Battle of Ringgold Gap (November 27, 1863)

Updated: June 16, 2011

On December 26, 1862, Major General William S. Rosecrans led the Union Army of the Cumberland out of Nashville, Tennessee with orders to capture Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattanooga was an important railroad junction that connected the upper Confederacy with the Deep South.

On December 26, 1862, Major General William S. Rosecrans led the Union Army of the Cumberland out of Nashville, Tennessee with orders to capture Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattanooga was an important railroad junction that connected the upper Confederacy with the Deep South. Between Rosecrans and Chattanooga was Lieutenant General Braxton Bragg's Confederate Army of Tennessee.

The two armies clashed in a series of battles over the next nine months and Rebels consistently retreated south. On September 9, Bragg abandoned Chattanooga and led the Army of Tennessee through the mountains into northern Georgia. Although Rosecrans achieved his objective of capturing Chattanooga, he decided to pursue Bragg's army into Georgia. Stung by criticism that he received for abandoning Chattanooga, Bragg counterattacked at the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19-20, 1863). The victorious Confederates drove the Federals back toward Chattanooga, forcing them to occupy the defensive works previously constructed by the Rebels. Bragg seized the high ground overlooking Chattanooga (Lookout Mountain, Seminary Ridge and Raccoon Mountain) and laid siege to the city.

Reacting to the Army of the Cumberland's dire situation, Northern authorities sent twenty thousand soldiers commanded by General Joseph Hooker, and sixteen thousand men led by Major General William T. Sherman to help lift the siege. Officials placed General Ulysses S. Grant in command of all Northern soldiers in the vicinity of Chattanooga and also replaced Rosecrans with General George Thomas as the commander of the Army of the Cumberland.

As reinforcements began to arrive in late October 1863, Grant embarked upon an operation to alleviate the Army of the Cumberland's supply problems. By October 28, Grant's men managed to open a narrow supply line that became known as the "Cracker Line." As conditions improved for the Federal troops in Chattanooga, Grant began planning a breakout. On November 23, fourteen thousand Federals led by Brigadier-General Thomas J. Wood easily overpowered six hundred Confederate defenders and captured Orchard Knob, outside of Chattanooga. The next day, Hooker's men attacked Confederate forces on Lookout Mountain, forcing a rebel retreat. On November 25, Grant ordered a general assault on Missionary Ridge. Still stinging from their defeat at Chickamauga, Thomas's Army of the Cumberland routed the center of the Confederate line forcing Bragg to withdraw his army south into Georgia. Grant ordered Hooker to pursue the fleeing Confederates with 12,000 Union soldiers

Bragg decided to reassemble his retreating army at Dalton, Georgia, about 30 miles south of Chattanooga. To do so, he needed to stall Hooker long enough to get his artillery and supply wagons out of harm's way. Bragg designated Major General Patrick Cleburne's division as his rearguard. Near midnight on November 25 Bragg ordered Cleburne to deploy his division at a narrow railroad cut in the mountains near the town of Ringgold, Georgia, north of Dalton. Bragg instructed Cleburne "to hold this position at all hazards, and keep back the enemy until the artillery and transportation of the army are secure." Early the next morning, Cleburne did a masterful job positioning his troops to defend Ringgold Gap. With only two canon and 4,100 troops at his disposal, Cleburne ordered his men to wait until Hooker's soldiers were almost upon them before firing their weapons. As the leading elements of Hooker's force neared the gap, the Confederates unleashed a withering volley that sent the unsuspecting Yankees reeling back. Unable to use his superior numbers against the defenders in the narrow gap, Hooker resorted to trying to outflank the Rebels, but Union assaults on each Confederate flank failed. Around noon, Cleburne ordered his men to retreat after receiving word that all of Bragg's stores had safely reached Dalton. By 2 p.m. the Federals occupied Ringgold, but at a high cost. Hooker reported casualties of 432 men (killed, wounded, captured/missing) compared with Confederate losses of 480. Eyewitnesses to the battle, however, claimed that Union losses were much higher than Hooker reported. Even Grant noted an apparent discrepancy at the bottom of his official battle report.

Regardless of the accuracy of the casualty reports, Cleburne was successful in delaying Hooker's advance for over five hours, allowing Bragg's army to reassemble. After the Battle of Ringgold Gap, Grant terminated the pursuit. Both armies went into winter quarters, bringing the Chattanooga Campaign to an end.

Among the Ohio units involved in the Chattanooga Campaign, including the Battle of Ringgold Gap, were:

Infantry units:

2nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

3rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

6th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

7th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

11th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

14th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

15th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

19th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

21st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

24th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

30th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

33rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

35th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

36th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

37th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

38th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

41st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

46th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

47th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

49th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

51st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

52nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

54th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

55th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

59th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

61st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

64th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

65th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

69th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

70th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

73rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

74th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

82nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

89th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

92nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

93rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

97th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

99th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

101st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

105th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

108th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

113th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

121st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

124th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

125th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

4th Regiment Virginia Volunteer Infantry (primarily recruited in Ohio)

7th Company Ohio Independent Sharpshooters

Cavalry units:

1st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

3rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

5th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

Artillery units:

1st Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

4th  Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

6th Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

18th Regiment Ohio Light Artillery

Cite this Entry

MLA Style

"Battle of Ringgold Gap," Ohio Civil War Central, 2019, Ohio Civil War Central. 17 Sep 2019 <http://www.www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=11>

APA Style

"Battle of Ringgold Gap." (2019) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved September 17, 2019, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=11

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