Scenes from Rocky Face Ridge

I had the remarkable opportunity today to visit the crest of Rocky Face Ridge just outside Dalton, Georgia. My visit came as part of a video swing by the American Battlefield Trust with Garry Adelman and Kris White, and our trip up the mountain was made possible by Whitfield County, Georgia; County Administrator Bob Sivick; and historians Will Greene and Bob Jenkins—a shout out to all of them for the extraordinary treat.

We’ll have some great videos from the top of Rocky Face Ridge coming up on the American Battlefield Trust’s Facebook and YouTube pages, but I wanted to take a moment to share just a couple photos with you.

Looking up at Rocky Face Ridge from the parking lot. From this distance, it’s hard to appreciate how tall and how steep the ridge is.

Rocky Face Ridge represented Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s main line of defense between his Army of Tennessee and Federal forces in Chattanooga under Ulysses S. Grant. By the time Federals made their move against Rocky Face Ridge, Grant had been promoted to lieutenant general and Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman had taken over as commander of the Western District, commanding a three-army group against Johnston’s 54,000 men in May 1863. (Read more here, courtesy of the Trust.)

At places, the crest of the ridge was only four-persons wide, with sheer drop-offs on either side. Confederates stacked rocks to create breast works and, where the ground allowed, dug earthen works. The line runs for miles, from the northern tip of the ridge southward to Mill Creek Gaps and Dug Gap. Federals did succeed in making a small lodgment on the northern edge of the crest, but Sherman ultimately forced Johnston out of the position by maneuvering around the Confederate left flank through Snake Creek Gap twelve miles to the south.

Kris White, grabbing some video while standing along the stone breastworks that run along the ridge.

It was such a clear day we could see, to the northeast, into Tennessee and North Carolina, beyond.

To the southeast, Bob Jenkins points out Kennesaw Mountain, some 65 miles away, beyond the plume of white smoke in the distance.

Our ECW colleague Dave Powell joined us for the trip, too! Rocky Face Ridge extends beyond him past the cellphone tower and, hard to see in the far distance, another cluster of towers near Dug Gap.

To the west, the small bubble in the center of the photo is Blue Mountain. Sherman made his HQ at the Clisby Austin House at Tunnel Hill and rode forward each day to Blue Mountain, which served as his forward command post.

To the northwest, the red buildings in the center of the photo are near the point where the Western and Atlantic RR, heading north, takes its bend toward Tunnel Hill. In the nearest ridge of mountains beyond, we could see Ringgold Gap. The far ridge is Lookout Mountain, which runs more than 80 miles from Chattanooga southwest into Alabama.

The drop-off in places was sheer. This view looks toward the southeast, toward Dalton, which is just beyond the cluster of white buildings in the upper-right (the same cluster of buildings in the photo of Bob Jenkins).

For more on the park, visit here (site in development).

For info on Tunnel Hill, visit here.

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2 Responses to Scenes from Rocky Face Ridge

  1. Mike Crossin says:

    Great photos! Living in Marietta, GA; I’ve really gotten immersed in the Atlanta campaign since retirement 2 years ago. Really looking forward to the “completed project”.

  2. Pingback: Week In Review: March 27-April 3, 2022 | Emerging Civil War

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