Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/152

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
148
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE PHYSIOGRAPHIC CONTROL OF THE CHATTANOOGA CAMPAIGNS OF THE CIVIL WAR.
By FREDERICK V. EMERSON,

CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

AT the opening of the civil war, the leaders of both sides clearly recognized three regions around which important campaigns must center. The confederacy was at a disadvantage in having no marked natural boundaries. The rivers and mountain led into rather than around it. The territory of the seceding states was roughly divided into three physiographic sections, each of which required a separate force. East of the Appalachians were the Piedmont and coastal plain regions, the struggle for which centered in the vicinity of Richmond. On the west was the Mississippi Valley, the 'gateway to the confederacy.'

The middle section included the rugged portions of Kentucky and Tennessee. By a singular combination of surface features the key to all this area lay in the comparatively small region in the vicinity of Chattanooga. It is the purpose of this paper to trace the relations between the campaigns centering about Chattanooga to the topography of the region—their 'earth control' as the geographers would say.

"Chattanooga," says Fiske, "was the northern gateway to the center of the confederacy. From it radiated railroads to the Ohio, Mississippi, Gulf and Atlantic; through it were the railroad connections of Virginia with the southwest. Its possession by the federal army would isolate Virginia and North Carolina from the western states of the confederacy, and open a way through Georgia to Atlanta and thence to the coast." On the other hand, its control by the confederates gave them the fertile valleys of east Tennessee and allowed them to threaten Kentucky and western Tennessee. They could readily move troops and supplies between the army in Virginia and the forces in the west. The mountaineers in Kentucky and Tennessee were largely unionists and this provided an additional strong incentive for the federals to control the region.

The importance of Chattanooga during the war and the cause of its industrial development since are largely due to physiographic and geological influences. Within a space of a few miles three different geological structures, each having a characteristic physiographic development, approach each other.

Taking these regions in order, the first to the eastward is the Appalachian. It is an apparent jumble of peaks, ranges and valleys, as a glance at the relief map will show. Their ancient crystalline rocks