We declare a preservation victory as nine deeply historic acres at Brown’s Ferry, outside Chattanooga Tenn., have been saved by the American Battlefield Trust. Better yet, in doing so, we have ensured the permanent protection of an important site on the National Register of Historic Places.
Brown’s Ferry isn’t the most famous of the battles for Chattanooga in the fall of 1863, but it was critical to the campaign’s outcome. The Union Army of the Cumberland was besieged in Chattanooga, dependent on a single supply line. Desperate to open a more direct route for food and reinforcements, they used bridge pontoons to float past Confederate guards on Lookout Mountain and establish a bridgehead at Brown’s Ferry on October 27. The resulting “Cracker Line” facilitated the men, food and supplies necessary for November’s Federal assaults on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge.
Brown’s Tavern, which still stands on the site dates to 1803, making it the second-oldest building in Harding County. It was built and operated by a prominent Cherokee businessman, John Brown, who fought for the United States in the War of 1812. Despite his service, Brown and his family were forced from their home as a part of the Trail of Tears, although they later received special federal permission to return. In recognition of this significance, Brown’s Tavern is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is included as a stop on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. But only now, with the Trust’s purchase is its future safety guaranteed.
Our purchase of Brown’s Tavern made use of matching grants from the federal American Battlefield Protection Program and the Tennessee Historical Commission’s Civil War Sites Preservation Fund. A conservation easement donated by the Trust and held by the Tennessee Historical Commission will ensure that the property is protected in perpetuity. Later this fall, it – plus 15 other acres previously saved at the battlefield – will be transferred to National Park Partners, an outstanding regional partner group ideally positioned to steward Brown’s Ferry.