Today in History:

77 Series I Volume XXXI-I Serial 54 - Knoxville and Lookout Mountain Part I


No. 4.

Report of Brig. General William F. Smith, U. S. Army, Chief Engineer, Department of the Cumberland.

Chattanooga, November 4, 1863.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations for making a lodgment on the south side of the river at Brown's Ferry.

On the 19th of October, I was instructed by General Rosecrans to reconnoiter the river in the vicinity of Williams' Island, with a view to making the island a cover for a steamboat landing and storehouses, and began the examination near the lower end of the island. Following the river up, I found on the opposite bank, above the head of the island, a sharp range of hills, whose base was washed by the river. This range extended up the river nearly to Lookout Creek, and was broken at Brown's Ferry by a narrow gorge, through which ran the road to the old ferry, and also flowed a small creek. The valley between this ridge of hills and Raccoon Mountain was narrow, and a lodgment effected there would give us the command of the Kelley's Ferry road, and seriously interrupt the communications of the enemy up Lookout Valley and down to the river on Raccoon Mountain. The ridge seemed thinly picketed, and the evidences were against the occupation of that part of the valley by a large force of the enemy, and it seemed quite possible to take by surprise what could not have been carried by assault, if heavily occupied by an opposing force.

The major-general commanding the geographical division, and the major-general commanding the department, visited with me the ferry a few days after this reconnaissance, and were agreed as to the importance of the position by itself, and especially in connection with the movements to be made from Bridgeport to open the river, and I was directed to make the necessary arrangements for the expedition to effect the lodgment. To do this, 50 pontoons, with oars, to carry-crew and 25 armed men, were prepared, and also 2 flat-boats, carrying 40 and 75 men. The force detailed for the expedition consisted of the brigades of Brigadier-General Turchin and Brigadier-General Hazen, with three batteries,to be posted under the direction of Major Mendenhall, assistant to General Brannan, chief of artillery.

Sunday, the 25th of October, I was assigned to the command of the expedition, and the troops were distributed as follows: Fifteen hundred men, under Brigadier-General Hazen, were to embark in the boats and pass down the river a distance of about 9 miles, seven of which would be under the fire of the pickets of the enemy. It was deemed better to take this risk than to attempt to launch the boats near the ferry, because they would move more rapidly than intelligence could be taken by infantry pickets, and, in addition, though the enemy might be alarmed, he would not know where the landing was to be attempted, and therefore could not concentrate with certainty against us. The boats were called off in sections, and the points at which each section was to land were carefully selected and pointed out to the officers in command and range fires kept burning, lest in the night the upper points should be mistaken. The remainder of General Turchin's brigade and General Hazen's brigade were marched across, and encamped in the woods out of sight, near the ferry, ready to move down and cover the landing of the boats,