Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cruising the Tennessee River valley

Hello all:
Here's our Thursday anchorage (link to GoogleMap) in Kentucky Lake, the first stage or pool of the Tennessee River. It's a beautiful area with a hint of autumn color appearing although the afternoons are still quite warm. In fact, it is very warm today and hard to believe it's been cool enough at night to start the colors turning!

One of the cruising activities that fills our day: when we anchor out, we take Hank ashore for a little exercise and to do his business. Here are Doug & Hank returning from a morning jaunt. In the pic below, you can see that Hank is pleased with the cruising lifestyle.

Along the way, we have been very interested in the history of areas that we cruise. The Winnie W. is now cruising along a corridor of Civil War history.

A brief overview: the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers were important commercial highways in the 1850s; each had hundreds of steamboats carrying passengers & freight. Since the South had few railroads, this made the rivers strategically vital. General U.S. Grant, commanding a portion of the Union's western armies early in the war, saw the Tennessee River as an effective route of transporting his soldiers deep into the Confederacy.

The Southerners built forts to protect the waterways. Fort Henry was built on the Tennessee River, on a low bank next to the border with Kentucky. About 12 miles to the east, they built Fort Donelson to guard the Cumberland channel.

Grant launched a campaign into the South, using naval gunboats for support. This was part of the Union's overall strategic plan to split the Confederacy apart along the Mississippi. The gunboats took Fort Henry at a time when it was partly flooded (WikiPedia link), and then the army marched a short distance eastward overland to Fort Donelson (link). After three days of hard battle between the Confederate defenders with their cannon, and the Union soldiers supported by Navy gunboats, Fort Donelson surrendered. This was one of the few Union successes early in the war.

General Grant took his armies further into Confederate territory, turning a near defeat after a suprise attack at Shiloh (link) into a very bloody victory. Then he advanced to Memphis, and later to Vicksburg. This nearly impregnable walled town controlling the Mississippi River was the key to the whole Western campaign. After the fall of Vicksburg, President Lincoln summoned Grant to take command of the Army of the Potomac.

Back to the present- the Winnie W covered about 50 miles today, heading south (which is upstream) past the farms, resorts, and wilderness. Among other interesting sights, here is an out-of-use railroad bridge that has had the center spans removed.

Here is our anchorage (link to GoogleMap) among the islands of Harmon Creek. There is a twist side channel which pretty easy to follow, with red & green markers.

You can see the moon is well on the rise.

Just like this morning, Hank got another dinghy ride to another little island. This is a beautiful spot, isolated from both the mainland and the traffic on the main river channel.

A few fishermen have come by, they seem to appreciate the peace & quiet too.

Hank really enjoyed his evening romp on the island. He would have enjoyed it a lot more if there had been squirrels to chase, but the chance to simply run around was fun.

This photo is almost like a hi-tech Monet painting, with the water reflections of nature & motion.

Along the shore, Doug found lots of shells. Mussels abound in the Tennessee River & it's tributaries. The bivalve shells (top two) don't have the oblong shape of most mussels, but they grow to about 2 1/2 inches or 10cm across. The little spiral shells may be snails. Both are so plentiful that the beach of this little island is composed entirely of shells.

Hope you all are doing great!
Doug & Kathie

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