“If we can hold Chattanooga and Eastern Tennessee, I think the rebellion must dwindle and die.” Abraham Lincoln
Carol writes: As winter approached and we moved slowly southward in eastern Tennessee, our next stop was Chattanooga, where we looked forward to visiting three historic sites where, over a 2-month period, key battles of the Chattanooga Campaign were fought which turned the tide of the Civil War.
and Missionary Ridge would capture our interest for the better part of the next week…
For our stay in the Chattanooga area, Al selected a family-run campground. In an interesting even-handed manner, the North-South streets of the campground were named after Civil War officers—the North end after Union Commanders, and the South end after Confederate Generals. Our street was named Longstreet in honor of Confederate General James Longstreet.
By the summer of 1863, the midpoint of the Civil War, the Union Army had achieved significant victories at both Vicksburg and Gettysburg. With over 51,000 killed, Gettysburg was by far the costliest battle in terms of total casualties on both sides. Sadly, the Battle of Chickamauga, where over 32,000 were killed, holds the record for the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Echoing eerie prophetic overtones, Chickamauga is a Cherokee word meaning “river of death,” perhaps in remembrance of the creek where the Cherokee were said to have contracted smallpox. The Battle of Chickamauga was a decisive win for the Confederacy, although a costly one in terms of total lives lost.
A self-guided auto tour of the battlefield gave us an appreciation of battlefield tactics. For an emotional connection to an historic battle, there is nothing that compares to an actual visit to the hallowed grounds where the contest was waged, and so it was for us at Chickamauga.
Surrounded by the splendor of fall colors, if you stood quietly and closed your eyes, you could almost imagine the beat of the battle drums and the crack of the muskets…
The battlefield grounds were covered with dozens of monuments to the units that fought at Chickamauga.
One of the most iconic geologic features of the city of Chattanooga is the impressive ridge of Lookout Mountain, which dominates the skyline of the city. We got a great look at the dominance of aptly named Lookout Mountain from the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge.
Downtown Chattanooga was quite lovely! The residents we spoke to seemed quite proud of their city. There was much to appreciate during our day downtown—the highly rated Tennessee Aquarium,
the creatively placed Hunter Art Museum high above the Tennessee River,
the artfully colored blue tree branches,
and a stunning riverfront landscape.
However… it was the Civil War history on Lookout Mountain that was calling to us for a closer look.
The winding switchback road up Lookout Mountain took us to the gates of Point Park, built by the Army Corps of Engineers and designed as a replica of the Corps “castle” insignia.
Inside the gate we took a short stroll through a lovely treed area to the overlook 1500 feet above the winding Tennessee River and the city of Chattanooga in the distance.
After defeat at Chickamauga, at the base of Lookout Mountain bleak days settled in on the Union forces who were huddled in Chattanooga and slowly being starved to death. However, once the new “Cracker Line” food and supply route opened up, Union forces believed they had an opportunity to seize the high ground over Chattanooga.
It is hard to imagine Union troops charging up fog-enshrouded Lookout Mountain and winning the battle, but that is what happened in the “Battle Above the Clouds.”
The loss at Lookout Mountain was a huge blow to the Confederacy because this was just the opening Lincoln wanted to cripple the supply lines in the industrial heart of the Deep South. At the tiny Ochs Museum overlook, old photographs of Union soldiers posed on the very tip of Lookout Mountain were fascinating…
As a further dagger into the heart of the Confederacy, the next day cries of “Chickamauga!” were shouted by Union Forces as they charged up and seized nearby Missionary Ridge. A turning point in the Civil War had been reached. Chattanooga was now firmly in Union hands and the way had been paved for Sherman’s March to the Sea, depicted so dramatically in Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind.”
Although the Civil War ended over 150 years ago, the city of Atlanta has a long memory… and that will be our next destination.
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln