yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

Report of Lieutenant-Commander Fitch, U. S. Navy

regarding the Cumberland River

MARCH 17, 1863.

from the B. R. Jennings collection

The Cumberland averages in width about 600 feet inside of the trees. During low stages of water boats have great difficulty in getting above Harpeth Shoals, about 160 miles from the mouth and 35 miles below Nashville.

Above Nashville the river becomes very narrow in making the turns and frequently boats get very much broken up. In making the trip to Carthage boats frequently are compelled to lower their smokestacks, and then suffer much from having their upper works much broken up by the branches of trees. Everything above Nashville seems quiet, and as gunboats can accomplish little or nothing above, the wear and tear does not warrant the keeping of two there, unless in cases of necessity; besides, when the Cumberland commences <nor24_59>to fall the water recedes so fast that there is great danger in being caught.

At low water the river is not navigable for boats drawing over 15 inches, that being the average depth on Harpeth Shoals. The river banks are generally very thickly wooded with heavy hills overlooking the banks. Palmyra, between Donelson and Clarksville, and Beatstown [Betsy Town] Landing at Harpeth Shoals, are the most noted guerrilla haunts. I have burned and destroyed all the stores or houses near the shoals frequented by guerrillas. The Cumberland frequently rises and falls with such rapidity that a difference of from 8 to 12 feet in twenty-four hours is of no uncommon occurrence.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting Rear-Admiral DAVID D. PORTER,
Commanding Mississippi Squadron.

Tabulated report of Tennessee River from mouth to Florence, Ala.

Towns, landings,
shoals, etc.
Distance from mouth
Depth of water
Population Remarks
Paducah, Ky   [0]   4,000 Very few loyal citizens.
[Great] Chain 12 12 3    
Hottocks [Haydock's] Ferry 3 15     Left bank, one log house.
Little Chain 2 17 3    
27 Mile Island 13 30     Not inhabited.
Birmingham 5 35   200 Left bank.
Fourn's [Fond's] Landing 8 43     Left bank, one house.
Aurora 8 51     Do.
Callowaytown 1 52     Left bank, two houses.
Pine Bluff 10 62     Do.
Buffalo Landing 5 67     Do.
Panther creek,
island and bar
Forts Henry and Hindman [Heiman] 5 72     Right and left banks.
Paris Landing 5 77     Left bank, one house and mill.
Mouth of [Big] Sandy [River] 1 78   50 Left bank.
[Big] Sandy Island 4 82      
Leatherwood Shoals 3 85 3.5   Very narrow.
Winns [Wynn's] Landing 2 87     Right and left banks, one house.
Mobile and Ohio Railroad bridge 5 92     Two or three houses.
New Portland 1 93     Right bank, three houses, Union.
Point Mason 5 98     Left bank (rushing) doubtful.
Mason's [Turkey] Island = 98=     Plenty water; very rocky.
Green Bottom Bar 5 103= 3   Very narrow.
Reynoldsburg 7 119=     Right bank, three families; rebels.
Wills [Wyley's] Point 7 117      
J Trotter's Landing 6 123     Right bank, one house near by.
Thompson's Duck River Sucks 5 128     Left bank; very crooked and rocky.
Rockport Landing and Duck River Bar. 1 129 2.5   Left bank; rebel country around.
Duck River 5 134     Right bank; all rebels.
Fowler's Landing 2 136     Right bank; very bad rebels.
Cuba Landing 3 139     Right bank; rebels, one house.
Leadbetters landing 7 146     Left bank.
Britt's Landing 3 149     Right bank; one house and store, professes Union.
Denson 2 151     Right hank; one family; rebels, in Confederate Army.
Brodie's 7 158     Left bank.
Perryville and East Perryville 8 166   30 Left bank; rebels.
Marvin's Bluffs 3 169     Right bank; two houses, Union.
Fisher's Land 1 170     Left bank.
Brownsport, iron foundry 1 171     Left bank; iron foundry; Union.

Tabulated report of Tennessee River from month to Florence, Ala.--Continued.

Towns, landings, shoals, etc. Distance
[traveled] (miles)
Distance from mouth (miles) Depth of water (feet). Population Remarks
Cedar Creek, iron furnace 1 172     Left bank.
Nichols Landing 5 177     Right bank.
Patriot Landing 3 180     Right bank; Union, yet rebel.
Decatur, iron furnace 3 183     Left bank.
Beech Creek, island 5 188      
Carrollville 2 190     Right bank; four houses, Union.
Clifton 1 191   300 Right bank; rebels, town burned Feb. --, 1863.
Eagle Nest Island 5 196     Right bank; rebels.
Swallow Bluff 12 208     Left bank; high, rocky bluff.
Point Pleasant 3 211     Left bank; three houses.
Saltillo 1 212     Right bank; three houses; Union.
Petticoat Riffle 3 215 3.5   3.5
Cerro Gordo 3 218     Right bank; deserted.
Squire Craven's 1 219     Left bank; Union.
Chalk Bluff 7 226     Left bank; deserted.
Coffee's Landing Ferry 1 227     Left bank; hot secesh.
Savannah 6 233   500 Right bank; mixed Union and rebels.
Crump's Landing 3 236     Left bank; deserted.
Pittsburg Landing 5 241     Do.
Hamburg Landing 5 246     Do.
Big Bend Shoals 3 249     Right bank, deserted.
Big Bend Landing 5 254      
Bokerwins Landing 3 257     Left bank, deserted and destroyed.
Yellow Creek 1 258     Left bank, deserted.
Eastport, Miss 8 266     Left bank; two families.
Chickasaw, Ala 1 267     Left bank; eight families, four Union, rest doubtful.
Waterloo 1 268   20 Right bank; all rebels.
Colbert Shoals     1   Deserted.
Georgetown Landing 17 285     Left bank.
Newport Ferry 7 292     Do.
Cone [Kane] Creek 5 297     Do.
Coffee Island [Seven Mile Island] 5 302      
Tuscumbia Landing 7 309     Left bank; all rebels back.
Florence, Ala 7 316   1,000 Right bank; rebels.
Foot of Big [Great] Mussel 7 323 .5   Head of navigation; only 4 feet at the highest stages of water ever known; very swift and rocky.

The Tennessee averages about 1,420 feet in width. Where shoals are, she is generally very narrow and crooked. Duck River Sucks are very dangerous, in consequence of the channel being very crooked and the current setting so strong over the rocks. This, at low water, is one of the most favorable places for locating a battery on the river. The banks are mostly flat and overflow at high water, with high hills back from 1 to 2 miles. There are now few loyal citizens above Fort Henry.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting Rear-Admiral DAVID D. PORTER,
Commanding Mississippi Squadron.

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