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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/156

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rivers flowing lengthwise of the valley arc the Shenandoah and Tennessee. These and the smaller streams have a general direction parallel to the valley trend. They have discovered strata which they can erode and into which they have sunk their channels. The streams on the plateau have no such succeeding parallel strata to guide their course and have cut valleys in an irregular fashion, not unlike the branching of a tree.

Looking at the course of the Tennessee, it would seem that the river could hardly have taken a more roundabout way to the sea. Rising about seventy miles above Chattanooga, it follows the valley trend until it reaches this place. There, instead of continuing about three hundred miles down the valley to the Gulf, the river turns abruptly to the westward and enters the plateau by a deep gorge. Flowing in a meandering course, it passes through northern Alabama and across Tennessee and Kentucky, entering the Ohio River at Paducah, over fifty miles north of its source. It finally reaches the Gulf after a circuitous journey of more than three times the distance that would be required had it taken the course down the valley. Indeed, it is thought that the Tennessee at one time did follow the shorter course, but a tilting of the land together with the rapid erosion eastward of a westward-flowing stream, diverted the river to its present course.

The civil war opened with the Chattanooga region in the. hands of the confederates who also controlled Tennessee and Kentucky to the north and west. Both sides were fully alive to the importance of the position and for over two years it was the objective of the union armies. But at this time Chattanooga was nearly one hundred miles within the confederate lines, which reached from Columbus, a strongly fortified post on the Mississippi, to Cumberland Gap, at the northeast corner of Tennessee, where there was a pass to the Great Valley. At about the center of the line were forts Donelson and Henry, which commanded respectively the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers. These rivers were natural roadways into the confederacy, and it was an important step when Grant captured the forts. The first advance toward Chattanooga had been taken, and from now on until its capture Chattanooga was the goal of some union army in Tennessee.

General Rosecrans was in command of the army which found itself ready to start for Chattanooga, with General Bragg as his opponent. Bragg had attempted an invasion of Kentucky, but was checked at the battle of Stone River near Murfreesboro, which left the two armies facing each other on the Cumberland plateau. Rosecrans's army and supplies were concentrated at Murfreesboro and Bragg bad his center resting at Tullahoma, a straggling village important only as a railroad junction. The Tullahoma campaign which now followed was indecisive, hut is interesting to the student of military history because of the strategy by which Rosecrans forced his adversary to retreat without