The unanswered question about Chattanooga.

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
We have to be logical in viewing the situation at the time and reasonable in our conclusions.

I find it ludicrous to assume any officer or men of even reasonable intelligence, who saw it at the time, could think the center of Missionary Ridge could be taken by a frontal assault. Certainly Grant, Thomas and Sherman did not think so.

Logically, if one cannot got through the Main Line, then the only alternative is to around Which Grant obviously did. First a diversionary attack on one Confederate flank, with the main attack on the other flank.

Tunnel Hill was easily defensible and Sherman, as was his wont, was tactically clumsy making Cleburne's defense all the more easy.

Grant orders Thomas to take the rifle pits at the base of the ridge. Thomas demurs, not wanting to move until the status of Hookers diversion at Lookout Mtn is progressing(relations between Grant and Tomas were already chilly, and Thomas' refusal probably did little to warm things up)

This far I believe the history is pretty clear, but now, questions appear

Grant now insists for Thomas to attack and Thomas orders Grainger to do so. The question is did Grant, Thomas or Grainger order the attack to be a full scale assault on the center of the Confederate Army on Missionary Ridge by the entire AOC? Logic and Reason argues .... No. If so, then, to me, it must have been a mistake , either in the order(s) or their interpretation and since I doubt any of the commanders would have done so, then it would seem that the mistake was/were in interpretation, which I believe is the consensus of most historians and those on this thread.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
We have to be logical in viewing the situation at the time and reasonable in our conclusions.

I find it ludicrous to assume any officer or men of even reasonable intelligence, who saw it at the time, could think the center of Missionary Ridge could be taken by a frontal assault. Certainly Grant, Thomas and Sherman did not think so.
Grant wrote an order to Thomas the night before that said
"Your command will either carry the rifle-pits and ridge directly in front of them or move to the left, as the presence of the enemy may require."
So clearly Grant did think the center of the ridge could be taken by assault.
Are you claiming he was not of "reasonable intelligence"?

We should also note that the center of the ridge was taken by frontal assault. Why is it so ludicrous for trained, experienced soldiers to consider something doable that turned out to be actually doable?

This far I believe the history is pretty clear, but now, questions appear
Actually no. Much of what you wrote is open to debate and is not at all clear from history as different sources have different spins

Grant now insists for Thomas to attack and Thomas orders Grainger to do so. The question is did Grant, Thomas or Grainger order the attack to be a full scale assault on the center of the Confederate Army on Missionary Ridge by the entire AOC? Logic and Reason argues .... No.
To me this is not the logical answer.
Why is it logical to have them advance and then stop at spot where they can be fired down on?
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Grant wrote an order to Thomas the night before that said
"Your command will either carry the rifle-pits and ridge directly in front of them or move to the left, as the presence of the enemy may require."
So clearly Grant did think the center of the ridge could be taken by assault.
Are you claiming he was not of "reasonable intelligence"?

We should also note that the center of the ridge was taken by frontal assault. Why is it so ludicrous for trained, experienced soldiers to consider something doable that turned out to be actually doable?


Actually no. Much of what you wrote is open to debate and is not at all clear from history as different sources have different spins


To me this is not the logical answer.
Why is it logical to have them advance and then stop at spot where they can be fired down on?
@NedBaldwin says there was a written order to attempt both. Therefore Grant was not unhappy about the assault on the ridge, just concerned about the way it was done, and the lack of formation. His frustration dissipated quickly and Granger's staff officers spread out allowing the attempt to continue.
Tactically, no movement to the left was necessary because Sherman had made so little progress and Howard's two divisions were still available.
It was all forgotten fairly quickly. They all rode to the top the ridge. In December Grant visited Thomas and they toured the Chickamauga field.
Sherman did not make much progress on the 25th. But Long's cavalry raid was already loose. Davis' one division and Howard's two divisions were still in reserve. On the 26th all three divisions made it as far as Chickamauga Station. That advance, without much fighting, finished off any Confederate presence around Chattanooga for about 1 year. That also put tremendous pressure on Longstreet.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
@NedBaldwin says there was a written order to attempt both.

Grant's written order from the night before is in the official records, the Grant papers, Thomas' testimony to Congress, etc

Meigs wrote in his journal the night of the battle that Grant "meant to form the lines and then prepare and launch columns of assault, but as the men, carried away by their enthusiasm, had gone so far, he would not order them back." This is also what Grant wrote in his own report.

That Grant intended a two step move -- rifle pits and then ridge -- is confirmed by Baird's after action report "...a staff officer from Major-General Thomas brought me verbal orders to move forward to the edge of the open ground which bordered the foot of Missionary Ridge, within striking distance of the rebel rifle-pits at its base, so as to be ready at a signal, which would be the firing of six guns from Orchard Knob, to dash forward and take those pits. He added this was intended preparatory to a general assault on the mountain; that it was doubtless designed by the major-general commanding that I should take part in this movement, so that I would be following his wishes were I to push on to the summit. "


It was only Granger and Wood who would later write that all was intended was the first step -- the rifle pits -- and nothing more and that it was meant as a demonstration. But others accused Granger of not paying attention because he was personally directing and firing a canon such that his transmission of orders to subordinates was delayed and fouled up.

Note that the staff officer who went to Baird was sent direct from Thomas/Grant and not through Granger, but Sheridan (who said he was unsure of what the intent was) and Wood's brigade commanders (who separately had differing views of intent) were getting their verbal orders from staff sent by Granger.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Grant's written order from the night before is in the official records, the Grant papers, Thomas' testimony to Congress, etc

Meigs wrote in his journal the night of the battle that Grant "meant to form the lines and then prepare and launch columns of assault, but as the men, carried away by their enthusiasm, had gone so far, he would not order them back." This is also what Grant wrote in his own report.

That Grant intended a two step move -- rifle pits and then ridge -- is confirmed by Baird's after action report "...a staff officer from Major-General Thomas brought me verbal orders to move forward to the edge of the open ground which bordered the foot of Missionary Ridge, within striking distance of the rebel rifle-pits at its base, so as to be ready at a signal, which would be the firing of six guns from Orchard Knob, to dash forward and take those pits. He added this was intended preparatory to a general assault on the mountain; that it was doubtless designed by the major-general commanding that I should take part in this movement, so that I would be following his wishes were I to push on to the summit. "


It was only Granger and Wood who would later write that all was intended was the first step -- the rifle pits -- and nothing more and that it was meant as a demonstration. But others accused Granger of not paying attention because he was personally directing and firing a canon such that his transmission of orders to subordinates was delayed and fouled up.

Note that the staff officer who went to Baird was sent direct from Thomas/Grant and not through Granger, but Sheridan (who said he was unsure of what the intent was) and Wood's brigade commanders (who separately had differing views of intent) were getting their verbal orders from staff sent by Granger.
That makes tremendous sense.
When Grant wrote about the battle he had the benefit of talking with Longstreet and maybe others about Bragg. He also remembered the unexpected passivity of the opposing pickets.
And his amusing observation was that the position on Missionary Ridge "was impregnable" unless of course it was tested, and found out to be fake. The ridge might even be said to turn into,... a bluff.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
That makes tremendous sense.
...
And his amusing observation was that the position on Missionary Ridge "was impregnable" unless of course it was tested, and found out to be fake. The ridge might even be said to turn into,... a bluff.
As I see it, Grant's intent for the Army of the Cumberland that day ran into 2 issues

I have written about one - which was Granger's attention to his job leading to confusion about the plan.

The other issue was that Grant wanted action early but Thomas preferred to hit with maximum force, so he delayed.

Thomas had 4 Corps under him - Howard, Granger, Palmer and Hooker. The night of the 24th only Granger's 2 divisions were in position facing the ridge to make the kind of move Grant wanted. So in the morning when it was clear that the Confederates had evacuated Lookout Mountain and moved everybody to the ridge, Thomas sent Hooker a message "I wish you and General Palmer to move forward firmly and steadily upon the enemy's works in front, using General Sheridan as a pivot." And when Sherman sent a message midday "Where is Thomas?", Thomas replied "Orchard Knob. I am here; my right is closing in from Lookout Mountain toward Missionary Ridge." Grant was impatient for action so he sent first Howard and then Baird to move left to Sherman. Sherman put Howard in a reserve position on his left flank but could not figure out how to fit Baird in, so Thomas had Baird called back to take position on Granger's left. Meanwhile Palmer's other division (Johnson) was brought out of the Chattanooga defenses to pivot into position on Sheridan's right while Hooker moved across to valley to Rossville. Only then, once Granger, Palmer AND Hooker were in position, did Thomas feel ready to rumble. And he was correct. An early attack with just Granger would not have succeeded.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
As I see it, Grant's intent for the Army of the Cumberland that day ran into 2 issues

I have written about one - which was Granger's attention to his job leading to confusion about the plan.

The other issue was that Grant wanted action early but Thomas preferred to hit with maximum force, so he delayed.

Thomas had 4 Corps under him - Howard, Granger, Palmer and Hooker. The night of the 24th only Granger's 2 divisions were in position facing the ridge to make the kind of move Grant wanted. So in the morning when it was clear that the Confederates had evacuated Lookout Mountain and moved everybody to the ridge, Thomas sent Hooker a message "I wish you and General Palmer to move forward firmly and steadily upon the enemy's works in front, using General Sheridan as a pivot." And when Sherman sent a message midday "Where is Thomas?", Thomas replied "Orchard Knob. I am here; my right is closing in from Lookout Mountain toward Missionary Ridge." Grant was impatient for action so he sent first Howard and then Baird to move left to Sherman. Sherman put Howard in a reserve position on his left flank but could not figure out how to fit Baird in, so Thomas had Baird called back to take position on Granger's left. Meanwhile Palmer's other division (Johnson) was brought out of the Chattanooga defenses to pivot into position on Sheridan's right while Hooker moved across to valley to Rossville. Only then, once Granger, Palmer AND Hooker were in position, did Thomas feel ready to rumble. And he was correct. An early attack with just Granger would not have succeeded.
The attack worked. The line was broken and the pressure on Burnside was relieved. Everyone was happy in December 1863 and January 1864. No one knew there was 15 months of hard fighting ahead.
By going ahead on the 25th I think Grant was trying to stop any attempt by Bragg to get away cleanly. But the delays during the day pushed the timing of the attack into mid afternoon. That limited how much pursuit was accomplished that evening. It was a lesson in how much planning, and how much mobility it would take for a US army to catch and block a retreating Confederate army.
Bragg's people did get away, but they did not get away cleanly.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
As I see it, Grant's intent for the Army of the Cumberland that day ran into 2 issues

I have written about one - which was Granger's attention to his job leading to confusion about the plan.

The other issue was that Grant wanted action early but Thomas preferred to hit with maximum force, so he delayed.

Thomas had 4 Corps under him - Howard, Granger, Palmer and Hooker. The night of the 24th only Granger's 2 divisions were in position facing the ridge to make the kind of move Grant wanted. So in the morning when it was clear that the Confederates had evacuated Lookout Mountain and moved everybody to the ridge, Thomas sent Hooker a message "I wish you and General Palmer to move forward firmly and steadily upon the enemy's works in front, using General Sheridan as a pivot." And when Sherman sent a message midday "Where is Thomas?", Thomas replied "Orchard Knob. I am here; my right is closing in from Lookout Mountain toward Missionary Ridge." Grant was impatient for action so he sent first Howard and then Baird to move left to Sherman. Sherman put Howard in a reserve position on his left flank but could not figure out how to fit Baird in, so Thomas had Baird called back to take position on Granger's left. Meanwhile Palmer's other division (Johnson) was brought out of the Chattanooga defenses to pivot into position on Sheridan's right while Hooker moved across to valley to Rossville. Only then, once Granger, Palmer AND Hooker were in position, did Thomas feel ready to rumble. And he was correct. An early attack with just Granger would not have succeeded.
The immediate advance up the ridge was mostly likely surprising and alarming, especially to Thomas, whose four divisions looked like they were going to sliced up. But Grant and Thomas were also surprised that were so many Confederates in the forward position, and that they didn't fight more.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The better question is why did the Confederates not fight better? Instead of asking why the US soldiers, non coms, and junior officers ascended the ridge, why not ask why didn't the Confederates fight?
How many were men from Kentucky and Tennessee who were thinking of their homes in US controlled territory?
How many were conscripts, who were beginning to realize, they had nothing to gain from the Confederate cause?
How many were parolees from Vicksburg, were rushed into service without time to recover and without proper equipment?
And how many were veterans who could see, without having been told, that once the US controlled Lookout Mountain, the Missionary Ridge position was useless? I suspect they knew they were deployed in a sacrifice line, and they weren't having it.
Grant broke into story telling to explain the result. He probably knew a lot more about Confederate moral than he was willing to tell the public even years later.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
The better question is why did the Confederates knot fight better? Instead of asking why the US soldiers, non coms, and junior officers ascended the ridge, why not ask why didn't the Confederates fight?
How many were men from Kentucky and Tennessee who were thinking of their homes in US controlled territory?
How many were conscripts, who were beginning to realize, they had nothing to gain from the Confederate cause?
How many were parolees from Vicksburg, were rushed into service without time to recover and without proper equipment?
And how many were veterans who could see, without having been told, that once the US controlled Lookout Mountain, the Missionary Ridge position was useless? I suspect they knew they were deployed in a sacrifice line, and they weren't having it.
Grant broke into story telling to explain the result. He probably knew a lot more about Confederate moral than he was willing to tell the public even years later.
The Vicksburg parolees in Stevenson’s division did fight well

Stewart’s division did not fight well because it was attacked from the front and the flank by 4 divisions

I’m not sure who else could be considered not to have fought well
 

wausaubob

Colonel
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Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Powell wrote that some regiments in the front departed without firing a shot. While other units discharged their weapons and then started up the slope.
While Cozzens wrote that some units on the top of the ridge were not properly equipped.
I am surprised that you think that the Confederate army which experienced a desertion rate of greater than 1% and a surrender rate in excess of 10% according to Powell's citation of the numbers compiled by Thomas' adjutant, fought well.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
Powell wrote that some regiments in the front departed without firing a shot. While other units discharged their weapons and then started up the slope.
While Cozzens wrote that some units on the top of the ridge were not properly equipped.
I am surprised that you think that the Confederate army which experienced a desertion rate of greater than 1% and a surrender rate in excess of 10% according to Powell's citation of the numbers compiled by Thomas' adjutant, fought well.
It seems to me that the Cleburne-Stevenson part of the army that faced off against Sherman did quite well. It also seems clear to me that the Stewart part of the army collapsed when attacked by Hooker and Johnson. Dont know about the Bate-Anderson portion that faced off against Baird-Sheridan-Wood 🤷🏻‍♂️
 
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