Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/162

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

rises in slopes so steep that they were insurmountable by an army, until its summit is fourteen hundred feet above the rapid current. A mile or so eastward is Missionary Ridge, roughly parallel to Lookout, but much lower and more accessible. Its top is really a succession of hills or knobs. Between these ridges is Chattanooga Creek, which enters the Tennessee near Chattanooga. Still to the eastward of Missionary Ridge is the famous Chickamauga Creek. Looking westward from Lookout summit, the view is wild and picturesque in the extreme. Extending to the base of the mountain the valley of Lookout Creek is seen in the immediate foreground. Beyond that is the rough Sand Mountain, whose name tells the story of its rock structure and suggests its scraggly covering of trees and shrubs. To the northwest the river winds in its narrow gorge in the plateau for a few miles and disappears around Sand Mountain. North of the river Sand Mountain is continued and known as Walden's Ridge.

Returning to the military movements, we find Rosecrans on the Cumberland plateau, in the vicinity of McMinnville. For some time be was busy repairing the seventy miles of railroad leading from Murfreesboro towards Chattanooga, which the confederates had destroyed in their movement southward. Some of the bridges of this road were destroyed and rebuilt four times in the course of the war. The Chattanooga and Nashville railroad passed to Stevenson, a small town about thirty miles down the river from Chattanooga, where it joined the railroad leading from Chattanooga to Memphis on the Mississippi. Stevenson was the federal base of supplies. The road then crosses the river at Bridgeport, crosses through a ravine, a spur of Sand Mountain into Lookout Valley, and thence passes around the northern end of Lookout Mountain into Chattanooga. To protect this line Rosecrans was obliged to detail thousands of his troops; each bridge was guarded by a detachment of soldiers who generally had built a stockade in the vicinity. The country was swarming with detached bands of hostile 'guerrillas' who would wreck a train or burn a bridge and then escape.

The union commander had open to him two approaches to Chattanooga. He could advance over Walden's Ridge directly upon the city, but this route was beset with difficulties. The roads were very poor and led over the hilly, wooded plateau. After a rain they speedily became impassable to wagons. His base of supplies and nearest railroad point was at Stevenson, from which he would be compelled to haul supplies for the army in the presence of an enemy well supplied with cavalry; moreover, he would have to cross the river in boats at Chattanooga in the face of a vigilant foe. In spite of its difficulties this was the way which Rosecrans was generally expected to take, as it was thought that Burnside, who was near Knoxville. up the valley, would come down and join in the movement.