On this day in 1863, the Battle of Wauhatchie (also known as the Battle of Brown’s Ferry) concludesas Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s troopsopen a supply line into Chattanooga, Tennessee, when they drive away a Confederate attack by General James Longstreet. Although the Confederates still held the high ground above Chattanooga, the new supply line allowed the Union to hold the city and prepare for a major new offensive the next month.
After the Battle of Chickamauga in northern Georgia on September 19 and 20, 1863, the defeated Union army of General William Rosecrans fled back to nearby Chattanooga. Braxton Bragg’s Confederates took up positions along Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge to the east of the city. The Rebel lines made a semicircle around the city, and Confederate guns closed traffic on the Tennessee River. As a result, Union supplies had to come over a rugged mountainous route from the west. This line was vulnerable to a Confederate attack, and it made the Union’s hold on Chattanooga tenuous at best.
On October 23, Grant arrived as the new commander of all western forces. He immediately ordered two brigades to attack Brown’s Ferry, where the Confederates were blocking river traffic to Chattanooga. The Yankees captured Brown’s Ferry on October 27, then held off a counterattack to maintain control. On the night of October 28, Longstreet mounted a much larger attack to retake the crossing. The Confederates possessed superior numbers but could not pry the Union troops from the river. In the dark, the Yankees held and Longstreet withdrew his forces before dawn.
The Union suffered 78 killed, 327 wounded, and 15 missing, while the Confederates suffered 34 killed, 305 wounded, and 69 missing. The Battle of Wauhatchie was one of the few Civil War engagements that took place at night. As a result of the battle, the Tennessee River was reopened for the Union and supplies reached Grant’s troops. One month later, Grant drove the Confederates from the mountains around Chattanooga.