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Chattanooga History 1
About North Georgia

Explorer Hernando deSoto visited the area of present-day Chattanooga in 1540-1541
Long before the Cherokee Indians, Creek Indians or early settlers inhabited this land the bend of the Tennessee River was home to an ancient civilization: Moundbuilders. Using the rivers of America as highways, this civilization created a vast empire stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, and from Vermont to New Mexico including almost all of the present-day Southeaster United States. Since destroyed, at least four distinct mounds filled the valley which now is home to the city of Chattanooga.

Map of Chattanooga, Tennessee after the Civil War
Stretching across the frontier from the Chattahoochee River to the Moccasin Bend of the Tennessee River, the Western and Atlantic Railroad would be the first to connect the coastal United States with territory deep inside our nation. Rossville Landing, founded by John Ross in 1815 was designated the end of the railroad in 1837. The following year settlers officially renamed the city to Chattanooga, after the Creek Indian word for Lookout Mountain.

From 1837 to 1850, while the Western and Atlantic Railroad(W&ARR) was being built, the city became a busting town on America's frontier. An initial street grid was laid out extending 9 blocks south of the Tennessee River and connected by two roads, Mulberry Avenue and "The Road" (Market Street). As the frontier of north Georgia and southeastern Tennessee became settled production of cotton increased.

From Chattanooga's port cotton was shipped to Memphis, however, the trip was difficult especially around Muscle Shoals. Completion of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad ended this market virtually overnight n the mid-1840's, but by that time other industries had moved to the area, among them a charcoal iron industry, forerunner of Chattanooga's steel mills. One of the earliest "ironmasters" was Robert Cravens, who built Cravens House on the northern end of Lookout Mountain, overlooking the city.

With the completion of the railroad in 1850 a growth spurt increased Chattanooga's population by 60%. Tracks were laid down Mulberry and it was renamed to Railroad Avenue. In 1858 the state of Georgia completed building Union Station on 9th Street between Chestnut St. and Railroad Ave (it would become Broad Street in 1892).

Surrounded by rugged mountains on three sides, the city lay at the end of the Tennessee River Valley. The unique shape of the terrain made flooding a frequent event. Lookout Mountain overlooks the city from the south. West of the city Raccoon and Signal Mountain, and Walden Ridge close the Tennessee Valley. East of the city Missionary Ridge rises.

The Civil War

Chattanooga quote
Chattanooga is as important as Richmond.
Abraham Lincoln
Chattanooga bottom quote


In 1860 population of Chattanooga reached 2,000. Although
still a small town, Abraham Lincoln understood the importance of this growing
rail center to the Southern Cause. Three times the Union Army would fight for
this land. In 1862, General Kirby Smith[CSA] defended the city from forces under
the command of Ormsby Mitchel[USA]. Mitchel's first attempt to disrupt the city
on April 12, 1862 featured the theft of the W&ARR's General (biography of The General) in an episode of American history now called The Great Locomotive Chase.

On June 7-8, 1862, a small force of Union troops advanced
and fired upon Confederate forces along the Tennessee River and atop Cameron
Hill. Then, from August until November, 1863, two powerful armies battled
in the vicinity of the city in what many historians believe was the begriming
of the end for the Confederacy. General William Rosecrans (biography)
sent forces northwest of the city as a diversionary tactic aimed to keep
General Braxton Bragg (biography) from realizing
that the Union Army was moving through the rugged mountain passes south of
the city. On September 8th, Bragg learned
of the Union advances to the south and withdrew, allowing Federal forces
to occupy the city without a shot.

The Battle of Chattanooga is a general name given to a series of smaller battles that were fought in the area in Oct.-Nov., 1863:
Brown's Ferry Oct. 27
Wauhatchie
Oct. 29
Orchard Knob
Nov. 23
Lookout Mountain
Nov. 24
Missionary Ridge
Nov. 25
Ringgold, GA
Nov. 26
After defeating William S. Rosecrans in the bloody battle of Chickamauga (September 19-20, 1863) Braxton Bragg easily retook Lookout Mountain and laid siege to the city. Ulysses S. Grant relieved Rosecrans and amassed three of his best generals (Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker, William Tecumseh Sherman, and George Henry Thomas) to break the siege.


Working together they succeeded not only in raising the siege and freeing the Army of the Cumberland, but in destroying a significant amount of the Confederate Army in November, 1863. Many historians consider the Battle of Chattanooga to be the beginning of the end of the Civil War. Shortly after the battle General George Thomas created the Chattanooga National Cemetery near Orchard Knob.

As the Rebels withdrew, Chattanooga began to rebuild. Luckily, the Confederate artillery that had fired on the city from Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge was designed to be used against advancing soldiers and was not up to the task of accurate, long-distance bombardment of the city. Many of the shells fired towards the city exploded in mid-air or fell harmlessly in the deep mud of the roads. From November, 1863 until the end of the war in May, 1865, Chattanooga remained firmly in Union hands.

Rebuilding the city's infrastructure began as soon as the Rebels were gone. Over the next five months General Sherman would use the city as base from which to capture northwest Georgia in the Atlanta Campaign.

Chattanooga, 1863.  The familiar profile of Lookout Mountain in the background Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1863
Chattanooga History 2 - Reconstruction to The Great Depression
Chattanooga History 3 - World War II to modern day


Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Article Links
Army of the Cumberland
Braxton Bragg
Chattahoochee River
Chattanooga History 2
Chattanooga History 3
Chattanooga National Cemetery
Cherokee Indians
Cravens House
Creek Indian
Creek Indians
George Henry Thomas
John Ross
Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker
Lookout Mountain
Moundbuilders
Ulysses S. Grant
Western and Atlantic Railroad
William S. Rosecrans
William Tecumseh Sherman

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