After the Union defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga, the Army found itself trapped by Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Bragg settled in, to siege the Union position. He sent Confederate Brigadier General Evander Law downstream, where Law was to stop any Union supply trains. Union commander Brigadier General William S Rosecrans telegraphed Washington to say, "We have no certainty of holding our position here." In response Washington sent reinforcements under the command of General Ulysses S Grant.
Grant started on October 26th 1863 to open a supply route from Brown’s Ferry to Chattanooga. The planned route was designed by Chief Engineer, Brigadier General William F "Baldy" Smith. The new supply line was named the “Cracker Line”, by soldiers who were running low on food. Smith’s two brigades under Brigadier Generals William B Hazen and John B Turchin would split, with Turchin’s men marching across land to hold Brown’s Ferry, while Hazen’s would ferry down the river in pontoon boats.
Hazen’s troops made the landing point at 5 am on October 27th 1863. Although they were moving quietly some of the men were fired on by Confederate pickets. The Confederates quickly formed for an attack, however at this time Turchin’s men were being ferry across the river. The combined force of Union men outflanked the Confederate soldiers who withdrew toward Wauhatchie. By latter that afternoon the 1st Michigan Engineers had a pontoon bridge across river and open.