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Page:Memoirs of Henry Villard, volume 2.djvu/235

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The Reopening of the Tennessee River.—1863

THE very last order General Rosecrans gave to the engineer-in-chief was to make a thorough reconnoissance of the south bank opposite the west side of Moccasin Point. General Smith carried out his instructions on October 19. He found an opening low in the ridge bordering the river, through which a small creek discharged into it, with Brown's Ferry at its mouth. This opening, or gorge, offered a way for landing parties to gain by a rush the first heights rising from 250 to 300 feet to the right and left of it and commanding the narrow valley between them and Lookout Mountain, and the roads running through it towards the town from a lower ferry. From that position the communications of the enemy up the Lookout Valley and over Raccoon Mountain could also be threatened. It was discovered further that the ridge was occupied by only a thin chain of pickets, which it seemed quite practicable to surprise. General Smith was so well satisfied with the feasibility of the proposed lodgement that he immediately matured plans for effecting it without delay. He submitted it to General Thomas, as the new army commander, who laid it, with his approval, before General Grant upon his arrival. The very next morning, the two generals were conducted to the ground by General Smith, who explained the topography and his proposed coup de main. He convinced them of the soundness of his plan, and they authorized him on the spot to proceed with the necessary preparations.

General Smith was assigned to the command of the expedition to be formed for his purposes. The brigades of