Battle of Orchard Knob (November 23, 1863)

Updated: September 28, 2016

Fought on November 23, 1863, the Battle of Orchard Knob was the first engagement of Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s breakout from Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s siege of Chattanooga.

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 from Chattanooga.

On November 22, Grant received reports that Bragg was beginning a withdrawal from the Chattanooga area, possibly headed for Knoxville. The next day, Grant ordered Thomas to undertake a reconnaissance operation to ascertain Bragg’s intentions. Thomas deployed two divisions commanded by Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood and Brigadier General William T. Sherman to complete the operation. Around noon, about 14,000 Union soldiers moved out of the Federal lines in front of Chattanooga and assembled as if preparing for a review. Sherman’s division was on the right and Wood’s division was on the left. The assembly was in front of a small knoll about 100 feet high, known as Orchard Knob. The hill was defended by about 634 Confederates from two regiments of Brigadier General Arthur Manigault's Brigade (28th Alabama and 24th Alabama).

Around 1:30 P.M. Union buglers sounded the "Forward" command and about 14,000 troops sprang forward at the double-quick time. The stunned Rebel defenders were able to unleash only one volley before being overrun. The few Confederates who were not killed or captured fell back to the base of Missionary Ridge. A little before 3 o’clock, Wood informed Thomas: "I have taken the first line of the enemy's entrenchments." Although Grant’s orders had called for Wood to return to the original Federal lines after his reconnaissance, Thomas responded, "Hold on; don't come back; you have got too much; intrench [sic] your position." Wood followed his new orders and two days later Grant moved out of Chattanooga and established his headquarters at Orchard Hill for the reminder of the breakout operation. Union casualties at the Battle of Orchard Knob are estimated at roughly 1,100 soldiers killed, wounded, and missing/captured. Confederate casualties were around 600.

Among the Ohio units involved in the Chattanooga Campaign, including the Battle of Orchard Knob, 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 Orchard Knob," Ohio Civil War Central, 2017, Ohio Civil War Central. 29 Mar 2017 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=10>

APA Style

"Battle of Orchard Knob." (2017) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved March 29, 2017, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=10

Comments powered by Disqus

Related Entries

Categories

This entry has not been associated with any categories.

Topics

Time Periods

Regions

Help support the ongoing development of Ohio Civil War Central by clicking the banner and then purchasing products from Amazon.com.

Ohio Civil War Central: An Encyclopedia of the American Civil War