October 29, 1863
Estimated casualties: 828 total (US 420; CS 408)
James Longstreet stood on top of Lookout Mountain on October_27, 1863, witnessing a sight that did not please him. From his vantage point he could see some 15,000 men speading out across Lookout Valley, taking control of mountain passes and railroad stations. He would later write, "during the afternoon the long, dark thread-like line of troops become visible.."
The line of troops that Longstreet saw were under the command of his old nemisis, Major General Joseph Hooker, although he was unaware of that at the time. Moving north from Stevenson, Alabama and crossing the Tennessee River at Bridgeport, they were going to connect with the forces that established a Union beachhead at Browns Ferry the day before. Hooker's men marched north and east, capturing Cummings Gap in Raccoon Mountain and most of Lookout Valley. At about 4pm on October_28, 1863 General Oliver O. Howard reached the Brown's Ferry beachhead. The Cracker Line was open.
Union soldiers took Wauhatchee Station at 4:00 pm. These bold Federal troops moved just beneath the Rebel skirmishers entrenched on the steep mountainside. Above them loomed Lookout Mountain, its lofty peak covered with Confederate soldiers. Braxton Bragg, commander of the Army of Tennessee, who had recently told Confederate President Jefferson Davis of his plan to attack Bridgeport, Alabama, now had a more pressing problem.
Longstreet, who did not agree with Bragg's order to retake the valley, saw an opportunity. The federal forces under the command of John Geary at Wauhatchie had supplies. The Rebels on Lookout Mountain were poorly armed and outfitted and hungry, but nowhere near as hungry as their federal counterparts in Chattanooga. The attempt by Confederate forces on October_29, 1863 to reach these supplies would create perhaps the most confused battle in the Western Theater of Operation.
In a valley lit by full moonlight, Longstreet ordered an unusual nighttime attack. Certain that the Union soldiers would be tired after the long march, Longstreet was confident that the confusion would aid the Rebels under the command of Col. John Bratton. Beneath them Union soldiers had been wondering about an earlier artillery barrage close to their position. Bratton's men swooped down the hill, yelling for the last 100 yards or so.
The Federals reacted quickly, forming a semicircle anchored by the railroad on the Federal right. Some of Bratton's men were north of the Union line and other Rebels were west and east of the Union division. The Confederates also formed a second line to the north of Wauhatchie Station, near the northern end of Lookout Valley. The goal was to slow down any Union forces moving to relieve the men under attack. Reacting quickly to the sound (and sight) of battle, General Oliver O. Howard moved to assist the embattled Geary. As they headed south from Brown's Ferry, they ran into these men who were waiting for such a movement.
Howard brushed aside the secondary attack at the base of Lookout Mountain and continued towards the sound of battle. When forward elements of Howard's force began to engage the Confederate soldiers north of Geary, the Rebels retreated in what most people considered an orderly manner.
During the battle some mules were frightened and stampeded. It has become a common myth to blame the Rebel defeat at Wauhatchee on the "Charge of the Mule Brigade," but that is folly.