Term: Missionary Ridge, Battle of
Date(s): November 25, 1863
Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee (Google Map)
Other name(s): part of the Battle of Chattanooga
Campaign: Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign (November 1863)
Outcome: Union victory
Missionary Ridge was one of several engagements that broke the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is best-known for the Union soldiers’ spontaneous charge uphill into Confederate fire to capture a seemingly impregnable position.
At the end of September 1863, Union forces were besieged inside Chattanooga, Tennessee. Reinforcements arrived in November, and on November 23-24 they captured strategic heights called Orchard Knob and Lookout Mountain. On the afternoon of November 25, 23,000 Union soldiers prepared to attack the seemingly invincible Confederate position atop Missionary Ridge.
Union troops were ordered to stop at the foot of the ridge and dig rifle pits. Once under fire from the enemy, however, they spontaneously charged up the slope and overwhelmed Confederate forces. The siege was broken, and Chattanooga became the Union’s logistical base for attacking Atlanta in the spring of 1864.
Fourteen Wisconsin units -- seven Wisconsin Infantry regiments and seven Light Artillery batteries -- participated in breaking the siege at Chattanooga. The 15th and 24th Wisconsin Infantry regiments were among the forces that charged up Missionary Ridge, broke through the Confederate ranks, and seized the strategic location.
Among the men charging up the slope that day was 18-year-old Arthur MacArthur, adjutant of the 24th Wisconsin Infantry. When the regiment’s color-bearer was shot, he picked up the regimental flag. He carried it the rest of the way up the slope and planted it on the crest. For his performance in this battle, McArthur was awarded a Medal of Honor, promoted from first lieutenant to major, and given command of the regiment. He was the father of the famous World War II leader, General Douglas MacArthur.
Read more about the battle on pages 693-697 in William D. Love’s “Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion” (Chicago, 1866).
View related images
View original documents
[Source: Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields (Washington, 1993); Estabrook, C. Records and Sketches of Military Organizations (Madison, 1914); Love, W. Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion (Madison, 1866).]