Thomas's army had now grown quite large. Sherman had joined him, and Hooker had joined him—both able generals, and both in command of brave soldiers.
Bragg's army lay on Missionary Ridge and on Lookout Mountain. They had enjoyed their position up there greatly. Those on Lookout Mountain could look down upon the Union soldiers, and, with their field glasses, tell every move they made.
This was all very well in pleasant weather, under a cloudless sky; but there came a day, so "misty moisty" that the Unionists could not look up the mountain, neither could the Confederates look down.
Did you ever see a mountain with its summit all lost to sight in a big cloud of mist and rain? The little boys and girls who have lived all their lives close to the beautiful hills, have seen this hundreds of times. It is nothing new to them; but I hope they will never grow to be so used to it that they think it not worth noticing. It is, I almost think, the most beautiful sight in nature. I shall never forget the first mountain I ever saw. It was away down in Maine, up close to the New Hampshire line. As our train steamed out of the forests round a curve, we came all at once upon a broad clear place, with the mountains straight ahead. It was a heavy, cloudy "dog-day" in August;—one minute it would be dark and rainy, with big black clouds overhead, and the next minute, perhaps, the sun would be shining out from the rifts in the very blackest of the clouds. It was in one of these sunshiny minutes that I caught this first glimpse of the mountains. On one of them, settled way down half-way to its base, was a black, black cloud. Above this cloud, the mountain peak stood out bright and clear, in the sunshine. On the side of the mountains, in the cloud, was a rift. Slowly this opened, letting in the sun-light, and showing a little white cottage, nestling there among the trees. Then it closed again, and nothing was to be seen but the black circle of cloud. The light from the top slowly died away, the rain fell, and all was dark again. For a few minutes I felt dazed; it seemed as if I had been dreaming; indeed, it seemed almost as if I ought to rub my eyes to see if I really were not half asleep.
Now, it was just such a day as this, I fancy, that the Battle of Lookout Mountain, or, as we call it, the "Battle in the Clouds," took place.
Hooker started up the mountain to attack Bragg's force. It must have been a strange sight from the valley to watch these men go up, up, higher and higher, until they were lost to sight in the mountain mist.
It was a strange sight to Bragg's army, too, I imagine, when, on the other side of the mist, these blue-coats suddenly came into view.
We often hear people say, "Why, where did you come from? Did you drop from the clouds?" I never heard that Bragg said this to his unexpected visitors, but I'm sure he was surprised enough to have said it.
Grant, from a hill near by, watched the troops climbing up the mountain side until they were lost in the mist. After that, now and then, the clouds would break away, as if to give the watcher a peep at the battle going on. But little use was that after all, for no one could tell which side was winning. It was an anxious time indeed. At last, out burst the gray-coats from the cloud; down the mountain, pell-mell over the river they went—the blue-coats close at their heels. "The gray-coats are running! The gray-coats are running! The Union soldiers are driving them down the mountain!"
The gray-coats were indeed running; and they did not stop until they were safely over the river, and had joined their comrades on Missionary Ridge.
Night had now fallen, and Hooker must wait until morning to follow them farther. When morning came, it was found that the enemy had destroyed the bridge, and were now centered on Missionary Ridge.
Sherman advanced first upon them, and had a sharp fight of it for eight or nine hours. Then Sheridan came to his aid. Again they charged up the mountain side, and again the enemy fled into the valley below. Now Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge (so called because there had once been an Indian mission school on its brow), and Chattanooga Valley, all were in the hands of the Union soldiers.
On the following morning, again Sherman and Hooker set out in pursuit of the flying enemy. The contest for Tennessee was now over,—the Confederates were indeed driven beyond its limits, and far into Georgia.
Quite a difference, children, between the quick, active following up of battle after battle under these generals, and the slow, crawling movements of the Army of the Potomac under McClellan.
"We don't propose," these generals used to say, "to give the enemy time to get rested and fed—and so ready to fight us again the next day. No! we are upon them at once—before they have time to get back their breath from running."