The question of railroad transportation was an almost paramount one in these campaigns and, as we have seen, was one of the reasons for the military importance of Chattanooga. The modern army with its concentration of men and horses is rarely able to live on the country through which it passes, especially if it is on an offensive campaign and traversing territory through which the enemy has passed. To do so would involve the spreading of the troops over a large area or detaching a considerable force to forage. Sherman's famous march to the sea was a successful instance of a large army living on the country, but he had no active enemy in his front and was passing through the 'garden of the confederacy.' If a railroad or river is not available for transporting supplies, resort must be had to wagon trains.
The average army wagon was drawn by six mules and carried a day's rations for five hundred men. If the distance were such that the wagon could not make a complete trip in one day, more wagons were required. It was even harder to provide food for the horses. When cattle could be driven it would give some relief to the wagon trains. To give a general idea of the magnitude of this work, it is estimated that it required one thousand wagons and six thousand horses to feed an army of fifty thousand-men when they left the railroad or base of supplies for a distance of two days' march. This estimate assumes good roads and no breakdowns or stoppages by the enemy and does not include transporting the sick and wounded or the ammunition and materials of war.
The Louisville and Nashville railroad winds through the plateau following the valleys which the streams have cut. It crosses many streams and deep gorges by wooden bridges which were easy to destroy and difficult to rebuild. Both armies were dependent on this road for their supplies. About Tullahoma the soil, before it was cleared, supported a growth of pines and from the general inhospitality of the region was known as the 'Pine Barrens.' The soil drainage was so easy that in a dry summer there was scarcity of water on the uplands, but in a rain, as one of the federal officers complains, 'The soil became as quicksand after a rain, allowing artillery and wagons to sink to the hub.' Thus the dependence of the two armies upon the same line of railroad was almost absolute.
After the battle of Murfreesboro, Bragg 's policy was one of defense. His position was strong and well taken. His center and depot of supplies was at Tullahoma, where he had thrown up extensive intrenchments. His left was at Shelbyville, about thirty miles to the northwest in the Duck River valley. This town was in a fairly fertile alluvial valley which offered some sustenance for the troops and horses and, further, was a center from which roads diverged in all directions. Moreover, if he were forced from his position, he could retreat to the plateau which ((mid b<' fairly easily defended. To his right from Tul-