Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Lookout Mountain—”The Battle Above the Clouds,” as it later became known because the morning fog and the smoke of battle that hung cloud-like midway up the mountain while the mountaintop loomed above.
“The battle of Lookout Mountain is one of the romances of the war,” Union commander Ulysses S. Grant later wrote. “There was no such battle and no action even worthy to be called the battle on Lookout Mountain. It is all poetry.”
The battle, called a “magnificent skirmish” rather than an actual battle by one reporter, was the first in a series of engagements launched by Grant to drive Confederates away from the besieged Union forces trapped in Chattanooga.
Maj. Gen. Joe Hooker, anxious to redeem his still-bruised reputation following his May drubbing at Chancellorsville, stormed up the mountain with three divisions, overwhelming the 8,700 Confederate defenders who had the advantage of topography but who, as it turned out, could not bring their formidable artillery into play: artillerists had to depress the barrels too much, so shells would literally roll right out of them.
Hooker spent the rest of his life crowing about the victory even as Grant–partial to his Western commanders, not the bloviating Eastern transplant Hooker–downplayed it.