The "Cracker Line" Operations
(26 - 30 Oct. 63)
(Brown's Ferry and Wauhatchie)
The confederates had occupied positions that required the Federals to bring in supplies from the railroad at Stevenson by a long, roundabout wagon route up the Sequatchie Valley and then south over Walden Ridge to the north bank of the river opposite Chattanooga. The distance was about 60 miles. After rainy weather started in mid-October wagon trains were taking eight days over this route and draft animals were breaking down. When "Baldy" Smith arrived to become chief engineer of the Army of the Cumberland he worked up a plan for opening a shorter line of supply via Kelly's and Brown's ferries.
To do this it was necessary to drive the Confederates from Raccoon Mountain. Grant approved Smith's plan and put him in charge of its execution. Hooker's force at Bridgeport moved secretly across the Tennessee the night of 26 Oct. Howard's XI Corps led the advance along the line of the railroad south of the river toward Wauhatchie. Cruft's Div. (IV) crossed northwest of Whiteside and joined Hooker. At 3 A.M., 27 Oct., about 1,500 picked men under Hazen were silently cast loose at Chattanooga to drift downstream past the enemy sentinels to Brown's Ferry. Here they landed, secured the heights overlooking the site, and fought off a small enemy counterattack. Turchin's brigade then crossed from the north bank at Brown's Ford. A pontoon bridge was put over. Hooker's column drove back an outpost from Law's brigade. In withdrawing, the Confederates destroyed the railroad bridge across Lookout Creek and occupied high ground Hooker left Geary at Wauhatchie to guard the road, and the next day linked up with the Federal Bridgehead.
The Confederates failed to wipe out Geary's isolated division in the Wauhatchie night attack of 28-29 Oct. '63
The morning of 30 Oct. The steamboat Chattanooga arrived at Kelly's Ford with 40,000 rations and tons of forage. The cry went up from the troops: "The Cracker line is open. Full rations, boys!"
Source: "The Civil War Dictionary" by Mark M. Boatner III
This page last updated 02/16/02
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