West, and slightly north of the city of Chattanooga, Signal Mountain rises to a height of 1,703 feet, more than 1,000 feet above the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, across the river. With Raccoon Mountain to the south, a gateway for the Tennessee River is formed through the extensive Cumberland Plateau. Signal Point overlooks this gateway, known as the Tennessee Gorge.
This mountain was the only high point around the city controlled by the Union Army from September to November of 1863. Retreating from the defeat at Chickamauga, William S.Rosecrans was unable to hold Lookout Mountain south of the city. Luckily, his men held on to Signal Mountain. While rugged terrain further west prevented the Federals from resupplying the city from that direction, they used the route to communicate with Joseph 'Fighting Joe' Hooker in command of the hastily organized 20th Corps in Stevenson, Alabama.
The intricate signaling system that developed under Rosecrans command featured a series of outposts along the high bluffs of the Tennessee River Gorge, relaying messages to Hooker. Messages were then sent North by telegraph.
When Ulysses S. Grant opened the "Cracker Line" by taking Brown's Ferry on October_27, 1863, the signaling system was no longer necessary, however the post on Signal Mountain was used for observation of enemy troop movements until the defeat of the Confederate forces around Chattanooga.
The mountain's name does not come from the Union Army's use of the mountain. Cherokee Indians used the mountain for the same purpose before they were removed on the "Trail of Tears. Signal Mountain is a translation of their name for the peak.
Signal Point, at the top of Signal Mountain is one of a series of parks around Chattanooga, including Point Park, Cravens House and Missionary Ridge that are part of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park. Besides the observation point, which has a picnic table and signs describing the signaling system in use during the Civil War, the park has a steep, rugged hiking trail down to a second platform also used for observation.
Additionally, Signal Point is the start of the Tennessee River Gorge segment of the Cumberland Trail, a 13 mile hike rated as difficult.
Open: Daily, 8:00am-dusk, picnicking and hiking allowed.
Signal Point on Signal Mountain
Directions: Take US 27 north from Chattanooga to US 127. Turn left and climb Signal Mountain. At 5.0 miles turn left onto Signal Mountain Blvd. and make the second left on Mississippi Ave. About 0.8 miles late Mississippi Ave. becomes James Blvd. Travel for 0.2 miles to Signal Point Road and watch for the National Park Service parking lot on the left.