Bragg passed through the city of Ringgold earlier in the day and left orders to Cleburne to form a rear guard to protect Bragg's retreating army. Cleburne, who had his men bed down before crossing East Chickamauga Creek and entering town, did not get the orders until midnight. He was off to scout the situation in the moonlight.
Early next morning, as his men began crossing the creek and marching towards Ringgold Gap Cleburne was standing at a gap in the mountains where the Western and Atlantic Railroad plunged toward Atlanta. Using the Ringold Depot (pictured, left) as an anchor, Cleburne carefully concealed men and 2 cannon. They watched the Union soldiers approaching in standard formation (4 abreast, with no skirmishers), unaware of the Rebels.
Ordered not to fire until the Hooker's XX Corps were upon them, Cleburne's men let loose a volley on the advancing line just before it entered the gap. The line shuddered and fell, retreating under the withering fire of the well-place Southern line.
City of Ringgold, Georgia taken from Ringgold Gap
Fighting Joe paused. After considering the situation, Hooker decided to test the Rebel flanks. Cleburne knew his opponent. Immediately after the initial volley, Cleburne began moving troops to his flanks. He repulsed Union attacks on both sides of his center. Hooker decided to wait for his big guns, a day behind. Bragg reorganized his ranks in Dalton and ordered Cleburne to join him. With 4100 men, Cleburne stalled the advance of Hooker's Union troops over 12,000 strong.
Hooker, always capable of a little self-aggrandizement, reported his losses as less than 500. Descriptions of the scene of the battlefield by enlisted personnel tend to indicate the general lost significantly more men. Grant, at the bottom of the report filed by Hooker, took note of the apparent discrepancy.
Battle of Ringgold Gap
I-75 North to exit 345, US 41/US 76/Ringgold. At the end of the ramp turn right on US 41. Travel 2.7 miles to the WPA Park on the left in Ringgold Gap.
The Civil War in Georgia Beginning with the Great Locomotive Chase and the battle of Chickamauga, to the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea