Question of the Week: 2/22-2/28/21

What’s your favorite piece of high ground that was significant during the Civil War?

31 Responses to Question of the Week: 2/22-2/28/21

  1. Missionary Ridge. The breach of a line that with good engineering should have been impregnable solidified Grant’s reputation as the Indespensable Man of Victory, and brought him East, as well as opening up the Deep South to assault.

      1. John and Mike are right. Missionary Ridge for all the reasons they enumerated.

        Although he got the credit, Grant had little to do with capturing the ridge. It was Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland. Grant even questioned why Thomas’ troops were attacking the ridge.

        As Wm Sherman later noted (I’m paraphrasing here) Grant didn’t get all the credit he deserved for Vicksburg and probably got too much credit for Chattanooga.

  2. What I call McLaws’ Ridge at Chancellorsville. Important for the fact that Hooker withdrew from it and gave tactical advantage to Lee. Changed the outcome of the battle.

  3. Culp’s Hill. Gettysburg.

    The Union used the terrain to the best of their ability, to secure the right flank. 7 hours of continuous fighting, the longest period continual combat at Gettysburg, and the Union line held.

  4. Kennesaw Mountain, which my brother and I had the opportunity of climbing several years ago. The earthworks are still visible. What was Sherman thinking?

  5. Snodgrass Hill and its Horseshoe Ridge extension at Chickamauga. George Thomas’s rear guard holding of that high ground saved the Army of the Cumberland during its retreat to Chattanooga. Gordon Granger’s reserve corps march to the sound of guns without orders arrived in the nick of time reinforce Thomas and hold back the Confederates to nightfall to allow the rest of the army to escape.

  6. Cemetery Hill. Most important terrain feature in the largest battle fought in the Western Hemisphere. Its critical nature is still apparent today, even with development lapping up Baltimore Pike.

  7. I’m a Missionary Ridge man as well. the storming of that ridge was one of the most spectacular events of the war.

  8. My favorite to study would be Bloody Hill at Wilson’s Creek. With his army split in two pieces, Lyon uses Bloody Hill as a defensible, strategic piece of high ground in his attack against the Western Army under McCulloch. Price and McCulloch launched three major assaults against Bloody Hill. It was not until Lyon’s death, lack of communication with Sigel following a disastrous routing, and expending most of their ammunition that the Federal Army of the West decided to retreat. Sadly, only a portion of Bloody Hill remains permanently protected. Hopefully, more of it can be saved and added to the NPS site there. I am also interested in Snodgrass Hill at Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain, Grant’s last line at Shiloh, and Pigeon Hill at Kennesaw.

  9. As I’ve seen the Missionary position has already been taken, I’ll focus on favorite as opposed to significant and that would then be Lookout Mountain – a towering hunk of rocky plateau with the iconic views over ludicrously aimed cannon way above a dramatic S turn of the Tennessee…from that high ground Grant may have envisioned the end of it all.

  10. 3 for 3 reasons

    1. Chickasaw Bluff

    From that reversal a whole bunch of dominoes fall which propelled Grant to the fore

    2. Snodgrass Hill

    As a former member of the 19th Infantry I shared the lineage of the Rock of Chickamauga (Google it!)

    3. The elevated spur Dole’s Salient sat on. It demonstrated tonthe VIth Corps has to break a line which would be used on 2 April 1865.

  11. It’s actually not much of a “high ground” location but its name suggests that it is, so I’ll go with Malvern Hill because from a gunner’s perspective the fields of observation and fire were ideal. I’ll add Mendenhall’s position on Day 2 of Stones River for the same reason – and that was actually a bit more elevated.

  12. For the Union… Glorieta Mesa. Used to flank and get in rear of the Confederates at Glorieta Pass.

    Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg for the Confederates.

  13. To visit? If the battlefield was not so developed, I would say Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg. So, I will say the hill overlooking Burnside Bridge in Sharpsburg.

  14. I would give a shout to Ball’s Bluff – if only because it inspired the creation of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, which created extensive records that I think remain an underrated source for Civil War historians.

  15. I’ll mention two because they are part of the same campaign: Champion’s Hill and Vicksburg itself. Grant and his forces overcame both to prevail.

  16. My favorite is Signal Knob which is in the Shenandoah and along the Valley Pike. From that elevation General Gordon (CSA) was able to observe the the positions of the Union forces camped around the Belle Grove Plantation as he planned a brilliant surprise attack which became known as The Battle of Cedar Creek.

  17. For me, the ridge west of Burnside Bridge at Antietam, where the driving tour runs and lined with monuments. Great view that allows you to appreciate the terrain, and an under appreciated area of fighting.

  18. My nominees would be Perryville and Missionary Ridge. Since they are already in play, I’ll add the knoll that anchored Rosecrans’ final line at Stones River. Today it is the site of Stones River National Cemetery.

  19. I’ll say Maryland Heights at Harpers Ferry. Not only is it a heck of a good view, but it was crucial in Sept. of 1862. .

  20. I don’t know if I have a “favorite” piece of high ground, given that the Civil War was a brutal, horrible conflict, the causes and effects of which are still being experienced today.
    However, I think one of the more interesting places, if it can be referred to as high ground, is the slight incline in places leading up to the unfinished railroad cut at Second Manassas, where Jackson’s men, at one point reduced to throwing rocks, held off repeated Federal attacks until the rest of the ANV could arrive to overwhelm Pope’s left wing. This action led to McClellan rallying the Union army, the invasion of Maryland and the Battle of Antietam. The Federal success at Antietam is said to have given Lincoln the opportunity to introduce the Emancipation Proclamation, thereby changing the view of the war and influencing other nations to limit their support for the Confederacy..
    Of course, Lincoln may have used a victory at Second Manassas to introduce the Emancipation Proclamation, but if Jackson, and thereby Lee, had lost at Second Manassas then I expect the ANV may have withdrawn south, the invasion of Maryland might never have happened and the Confederacy could have reverted to a more defensive war, relying on interior lines of supply, to wear down support for the war in the Union states and to bring about a negotiated peace with national and international acceptance of separation. Speculation, of course, but, in my opinion, another of the great “ifs” of the American Civil War.

  21. I also like Culp’s Hill just north of Baltimore Pike @ Gettysburg Battlefield. Very strategic part of the Union Victory at Gettysburg, but gets secondary credit. However, one also must appreciate “Little Round Top” on Meade’s extreme Left flank there, as Gen Sickles literally gave that advantage away to the Rebels & the Union was extremely fortunate NOT to lose the Entire battle by that single action.

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