Lookout Mountain November 24, 1863 Estimated casualties: 1,231 (Union: 710, Confederates 521)
General Carter Stevenson [CS] was worried. Troops from Chattanooga (city history) 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 Army of Tennessee commander Braxton Bragg about his concern.
That was a good idea. It had been assumed that Bragg had left enough men to protect the easily defend peak. 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.
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. Then the Confederates battled back, trying to buy time for their fellow soldiers to establish a line east of the home. The fog then returned.
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.
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