At two the next morning Giles Smith's brigade dropped down the Tennessee in boats and surprised the extreme north pickets placed by Bragg at the mouth of the South Chickamauga to cover the right of the Ridge. By noon Sherman's men were over the Tennessee ready to cooperate with Thomas. Sherman had hidden his camp among the hills on the other side so well that his movements could not be observed, even from the commanding height of Lookout Mountain. The night surprise of Bragg's pickets and the drizzling rain of the morning prevented the Confederates from hearing or seeing anything of Sherman's attack in the early afternoon; so he found himself on the northern flank of Missionary Ridge before Bragg's main body knew what he was doing. When the Confederates did attack it was too late; and the twenty-fourth ended with Sherman entrenched against the flank on even higher ground than Thomas held against the center. Sherman's cavalry had meanwhile moved round the flank, on the lower level and much farther off, to cut Bragg's right rear connection with Chickamauga Station, whence the rails ran east to Cleveland, Knoxville, and Virginia.
Hooker's work this second day was to feel the Confederate force on Lookout Mountain while keeping the touch with Thomas, who kept the touch with Sherman. Mists hid his earlier maneuvers. He closed in successfully, handled his men to admiration, and gained more ground than either he or Grant had expected. Having succeeded so well he changed his demonstration into a regular attack, which became known as the "Battle above the Clouds." Step by step he fought his way up, over breastworks and rifle pits, felled trees and bowlders, through ravines and gullies, till the vanguard reached the giant palisades of rock which ramparted the top. The roar of battle was most distinctly heard four miles away, on Orchard Knob, where Grant and Thomas were anxiously waiting. But nothing could be seen until a sudden breeze blew the clouds aside just as the long blue lines charged home and the broken gray retreated. Then, from thirty thousand watching Federals, went up a cheer that even cannon could not silence.
At midnight Grant sent a word of encouragement to Burnside at Knoxville. He then wrote his orders for what he now hoped would be a completely victorious attack. The twenty-fifth of November broke beautifully clear, and the whole scene of action remained in full view all day long. Fearful of being cut off from their main body on Missionary Ridge the Confederates had left Lookout Mountain under cover of the dark. But by destroying the bridges across the. Chattanooga River, which ran through the valley between the Mountain and the Ridge, they delayed Hooker till late that afternoon, thus saving their left from an even worse disaster than the one that overtook their center and their right.
Sherman had desperate work against their right, as Bragg massed every available gun and man to meet him. This massing, however, was just what Grant wanted; for he now expected Hooker to appear on the other flank, which Bragg would either have to give up in despair or strengthen at the expense of the center, which Thomas was ready to charge. But with Hooker not appearing, and Sherman barely holding his own, Grant slipped Thomas from the leash. The two centers then met hand to hand. But there was no withstanding the Federal charge. Back went the Confederates, turning to bay at their second line of defense. Here again they were overborne by well-led superior numbers and soon put to flight. Sheridan, of whom we shall hear again in '64, took up the pursuit. Bragg lost all control of his men. Stores, guns, and even rifles were abandoned. Thousands of prisoners were taken; and most of the others were scattered in flight. The battle, the whole campaign, and even the war in the Tennessee sector, were won.
Vicksburg meant that the trans-Mississippi South would thenceforth wither like a severed branch. Chattanooga meant that the Union forces had at last laid the age to the root of the tree.
On the fifth of May we left Lee victorious in Virginia; but with his indispensable lieutenant, Stonewall Jackson, mortally wounded.
Though thoroughly defeated at Chancellorsville, Hooker soon recovered control of the Army of the Potomac and prepared to dispute Lee's right of way. Lee faced a difficult, perhaps an insoluble, problem. Longstreet urged him to relieve the local pressure on Vicksburg by concentrating every available man in eastern Tennessee, not only withdrawing Johnston's force from Grant's rear but also depleting the Confederates in Virginia for the same purpose. Then, combining these armies from east and west with the one already there under Bragg, the united Confederates were to crush Rosecrans in their immediate front and make Cincinnati their great objective. Lee, however, dared not risk the loss of his Virginian bases in the meantime; and so he decided on a vigorous counter-attack, right into Pennsylvania, hoping that, if successful, this would . produce a greater effect than any corresponding victory could possibly produce elsewhere.
On the ninth of June a cavalry combat round Brandy Station, in the heart of Virginia, made Hooker's staff feel certain that Lee was again going up the Valley and on to Maryland. At one time, for want of supplies, Lee had to spread out his front along a line running eighty miles northwest from Fredericksburg to Strasburg. Hooker, on the keen alert, implored the Government to let him attack the three Confederate corps in detail. Success against one at least was certain. Lincoln understood this perfectly. But the nerves of his colleagues were again on edge; and no argument could persuade them to adopt the best of all possible schemes of defense by destroying the enemy's means of destroying them. They insisted on the usual shield theory of passive defense, and ordered Hooker to keep between Lee and Washington whatever might happen. This absurd maneuver was of course attended with all the usual evil results at the time. Equally of course, it afterwards drew down the wrath of the wiseacre public on their own representatives. But wiseacre publics never stop to think that many a government is forced to do foolish and even suicidal things in war simply because it represents the ignorance and folly, as well as the wisdom, of all who have the vote.