When we last left our armies, the Union army was stuck in Chattanooga and the Confederate army was placed in a perimeter atop Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and with picket lines in a line between outside Chattanooga. The Union army had opened a supply line and was getting food and reinforcements. The Confederates were cold and starving and close to 100 Confederate soldiers were getting up and walking out of the army every day.
General Grant had come to Chattanooga and talked to his generals about how to break out of the city and drive away the Confederates. Together they came up with a plan. General Hooker with his army in Lookout Valley would attack Lookout Mountain and General Sherman with his army would cross the Tennessee River north of Chattanooga and attack Missionary Ridge. This left General Thomas and his army as support wherever needed. But before the battle could begin, General Grant needed a high place so he could observe the fighting.
On the morning of November 23, General Thomas had the 25,000 men under his command up and moving about. For several hours they drilled in the parade ground in front of their tents. The Confederate army, and especially General Bragg, watched this impressive display. Gradually Thomas’s army expanded their parade ground, pushing against the Confederate pickets. Although a few shots were fired, the Confederates were content to watch the show.
At 1:30 p.m. Union buglers sounded the “Forward” call, and half of the army started marching toward a high place called Orchard Knob to the east of the Union camp.
At first the 643 Confederates on Orchard Knob were not concerned. After all, they had watched the Union army marching all morning. But the Union army drew closer and closer, continuing to march forward without a shot fired until 14,000 Union soldiers were massed at the base of the knob. The Confederates were well entrenched on the knob, but they were seriously outnumbered and had not used their artillery to good purpose while they had the chance.
Another bugle call sounded, and suddenly 14,000 Union soldiers were charging up the hill. The Confederate soldiers got off a few shots, but they were soon running for their lives, back to Missionary Ridge. By 3 p.m., with little loss of life, Orchard Knob was Union territory. Once again, Thomas and his army had come through and Grant had his forward observation post.