By Jim Miles
Respected Confederate general Patrick Cleburne was recently honored with a bronze statue at Ringgold Gap, where he fought a rearguard battle that saved the Army of Tennessee.
The siege of Chattanooga was lifted on November 26, 1863, when Union troops stormed Missionary Ridge and routed the Confederates, driving the Army of Tennessee through Ringgold Gap and toward Dalton.
Irish-born Patrick Cleburne’s Southern troops had fought well that day, and his 4,000 men executed an orderly withdrawal as it protected the Confederate rear. That night Cleburne received orders to make a stand in the steep gorge of Ringgold Gap, the only defensible terrain between Missionary Ridge and Dalton.
Cleburne had 30 minutes to deploy his men in the gap and on both sides of the ridge. It was eight a.m. on November 27 when Union general Joseph Hooker arrived with 10,000 men, formed his lines and advanced. Well served Confederate artillery and veteran soldiers repulsed several attacks as the vulnerable wagon train rumbled to safety in Dalton.
After two and a half hours of combat the Federals, having suffered many casualties, ceased the attack to await reinforcements. Cleburne’s stubborn defense had halted the Union momentum and saved the Confederate army. Learning that the vulnerable wagon train was safe in Dalton, Cleburne withdrew with honor. His casualties were 20; the Federals lost several hundred.
For his action at Ringgold Gap, Cleburne was thanked by a resolution passed by the Confederate Congress. He was afterward known as the “Stonewall of the West.” Unfortunately, a year later Cleburne was killed in the debacle at Franklin, Tennessee.
On October 3, 2009, an eight-foot tall bronze statue of Patrick Ronayne Cleburne was dedicated in Ringgold Gap. Cleburne, an Irish immigrant who settled in Arkansas, rose from private to the rank of major general and led a division in the Army of Tennessee, becoming one of the Confederacy’s most respected officers. The statue, produced by sculptor Ron Tunison, depicts the general leaning forward, field glasses in hand, judging the Federal advance.
Additional parcels of the Ringgold Gap battlefield continue to be added, for a current total of twenty-five acres. There are plans for a parking area and historic walking trail.
The statue of Cleburne joins a small fraternity of Confederate general statues in Georgia. John B. Gordon has a magnificent equestrian monument at the State Capitol in Atlanta; James Longstreet has a handsome statue at the site of his home in Gainesville, and only a few miles from Ringgold Gap stands a statue of Joseph E. Johnston in Dalton. Other statues are incorporated into larger Confederate memorials across the state, but only these four have been honored as individuals.
Jim Miles is the author of two Weird Georgia books, seven books about Georgia ghosts and eight books about the Civil War. To see all of his books go to the Jim Miles Author Page on Amazon. Order autographed books or contact Jim directly at firstname.lastname@example.org