By Dr. Anthony Hodges with images from his and other collections
After the guns fell silent in late November 1863, Chattanooga transitioned from the front line of battle to that of a rear line supply and support depot for the great federal armies that had assembled for the upcoming campaign for Atlanta. Tens of thousands of men went into quarters in the city and the surrounding countryside. Every spare inch of the city was crammed with tents and shacks of every description, hospitals and supply warehouses, transforming the area into an armed camp. Additionally, throngs of camp followers and freedmen were drawn into the vast military base that Chattanooga had become.
For the Linn brothers, Robert M. and James B., these thousands of men and uncounted women represented potential customers. The scenery of Lookout drew them to the mountain during idle time, and many of them chose to memorialize their visit with a photograph. One writer described the scene a couple years after the end of the war: “Perched like an eagle’s nest on the craggy point, visitors find the photograph gallery or cabin rather of Mr. R.M. Linn, who has been here some years—and still does a flourishing business. People all seem to have a fancy for a picture taken in a dangerous position. They walk to the brink of the precipice, which is perpendicular for hundreds of feet, take such an attitude as their own prudence or daring may suggest, keep still a moment and the work s done. The novelty of the situation makes people daring or reckless, and renders pictures taken on the point very interesting.”
Surgeon James T. Reeve of the 21st Wisconsin Infantry wrote of his experience in January 1864: “Went out to the Point to have a group picture taken of the Hospital Attendants which we could not because of the numbers ahead of us. Crowds are constantly being ambrotyped at the Point, the operator charging the enormous price of $3 per picture, which I regard as an imposition on the soldiers.”
Still, many paid the price, including Reeve.
A sample of this photographic record is shown on the accompanying pages.
Special thanks to National Park Service Historian Jim Ogden
References: Govan and Livingood, The Chattanooga Country, TVA to Tomahawks; Louisville Daily Courier, Sept. 10, 1867; Reeve, James Theodore Reeve: Surgeon, Soldier, Citizen, 1834-1906.
Dr. Anthony Hodges, a retired dentist, is President of the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association.
Having the right tool for the job is a time-honored expression that Maj. Charles Sumner Cotter of 1st Ohio Light Artillery would likely appreciate. He’s pictured here standing closest to the edge of Point Lookout near a telescope mounted on a tripod. The men around him are probably his staff. A metal fabricator in peacetime, Cotter worked with a different kind of metal in 1861 when he became an artillery officer and took command of a battery. Cotter eventually became chief of the massive artillery garrisons at Nashville and later Chattanooga. He ended the war as a colonel and lived until 1886.
Suppertime appears to be the order of the day for this quartet posed with hardtack, a chunk of meat and an array of tin-ware. Though the sergeant, corporal and enlisted men are not known, one can easily imagine that they feasted on the food they carried up the mountain after Linn or an assistant photographed them.
The 78th Pennsylvania Infantry fought at the decisive engagements of Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge on Nov. 23-25, 1863. It also conducted a reconnaissance to the summit of Lookout. These four members of the regiment, left, likely participated in some or all of the operations and posed for this portrait before they departed in early May for front line fighting in Georgia. One of these men, Pvt. Henry McCollum of Company B, left, barely outlived this photograph. He suffered a death wound at the Battle of Dallas during the Atlanta Campaign on May 31, 1864.
A lone Zouave appears in deep contemplation as he stares off into the distant horizon. He may have been a member of the 33rd New Jersey Infantry.
Capt. Henry Stone strikes a pose one might find in Harper’s Weekly—hat raised, hand on hip and feet firmly planted on Roper’s Rock. Stone had every reason to celebrate. As an assistant adjutant general at Department of the Cumberland headquarters, he distinguished himself under the leadership of generals Don Carlos Buell, William S. Rosecrans and George H. Thomas. A native of Maine, graduate of Bowdoin College, and newspaperman prior to the war, Stone first served in the 1st Wisconsin Infantry, and ended his military career as lieutenant colonel of the 100th U.S. Colored Infantry. He lived until 1896.
A true blue federal absorbs the view from the heights of Point Lookout. His standard-issue shell jacket with small buttons and tall collar suggests he served in the cavalry or light artillery.
A Union infantryman sits with his musket and accouterments.
Brig. Gen. John Haskell King sits on his horse accompanied by a junior officer and a citizen at the Point. A career soldier who joined the military in 1839 and served in the Mexican War, he is perhaps best known during the Civil War for his determined fighting in command of a brigade of regulars at Horseshoe Ridge during the Battle of Chickamauga. King went on to participate in the Atlanta Campaign and ended the war as a brevet major general. He went on to serve as colonel of the 9th U.S. Infantry and retired in 1882. He died in 1888. His tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery is inscribed with a biblical verse that is descriptive of the scene on Lookout Mountain on the morning of Nov. 25, 1863: “Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”
The 105th Ohio Infantry numbered among the regiments that endured the hardships of the Siege of Chattanooga and fought in the Battle of Missionary Ridge. These images of the regimental staff, dated Jan. 7, 1864, depict proud victors in all their glory. Worthy of note is the color sergeant, Andrew Geddes. He began his service as a corporal in Company H in the summer of 1862. According to the unit historian, Geddes “carried the colors of the 105th in every march and battle in which the regiment engaged, from the time they were first presented about the middle of January, 1863, until the close of the war. Though the colors are literally shot to rags, the staff struck by bullets several times and his clothes cut by them more than once, he was never once touched.” He survived the war and lived until 1907.
The 7th Illinois Infantry spent June 16-20, 1864, in Chattanooga as they traveled from Alabama to join Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s army in Georgia. Though the visit was brief, at least two companies, including Company F shown here, played tourist at the Point.
According to the regiment’s historian on June 17, “To-day the Seventh boys wend their way up Lookout Mountain; it is a wearisome task; up and up we climb. Soon we are above the clouds where Hooker’s bayonets clashed in midnight darkness, when the mountain was wrapped in one grand sheet of battle flame.”
He added, “Presently the clouds vanish and we now behold Chattanooga and her fortifications beneath our feet; the winding Tennessee, the current of which is moving on towards the father of waters to tell its silent story of blood, and Mission Ridge where warriors moved in the grand pageantry of battle, flinging to the wind a hundred union battle flags.”
A stick, binoculars and ax are prominent in this portrait of three Union enlisted men. The stick-wielding soldier is an older man, indicated by his gray-streaked beard, while the boy holding the ax is young enough to be his son.
A mixed group of soldiers and citizens—men, women and children—made the arduous trek up the steep incline to appreciate what had by this time become one of the best-known historic and scenic spots in America. The presence of fans in the hands of the women and a boy shading his face suggest warm and sunny weather.
The Rock on the rock. Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, who earned the nom de guerre “Rock of Chickamauga” for a determined defense that saved the Union army from being routed, grips his binoculars as he surveys the view from Point Lookout. Five generals surround him: John H. King, Zealous Bates Tower, James Lowry Donaldson, John Milton Brannon and William Dennison Whipple. Also present are Thomas’ chief engineer, Capt. William E. Merrill, Surg. George Cooper, Lt. Sanford Cobb Kellogg, an aide and nephew to Thomas, and a Lt. Kelly.
Kellogg is worthy of notice. At Chickamauga, he incorrectly reported a gap in the Union line that prompted Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans to move troops. This created an actual gap exploited by Lt. Gen. James Longstreet and ended in the federal rout.
Major Charles Henry Howard sits with his binoculars and stares into the distance. A Maine native and 1859 Bowdoin College graduate, he served as an aide-de-camp to his older brother, Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard. Charles suffered two wounds in battle, the most serious a gunshot in the leg at Fair Oaks in 1862—the same fight that cost brother Oliver an arm. Charles ended his service as colonel of the 128th U.S. Colored Infantry. He died in 1908. Brother Oliver passed a year later.
Two other aides join Charles. Next to him stands Daniel Kent Cross (1837-1896), who began his service as sergeant major of the 5th New Hampshire Infantry and earned his shoulder straps by battlefield courage. The officer standing closest to the edge of the rock is Capt. Harry Melville Stinson. He began his military service with the 5th Maine Infantry as a private, fell into enemy hands at the First Battle of Manassas, and became an aide-de camp in 1863. He suffered a severe wound a year later during the Atlanta Campaign after a bullet passed through his lungs and out his back and landed in an oak tree behind him. He pulled through, but died on active duty from a hemorrhage in 1866.
During the first summer of peace following four years of war, Col. Lewis Merrill and his wife, Annie Rhoda Houston Merrill, posed on the Point. Merrill is pictured here at the apex of his wartime career. The Pennsylvania-born West Pointer spent the last four years in command of the respected 2nd Missouri Cavalry, popularly known as Merrill’s Horse. Less than a month after he sat for this portrait, the regiment mustered out of the army. Merrill received a brigadier general’s brevet for his war service and continued on in the regular army. He died in 1896 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Among the soldiers pictured here include his subordinates, brother-in-law and Maj. George M. Houston, 1st Lt. Joseph S. Taylor and 1st Lt. Stephen D. Tippett.
Soldiers pointing appear often in Point Lookout portraits, but rarely is the finger directed towards the camera. In this image, the man on point is Wilmon Whilldin Blackmar, a first sergeant in the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry. The comrade next to him is not identified. Prior to posing for this photograph, Blackmar had distinguished himself at the battles of Antietam and Chickamauga. After the pose, in March 1864, he accepted a lieutenant’s commission in the 1st West Virginia Cavalry, and served on detached duty on the staff of Brig. Gen. William H. Powell. Blackmar earned praise for his courage in the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. In 1865, he joined the staff of Col. Henry Capehart. In this capacity, he performed an act of courage at the Battle of Five Forks that earned him the Medal of Honor. “At a critical stage of the battle, without orders,” according to his citation, he “led a successful advance upon the enemy.”
Blackmar ended the war as a captain and went on to become active in the Grand Army of the Republic, serving as its National Commander-in-Chief in 1904-1905. He died the year after he left office.
Blackmar commissioned artist and photographer William Henry Partridge to paint a portrait based on the tintype. Partridge completed the work in 1876.
The second lieutenant standing on the ledge appears in both of these portraits. He is likely posed with fellow regimental officers in one and enlisted men from his company in the other. Whether or not he and his comrades were present for the Siege of Chattanooga and its dramatic end remains a mystery.
War artist Theodore R. Davis (1840-1894) dangled his legs over the edge of Point Lookout. Seated behind him are staff officers from the Union Army of the Cumberland, including, from left, Capt. Henry Stone of the 1st Wisconsin Infantry, Maj. Gates P. Thruston of the 1st Ohio Infantry, Col. Joseph W. Burke of the 10th Ohio Infantry, Capt. Hunter Brook of the 2nd Minnesota Infantry, an unidentified officer and Maj. Charles S. Cotter of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery. The staffers posed for a second portrait, right, this time without the artist.
These Rebs were drawn to the rock even though they did not come out on top of the battle.
Five federals enjoy the view from the rock.
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