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Battle above the Clouds: Lifting the Siege of Chattanooga and the Battle…

de David A. Powell

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In October 1863, the Union Army of the Cumberland was besieged in Chattanooga, all but surrounded by familiar opponents: The Confederate Army of Tennessee. The Federals were surviving by the narrowest of margins, thanks only to a trickle of supplies painstakingly hauled over the sketchiest of mountain roads. Soon even those quarter-rations would not suffice. Disaster was in the offing. Yet those Confederates, once jubilant at having routed the Federals at Chickamauga and driven them back into the apparent trap of Chattanooga's trenches, found their own circumstances increasingly difficult to bear. In the immediate aftermath of their victory, the South rejoiced; the Confederacy's own disasters of the previous summer--Vicksburg and Gettysburg--were seemingly reversed. Then came stalemate in front of those same trenches. The Confederates held the high ground, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, but they could not completely seal off Chattanooga from the north. The Union responded. Reinforcements were on the way. A new man arrived to take command: Ulysses S. Grant. Confederate General Braxton Bragg, unwilling to launch a frontal attack on Chattanooga's defenses, sought victory elsewhere, diverting troops to East Tennessee. Battle above the Clouds by David Powell recounts the first half of the campaign to lift the siege of Chattanooga, including the opening of the "cracker line," the unusual night battle of Wauhatchie, and one of the most dramatic battles of the entire war: Lookout Mountain.… (mais)
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Battle Above the Clouds is the first of a planned two-volume series on the fighting that followed the battle of Chickamauga; the second will cover the battle of Missionary Ridge. It is brief but contains many illustrations. Of course, the photographs are all in black and white. The period photographs are often too small and/or too dark to enable the reader to tell for sure what he is looking at. The modern photographs, by Harvey Scarborough, are generally better, although one has to question the picture, on p. 122, of the Walmart parking lot. Although from here one is said to have an excellent view over the Wauhatchie Valley, where some significant fighting occurred, none of that is visible in the photo. It looks like a hundred other Walmart parking lots one has seen.

Two major battles are covered in the book. One is the night action at Wauhatchie, and the other is the one for which the book is named, the “Battle Above the Clouds” on Lookout Mountain. The maps for these two battles, by Hal Jespersen, are almost excellent. My only criticism is that the Lookout Mountain map is a little bit confusing, as it is not always easy to tell which way the contour lines are facing.

One final word concerns the appendix by Dr. Frank Varney of Dickinson State University in North Dakota. Entitled “The Myth of the Cracker Line,” in it Dr. Varney argues that, despite what Grant writes in his memoirs, the celebrated “cracker line” supply route into Chattanooga was not Grant’s idea, and that the supply situation of the Union troops in the city was not really that desperate. ( )
  charbonn | Feb 11, 2019 |
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In October 1863, the Union Army of the Cumberland was besieged in Chattanooga, all but surrounded by familiar opponents: The Confederate Army of Tennessee. The Federals were surviving by the narrowest of margins, thanks only to a trickle of supplies painstakingly hauled over the sketchiest of mountain roads. Soon even those quarter-rations would not suffice. Disaster was in the offing. Yet those Confederates, once jubilant at having routed the Federals at Chickamauga and driven them back into the apparent trap of Chattanooga's trenches, found their own circumstances increasingly difficult to bear. In the immediate aftermath of their victory, the South rejoiced; the Confederacy's own disasters of the previous summer--Vicksburg and Gettysburg--were seemingly reversed. Then came stalemate in front of those same trenches. The Confederates held the high ground, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, but they could not completely seal off Chattanooga from the north. The Union responded. Reinforcements were on the way. A new man arrived to take command: Ulysses S. Grant. Confederate General Braxton Bragg, unwilling to launch a frontal attack on Chattanooga's defenses, sought victory elsewhere, diverting troops to East Tennessee. Battle above the Clouds by David Powell recounts the first half of the campaign to lift the siege of Chattanooga, including the opening of the "cracker line," the unusual night battle of Wauhatchie, and one of the most dramatic battles of the entire war: Lookout Mountain.

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