Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

During the evening most of the general officers called in to pay
their respects and to talk about the condition of affairs. They
pointed out on the map the line, marked with a red or blue
pencil, which Rosecrans had contemplated falling back upon. If
any of them had approved the move they did not say so to me. I
found General W. F. Smith occupying the position of chief
engineer of the Army of the Cumberland. I had known Smith as a
cadet at West Point, but had no recollection of having met him
after my graduation, in 1843, up to this time. He explained the
situation of the two armies and the topography of the country so
plainly that I could see it without an inspection. I found that
he had established a saw-mill on the banks of the river, by
utilizing an old engine found in the neighborhood; and, by
rafting logs from the north side of the river above, had got out
the lumber and completed pontoons and roadway plank for a second
bridge, one flying bridge being there already. He was also
rapidly getting out the materials and constructing the boats for
a third bridge. In addition to this he had far under way a
steamer for plying between Chattanooga and Bridgeport whenever
we might get possession of the river. This boat consisted of a
scow, made of the plank sawed out at the mill, housed in, and a
stern wheel attached which was propelled by a second engine
taken from some shop or factory.

I telegraphed to Washington this night, notifying General
Halleck of my arrival, and asking to have General Sherman
assigned to the command of the Army of the Tennessee,
headquarters in the field. The request was at once complied



The next day, the 24th, I started out to make a personal
inspection, taking Thomas and Smith with me, besides most of the
members of my personal staff. We crossed to the north side of
the river, and, moving to the north of detached spurs of hills,
reached the Tennessee at Brown’s Ferry, some three miles below
Lookout Mountain, unobserved by the enemy. Here we left our
horses back from the river and approached the water on foot.
There was a picket station of the enemy on the opposite side, of
about twenty men, in full view, and we were within easy range.
They did not fire upon us nor seem to be disturbed by our
presence. They must have seen that we were all commissioned
officers. But, I suppose, they looked upon the garrison of
Chattanooga as prisoners of war, feeding or starving themselves,
and thought it would be inhuman to kill any of them except in

That night I issued orders for opening the route to
Bridgeport–a cracker line, as the soldiers appropriately termed
it. They had been so long on short rations that my first thought
was the establishment of a line over which food might reach them.

Chattanooga is on the south bank of the Tennessee, where that
river runs nearly due west. It is at the northern end of a
valley five or six miles in width, through which Chattanooga
Creek runs. To the east of the valley is Missionary Ridge,
rising from five to eight hundred feet above the creek and
terminating somewhat abruptly a half mile or more before
reaching the Tennessee. On the west of the valley is Lookout
Mountain, twenty-two hundred feet above-tide water. Just below
the town the Tennessee makes a turn to the south and runs to the
base of Lookout Mountain, leaving no level ground between the
mountain and river. The Memphis and Charleston Railroad passes
this point, where the mountain stands nearly perpendicular. East
of Missionary Ridge flows the South Chickamauga River; west of
Lookout Mountain is Lookout Creek; and west of that, Raccoon
Mountains. Lookout Mountain, at its northern end, rises almost
perpendicularly for some distance, then breaks off in a gentle
slope of cultivated fields to near the summit, where it ends in
a palisade thirty or more feet in height. On the gently sloping
ground, between the upper and lower palisades, there is a single
farmhouse, which is reached by a wagon-road from the valley east.

The intrenched line of the enemy commenced on the north end of
Missionary Ridge and extended along the crest for some distance
south, thence across Chattanooga valley to Lookout Mountain.
Lookout Mountain was also fortified and held by the enemy, who
also kept troops in Lookout valley west, and on Raccoon
Mountain, with pickets extending down the river so as to command
the road on the north bank and render it useless to us. In
addition to this there was an intrenched line in Chattanooga
valley extending from the river east of the town to Lookout
Mountain, to make the investment complete. Besides the
fortifications on Mission Ridge, there was a line at the base of
the hill, with occasional spurs of rifle-pits half-way up the
front. The enemy’s pickets extended out into the valley towards
the town, so far that the pickets of the two armies could
converse. At one point they were separated only by the narrow
creek which gives its name to the valley and town, and from
which both sides drew water. The Union lines were shorter than
those of the enemy.

Thus the enemy, with a vastly superior force, was strongly
fortified to the east, south, and west, and commanded the river
below. Practically, the Army of the Cumberland was besieged.
The enemy had stopped with his cavalry north of the river the
passing of a train loaded with ammunition and medical
supplies. The Union army was short of both, not having
ammunition enough for a day’s fighting.

General Halleck had, long before my coming into this new field,
ordered parts of the 11th and 12th corps, commanded respectively
by Generals Howard and Slocum, Hooker in command of the whole,
from the Army of the Potomac to reinforce Rosecrans. It would
have been folly to send them to Chattanooga to help eat up the
few rations left there. They were consequently left on the
railroad, where supplies could be brought to them. Before my
arrival, Thomas ordered their concentration at Bridgeport.

General W. F. Smith had been so instrumental in preparing for
the move which I was now about to make, and so clear in his
judgment about the manner of making it, that I deemed it but
just to him that he should have command of the troops detailed
to execute the design, although he was then acting as a staff
officer and was not in command of troops.

On the 24th of October, after my return to Chattanooga, the
following details were made: General Hooker, who was now at
Bridgeport, was ordered to cross to the south side of the
Tennessee and march up by Whitesides and Wauhatchie to Brown’s
Ferry. General Palmer, with a division of the 14th corps, Army
of the Cumberland, was ordered to move down the river on the
north side, by a back road, until opposite Whitesides, then
cross and hold the road in Hooker’s rear after he had passed.
Four thousand men were at the same time detailed to act under
General Smith directly from Chattanooga. Eighteen hundred of
them, under General Hazen, were to take sixty pontoon boats, and
under cover of night float by the pickets of the enemy at the
north base of Lookout, down to Brown’s Ferry, then land on the
south side and capture or drive away the pickets at that
point. Smith was to march with the remainder of the detail,
also under cover of night, by the north bank of the river to
Brown’s Ferry, taking with him all the material for laying the
bridge as soon as the crossing was secured.

On the 26th, Hooker crossed the river at Bridgeport and
commenced his eastward march. At three o’clock on the morning
of the 27th, Hazen moved into the stream with his sixty pontoons
and eighteen hundred brave and well-equipped men. Smith started
enough in advance to be near the river when Hazen should
arrive. There are a number of detached spurs of hills north of
the river at Chattanooga, back of which is a good road parallel
to the stream, sheltered from the view from the top of
Lookout. It was over this road Smith marched. At five o’clock
Hazen landed at Brown’s Ferry, surprised the picket guard, and
captured most of it. By seven o’clock the whole of Smith’s
force was ferried over and in possession of a height commanding
the ferry. This was speedily fortified, while a detail was
laying the pontoon bridge. By ten o’clock the bridge was laid,
and our extreme right, now in Lookout valley, was fortified and
connected with the rest of the army. The two bridges over the
Tennessee River–a flying one at Chattanooga and the new one at
Brown’s Ferry–with the road north of the river, covered from
both the fire and the view of the enemy, made the connection
complete. Hooker found but slight obstacles in his way, and on
the afternoon of the 28th emerged into Lookout valley at
Wauhatchie. Howard marched on to Brown’s Ferry, while Geary,
who commanded a division in the 12th corps, stopped three miles
south. The pickets of the enemy on the river below were now cut
off, and soon came in and surrendered.

The river was now opened to us from Lookout valley to
Bridgeport. Between Brown’s Ferry and Kelly’s Ferry the
Tennessee runs through a narrow gorge in the mountains, which
contracts the stream so much as to increase the current beyond
the capacity of an ordinary steamer to stem it. To get up these
rapids, steamers must be cordelled; that is, pulled up by ropes
from the shore. But there is no difficulty in navigating the
stream from Bridgeport to Kelly’s Ferry. The latter point is
only eight miles from Chattanooga and connected with it by a
good wagon-road, which runs through a low pass in the Raccoon
Mountains on the south side of the river to Brown’s Ferry,
thence on the north side to the river opposite Chattanooga.
There were several steamers at Bridgeport, and abundance of
forage, clothing and provisions.

On the way to Chattanooga I had telegraphed back to Nashville
for a good supply of vegetables and small rations, which the
troops had been so long deprived of. 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. In five days from my arrival
in Chattanooga the way was open to Bridgeport and, with the aid
of steamers and Hooker’s teams, in a week the troops were
receiving full rations. It is hard for any one not an
eye-witness to realize the relief this brought. The men were
soon reclothed and also well fed, an abundance of ammunition was
brought up, and a cheerfulness prevailed not before enjoyed in
many weeks. Neither officers nor men looked upon themselves any
longer as doomed. The weak and languid appearance of the troops,
so visible before, disappeared at once. I do not know what the
effect was on the other side, but assume it must have been
correspondingly depressing. Mr. Davis had visited Bragg but a
short time before, and must have perceived our condition to be
about as Bragg described it in his subsequent report. “These
dispositions,” he said, “faithfully sustained, insured the
enemy’s speedy evacuation of Chattanooga for want of food and
forage. Possessed of the shortest route to his depot, and the
one by which reinforcements must reach him, we held him at our
mercy, and his destruction was only a question of time.” But
the dispositions were not “faithfully sustained,” and I doubt
not but thousands of men engaged in trying to “sustain” them now
rejoice that they were not. There was no time during the
rebellion when I did not think, and often say, that the South
was more to be benefited by its defeat than the North. The
latter had the people, the institutions, and the territory to
make a great and prosperous nation. The former was burdened
with an institution abhorrent to all civilized people not
brought up under it, and one which degraded labor, kept it in
ignorance, and enervated the governing class. With the outside
world at war with this institution, they could not have extended
their territory. The labor of the country was not skilled, nor
allowed to become so. The whites could not toil without
becoming degraded, and those who did were denominated “poor
white trash.” The system of labor would have soon exhausted the
soil and left the people poor. The non-slaveholders would have
left the country, and the small slaveholder must have sold out
to his more fortunate neighbor. Soon the slaves would have
outnumbered the masters, and, not being in sympathy with them,
would have risen in their might and exterminated them. The war
was expensive to the South as well as to the North, both in
blood and treasure, but it was worth all it cost.

The enemy was surprised by the movements which secured to us a
line of supplies. He appreciated its importance, and hastened
to try to recover the line from us. His strength on Lookout
Mountain was not equal to Hooker’s command in the valley
below. From Missionary Ridge he had to march twice the distance
we had from Chattanooga, in order to reach Lookout Valley; but on
the night of the 28th and 29th an attack was made on Geary at
Wauhatchie by Longstreet’s corps. When the battle commenced,
Hooker ordered Howard up from Brown’s Ferry. He had three miles
to march to reach Geary. On his way he was fired upon by rebel
troops from a foot-hill to the left of the road and from which
the road was commanded. Howard turned to the left, charged up
the hill and captured it before the enemy had time to intrench,
taking many prisoners. Leaving sufficient men to hold this
height, he pushed on to reinforce Geary. Before he got up,
Geary had been engaged for about three hours against a vastly
superior force. The night was so dark that the men could not
distinguish one from another except by the light of the flashes
of their muskets. In the darkness and uproar Hooker’s teamsters
became frightened and deserted their teams. The mules also
became frightened, and breaking loose from their fastenings
stampeded directly towards the enemy. The latter, no doubt,
took this for a charge, and stampeded in turn. By four o’clock
in the morning the battle had entirely ceased, and our “cracker
line” was never afterward disturbed.

In securing possession of Lookout Valley, Smith lost one man
killed and four or five wounded. The enemy lost most of his
pickets at the ferry, captured. In the night engagement of the
28th-9th Hooker lost 416 killed and wounded. I never knew the
loss of the enemy, but our troops buried over one hundred and
fifty of his dead and captured more than a hundred.

After we had secured the opening of a line over which to bring
our supplies to the army, I made a personal inspection to see
the situation of the pickets of the two armies. As I have
stated, Chattanooga Creek comes down the centre of the valley to
within a mile or such a matter of the town of Chattanooga, then
bears off westerly, then north-westerly, and enters the
Tennessee River at the foot of Lookout Mountain. This creek,
from its mouth up to where it bears off west, lay between the
two lines of pickets, and the guards of both armies drew their
water from the same stream. As I would be under short-range
fire and in an open country, I took nobody with me, except, I
believe, a bugler, who stayed some distance to the rear. I rode
from our right around to our left. When I came to the camp of
the picket guard of our side, I heard the call, “Turn out the
guard for the commanding general.” I replied, “Never mind the
guard,” and they were dismissed and went back to their tents.
Just back of these, and about equally distant from the creek,
were the guards of the Confederate pickets. The sentinel on
their post called out in like manner, “Turn out the guard for
the commanding general,” and, I believe, added, “General
Grant.” Their line in a moment front-faced to the north, facing
me, and gave a salute, which I returned.

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