From high atop Lookout Mountain the Tennessee River looks like a ribbon winding its way through the valley below. Today the city of Chattanooga sprawls along the river and up the surrounding mountainsides. But in 1863 Chattanooga was a small town nestled along the riverbank. Its importance lay in the railroads that intersected in the mountain valley leading to Nashville, Knoxville, and Atlanta. The iron and coke works supplying the Confederacy added to its value.
After the Battle of Chicamauga in September 1863, the defeated Union Army retreated to Chattanooga. Surrounded by the Confederates for more than a month, the Union soldiers were almost out of supplies when reinforcements arrived. Still the southern forces held the high ground on Lookout Mountain with a commanding view of the valley, river and town.
Standing on the rocks in Point Park and looking down at the shear drop off the mountain, it is hard to imagine the Union soldiers attacking – but they did. On Nov. 24, 1863, they came up the rocks and cliffs in an attempt to take the summit. Confederate cannon had been mounted to fire at the river and town below. When they tried to adjust their fire toward the attacking soldiers, the cannon balls would roll out of the barrel before they could be fired. Without benefit of cannon, the southern troops defended the mountain with rifles and hand-to-hand fighting. It is said that Confederate soldiers who ran out of ammunition hurled rocks at the attacking Yankees. Imagine the terror of combat in such a place where a soldier could fall to his death if he stumbled and lost his footing.
Because a heavy mist hung over the mountain making it difficult for either side to see more than a few feet, the battle was referred to as the Battle above the Clouds. By the end of the day the Union was victorious and the Confederates retreated to Missionary Ridge where the next day they were defeated again.
During the Battle of Missionary Ridge a young soldier picked up the fallen colors and led the charge up the ridge. Arthur MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor for his action that day. In later years he became a Lieutenant General and the father of Douglas MacArthur who achieved the five-star rank of General of the Army in World War II. These two men are the only father and son recipients of the Medal of Honor.
My husband and I recently visited Point Park atop Lookout Mountain accompanied by our son, daughter-in-law and grandson. The park preserves the site of the civil war battlefield. The famous Incline Railway took us up the mountain and we walked the three blocks to the park. Beautiful old houses sit atop the mountain. Those on the edge have gorgeous views and back yards that go straight down. It is definitley worth a visit. Chattanooga has many interesting and historic sites for anyone seeking a getaway.