Grant’s report gives Hooker’s famous “Battle Above the Clouds” exactly one clause. Grant was disgusted by the romanticizing of the battle, as he notes in his memoirs.
Meanwhile, Thomas was ordered to take the rifle pits part way up the slope of Missionary Ridge, but they didn’t stop there. They took the top of the ridge, surprising everyone. This broke Bragg’s line, and he had to retreat.
The Union armies had redeemed the disaster at Chickamauga, and the door was open to Georgia.
From Grant’s report on the battle:
On the morning of the 25th, Hooker took possession of the mountain top with a small force, and with the remainder of his command, in pursuance of orders, swept across Chattanooga Valley, now abandoned by the enemy, to Rossville. In this march he was detained four hours building a bridge across Chattanooga Creek. From Rossville he ascended Missionary Ridge and moved northward toward the center of the now shortened line. Sherman’s attack upon the enemy’s most northern and most vital point was vigorously kept up all day. The assaulting column advanced to the very rifle-pits of the enemy, and held their position firmly and without wavering. The right of the assaulting column being exposed to the danger of being turned, two brigades were sent to its support. These advanced in the most gallant manner over an open field on the mountain side to near the works of the enemy, and lay there partially covered from fire for some time. The right of these two brigades rested near the head of a ravine or gorge in the mountain side, which the enemy took advantage of, and sent troops, covered from view, below them and to their right rear. Being unexpectedly fired into from this direction, they fell back across the open field below them, and reformed in good order in the edge of the timber. The column which attacked them was speedily driven to its intrenchments by the assaulting column proper.
Early on the morning of the 25th the remainder of Howard’s corps reported to Sherman, and constituted a part of his forces during that day’s battle, the pursuit, and subsequent advance for the relief of Knoxville. Sherman’s position not only threatened the right flank of the enemy, but, from his occupying a line across the mountain and to the railroad bridge, across Chickamauga Creek, his rear and stores at Chickamauga Station. This caused the enemy to mass heavily against him. This movement of his being plainly seen from the position I occupied on Orchard Knoll, Baird’s division, of the Fourteenth Corps, was ordered to Sherman’s support, but receiving a note from Sherman informing me that he had all the force necessary, Baird was put in position on Thomas’ left.
The appearance of Hooker’s column was at this time anxiously looked for and momentarily expected, moving north on the ridge with his left in Chattanooga Valley and his right east of the ridge. His approach was intended as the signal for storming the ridge in the center strong columns, but the time necessarily consumed in the construction of the bridge near Chattanooga Creek detained him to a later hour than was expected. Being satisfied from the latest information from his that he must by this time be on his way from Rossville, though not yet in sight, and discovering that the enemy in his desperation to defeat or resist the progress of Sherman was weakening his center on Missionary Ridge, determined me to order the advance at once.
Thomas was accordingly directed to move forward his troops, constituting our center, Baird’s division (Fourteenth Corps), Wood’s and Sheridan’s divisions (Fourth Corps), and Johnson’s division (Fourteenth Corps), with a double line of skirmishers thrown out, followed in easy supporting distance by the whole force, and carry the rifle-pits at the foot of Missionary Ridge, and when carried to reform his lines on the rifle-pits with a view to carrying the top of the ridge.
These troops moved forward, drove the enemy from the rifle-pits at the base of the ridge like bees from a hive-stopped but a moment until the whole were in line-and commenced the ascent of the mountain from right to left almost simultaneously, following closely the retreating enemy, without further orders. They encountered a fearful volley of grape and canister from near thirty pieces of artillery and musketry from still well-filled rifle-pits on the summit of the ridge. Not a waver, however, was seen in all that long of brave men. Their progress was steadily onward until the summit was in their possession.
In this charge the casualties were remarkably few for the fire encountered. I can account for this only on the theory that the enemy’s surprise at the audacity of such a charge caused confusion and purposeless aiming of their pieces. The nearness of night, and the enemy still resisting the advance of Thomas’ left, prevented a general pursuit that night, but Sheridan pushed forward to Mission Mills.
The resistance on Thomas’ left being overcome, the enemy abandoned his position near the railroad tunnel in front of Sherman, and by 12 o’clock at night was in full retreat, and the whole of his strong positions on Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga Valley, and Missionary Ridge were in our possession, together with a large number of prisoners, artillery, and small-arms. Thomas was directed to get Granger, with his corps, and detachment enough from other commands, including the force available at Kingston, to make 20,000 men, in readiness to go to the relief of Knoxville, upon the termination of the battle at Chattanooga, these troops to take with them four days’ rations, and a steam-boat loaded with rations to follow up the river. On the evening of the 25th November, orders were given to both Thomas and Sherman to pursue the enemy early the next morning, with all their available force, except that under Granger intended for the relief of Knoxville.