM Collection, 80.160
- Watercolor of the Shell Mound Crossing, by Mr. Rodin. Attached note reads “Genl Thomas troops crossing the Tennessee River at Shell Mound, East Tenn., the last of August 1863, before becoming in procession of Chattanooga.” TSM Collection, 2001.39
- Postcard of the painting “Battle Above the Clouds” by James Walker. It shows General Joseph Hooker at the center on a white horse conferring with his commanders. Military artist James Walker witnessed the battle and sketched scenes that he later used to produce this painting in 1874. TSM Collection, 2006.146.23
- Union artillery crew with a 200 lb. battery at Missionary Ridge. Identified as a Matthew Brady photograph. Library of Congress
- Print of a drawing by Thure de Thulstrup showing Union troops at Orchard Knob during the battle at Chattanooga. The print is dated 1887 and is from “Prang’s War Pictures.” New York Public Library, Digital Gallery
- Print from a painting by Thomas Nast showing Union troops attacking at the Battle of Lookout Mountain. Published during the war. New York Public Library, Digital Gallery
Civil War and Reconstruction >> Civil War >> Battles >> Chickamauga/Chattanooga