Part of a series of articles titled The Odyssey of Ulysses.
By Frank Kohl
On November 24, 1863, Ulysses S. Grant sat on Orchard Knob in Tennessee’s Lookout Valley. He watched calmly as General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker’s Union forces stormed up the steep sides of Lookout Mountain. This peak was an important part of the Confederate positions that opposed Grant in Chattanooga.
“There he stood in his plain citizen’s clothes looking through his double field-glasses apparently totally unmoved . . . I could hardly believe that here was this famous commander, the model, it seemed to me, of a modest and homely but efficient Yankee general.” – Henry Y. Thompson, British journalist
Although Grant considered Hooker to be irresponsible and arrogant, Hooker’s forces made quick work of the Confederates. As his men fought their way to the summit, heavy fog rolled in, making it nearly impossible for Grant to follow the battle’s progress. During “The Battle Above the Clouds,” the two armies struggled in near-blind conditions.
The Fog Clears
As the fighting continued, Confederate leadership questioned their ability to hold Lookout Mountain. Sensing defeat, they ordered the remaining men to retreat and join the main force at Missionary Ridge. Eventually the fog cleared, revealing a lunar eclipse which allowed the Confederates to flee in total darkness. Grant noted the battle was nothing more than a small skirmish, not deserving the attention it received. However, the Union victory freed Hooker to join the main assault on Missionary Ridge the following day and forced the Confederates to retreat to Georgia.
Lookout Mountain Today
Lookout Mountain Battlefield is part of Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park and encompasses over thirty miles of trails. The Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center, situated at the top of the mountain, offers a comprehensive look into the siege and battles for Chattanooga. Additionally, Point Park, near the visitor center, features historic tablets, monuments, Confederate artillery positions, and scenic overlooks.
The Odyssey of Ulysses explores the saga of U. S. Grant from his first battle to his final resting place. For information on this Article Series project, contact us.
Last updated: January 15, 2022