While Grant was besieging Vicksburg, Bragg was in Tennessee, where General Rosecrans drove him from Chattanooga to Chickamauga Creek. Here a desperate battle took place, and the Confederates were victorious; but General Thomas with his part of the Union army made such a firm and brave stand that he won the name of “Rock of Chickamauga.” Some of his officers showed equal courage, for when one was asked how long he could hold a certain pass, he firmly answered: “Until the regiment is mustered out of service.”
When the battle was all over, Thomas retreated to Chattanooga, where Bragg followed and besieged the Union army. Now began a hard time for the Union troops, for they had hardly enough food for the men. Besides, forage was so scarce that most of the mules died. Indeed, one soldier described a march near Chattanooga, saying: “The mud was so deep that we could not travel by the road, but we got along pretty well by stepping from mule to mule as they lay dead by the way.”
There was so much danger that the army might retreat or surrender, that Thomas was put in command at Chattanooga, and Grant sent him orders to hold fast till he came. Thomas nobly answered: “We will hold the town till we starve.” In a few days Grant reached Chattanooga, and soon after the army was reinforced by Sherman and Hooker.
Battles were now fought near Chattanooga, first at Orchard Knob and the day after on Lookout Mountain. As lowering clouds cut off all view of the summit during the greater part of this engagement, you will often hear it called the “Battle above the Clouds.”
The next day, the Union troops won a great victory on Missionary Ridge, so that at the end of three days’ fighting the Confederates were driven away.
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