The boats were taken to the creek on by-roads through the woods, and not exposed to view of the rebels in any point of the distance. In the matter of selecting the roads, clearing the creek, furnishing the crews for the boats, and keeping the citizens under guard, I must acknowledge my obligations to Colonel Daniel McCook, commanding a brigade posted near the mouth of the North Chickamauga.
The rest of the bridge material and boats (about 25) were parked behind the river ridge of hills, and within 400 yards of the place of crossing, entirely concealed from the enemy. During this time the Tennessee River, swollen by rains in the upper country, brought down drift-wood in such quantities and of such a character, that on Friday night or early Saturday morning the pontoon bridge at Chattanooga was carried away, and so much of the material lost that it was impossible to relay it. On Saturday night the flying ferry at Chattanooga was disabled, and the pontoon bridge at Brown's Ferry was so injured that it was not relaid till Tuesday, November 24. This left to us for communication only the steamer Dunbar, at Chattanooga, and a horse ferry-boat at Brown's Ferry. On Monday night, however, the flying ferry was repaired and again in operation. Fortunately, the troops had all been placed in position before these disasters, and the only effect was to lull the enemy into security, under the idea that no attack could be made with our communication so cut. The fear was that it would be impossible to throw a bridge across the river for General Sherman's command, or that, if thrown, it could be maintained as long as it was needed.
On Monday, November 23, General Thomas moved to the front to reconnoiter, and occupied Indian Hill, with his left on Citico Creek. Captain Merrill and Lieutenant Wharton, of the Engineer Corps, were instructed to attend to the building of bridges across that stream. On Monday night at 12 p.m. the boats, with the designated brigade, left the North Chickamauga and quietly effected a landing on the left bank of the Tennessee, both above and below the mouth of the South Chickamauga, and the business of ferrying over troops the began. The rise in the river had increased its width so that we had not been able to accumulate boats sufficient for two bridges across the Tennessee; therefore only one was commenced. Lieutenant Dresser, in charge of the regular pontoon train, began the construction of this bridge about 5 a.m. on the 24th, taking from the ferry the boats of his train as fast as they were needed, and allowing the others to be used in crossing troops.
Colonel George P. Buell, in command of the Pioneer Brigade, soon after the boats had landed their first load, deployed his men on the right bank and went to work vigorously to clear up the ground on the shore, and level it where necessary for the passage of troops to the boats, and also to prepare a steam-boat landing.
At daylight he sent a party furnished with ropes and ring-bolts to catch and make fast to shore the rafts in the Chickamauga Creek, which we learned from deserters had been made for the destruction of the bridges at Chattanooga. The duty was well performed, as all duty is by Colonel Buell, and five rafts were anchored to the shore. The rebels had intended to prepare the rafts each wit a small pilot raft, having a torpedo attached, containing about 50 pounds of powder, to blow up by percussion as they went under the bridges.
The arrangements were not completed when they were interfered with by General Sherman's passage of the river. At daylight 8,000 troops were across the river and in line of battle. Soon after work