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Opening “the cracker line” the U. S. S. Chattanooga was the first steamboat built by the Federals on the upper Tennessee River. Had the gunboats on the Ohio been able to come up the Tennessee River nearly three hundred miles, to the assistance of Rosecrans, Bragg could never have bottled him up in Chattanooga. But between Florence and Decatur, Alabama, Muscle Shoals lay in the stream, making the River impassable. While Bragg's pickets invested the railroad and River, supplies could not be brought up from Bridgeport; and besides, with the exception of one small steamboat (the Dunbar), the Federals had no boats on the River. General W. F. Smith, chief Engineer of the Army of the Cumberland, had established a saw-mill with an old engine at Bridgeport for the purpose of getting out lumber from logs rafted down the River, with which to construct pontoons. Here Captain Arthur Edwards, Assistant Quartermaster, had been endeavoring since the siege began to build a steamboat consisting of a flat-bottom scow, with engine, boiler, and stern-wheel mounted upon it. On October 24th, after many difficulties and discouragements had been overcome, the vessel was launched successfully and christened the Chattanooga. on the 29th she made her trial trip. That very night, Hooker, in the battle of Wauhatchie, definitely established control of the new twelve-mile “cracker line” from Kelley's Ferry, which Grant had ordered for the relief of the starving Army. The next day the little Chattanooga, with steam up, was ready to start from Bridgeport with a heavy load of the much-needed supplies, and her arrival was anxiously awaited at Kelley's Ferry, where the wagon-trains were all ready to rush forward the rations and forage to Chattanooga. The mechanics were still at work upon the little vessel's unfinished pilot-house and boiler-deck while she and the two barges she was to tow were being loaded, and at 4 A. M. On November 30th she set out to make the 45-mile journey against unfavorable head-winds.

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