Establishing the Cracker Line
— Chattanooga Campaign —
After the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, Union Gen. William S. Rosecrans retreated to Federal occupied Chattanooga, a strategically vital rail center, where Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg laid siege from Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant took command in October and began his efforts to break the siege. Bragg detached forces under Gen. James Longstreet to attack Knoxville as a diversion. After Gen. William T. Sherman reinforced Grant in November, the Federals attacked the heights, and Bragg retreated. The Union army held the city for the rest of the war.
In the autumn of 1863, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant recognized Raccoon Mountain as a pivotal landscape in the campaign to resupply Federal Troops in Chattanooga following the Battle of Chickamauga. Confederate forces had cut all supply lines into Chattanooga, and rations and material were running low. Grant realized that the mountain was lightly defended. A Confederate brigade manned the eastern slopes, and the 28th Alabama Infantry defended the approach from the Tennessee River. Sharpshooters and artillery make the road from Chattanooga to Jasper on the western side of the Tennessee River impassable. Another supply route was needed, as the current was too fast for boat traffic past Kelley's Ferry where the river narrowed as it flowed between Raccoon Mountain and Walden's Ridge.
Union forces sailed from Bridgeport, Alabama, on October 27, 1863, on the steamship Chattanooga
to Kelly's Ferry landing, meeting little resistance. Proceeding through Cummings Gap in Raccoon Mountain (present day US 41 at the Hamilton/Marion County Line) toward Brown's Ferry, they established the Cracker Line (named for the hardtack that soldiers ate) to resupply Chattanooga.
Obar Spring (a few hundred yards to your left), which arises within Raccoon Mountain, was the only year-round source of water in the area. Both sides camped periodically in the area and along Black Creek, which is dry most of the year until it encounters the spring's flow.
Lookout Mountain is the large mountain in front of you and, when weather conditions are just right, an inverted fog layer conceals the peak. Later, the fight for Lookout Mountain would be called "Battle Above the Clouds."(captions)
Raccoon Valley, with Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad bridge on left — Courtesy Library of Congress
Chattanooga and vicinity, 1863 Courtesy Library of Congress