Loyal readers of Seeing the Scenic City, and family and friends know that I love Civil War history, or any type of U.S. history, really.
My parents visited a few weekends ago. My dad loves Civil War history as much as I do, so we always try to find time to check out a local site. This time we decided to see Brown’s Ferry Tavern.
Brown’s Ferry Tavern is the oldest standing structure in Chattanooga, constructed in 1803. It was established by John Brown, a prominent Cherokee businessman.
One of the Trail of Tears routes passed by the tavern. Brown and his family were removed from the site during the Trail of Tears. He returned to the site afterward.
The tavern was also witness to the Battle of Brown’s Ferry, which occurred on October 27, 1863. This Civil War battle ensured the opening of the “cracker line” or the supply line, for the Union troops.
To read about the Browns Ferry Federal Road hike on Moccasin Bend that visits the opposite end of this battle on the Tennessee River, click Here .
The property is preserved by the American Battlefield trust, but Brown’s Ferry Tavern is private property, so you are not able to walk up to the building and peer inside. We skirted around the edge of the property, and took various photographs from our vantage points.
I am counting down the days until cooler weather arrives, because I am looking forward to resuming hiking.
I have been Googling Chattanooga area hikes, and I am curating quite the list. It has been frustrating to discover all of these wonderful places, and know that it’s just not the best time to attempt a 3 mile hike.
This morning I was looking at hikes on Moccasin Bend. I found the Browns Ferry Federal Road Trail, and I got so excited about it, that we had to go right NOW.
The weather has been cooler all weekend because it has been raining on and off, and it was mostly cloudy, keeping the sun at bay. I had found the trail early in the morning, about 9:30, and convinced Derek to go. We were at the trail parking lot by 10 a.m.
The reason why I just couldn’t wait a few weeks is because the trail is a historic one, and I love history.
Browns Ferry Federal Road was a road in use since the early 1800s. A “trace” of the road on Moccasin Bend, as noted by signage on the trail, was discovered by LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), as well as the use of old maps. The trail opened up to the public in 2013.
In October 1863, the city of Chattanooga was under siege by the Confederates. The Union troops were starving, with no way to receive food supplies. The Union devised a plan to open up the supply line.
On Oct. 27, in the early morning hours, the Battle of Brown’s Ferry occurred.
Brig. Gen. William Hazen — fun fact, my last name is Hazen, no relation though, at least we think — commanded groups of men who floated down the Tennessee River in pontoon boats from the city of Chattanooga. They sailed around Moccasin Bend to the crossing site, Brown’s Ferry landing, which was in Confederate hands.
Sailing in the pre-dawn, they achieved the initial element of surprise and were able to cross the river, but were soon discovered by Confederate troops who fired upon them. Union troops were also waiting on the opposite bank (where we stood on the end of the trail) as reinforcements. Ultimately, the Union forces outnumbered the Confederates, who drew back to the south.
This allowed the Union to gain control of the road and open their supply line again. This supply line, and part of the battle became known as the “Cracker Line,” after the hardtack crackers that the soldiers ate.
It was exciting to stand there and picture the men coming up the river in the pontoon boats, as well as the man waiting in position on the shore, and imagine what they must have been thinking.
To see a map of the battle, and to read more about it, visit these two websites:
I own Jeff Shaara’s Civil War novels, one of which, The Smoke of Dawn, is about the Battle of Chattanooga. I have read them before, but not since moving here. I remember there being a chapter about the Cracker Line and the battle of Brown’s Ferry. I am looking forward to rereading this book again, even more so now.
In addition, Browns Ferry Federal Road was also an original segment of the Trail of Tears, or the removal of the Cherokee. This happened in 1838. The Cherokee also gathered around the same spot as the Union soldiers did, crossing the river.
The trail is a 1.2 mile out and back hike. It is mostly woodsy, with some open areas. We actually got lost. There was a section of the trail that looked like it went to the right, but it quickly became overgrown and it was obvious we went the wrong way. Looking at the AllTrails app put us back on the right track though.
It was a little muddy when we went, but that is probably because it has been raining all weekend. There are sections of the trail that have elevated boardwalks.
We saw some interesting flowers, butterflies, spider webs and even a couple of fresh deer prints. The trail ends at the river. A barge came through while we were there. We stayed there for a bit, enjoying the view, and imagining the history that occurred there.
I completed a small bucket list item this weekend!
One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Christmas in Dixie” by Alabama. It has been my favorite song since I was little. I cannot explain why, seeing as I was born and raised in the northeast! More recently they have become one of my favorite bands. The band members are from Fort Payne, and so at the end of the song they sing, “And from Fort Payne, Alabama… Merry Christmas tonight.” We went to Fort Payne for the day and I got to spend a “Christmas in Dixie.”
I never knew much about the boys from Fort Payne, that is until we literally drove past Fort Payne, Alabama, when we were moving from Pennsylvania to Texas, over three years ago.
Living in Texas, there were more country stations on the radio, including a country classics one, which became my favorite. I was introduced to a whole new (well, new to me) section of country music. I kept hearing Alabama song after Alabama song and I enjoyed all of their music.
When we moved to Chattanooga, I realized that Fort Payne was only an hour away from us. I knew that going to Fort Payne during Christmas time would make the trip extra special for me, to make my favorite Christmas song come true for me personally.
We ended up having an activity packed day, and we learned a lot about Fort Payne’s history.
We arrived at lunch time and started out at The Spot, a cafe in downtown.
After lunch, we walked up and down the street. We browsed in a few shops, and admired the Christmas decorations. Seeing all of the banners in town that said “Christmas in Dixie,” was a treat for me.
We walked down a few blocks to the City Park, where there are Alabama statues. We stopped to take a few photos and then we scoped out the park, where a Christmas event would be taking place later on that night.
We walked across the street from there and checked out the Depot Museum. The Depot was built in 1891. Admission was $3 and there were a ton of interesting artifacts donated from Fort Payne residents inside.
Did you know that Alabama was known as the sock capital of the world? We learned at the free Hosiery Museum that during the height of the sock boom, one out of every eight pairs of socks was made in Fort Payne. The Hosiery Museum had machines that made the socks on display, as well as old historical photographs of the town.
From there we walked next door to the Fort Payne Opera House, where we also got a free tour. The Opera House was built in 1891, and still holds performances today, including Alabama! The woman who talked to us at both the Opera House and the Hosiery Museum was wonderful and full of knowledge. I wish I had remembered her name.
Then it was off to the Alabama Museum, the whole reason for the trip. It is a small museum and gift shop, but it is filled to the brim with items from the band members. We ended up buying a Christmas ornament from the gift shop.
After that we checked out the Big Mill Antique Mall, housed in the old hosiery mill. Also in the mill was Vintage Cafe, where we had a mid afternoon light meal.
When it got dark we headed back to the park for their annual “Christmas in the Park” event. There was a bonfire, free concessions, music and a tree lighting.
We had a nice day exploring a new area in a new state. I am glad that we found a lot of different things to do and learned some history of the area. I had worried that Derek would be bored with a whole day devoted to the Alabama band, and it ended up being much more than that!