The town was originally settled under the name Jonesville in the early 19th century. The Jonesville post office was established in 1852. In 1854, the name was changed to Bridgeport for a new railroad bridge over the Tennessee River and the previously established river port.
Because of its location on both a rail line and the Tennessee River, Bridgeport was a strategic site during the American Civil War. The rail bridge at Bridgeport was among those targeted by the East Tennessee bridge-burning conspiracy in November 1861. Bridgeport was the site of a major skirmish on April 29 and August 26, 1862, and numerous other small actions took place in the area. In the latter part of the war, Bridgeport was the site of a major shipyard building gunboats and transports for the Union Army. The USS Chattanooga was built here and became a vital part of the famous "Cracker Line," which broke the Confederate's siege of Chattanooga in November 1863.(See the official records) Bridgeport was incorporated as a city in 1891.