Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
THE LITTLE STEAMBOAT THAT OPENED THE "CRACKER LINE."
As to the strength of the Confederate army at Chickamauga, Major E. C. Dawes contributed to "The Century" magazine, for April, 1888, the following note : " An examination of the original returns in the War Department, which I have personally made, shows the following result: General Bragg's return, 31st of August, 1863, shows under the heading `present for duty,' officers and men, 48,998. This return does not include the divisions of General Breckinridge or General Preston, tho brigades of Generals Gregg and McNair, or the reenforcement brought by General Longstreet. Tho strength of each is accurately given in Confederate official returns. The total Confederate force available for battle at Chickamauga was as follows : General Bragg's army, 31st of August, 1863, for duty, 48,998; Longstreet's command (Hood's and McLaws's divisions), by return of Army of Northern Virginia, 31st of August, 1863, for duty, 11,716; Breckinridge's division, by his official report in `Confederate Reports of Battles,' for duty, 3769; Preston's division, by his official report in ` Confederate Reports of Battles,' for duty, 4509 ; Brigades of Gregg and McNair, by General Bushrod Johnson's official report (So. Hist. Soc. Papers, Vol. XIII.), for duty, 2559,-total, 71,551."
THE LITTLE STEAMBOAT THAT OPENED THE " CRACKER LINE." BY WILLIAM G. LE DUC, BREVET BRIGADIER-GENERAL AND ASSISTANT QUARTERMASTER, U. S. V.
IN answer to the urgent demand of Rosecrans for T reenforcements, the Eleventh Corps (Howard's) and the Twelfth Corps (Slocum's) were sent from the east to his assistance under command of General Hooker. Marching orders were received on the 22d of September, and the movement w as commenced from the east side of the Rappahannock on the 24th; at Alexandria the troops and artillery and officers' horses were put on cars, and on the 27th started for Nashville. On the 2d of October the advance reached Bridgeport, and on the 3d Hooker established headquarters at Stevenson, and Howard the headquarters of the Eleventh Corps at Bridgeport, a then the limit of railroad travel, eight miles east of Stevenson.
The short reach of 26 miles of railroad, or 28 miles of road that ran nearly alongside the railroad, was now all that was necessary for the security of the important position at Chattanooga. But Rosecrans must first secure possession of the route, and then rebuild the long truss-bridge across the Tennessee River, and tho trestle, one-quarter of a mile long and 113 feet high, at Whiteside, or Running Water, which would take longer than his stock of provisions and forage would last.
To supply an army of 40,000 or 50,000 men, having several thousand animals, in Chattanooga, by wagons, over country roads 28 miles long, in winter, would be a most difficult, but not an impossible task. Rosecrans determined to build some small, flat-bottomed steamers, that could navigate the river from Bridgeport, and transport supplies to Kelley's Ferry or William's Island (either within easy reach from Chattanooga), which would enable him to supply his army with comfort until the railroad could be repaired. The enemy held Lookout Mountain, commanding both river and railroad above William's Island. This position was then deemed impregnable. The Confederates also had an outpost on Raccoon Mountain, commanding the river completely and also overlooking a road that skirted the river-bank on the north side for a short distance, thus making the long detour over Waldron's Ridge necessary to communication between Stevenson, Bridgeport, and Chattanooga.
The river, where it passes through the Raccoon Range, is very rapid and narrow; the place is known as the Suck, and in navigating up stream the aid of windlass and shore-lines is necessary.
Kelley's Landing, below the Suck, is the debouchment of a low pass through Raccoon Mountain, from Lookout Valley, and is within eight or ten miles of Chattanooga.
I quote from my Diary : Oct. 5, 1863.-General Hooker was over yesterday . . . and examined the little scow. He appreciated the probable importance of the boat, and ordered me to take it in hand personally and see that work was crowded on it as fast as possible. . . . We also looked over the grade of the Jasper Branch Railroad, which is above high-water mark, and must be used if supplies are sent on the north side of the river. He directed me to send him a report in writing, aud a copy for General Rosecrans, of my observations and suggestions, and to go ahead and do what I could without waiting for written orders. I turned my attention to the boat. Captain Edwards has employed a ship-builder from Lake Erie-Turner, an excellent mechanic, who has built lake vessels and steamers, but who is not so familiar with the construction of flat-bottomed, light-draught river steamers. He has a number of ship and other carpenters engaged, with some detailed men from our own troops, making an efficient force. Men who can be serviceable as rough carpenters are abundant ; not so with calkers, who will soon be needed, I hope. The frame of the boat is set on blocks, and is
(1) General Grant says [see p. 689] : " Hooker had brought with him from the east a full supply of land transportation. His animals had not been subjected to hard work on bad roads without forage, but were in good condition."
This should have been the fact, but unfortunately was not. Hooker's command, when ordered west, had land transportation of the most efficient description, more than 6000 mules and horses, seasoned to army work in marches made through Virginia clay and quicksand, from Fredericksburg to Gettysburg and back to the Rappahannock ; but against protest they were ordered to be turned into the corrals at Alexandria and Washington. These choice and efficient trains, that could be relied on to do effective work day and night, were thus broken up and the, want of them was soon after most seriously felt on the Tennessee. Hooker's troops n-ere supplied from the corral at Nashville with all sorts of animals, young and old, broken and unbroken. Many died on the road before reaching Bridgeport.-W. G. L.