The Miracle On Missionary Ridge

Astoundingly, and against the odds, the charge was a swinging success. Grant had given himself two chances and one of them had worked; the impregnable line had collapsed when Thomas swung his hammer and the Confederates had lost the battle, the mountain barrier to the deep South, and all chance of recovering Tennessee. Scribbling his story of the fight, General Meigs summed it up with breathless enthusiasm: "Invasion of Tennessee and Kentucky indefinitely postponed. The slave aristocracy broken down. The grandest stroke yet struck for our country. . . . It is unexampled—another laurel leaf is added to Grant's crown." Both victors and defeated were amazed by what had been done, and it is clear that even though the assault had not been the spontaneous, grass-roots explosion that it soon became in legend, something remarkable had happened when the officers told the men to go up the steep mountainside. Charles Dana assured Secretary Stanton that "the storming of the ridge by our troops was one of the greatest miracles in military history," and the soldiers themselves felt the same way. On the crest of the captured ridge, Union soldiers yelled and straddled the captured cannon, "completely and frantically drunk with excitement," hardly able to believe that they had done what they had done. Long afterward, one of them wrote: "The plain unvarnished facts of the storming of Mission Ridge are more like romance to me now than any I have ever read in Dumas, Scott or Cooper." Dana expressed the simple truth when he said that "No man who climbs the ascent by any of the roads that wind along its front can believe that men were moved up its broken and crumbling face unless it was his fortune to witness the deed."
That evening a worker for the Christian Commission, visiting a field hospital, asked a wounded Federal where he had been hurt. "Almost up," replied the soldier. The Commission man explained that he meant "in what part are you injured?" The soldier, still gripped by the transcendent excitement of the charge, insisted: "Almost up to the top." Then the civilian drew back the man's blanket and saw a frightful, shattering wound. The soldier glanced at it and said: "Yes, that's what did it. I was almost up. But for that I would have reached the top." He looked up at the civilian, repeated faintly, "Almost up," and died.