Chattanooga, Tennessee, was a major rail center and a strategic vantage-point, with high ground competed-for by both sides. When Union forces were besieged in the town, General Ulysses S. Grant forced a supply-route, earning him Lincoln's particular gratitude.

Loyalties in a divided state

Tennessee was the last state to join the Confederacy (June 1861), being deeply divided between the mountainous eastern zone, including Chattanooga, that was pro-Union, and the slave-intensive western counties that voted Confederate.[1] At one point, it was proposed that East Tennessee should become a separate state of the Union.[2]

When Tennessee seceded, future President Andrew Johnson was the only southern senator to remain in the senate,[3] putting his life at risk, but earning him credibility with Lincoln, who appointed him military governor of Tennessee in March 1862.[4] (The Confederacy retaliated by confiscating his land.)[5] As a southern War Democrat, Johnson was the natural choice as Lincoln's running-mate in his successful 1864 re-election bid.[6]

Tennessee contributed more regiments to the Union than any other Confederate state.[7][8]

Troop movements

As an important railroad hub, connecting major southern arsenals, Chattanooga was closely engaged in the Confederate war effort from the start, despite local resistance and even some guerrilla activity.[9] The city remained in Confederate hands until September 1863, after which it was occupied continuously by the Union. General Rosecrans retreated to safety there following his catastrophic defeat at Chickamauga, besieged by General Braxton Bragg until General Ulysses S. Grant was able to open a supply line. Grant drove the Confederates off Lookout Mountain, before routing them decisively at Missionary Ridge. Chattanooga then served as the gateway to Georgia for General William T. Sherman's 1864 campaign.

The Battles

First Battle of Chattanooga (June 7–8, 1862)

A raid by Union Brig. Gen. James Negley aimed at capturing the Rebel-held city. His long artillery bombardment provoked a disorganised response from enemy gunners, but Negley withdrew on the second day. It had been a minor Confederate victory, but it demonstrated that the Union could strike deep into the enemy heartlands.

Second Battle of Chattanooga (August 21 - September 8, 1863)

Diversionary tactic by Union Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans to distract the attention of Confederate General Braxton Bragg through extensive shelling from the north-east of the city, while Union troops were massing to the south-west.[10] When Bragg learned of this, he retreated into Georgia, and the Union occupied the city.

Chattanooga campaign (Sept. 21 – November 25, 1863)

After its shock-defeat at Chickamauga (Georgia), Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland retreated into its fortifications at Chattanooga, where it was under heavy siege by Bragg and facing surrender. The demoralised Rosecrans was urgently reinforced by the team of Grant, Thomas and Sherman.[11][12] Principal actions:

By seizing a ferry-point on the Tennessee River, the Union managed to secure a supply-route that could feed the starving troops, who cheerfully dubbed it the Cracker Line.[13]
Confederate bid to re-take the Cracker Line, with many orders going astray in the dark. The Union, under Joe Hooker, were almost as disorganised, but retained the position.[14]
The Confederate position looked impregnable, but their artillery could not aim low enough to prevent Hooker driving them off the peak in a dense fog, which cleared to show the Union flag.[15]
Grant had ordered the Cumberlands to capture the rifle-pits at the base of the ridge. But apparently on impulse, they continued on up to the crest, achieving a startling victory.[16]
Failed attempt by Grant to capture the Confederates retreating into Georgia. Led by Pat Cleburne, they drove off the Union with minimal casualties, and Grant did not pursue further.[17][18]

See also


  1. ^ White, Robert D. "Messages of the Governors of Tennessee, op cit. p.272: The vote against secession, and against 'Convention' or 'No Convention'" (PDF). Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  2. ^ Proceedings of the East Tennessee Convention (H. Barry Book Company, 1861). Accessed at the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection, 14 December 2014.
  3. ^ Trefousse, Hans L. (1989). Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-393-31742-8.
  4. ^ Trefousse 1989, p. 153.
  5. ^ Trefousse 1989, p. 151.
  6. ^ Gordon-Reed, Annette (2011). Andrew Johnson. The American Presidents Series. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-0-8050-6948-8. p. 76.
  7. ^ Bates, Walter Lynn (Winter 1991). "Southern Unionists: A Socio-Economic Examination of the Third East Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment, U.S.A., 1862–1865". Tennessee Historical Quarterly. 50 (4): 226–239. JSTOR 42626970.
  8. ^ Lovett, Bobby L. "Blacks In The Union Army Of Tennessee (1861–1866)". Tennessee State University. Retrieved January 30, 2021.
  9. ^ Carroll Van West, ed., Tennessee History: the Land, the People, and the Culture. James McDonough "Tennessee in the Civil War" 1998. p 155
  10. ^ NPS
  11. ^ Cozzens, pp. 2–3. The order, written by general in chief Henry W. Halleck, directed Grant to travel to Memphis, Tennessee. He arrived there on October 16 and received new orders to continue to Louisville, Kentucky. He met personally with Stanton on October 17 and learned of his new command.
  12. ^ Cleaves, Freeman. Rock of Chickamauga: The Life of General George H. Thomas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1948. ISBN 0-8061-1978-0. p. 182; McDonough, James Lee. Chattanooga—A Death Grip on the Confederacy. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984. ISBN 0-87049-425-2, pp. 49–54; Liddell Hart, B. H. Sherman: Soldier, Realist, American. New York: Da Capo Press, 1993. ISBN 0-306-80507-3. First published in 1929 by Dodd, Mead & Co., p. 212; Woodworth, Steven E. Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8032-9813-7, p. 151; Smith, pp. 264–65; Lamers, William M. The Edge of Glory: A Biography of General William S. Rosecrans, U.S.A. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1961. ISBN 0-8071-2396-X, p. 393; Eicher, David J. The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN 0-684-84944-5, p. 595; Korn, Jerry, and the Editors of Time-Life Books. The Fight for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1985. ISBN 0-8094-4816-5, pp. 83–89; Cozzens, Peter. The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battles for Chattanooga. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994. ISBN 0-252-01922-9, pp. 18, 2–6.
  13. ^ Cozzens, pp. 18, 39–42; McDonough, pp. 55–58; Kennedy, Frances H., ed. The Civil War Battlefield Guide[permanent dead link]. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998. ISBN 0-395-74012-6, p. 241; Smith, pp. 266–67; Woodworth, Six Armies, pp. 154–55; Cleaves, p. 188; Korn, p. 89; Eicher, p. 602.
  14. ^ Halleck, pp. 123–24; Woodworth, Six Armies, p. 167; Connelly, pp. 260–61; Cozzens, pp. 100–101; Korn, p. 242.
  15. ^ Cozzens, pp. 165-74; McDonough, pp. 131-35.
  16. ^ McDonough, pp. 211-12; Woodworth, Six Armies, p. 202; Cozzens, p. 319.
  17. ^ Broome, Doyle D., Jr. "Daring Rear-Guard Defense." America's Civil War 6, no. 5 (November 1993): 40.
  18. ^ Cozzens, Peter. The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battles for Chattanooga. Urbanna: University of Illinois Press, 1994. ISBN 0-252-01922-9, pp. 384–85.