Civil War – Lookout Mountain: ‘The Battle Above The Clouds’

Submitted by C.J. Johnson

 

“Lookout Mountain rises 1700 feet above the Tennessee Valley, its steep sides protruding to the sky. On the northern end, the mountain is surrounded on three sides by a near vertical rock wall that has afforded protection to the occupants…for hundreds of years.

The mountain is known for a weather phenomenon that occurs from 3-5 times a year. A layer of fog forms around the bottom of Lookout Mountain then begins to rise, sometimes engulfing the entire mountain. This rising fog has been written about since…1735. It was on a fateful day, November 24, 1863, that this weather anomaly set in, creating the most poetic name for any battle in the American Civil War, The Battle Above the Clouds,” says aboutnorthgeorgia.com.

Since the October 2nd Battle of Chickamauga, Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Rebels had the Yankees blockaded and under siege in Chattanooga. While the Rebs could not surround the city, they had the high ground of Lookout Mountain on the south side and Missionary Ridge to the east. In late October, Union General Grant arrived, engaged Confederates, and opened up the Tennessee River and Brown’s Ferry to the southwest of Chattanooga to allow supplies into the city.

History.com described the battle, “On November 23, Grant began to attack the center of the lines around the city. Lookout Mountain lay on the Union’s far right, and the action there commenced on November 24. Yankee General Joseph Hooker commanded this wing, and his men advanced toward the fog-covered peak. Hooker did not plan to attack the entire mountain that day, thinking the granite crags would be difficult to overcome.”

AboutNorthGeorgia continued… “‘Clouds enveloped the entire mountain’ wrote Union General John Geary before the attack. Confederate General Edward Walthall, whose Mississippians made up part of the Rebel line, would write that he detected Geary’s movement at about 7:30 a.m. but before he could tell where the Union commander was headed ‘a mist obscured the valley’ at about 8:00 a.m…Their stealth and the fog was on their side as they captured 42 Confederate pickets without firing a shot… The fog prevented Hooker’s artillery from joining the fray. Around 11:00 the clouds lifted to the point that the artillery could tell Rebel from Yankee and opened fire, even though the cloud bank was returning…”

“The Confederates had overestimated the advantages offered by the mountain, and 1,200 Rebels faced nearly 12,000 attacking Yankees. Artillery proved of little use, as the hill was so steep… Bragg did not send reinforcements…,” concluded history.com.

On a rocky ledge on the mountain’s north side, there was heavy fighting at Cravens House in early afternoon, when Confederate mounted a counterattack. As the fog lifted, the Rebs ran into heavy resistance.

Overnight, Bragg met with his generals and decided reinforcements were needed at Missionary Ridge and ordered a withdrawal during the night. The next day, General Hooker claimed the mountain and raised the Stars and Stripes. Casualties were about the same on both sides, with about 80 dead and around 600 casualties. The Battle above the Clouds, while not a large engagement, was important because of the impact on the next day’s battle at Missionary Ridge.