Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Sherman Crosses the River - A Complex Operation

Marker ID:  
Location: Gann Store Road south of Hamill Road, Hixson, TN
County: Hamilton
Coordinates: N 35° 7.605    W 085° 12.97
  35.12675    -85.21616666
Waymark: None


Sherman Crosses the River
A Complex Operation
— Chattanooga Campaign —

After the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, Union Gen. William S. Rosecrans retreated to Federal-occupied Chattanooga, a strategically vital rail center, where Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg laid siege from Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant took command in October and began his efforts to break the siege. Bragg detached forces under Gen. James Longstreet to attack Knoxville as a diversion. After Gen. William T. Sherman reinforced Grant in November, the Federals attacked the heights and Bragg retreated. The Union army held the city for the rest of the war.

Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's plan for driving the Confederate Army of Tennessee from the Chattanooga area hinged on Gen. William T. Sherman's bold river crossing. Sherman had to march his troops from Bridgeport, Alabama, cross the Tennessee River at Brown's Ferry, and move into hidden camps behind the hills north of Chattanooga. He then had to re-cross the Tennessee River and attack the northern end of Missionary Ridge.

This complex logistical operation required coordination, secrecy, and the silent construction of a pontoon bridge. Maj. Henry S. Dean's 22nd Michigan Infantry carried two pontoon bridges from downtown Chattanooga to the crossing point north of the city. Moving only at night, the wagon train set out on November 20. Two days later, the pontoons were concealed in a ravine west of the river. Meanwhile, Col. Daniel McCook's brigade assembled 116 pontoon boats at the mouth of North Chattanooga Creek (along the bank below where you now stand). Before daylight on November 24, the boats carrying McCook's soldiers silently pushed off and drifted southward. When they landed, a thousand Union soldiers piled onto the riverbank and secured it for the crossing. The 22nd Michigan Infantry rushed the pontoons to the river and laid the bridge. Sherman's troops began to cross just after dawn. The coordinated effort took the Confederates entirely by surprise. By noon on November 24, Sherman's men were across the river and ready to attack the northern end of Missionary ridge the next day. It was the Federal center, however, that broke the Confederate line.

Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.