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Sherman's "wrongly laid-down" map

Below left you see a high resolution view of part of Grant's battle report map (below right), prepared by Baldy Smith's office after the battle for Grant's report, but the basis of which had prepared by Thomas's topographical engineers before the battle. They in turn had based their work on scouting reports and on the previous work done by the engineers who designed the two railroads going east from Chattanooga and the tunnel for one of them.* Smith's map shows the north end of Missionary ridge and the disposition of Sherman's troops (in blue) the evening of 24 Nov. and the day of 25 Nov. 1863, and most of Cleburne's troops (in red) on the 25th. Grant could have received this map before the battle, and the unit dispositions were superimposed after the battle so that the map could be attached to Grant's battle report. The objective for 24 Nov. in Sherman's orders of 18 Nov. was the tunnel. He did not reach this objective but stopped a mile short and blamed his error on "wrongly laid-down maps." However, the map below is not "wrongly laid-down," nor is it difficult to read. As you can plainly see, there is no possibility that a conscientious officer experienced in map reading could have mistaken the first rise "Billy the Goat" Hill (so named after the battle by the soldiers) for the tunnel area. He first had to cross one road (Campbell St. today), and then at least see another road (Lightfoot Mill Rd.) on the south side of the hump, on top of the tunnel. If he really had had defective maps Sherman would have included them in his battle report, but he didn't. The assertion that Sherman, who undoubtedly had the same map as Grant did, could have been misled by defective maps in his possession is therefore a baldfaced lie. Note that Sherman, at the end of his battle report, did state that he attached a map his staff made after the battle. However, even this map is not in the official Atlas, so he lied about that too. He could not attach the one below because it would made his distortion of the record and the magnitude of his incompetence even more obvious. Further below you see recent photos of this part of Missionary Ridge.

On November 7th, Grant had complained about lack of a map and other information, but all he had to do was swallow his pride for a moment and visit Thomas's headquarters. That was beneath the dignity of the small man on the make with the heavy braids on his shoulder.

   Northern limit of "Tunnel              "Billy the Goat" Hill  where 
    Hill",  today Campbell St.               Sherman stopped on 24 Nov.
Detail, north end of Missionary ridge at battle of Chattanooga
Detail from Smith's map at the right. Every contour line represents 20 feet of elevation. The entire area was completely known to and explored by Thomas' scouts before the battle.
Grant's map of battle of Chattanooga
Grant's battle report map dated January 23, 1864 - click to enlarge. Note the "authorities" indicated in the bottom right corner.

Contemporay map of Tunnel Hill in Chattanooga
Sherman Reservation or Tunnel Hill today: The letters in red refer to the positions on the photo below. Swett's Battery was at (C) at the end of a gradual 200 yard-long slope. The tunnel runs from just to the left of York street to the vertical line on the right (the red dots). Lightfoot Mill Rd. (D) follows the cut at the south end of Tunnel Hill, and Campbell St. or Hwy. 17  (B) goes through the cut at the north end of Tunnel Hill. Both Roads existed at the time and are shown on the map above this one. Sherman's objective was thus Lightfoot Mill Rd. He stopped on the afternoon on the rise near where Battery Drive is today (A). Then he telegraphed to Grant that he had reached his objective. The entrance to the park, the end of North Crest Road,  is at the blue X. You have to park your car just off Lightfoot Mill Rd. and walk in because the gate is always closed. It is an unsupervised park, but worth seeing anyway, because the run up the slope to Swett's battery was a killing field. Cleburne let Sherman's troops get up out of the ravine at B and onto the field in front of the battery on purpose.

But Sherman didn't really need a map. He arrived at Chattanooga before his army did. Acommittee including Baldy Smith gave him given an executive tour, on 15 Nov. to Ft. Wood (1st photo below) and the next day to the other side of the river (2nd photo below) where he would cross. The first photo was taken on 25 Nov. 2000 from the top of a parking garage in the Ft. Wood historical district, a point about 3 miles southwest from the western tunnel mouth. The first rise at the top ("Billy the Goat" hill or Sherman Heights) and the two dips through which Campbell St. and Lightfoot Mill Rd. run are visible with the naked eye, and Sherman certainly had a telescope. The second dip is above the railroad tunnel, Sherman's objective in his orders. Sherman had years of experience of getting armies through hills when he looked through a telescope from Ft. Wood where he had a "magnificient view of the panorama" (Memoirs, page 361) on the morning of 15 Nov. 1863. He said – I can do it. He knew that there will be a road through every dip in a ridge. So, what was going through his mind when he was supposed to be informing himself so as to better carry out his assigned role in the coming battle and to protect the lives of his men? The most reasonable explanation is that, on 15 Nov. 63, he was elated knowing that Grant was going to stack the deck in his favor, giving him most of the Union forces. Finally he was going to win one. But on 24 and 25 Nov. he was so afraid of messing up again that he became indecisive and froze. This is the typical behavior of a manic depressive. Is that the sort of commander you would prefer for yourself if you could choose? There is also the possibility that he was simply to proud to ask Thomas for help, and maybe Thomas just let Sherman stew, knowing that Sherman would fail in any case. On the afternoon of 25 Nov. 1863 Cleburne counter-attacked and took about 250 Union prisoners, most of whom subsequently died in Andersonville.

Contemporary photo of north end of Missionary Ridge where Sherman fought at the battle of Chattanooga
This is what Sherman saw from Ft. Wood the morning of 15 Nov. 1863, except that there were fewer trees standing.
Contemporary photo of the north end of Missionary Ridge where Sherman fought at the battle of Chattanooga
View of what the ridge looked like to Sherman on Nov. 16th from the north bank. The photo was taken part way up a private drive. The Campbell St. cut between "Billy the Goat Hill" (Sherman Heights) is obscured by the white building of a cement plant. As far as I could determine, the only views of the north end of the ridge from the north bank which are not obstructed by trees or this silo are from private residences on River Hills or from the top of Continental Apartments. I asked for permission from the owners and, by letter, from the managers of the Continental Apartments to photograph the ridge from their premises, but permission was denied me. This is still an open question and opportunity for current authors writing about this battle. What could Sherman have seen on the 16th?

* Jim Ogden, resident historian of the Chickamauga Visitors' Center, showed me the original maps prepared by the railroad bulders. These maps are black with white contour lines, and they are complete. I did not dare ask that I be permitted to photocopy them. However, other, published authors could certainly have obtained photocopies for inclusion in their books about Thomas or the battle. I have never seen these maps even referred to in any of all of the books I have read about this battle. Why is Sherman still being protected?

Below you find an example of Thomas' work with maps:

Page from  the maps notebook of George H. Thomas
"To be successful in combat, a commanding general has to be an expert on the terrain, roads, and rivers in this theater of operations. George Thomas captured these data on maps and notebooks so that he knew every feature of the countryside where he would be fighting....These pages from Thomas' map journal are an example of his meticulous recording ot the topography of the geographic areas where he would be operating. The breadth, accuracy, and diversity of his collected intelligence are astounding: distances between points, road conditions and carrying capacities, river crossings, landmarks, potable water, forage, cover - even the loyalties and trustworthiness of local residents. Information was gathered from many sources, ranging from military engineering surveys to spies and escaped prisoners. (National Archives)" Buell, Warrior Generals, pp. 189-90

battles & reports