Sunday, May 30, 2021

Wilson's Creek battlefield: Bed that held Gen. Lyon's body and multimedia kiosks among the highlights of renovated museum

Exhibit details action by the Pulaski Light Artillery Battle (NPS photo)
The bed on which the body of Union Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon (left) was laid is the centerpiece of the newly renovated visitor center and museum at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in southwest Missouri.

Officials last week unveiled the $3.5 million renovation project, which expands exhibit space by about 1,800 feet, park Superintendent Sarah Cunningham told the Picket in an email. The work was supported by Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation and the National Park Foundation.

“The new exhibits will highlight more of the park’s collection Civil War artifacts as well as new audio-visual exhibits. This makes it possible for people to view historic weapons demonstrations and digitally view fragile artifacts and other items in storage,” she said of kiosks and other features. 

The Battle of Wilson's Creek on Aug. 10, 1861 -- the second major battle of the war -- resulted in a Confederate victory after its forces made multiple assaults on Union lines. Federal troops retreated to Springfield. 

Though victorious on the field, the Southerners were not able to pursue the Union forces. Lyon lost the battle and his life, but he achieved his goal: Missouri remained largely under Union control.

Visitors will see approximately 90 percent of all edged weapons and firearms from the park’s museum collection and will learn the history of 19th-century firearms technology and how it affected the outcome of the war, Cunningham said.

(Morphy Auctions)
A featured firearm is a rare Model 1860 Henry repeating rifle (above), recently donated to the park by the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Foundation. While the weapon was made in 1864 and has no connection to the fighting at Wilson’s Creek, the rifle belonged to George Fulton, a Missouri veteran of the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the Civil War. The Henry was among the most technologically advanced weapons of the conflict.

Cunningham said the park will be able to display additional items from the collection of Trans-Mississippi Theater artifacts purchased from Dr. Thomas Sweeney in 2005.  

The original “Lyon bed" (below) belonging to the John Ray family previously was displayed at the historic Ray House. Park officials wanted to feature the artifact and secure its future in the climate-controlled museum. A reproduction bed is now visible in the Ray House.  

While the Ray House was not hit by fire, it was in the thick of the fighting during the battle.

The Lyon bed in park museum. (National Park Service photo)
“As soon as the battle ended, the family emerged from the cellar to find their farm house was now a hospital, and immediately began to assist medical personnel in treating the wounded and dying,” the park says on its web site.

“The children made many trips to secure water from the springhouse for the suffering soldiers. Later, the body of General Nathaniel Lyon was brought to the house and examined before it was removed to Springfield under a flag of truce. Roxanna (John Ray’s wife) supplied a counterpane, or bedspread, to cover the body. While most of the wounded were quickly removed to Springfield, one soldier would convalesce with the Rays for several weeks before he could be moved. In addition, most of the family's livestock and crops were gone, foraged by hungry soldiers.

The visitor center before (top) and after the renovation (NPS photo)
According to the Aurora Advertiser newspaper, two new exhibits showcase the loading and firing of artillery and their transportation. Other cases included possessions of civilians caught up in the fighting.

An exhibit focuses on the Confederate Pulaski Light Artillery Battery. The Arkansas unit engaged in a furious exchange with a Federal battery at Wilson’s Creek, and it checked Lyon’s advance.

A 2018 article in Emerging Civil details the battery's trial by fire and the acclaim it received for helping turn the tide of the battle.

Artillery piece and limber in the foreground (NPS photo)

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Ohio cavalry trooper finally laid to rest after cremains were unclaimed

Descendants of the 4th Ohio Cavalry conducted a burial service for a Civil War veteran whose cremated remains were unclaimed after he died in 1904. Alfred Jost, a native of Germany, served with the unit for two years until 1863, when he received a disability discharge. He apparently became a barkeeper in Cincinnati. The service was held May 21 in a Cincinnati suburb. -- Article

Monday, May 17, 2021

A first: Sign in Korean and Spanish at Ox Hill (Chantilly) battlefield park reaches target audiences in a very diverse Virginia county

Before the Civil War sesquicentennial began 10 years ago, officials in Fairfax County, Va., put up 18 signs in a park that recalls the Battle of Ox Hill, or Chantilly. The signs detail an attempt by Confederates led by Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to cut off a Union retreat from Manassas on Sept. 1, 1862.

The text -- typical of the time-- was all in English. But something interesting has happened since they were erected.

The suburban Washington, D.C., community became more and more diverse and, as of this year, an estimated 30-38 percent of residents in neighborhoods near the green space speak a language other than English at home.

Ox Hill Battlefield Park recently got a new sign – written in Korean and Spanish – that speaks to these relative newcomers to the area. The unveiling in early May was linked to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Virginia-based Civil War Trails, which has 1,350 markers across six states, installed its first bilingual sign at the site, which is surrounded by apartments, townhomes and commercial development.

“The onus is on us to write signs that are exciting, inclusive and popular,” Executive Director Drew Gruber told the Picket. “People need to find themselves in that story.”

And immigrants are a big part of the Civil War story. A staggering one in four soldiers in the Union army were immigrant. They fought for a variety of reasons.

Sign is in Spanish and Korean (Photos courtesy of Civil War Trails, click to enlarge)
Civil War Trails worked with the county, the Old Baldy Civil War Round Table in New Jersey, the Bull Run Civil War Round Table nearby and other partners on the project.

They took an old sign and crowd sourced text in Korean and Spanish for a brief summary of the battle. There also is a “sidebar” on the marker describing the percentage of immigrants in the country in 1860.

It’s important for the international visitors to relate to the 4.8-acre park and that local history be accessible, said Gruber.

“Very much like them, there were soldiers on both sides who did not speak English,” he said.

Civil War Trails got a big boost from rich, deep demographic information that Fairfax County keeps. Fairfax County has about 400,000 residents with Hispanic/Latino or Asian/Pacific Islander ethnicity, according to online data.

It then worked with local consultants on the language to be sure it was conversant and the marker used culturally appropriate terms. An example: Camp was used rather than the term bivouac, Gruber said.

Fanciful depiction of Kearny's charge (Augustus Tholey, Wikipedia)
Jeremy Suh, a Korean translator and interpreter in the area, contributed to the project.

“The DC metro area, known for memorials and historic sites, has almost no Korean signs nor translations available. The area has 150,000 Koreans. I grew up in Korea, moving here at the age of 26, living here since,” he told the Picket.

“As a first-generation immigrant, I heard about the Civil War and my knowledge and understanding remained very superficial. I believe this is common with other Korean immigrants. But this sign, located in the very heart of Korean community, explains the Civil War in their own language (and) will connect them, allowing them to appreciate the rich American history and give them a sense of pride for this country.  I hope this is just the beginning of similar efforts for the future.”

Lindsey Baker with Baker Cruz Services said the company was “thrilled to be able to provide a translation for the sign and increase accessibility for visitors who prefer Spanish. We love contributing to projects that are dedicated to expanding everyone's understanding of our shared history."

The Bull Run Civil War Round Table ensured an accurate narrative of the battle and the Fairfax County Park Authority approved the final content and location of the pedestal to capture visitors as they enter the park, Civil War Trails said.

Monuments to generals Kearny and Stevens (Fairfax County Park Authority)

Each Civil War Trails sign has a sponsoring member. The nonprofit group uses technology that allows for piecemeal interpretation updates or repairs.

Civil War Trails hopes the new sign gets the attention of those who come to Ox Hill Battlefield Park for a walk or exercise. Perhaps the Korean- or Spanish-speaking visitor will spend a few minutes learning about the only major Civil War engagement in Fairfax County.

The National Park Service provides this summary of the Battle of Chantilly, where there were about 2,000 casualties and an “indecisive” outcome.

“Making a wide flank march, Jackson hoped to cut off the Union retreat from (Second) Bull Run. On September 1, beyond Chantilly Plantation on the Little River Turnpike near Ox Hill, Jackson sent his divisions against two Union divisions under (Phil) Kearny and (Isaac) Stevens. Confederate attacks were stopped by fierce fighting during a severe thunderstorm. Union generals Stevens and Kearny were both killed. Recognizing that his army was still in danger at Fairfax Courthouse, Maj. Gen. Pope ordered the retreat to continue to Washington. With Pope no longer a threat, Lee turned his army west and north to invade Maryland, initiating the Maryland Campaign and the battles of South Mountain and Antietam.”

New sign at park (Civil War Trails)
Most of the battlefield has been swallowed by development but the site does have some important portions. “Ox Hill Battlefield Park today is a calming refuge amid a heavily commercial area,” the county says.

“It's a lovely place for a thoughtful stroll. Interpretive kiosks at the park present information about the battle and its significance and offer insights into some of the men who were wounded on this land.”

Gruber said Civil War Trails has seen a growth in members who help sponsor and pay for signs and brochures. And the messages and audience are getting more diverse.

They are looking into putting a sign in Frederick, Md., in Spanish. “The idea has to come from the locality and work for municipal residents and the traveler.”

Interest in the program has picked up since violence in Charlottesvillle, Va., and Charleston, S.C.

Gruber cites the  “Road to Freedom” partnership with the American Battlefield Trust that highlights Virginia’s African-American Civil War experience as an example of expanding the audience.

Most of the battlefield is developed except for this green space

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Atlanta Campaign threw thousands of men at each other in combat. Guest columnist Charlie Crawford tells us about 8 of them

One of the Rebel forts seized in Atlanta (George Barnard/Library of Congress)
This week marks the 157th anniversary of the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign, a prolonged Federal offensive that would have a profound impact on the outcome of the Civil War.

The Picket asked Charlie Crawford (left), president emeritus of the Georgia Battlefields Association, to write about individuals involved in the fighting. Crawford, who has led or taken part in countless tours of battlefields in the region, focuses, with one exception, on soldiers who were non-military before the war and – if they survived -- returned to civilian life. The following biographies have been edited.

You can make a good argument that the Atlanta Campaign, as it later came to be known, began when Generals Grant and Sherman discussed strategy during a train trip from Nashville to Cincinnati on 18 and 19 March 1864. Grant indicated he would take command of U.S. forces in Virginia with the objective of destroying Confederate forces in that state, principally the army commanded by General R.E. Lee, while Sherman should advance with his forces south from the Chattanooga area with the objective of destroying Confederate forces in Georgia, principally the army commanded by General J.E. Johnston.

For the remaining days of March and the month of April, Sherman would order a concentration around Chattanooga of U.S. forces from Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia. Gathering supplies and planning for their subsequent movement was also critical. 

Around Dalton, Ga., Gen. Johnston had done much to restore the capabilities and morale of Confederate forces over the first four months of 1864. He, too, had to concentrate his forces and plan a strategy for the U.S. advance he knew would be coming once the spring rains abated and the roads dried enough to allow for movement of the combined 180,000 men and up to 100,000 horses and mules that the opposing forces would concentrate in northwest Georgia. 

On 7 May 1864, Sherman and a group of his subordinate generals stood on the slightly elevated ground in front of a doctor’s house and watched as the U.S. 4th Army Corps turned southward toward Tunnel Hill and the U.S. 23rd Army Corps marched east before turning south toward Dalton.

The movement of these troops is often cited as the beginning of the campaign, and a historical marker at the intersection of GA 2 and GA 209 is titled “Campaign for Atlanta Began Here.”

Many men would find their fates conjoined over the next four months.

Leonidas Polk and Peter Simonson, Pine Mountain

Leonidas Polk (left) was from North Carolina and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1827, but within six months, he resigned from the Army to study for the ministry. When the Civil War began, he was Episcopal bishop of Louisiana but approached his West Point friend Jefferson Davis and offered to serve the Confederate States army.

Davis made Polk a brigadier general. Polk proved to have an inclination to misunderstand orders or refuse to follow them and he had an uneven record on the battlefield.

By early May 1864, he was a lieutenant general leading Confederate forces in Mississippi and was ordered to bring three divisions to Georgia to reinforce Gen. Johnston. By 14 June 1864, he was commanding a corps in Johnston’s army, and his headquarters was at the Hardage house on the north side of Burnt Hickory Road a few miles from Kennesaw Mountain. A Georgia Historical Commission marker marks the site.

Gen. Johnston passed the house along with Lt. Gen. William Hardee on the way to inspect the position of one of Hardee’s divisions on Pine Mountain. Johnston invited Polk to come along. Once atop the mountain, the generals and some of their staffs stood near the position of a four-gun artillery battery and observed the U.S. Army lines to the north and west. 

Position of 5th Indiana where it fired at Confederates (Courtesy of GBA)
Riding along the U.S. Army position were Gen. Sherman and some of his subordinate generals.  Through field glasses, Sherman noticed the conspicuous group atop Pine Mountain and surmised that it included general officers trying to get a better perspective on the situation.

Sherman directed Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard, commanding the 4th Corps, to have cannon fire directed at the group. Howard turned to the commander of the artillery of his first division, Capt. Peter Simonson, to execute Sherman’s order. Nearby, Simonson found a familiar artillery unit, the 5th Indiana Artillery Battery, which Simonson had formerly commanded. The firing commenced, and the third shell passed through Polk’s chest, killing him instantly. His successor, Alexander P. Stewart, proved to be a more successful corps commander.

Simonson himself would be killed two days later by a rifle shot while he was directing the placement of an artillery battery.

It was unusual for a captain to be acting chief of division artillery, and the comments made when he was killed reflected not only sorrow that his personality would be missed but also concern about replacing his military skills.  

A monument marking Polk’s death site (left) is on Pine Mountain, and a Cobb County historical marker relating to Simonson’s death is on the east side of Frank Kirk Road.  Despite the extensive development of Cobb County, which now has nearly 800,000 residents, three of the gun positions at the Polk death site are still discernible, as is the position of the 5th Indiana Battery that fired the shots. 

Both sites are on private land, so they are in danger of being bulldozed away.

Edward Walthall and John Geary, Peachtree Creek

The 20 July 1864 Battle of Peachtree Creek in Atlanta brought Walthall and Geary together to oppose each other.

Edward Walthall (left) was a lawyer, not a professional soldier. When the Civil War began, he left his position as a district attorney and joined a Mississippi regiment as a first lieutenant. By July 1864, he was a major general commanding a Confederate division. He led that division at Peachtree Creek. His attack had initial success, collapsing the right flank of the U.S. division led by Maj. Gen. John Geary. 

He is most positively remembered for being better than his predecessor as division commander and for his later rearguard action, along with Forrest, that prevented the destruction of the Army of Tennessee during Hood's retreat from Nashville in December 1864.

Geary was also not a professional soldier but a surveyor and railroad builder. He was wounded five times while serving as a volunteer officer in the Mexican War but returned to civilian life until he was appointed postmaster of San Francisco in 1849. He was elected mayor of San Francisco in 1850 and then appointed territorial governor of Kansas in 1856. He returned to his home state of Pennsylvania and remarried after his first wife died.

He joined the volunteer army when the Civil War began and fought in several battles in the Eastern Theater, including Gettysburg, before his division was transferred west in September 1863.

Peachtree Creek map locates Walthall and Geary on the left (Courtesy of GBA)
On 20 July 1864, Geary rallied his men and ultimately repulsed Walthall’s attack at Peachtree Creek. When U.S. forces captured Atlanta on 2 September 1864, Sherman logically appointed the former mayor and territorial governor as military administrator of the city. He would serve the same role in Savannah when that city was occupied by U.S. forces in December 1864. 

His height (6 feet, 6 inches) and his proficiency at administration -- rather than his tactical or leadership skills -- were the features most used to describe his Civil War performance.

After the war, Walthall returned to the practice of law in Mississippi until appointed in 1885 to the U.S. Senate, where he served until his death in 1898. Most people living in the Collier Hills section of Atlanta would not be able to explain why a road in their neighborhood is named Walthall Drive. 

Geary returned to Pennsylvania and served as governor from 1867 to 1873. In February 1873, less than a month after leaving office, he died of a heart attack while preparing breakfast for his infant son. 

Sul Ross and John Croxton, Brown’s Mill 

Lawrence Sullivan “Sul” Ross (left) was born in 1838 in Iowa but raised in Texas, a territory when his family moved there in 1839, and a state by 1845. He attended Baylor University and then Wesleyan University in Alabama but fought Comanches during the summer breaks, being badly wounded in 1858. In the summer of 1860, he again fought Comanches while serving with the Texas Rangers.

When the Civil War came, Ross enlisted in the Confederate army as a private but was soon made an officer. He distinguished himself as a cavalry officer in several battles in the Western Theater. By July 1863, a brigade was created specifically for Ross to lead as a brigadier general, though he suffered recurring attacks of fever and chills every three days from September 1863 to March 1864 due to malaria.

He was a combative sort, which is a desirable trait for a cavalry commander, but sometimes it got in the way of mission success.

He was still leading the brigade when it was transferred along with Polk’s infantry to northwest Georgia in May 1864, and it endured 86 engagements with U.S. forces over the next four months. At the cavalry Battle of Brown’s Mill on 30 July 1864, Ross was briefly captured but was recovered by Confederate forces within minutes. His brigade led Hood’s forces into Tennessee in November 1864. By the time Ross was granted a furlough in March 1865, he had participated in 135 combat actions. 

After the war, Ross prospered as a farmer and rancher and fathered eight children over the next 17 years. In 1873, Ross became a county sheriff.  In 1875, he served for over two months at a state constitutional convention and then served as a state senator 1880-1882. He was governor of Texas 1887-1891, declining to run for a third two-year term. He was a very successful president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) from 1891 until his death in 1898. Sul Ross State University is named in his honor.

Bench at Brown's Mill battlefield park (Picket photo)
John Croxton was born in 1837 and raised in Kentucky by a slave-holding family, from which he became estranged because of his ardent abolitionism. He graduated from Yale University and practiced law until being commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the 4th Kentucky U.S. Infantry in October 1861. He commanded infantry units at the battles of Perryville and Chickamauga. 

His regiment was reorganized in February 1864 as mounted infantry, and it served in a cavalry brigade during the Atlanta Campaign, skirmishing frequently from May through July when the Battle of Brown’s Mill in Coweta County brought it face to face with Sul Ross’s Confederate brigade.

Croxton’s regiment lost heavily at Brown’s Mill (a Confederate victory). Croxton, along with every other officer serving under McCook at Brown's Mill, lost a large part of his command.  He had already performed well enough before then to be promoted to brigadier general once he finished his two-week trek on foot back to Federal lines. 

(Civil War Picket photo)
He led a brigade opposing Hood’s invasion of Tennessee in late 1864, where he again faced Ross’s cavalry at the 15 December 1864 Battle of Nashville and clashed with Confederate cavalry almost daily during Hood’s retreat.

In late March 1865, Croxton led a brigade during Wilson’s raid across Alabama into Georgia.  Maj. Gen. James Wilson detached Croxton’s brigade to operate independently against the Confederate supply depot and military academy at Tuscaloosa, and Croxton burned not only military stores but also several buildings of the University of Alabama before defeating a Confederate cavalry force near Talladega on 23 April 1865. He finally rejoined Wilson in Macon, Ga., after operating independently for almost a month.

After the Confederate surrenders, Croxton served as military governor of southwest Georgia until December 1865, when he returned to Kentucky to practice law. In 1872, President Grant appointed Croxton as U.S. minister to Bolivia. Croxton died there from tuberculosis in 1874.

The Atlanta Campaign brought together Ross and Croxton, two men who had rich lives outside their time as soldiers.

Walter Gresham and Randall Gibson
Bald (Leggett’s) Hill, Battle of Atlanta

Walter Q. Gresham (left) was from Indiana and a conservative Democrat who opposed slavery. He practiced law starting in 1854. When the war came, he sought a commission in the volunteer army but was rebuffed by the governor because of a political disagreement. Instead, he enlisted in the army and by March 1862 was a colonel commanding an infantry regiment that he then led at Corinth and through the Vicksburg Campaign.

By the time the 17th Corps in which he served arrived in Georgia in June 1864, he was leading a division as a 32-year-old brigadier general. He didn't have that long to demonstrate his capabilities and his command didn’t see heavy action until July. On 20 July 1864, as his division approached Atlanta after passing through Decatur, he was shot in the knee near the Bald Hill, now the site of the Moreland Avenue interchange with I-20, a disabling wound that left him with a permanent limp.

Like Gibson, Ross, Walthall and Croxton, his performance during the Atlanta Campaign was competent.

Gresham returned to the practice of law until 1869, when President Grant appointed him to the U.S. District Court, where he served until April 1883, when President Arthur appointed him postmaster general.  He next served as secretary of the treasury for two months until President Arthur appointed him to the U.S. Circuit Court in October 1884. President Cleveland selected Gresham to be Secretary of State in March 1893, and he died in that office in 1895.

Randall L. Gibson was raised in Louisiana. His great-great-grandfather was a free man of color who married a white woman, though this fact was hidden from public view. Gibson went north for education and graduated from Yale University in 1853. He became a lawyer, served as U.S. attaché in Madrid, and raised sugar cane in Louisiana. When the war began, he became captain of a Louisiana artillery battery until being appointed colonel of an infantry regiment. He led the regiment at Shiloh, Perryville and Stones River, serving several times as acting brigade commander, as he did again at Chickamauga and Chattanooga.

Gibson's brigade was not sent forward to exploit the 22 July 1864
Confederate assault, a central focus of the Atlanta Cyclorama. (Library of Congress)
When the Atlanta Campaign began, he had his own brigade as a 31-year-old brigadier general. On 22 July 1864, despite being in support of the Confederate attack a mile north of the Bald Hill, an action that is the central focus of the Atlanta Cyclorama, Gibson’s brigade was not ordered to exploit the breach.

Gibson and his brigade participated in Hood’s invasion of Tennessee in late 1864, and Gibson ended the war defending Mobile, Alabama.  He returned to Louisiana, practicing law and trying to raise sugar cane in the absence of slave labor. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives 1875-1883 and the U.S. Senate 1883-1892, also serving as a regent of the Smithsonian Institution and president of the board of administrators of Tulane University. Like Gresham, he died in office.

Though their units never fought each other directly, Gresham and Gibson exemplify the many men in their early 30s who became generals by the third year of the war, then went back to their civilian occupations and lives of public service.           


Except for Capt. Simonson, the above biographies focus on generals; but what of the 180,000 or so other soldiers who participated in the Atlanta Campaign? In round numbers, about 8,000 were killed in action, 42,000 were wounded, and 18,000 were captured or reported missing. 

Many of the wounded survived, though some with permanent disabilities, and others survived prison camps. Many of those not killed in action would die of disease, the war’s greatest killer, and others would live with the after effects of malaria, typhoid, dysentery, measles, and other diseases they caught while serving.

Most would go home and try to reconstruct their lives, but they would all be able to say that they had been in the great Civil War that tested whether this nation would long endure. They could also say that they participated in the campaign that likely determined the outcome of that war, because the fall of Atlanta in September 1864 significantly bolstered Lincoln’s chances for reelection, and it was clear that a Lincoln administration would accept nothing less than victory in the fight for a reunited nation that was free of slavery.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

USS Chattanooga: Steamboat opened 'Cracker Line' to feed hungry Union troops. Students think they may have found its wreckage

USS Chattanooga reportedly was made with parts from other vessels
On either side of dark area are wood framing and planks. Sonar image
provided by UTC may show part of paddlewheel (circular area on top right) 
An anthropology professor and his students believe they may have found the wreckage of a steamboat that was a crucial part of the
Union’s “Cracker Line,” which provided supplies and food to famished troops near Chattanooga, Tenn., in fall 1863.

Morgan Smith, an assistant anthropology professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and his students used sonar to scour the bottom of the Tennessee River near downtown, according to a press release from the school.

The team believe images it captured are of the USS Chattanooga, a homemade craft celebrated for its relief of Federal troops who were about to go on the offensive against Confederate forces that had vanquished them weeks earlier at Chickamauga

“It had a big role in American history and it is unrecorded as far as archaeological sites go,” Smith told students as they set out in a pontoon boat in mid-April. Smith believes a circular shape noted in the sonar may be part of the USS Chattanooga’s paddlewheel, according to the release.

UTC says the next step is to compare the sonar imagery with archival data to get an idea of the length and width of the boat. Construction techniques used during the Civil War will be examined to see if the wreck matches.

Officials say the boat sat on the northern side of the river after the war, across from what is now the Tennessee Aquarium and Riverfront. Eventually, it fell apart and sank.

Smith likens the Chattanooga to a "Frankenstein" -- made from parts scavenged from other ships, according to UTC.

When Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant arrived in October 1863, he quickly determined the Army of the Cumberland, which was besieged by the enemy, needed a new supply route.

His forces seized Brown’s Ferry at Moccasin Point, a spot that could be reached by Federal supply boats, which brought food, uniforms and reinforcements. The USS Chattanooga is said to be the first steamboat built by the Federals on the upper Tennessee River, at Bridgeport. It was put together in less than a month.

Assistant quartermaster William Le Duc, who commanded the improvised and flat-bottom USS Chattanooga, later wrote about a successful run down the river in late October:

USS Chattanooga (Wikipedia)
“And in due time we tied the steamboat and barges safely to shore, with 40,000 rations and 39,000 pounds of forage, within five miles of General Hooker's men, who had half a breakfast ration left in haversacks; and within eight or ten miles of Chattanooga, where four cakes of hard bread and a quarter pound of pork made a three days' ration. In Chattanooga there were but four boxes of hard bread left in the commissary warehouses on the morning of the 30th [October].

"About midnight I started an orderly to report to General Hooker the safe arrival of the rations. The orderly returned about sunrise, and reported that the news went through the camps faster than his horse, and the soldiers were jubilant, and cheering "The Cracker line open. Full rations, boys! Three cheers for the Cracker line," as if we had won another victory; and we had.”

A 2014 post in Emerging Civil War by author Frank Varney challenges what he calls the myth of the Cracker Line. He argues descriptions of starving Union troops were exaggerated and that it was in Grant’s interest to depict conditions under deposed Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans as being particularly bad.

Professor Morgan Smith (right) with students on the site (UTC)