Read more Chattanooga History Columns
- Gaston: Paul John Kruesi was Edison's right-hand man
- Robbins: The old Richardson's house and the Civil War
- Gaston: James Williams was a man of the world
- Raney: Mason Evans, the 'Wild Man of the Chilhowee'
- Gaston: The legacy of Adolph Ochs endures
- Martin: Ed Johnson said, 'I have a changed heart,' the day before his lynching in Chattanooga on 1906
- Thomas: The inventiveness of Judge Michael M. Allison
- Moore: Chattanooga's first Chinese community
- Summers, Robbins: Chattanooga's Tuskegee Airman - Joseph C. White
- McCallie: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 says so!
- Gaston: John McCline's Civil War - from slave to D.C. parade
- Raney: Exploring Chattanooga businesses in the Green Book
- Elliott: Remembering the Freedmen's Bureau in Chattanooga
- Gaston: Nancy Ward was a beloved, respected Tennessean
- Martin: Prohibition - the noble experiment
- Elliott: 'A shameful, disgraceful deed': The destruction of the Sewanee cornerstone
- Gaston: Robert Cravens was ironmaster, Chattanooga area's first commuter
- Robbins: Dr. T.H. McCallie's Christmas 1863
- Robbins: Journalist writes of a trip to Missionary Ridge in 1896
- Summers, Robbins: Mine 21 disaster - gone but not forgotten
- Elliott: Collegedale incorporates to avoid Sunday 'blue laws'
- Gaston: 'Marse Henry' Watterson's journalism fame began in Chattanooga
- Robbins: Orchard Knob battle recalled in 1895
- Elliott: Chattanoogans joined in an 'orgy of joy and gladness' on Armistice Day, 1918
- Thomas: Noted service, speakers are marks of Rotary Club of Chattanooga since 1914
- Summers and Robbins: Remembering noted Tennessee author North Callahan
- Raney: 'I auto cry, I auto laugh, I auto sign my autograph'
- Gaston: Sequoyah's alphabet enriched Cherokees
- Robbins: A look at Sam Divine's life during the Civil War
- Robbins: Memories of a Confederate nurse
- Robbins: More notes from Bradford Torrey's 1895 visit to Chickamauga Battlefield
- Robbins: Journalist in 1895 details visit to Chickamauga Battlefield
- Elliott: Telephone exchange firebombing was distraction for grocery store robbery
- Gaston: Worcester brought Christ's message to Cherokee at Brainerd Mission
- Robbins: 1896 travel diary: 'A Week on Walden's Ridge'
- Gaston: Elizabeth Strayhorn, WAC Commandant at Fort Oglethorpe
- Robbins: The history of the Friends of Moccasin Bend National Park
- Moore: Do you own a Sears Roebuck home?
- Summers and Robbins: Camp Nathan Bedford Forrest in World War II
- Gaston: Hiram Sanborn Chamberlain remembered
- Elliott: Daisy the center of tile, ceramic manufacturing in Hamilton County
- Gaston: FDR inaugurates the Chickamauga Dam
- Summers, Robbins: Interned WWII Germans had it easy at Camp Crossville
- Elliott: A war correspondent on Lookout Mountain
- Gaston: Chickamaugas finally bury hatchet in Tennessee Valley
- Gaston: Chickamaugas in Chattanooga
- Robbins: The history of the Riverbend festival
- Raney: Sadie Watson, the first woman elected in Hamilton County government
- Moore: Remembering Chattanooga's Hawkinsville community
- Elliott: Welsh coal miners transformed Soddy after the Civil War
- Gaston: Chattanooga's best-kept secret
- Elliott: Cabell Breckinridge loses his horse
- Raney: Martin Fleming is the people's judge
- Gaston: The amazing career of Francis Lynde
- Martin: Hamilton County's Name Sake: Alexander Hamilton
- Summers, Robbins: The crosses at Sewanee
- Bledsoe: The fiery truce at Kennesaw Mountain
- Moore: Talented architect's life cut short by tragedy
- Rydell: Chattanooga's place in soccer history
- Robbins: Tennessee Coal, member of the First Dow Jones Industrial Average
- Raney: In the barber chair
- Lanier: Becoming the Boyce Station Neighborhood Association
- McCallie: John P. Franklin: Living history among us
- Barr: Chattanooga's first railroad: The Underground Railroad
- Summers, Robbins: Charles Bartlett was a Pulitzer Prize winner, Kennedy confidant
- Rainey: 'We have seen it'
- Elliott: Feinting and fighting at Running Water Creek and Johnson's Crook
- Gaston: The Spring Frog Cabin at Audubon Acres
- Raney: Wauhatchie Pike was moonshine motorway
- Robbins: Oakmont was home of venerable Williams clan
- Summers and Robbins: Rebirth of the Mountain Goat Line
- Elliott: Bad investments led to Soddy Bank failure in 1930
- Summers and Robbins: Pearl Harbor attack left football behind
- Gaston: Jolly’s Island namesake had long ties with Sam Houston
- Return Jonathan Meigs, Indian Agent
- Moore: Did you know about St. Elmo's other two cemeteries?
- Summers: Orme - Marion County's almost lost community
- Davis: Spooky revival at Sharp Mountain in 1873
- Robbins: The story of Longholm
- Raney: Women labored to help the U.S. win World War I
- Even in the city, the 'wheel' changed everything
- Murray: Confederate dilemma after Chickamauga
- J.B. Collins — Newsman extraordinaire
- Robbins: The Story of the Lyndhurst Mansion
- Chattanooga artist and wife lost on the Lusitania
- Chattanooga History Column: Battelle, Alabama and the Battelle Institute
- John Ross, a founder of Chattanooga
- Hamilton County casualties in World War I
- Chattanooga Power Couple
- 'Somewhere in France'
- The Ray Moss family
- Battery B from Chattanooga
- Ulysses S. Grant, Clark B. Lagow, and the Chattanooga Bender
- Songbirds Museum Timeline
- Hamilton County World War 1 roster
- The Soddy Girl and the Memphis Belle
- Blues icon Bessie Smith was the Empress of Soul
- Women's Army Corps at Chickamauga
- Emma Bell Miles' life at the top of the 'W'
- The Tivoli Wurlitzer is one of Chattanooga's priceless assets
- Chattanooga in struggle for freedom during Civil War
- October 1918, Chattanooga paralyzed by Spanish flu epidemic
- Eli Lilly and the Ditch of Death
- One hundred years ago, Chattanooga goes to war
- The legacy of Anna Safley Houston
- Harriet Whiteside was ahead of her time
- Southern Adventist University
- Chattanooga native's writings aided Civil Rights movement
- Zion College, Chattanooga's only African American College
- The North Shore's hidden past
- Mayme Martin -- Businesswoman and community leader
- Thomas Sim's epic struggle for freedom
- Top of Cameron Hill was price of rerouting interstate
- Cameron Hill has rich history
- Temperance movement included Harriman university
- The sweetest music this side of Heaven
- Conquistadors at Chattanooga
- Chattanooga and the 'General'
- Chattanooga's first Thanksgiving, 1863
- Chattanooga's greatest flood caught city unaware
- Opening the Cracker Line
- European trip in 1900 enlightens Sophia Scholze Long
- Sophia Scholze Long spoke out when others were silent
- Little South Pittsburg and its big silent movie stars
- Lot attendant recalls hottest job in Chattanooga
- Chattanooga's Forest Hills is final resting place for known, unknown
- Burritt College -- Pioneer of the Cumberlands
- Chattanooga's nicknames trace city's evolution
- The 25th annual meeting of the Tennessee Press Association
- Clemons Brothers Furniture Store
- The Short Life of the USS Chattanooga
- Ellen Jarnagin McCallie lived a truly remarkable life
- Dr. Jonathan Bachman was a revered city father
- Second guessing the Confederate failure on Missionary Ridge
- Nancy Kefauver, ambassador for the arts
- William Gibbs McAdoo kept his Southern roots
- Chattanooga's Secretary of the Treasury
- Howard Baker remembered as a statesman/photographer who snapped history
- Tivoli's last picture show
- The history of one of Chattanooga's oldest businesses
- Chattanooga's roller derby skaters
- Myths of Coca-Cola in Chattanooga
- Chattanooga's neighborhood grocery stores
- The tale of the Scottsboro Boys
- The people's history of Chattanooga
- Howard School is Chattanooga's reminder of Reconstruction
- Elevator operator, painter, mystery man: meet Rice Carothers
- Raulston Schoolfield made enemies amid his rise to power
- Website lets users peer into Chattanooga's past
- The flood of 1917
- Chattanooga's 'wickedest woman' buried at Forest Hills
- History of Cummings Highway
On Sept. 20, 1863, Union forces were defeated at the Battle of Chickamauga and retreated north to Chattanooga. For more than a month they were surrounded and bottled up by Confederate troops in Lookout Valley and on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.
They would have starved had it not been for deliveries of food and supplies via pack mules and wagons across Walden's Ridge.
Confederate Gen. Joe Wheeler led a spectacular raid on a train of 300 to 400 wagons coming up from the Sequatchie Valley. Exploding ammunition could be heard for miles, and the burning wagons looked like a fiery snake going up the side of the mountain.
Communications with Federal forces in Jasper, Tenn., and Bridgeport, Ala., also were disrupted. Until they managed to set up a field telegraph system, the Union Signal Corps fire-flashed messages from Cameron Hill to Signal Point.
There mounted couriers relayed the messages across the mountain to Bob White's place, the James C. Conner toll house, Col. Joe Anderson's place and the "Fur Top," where they were fire-flashed to Union troops in the Sequatchie Valley. Elsie Conner Adams explained in "Pioneers of Walden's Ridge" that the Federal soldiers used a two-room frame house on the James C. Conner place as their headquarters.
The loaded supply wagons went to Chattanooga by way of Anderson Pike, and empty ones returned by the Old Government Road that followed Shoal Creek up the mountain and across what is now Signal Mountain golf course.
Adams reported that these covered wagons were hitched two abreast to four and sometimes six mules. Each wagon could hold 20 bags of oats, each containing four bushels, and 20 bags or 40 bushels of corn.
The trains of several wagons made one trip a day until the opening of the "Cracker Line." With winter coming on, clearly a new solution had to be found to supply an army of 40,000 to 50,000 men and several thousand animals.
Help was on the way. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant arrived in late October and cleared Lookout Valley by capturing Brown's Ferry in the Battle of Wauhatchie. He repulsed Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's counterattack the following day, opening the Tennessee River to traffic from Union forces serving under Gen. William Rosecrans in Bridgeport. While Rosecrans was securing and rebuilding the railroad from Bridgeport to Chattanooga, he authorized construction of some small flat-bottomed steamers that could transport supplies to Kelly's Ferry or Williams Island at Chattanooga.
When Quartermaster William G. Le Duc arrived in Bridgeport, he found Capt. Edwards, quartermaster from Detroit, already preparing to build a steamboat to haul supplies to Chattanooga until the railroad could be completed.
Le Duc was put in charge of the project, and work proceeded day and night. The boiler deck was put on as they were loading the boat, which they named the USS Chattanooga. On Oct. 29, she transported two barges of 24,000 rations to Rankin's Ferry and returned to Bridgeport.
Le Duc loaded two more barges during the night and set out at 4 a.m. Oct. 30 for the 45-mile trip to Kelly's Ferry. The weather was stormy, and a driving rain set in as night fell. Le Duc had selected a soldier with experience on the Ohio River to pilot the boat and another who had worked on Lake Erie to serve as lookout in the pitch-black night.
As they neared Chattanooga, they saw lights on the north and south shores. When a sentry on one shore yelled out to them in a Southern accent, they quickly veered over to the opposite shore, where they were relieved to find Union troops commanded by Col. Stokes, who told them Kelly's Ferry was right around the bend. They tied the steamboat and barges to shore and unloaded 40,000 rations and 39,000 pounds of forage.
Five miles away, Gen. Joseph Hooker's forces were down to half-a-breakfast ration, and in Chattanooga "four cakes of hard bread and a quarter pound of pork made three days' ration," and only four boxes of hard bread remained in the commissary on the morning of Oct. 30.
"About midnight I started an orderly to report to Gen. Hooker the safe arrival of the rations," Le Duc recalled.
"The orderly returned about sunrise, and reported that the news went through the camps faster than his horse, and the soldiers were jubilant, and cheering, 'The Cracker Line is open. Full rations, boys! Three cheers for the Cracker Line,' as if we had won another victory; and we had."
Kay Baker Gaston is a regional historian and former Chattanoogan. For more, visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org.