The rout of the Confederate forces at Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863 was devastating. Braxton Bragg's troops were strung out across 15 miles, their wagons hub deep in mud. Federal troops under the command of "Fighting Joe" Hooker were right behind him. He needed time. Patrick Cleburne was chosen to give him that time.
Bragg passed through the city of Ringgold earlier in the day and left orders for Cleburne to protect his retreating army while he organized in Dalton. Cleburne, who had his men bed down before crossing East Chickamauga Creek and entering town, did not get the orders until midnight. He was off to scout the situation in the moonlight.
Early next morning, as his men began crossing the creek and marching towards Ringgold the Confederate general was standing at a gap in the mountains where the Western and Atlantic Railroad plunged toward Atlanta. Using the Ringold Depot (pictured, left) as an anchor, Cleburne carefully concealed men and 2 cannon. They watched the Union soldiers approaching in standard formation, unaware of the rebels. Ordered not to fire until the bluecoats were upon them, Cleburne's men let loose a volley on the advancing line just before it entered the gap. The line shuddered and fell, retreating under the withering fire.
Hooker, always capable of a little self-agrandizement, reported his losses
as less than 500. Descriptions of the scene of the battlefield by enlisted
personnel tend to indicate the general lost significantly more men. Grant,
at the bottom of the report filed by Hooker, took note of the apparent discrepancy.
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