The Battle of Lookout Mountain

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This Thursday, November 24, is not only Thanksgiving Day, but also marks the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Lookout Mountain, a major turning point in the Civil War. The defeat of General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee at Lookout Mountain allowed Major General Joseph Hooker’s Union army to assist at the Battle of Missionary Ridge the following day. Bragg’s army was again defeated, which lifted the siege of Union forces in Chattanooga, and opened the gateway into the Deep South.

Within our digital collections we have the Meriwether Family Papers. These papers contain a great deal of correspondence from John Samuel Meriwether to his wife Alice while he was serving in the 38th and 40th Alabama Infantry Regiments during the Civil War. John was stationed at Lookout Mountain during this battle and wrote to Alice about his experiences. Included are some excerpts from his letters here, but there is much more to be found throughout the Meriweather Family Papers about the life of a soldier in the Civil War.

Excerpt from a letter written from John to Alice from Lookout Mountain, November 13, 1863, 9 days before the Battle of Lookout Mountain:

Our brigade is still in advance of the camp grounds some there on four miles. I am staying at the camps with the sick. I said that the Brigade was in advance, I should have said on the left about three miles from me and a little in advance. None of us can advance any nearer the Yankees than we are unless we camp with them. The Yankee pickets and camps are in sight of me at this time. Our pickets and the Yankee pickets exchange papers and chat with each other every day, nothing but a little creek divides them. They will not fire at each other if they stay on their side of the creek. Our cannon are shooting every day from the top of Lookout Mountain. I sat in my camp yesterday and watched them firing for an hour. I don’t know what damage was done if any. I am listerning every day for something to turn up. If we do have a fight here it will be a desparate one.

Excerpt from a letter written from John to Alice from the foot of Lookout Mountain, November 17, 1863, 7 days before the Battle of Lookout Mounain:

Well my dear I thought that we would have a genarl fight this morning. Just about daylight I heard the signal gun fire on the mountain and in a few moments a perfect volley of musketry was heard some distance off on our right-wing. It lasted about fifteen minutes and then ceased. While that firing was going on four or five brigade passed right by my tent – going on to the left. It struck me at once that Bragg had made a […] on the right and would make a general attack on the left. But it seems that I was mistaken as everything is perfectly quiet along the line, except now and then the report of a cannon from our guns on the mountain and a reply from the guns of the enemy. There is a great stir among the troops, and I would not be at all surprised to hear of a general fight all along the lines at any moment. We are compelled to have a bloody fight at this place I think. It is one of the most important points of defence that we have and we can not give it up without ruining ourselves and injuring our cause very seriously indeed. I think on the course of two weeks we shall hear something and know something with regard to our situation at this place. If I had the controlling power I should end this thing without any more blood being lost. But I […] the wise heads of the Confederacy will carry on the affair much better than a man of my sense can. Therefore I shall not give myself any more trouble about it than I can help. I will say this much, that I do wish the war would end and end right now, never to be renewed.

Excerpt from a letter from John to Alice from Dalton, Georgia, November 28, 1863, 4 days after the Battle of Lookout Mountain:

It will not doubt to appear a little strange to you to see my letter headed Dalton. Well my little darling I’ve have had two days heavy fighting on the 24 & 25th. We were compelled to retreat and this far we have gotten. On the first day Bestor  poor fellow was taken prisoner, not wounded. He was on picket when taken, on the 25th. Wilkes was severely wounded in the left breast. I sent him on to Marietta GA, to the hospital the night he was wounded. I am fearful his wound will prove fatal. John was slightly wounded in the left fore finger. Jim, Fred and I are all of our crowd at this time unhurt. I sent John on to the  hospital with Wilkes. I would have written and would have telegraphed to you long ago, but the telegraph offices would not allow any dispatches to be sent. So in the rain this morning I am writing in a hurried manner to let you hear from us. We are fighting the Yakees every day in our rear. On the 26th we gave them a fight at Chickamauga and repulsed them on the 27th we fought them at Ringold and repulsed them today I expect we shall fight them near this place. We have had not orders to fall back any further from this place yet. It is raining and cold as […]. My dear take this affair in a philosophical manner. Don’t let things of this kind trouble you any. More than you can help, “The will of God will be done, ” so we must learn to bear these things.


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