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October 26, 2013

William LeDuc and the opening of the Union “Cracker Line – October 26, 1863

Filed under: Civil War Daybook — Lori Williamson @ 9:00 am

The topographical map of part of northern Georgia and Tennessee pictured below belonged to Quartermaster William Gates LeDuc of Minnesota.

After the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19-20, 1863) the Union Army of the Cumberland was cut off from its supply lines by Confederate forces around Chattanooga, Tennessee. For the ensuing six weeks the Army’s condition grew increasingly dire. Near the end of October, 1863, Union forces launched a counterattack. Minnesota Colonel William G. LeDuc and Captain Arthur Edwards, both of the Quartermaster Corps, assembled and launched the steamboat, the USS Chattanooga, delivering rations and forage to starving Union troops and animals. This supply line was dubbed the “Cracker Line.”

Hardtack is a biscuit (or cracker, and thus the Cracker Line’s namesake) made from flour, water and salt. It was a staple of the Civil War soldier’s diet because it was inexpensive and, when properly stored, lasted for years. Hardtack, while nutritious, could be exceedingly hard and usually had to be soaked before it could be eaten.

Learn More:

Quartermaster’s map of northern Georgia and Tennessee. 1988.217.6. Minnesota Historical Society.
Civil War hardtack. 65.202. Minnesota Historical Society.

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