On Saturday, October 24, 1863 General Ulysses Grant ordered a supply line to be opened at Brown’s Ferry on the Tennessee River. If successful, Union bases in Alabama could more directly supply Chattanooga rather than using the lengthy, more difficult mountain trails north of the Tennessee River.
On Tuesday, October 27 a beachhead was established on the south side of the Tennessee River west of Chattanooga, and Union engineers successfully constructed a bridge across the waterway. On the 28th Union troops under General O.O. Howard reached Brown's Ferry, opening what became known as the “cracker line.”
That same night Confederate troops of James Longstreet’s corps attempted unsuccessfully to destroy the bridge and close the Union supply effort. Their failure guaranteed that Grant would successfully relieve the 40,000 Union troops at Chattanooga.