Monday, April 11, 2011

Getting away

There's nothing better than a little getaway to revitalize the spirits.

So, when the Davidson County Civil War Round Table, a mostly unofficial community of about 25 American Civil War buffs of which I am a member in good standing (at least I think am, since I am the only true Yankee in its ranks, and have been for perhaps 25 years), planned its spring campaign to Chattanooga, TN, I was there.

I'd never been to Chattanooga. About all that I knew about the place was that apparently a choo choo passed through there and Glenn Miller performed a nifty little song about it. I also knew that a couple of significant Civil War battles were fought there in late 1863 — Chickamauga is less than a half-hour away while Chattanooga sits in the shadow of both Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, which offer stunning vistas of the city and the Tennessee River, which makes a sensational S-bend through the town.

Lookout Mountain (distant left) as seen from Missionary Ridge.
Chattanooga is considered to be in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. Anything not east of the Appalachian Mountain chain would be in the west, and that's why I jumped on the opportunity to go to Chattanooga. Most of my ACW knowledge and experience is eastern-theater centric. First off, it's easy — I live within a day's ride of most of the eastern battlefields, from Gettysburg to Savannah, from Ball's Bluff to Bentonville, and consequently, I've seen most of the major eastern fields. Several times over, in fact. Just ask my wife.

The east gets most of the press, too, probably because the two opposing capitals, Washington DC and Richmond, are approximately 100 miles from each other. That in itself would attract a lot of attention. It certainly did back in the day.

But a sound argument can be made that the Union actually won the Civil War in the western theater. That would be especially true by controlling the Mississippi River and thus splitting the Confederacy in two, which would also deny the south such resources as copper (for primer caps), gun powder manufacturing and transportation hubs. And that's pretty much what happened.

Anyway, our group finally gathered itself and most of its membership by Friday afternoon on the top of Lookout Mountain, where we were amazed that the Union could knock the Confederates off the high ground. Mostly, we just enjoyed the spectacular view.

Some of us later went to Missionary Ridge on the east side of town. Again, the Confederates where forced to give up the high ground, an action that allowed the Union to control Chattanooga and use the place as a staging area for Gen. William T. Sherman's subsequent march into Georgia, and later into Savannah and the Carolinas.

Our visit to Chickamauga, meanwhile, was marked by a five-hour tour conducted by a history professor from nearby Dalton State College, who took a complicated, convoluted battle and turned it into something most of us could understand. He was very, very good.

The highlight of the day was a toast at the North Carolina marker on Snodgrass Hill, by the round table membership, to fallen comrade Butch Zimmerman. This toast may or may not have involved a bottle of Zimmerman's select bourbon, brought along (maybe) to mark the occasion of his passing a few days prior to the excursion. It seemed somehow appropriate, if in fact it actually happened. I'm not sure it did because it may or may not be illegal to consume alcoholic beverages on federal property. We can only hope and assume that Butch, a distinguished district attorney with a zeal for anything southern, would have approved.

I guess you could say we revitalized Zimmerman's spirit, too.

1 comment:

  1. Federal land...Butch's Butch's sweet was that! And then there's this:
    "Human history begins with man's act of disobedience which is at the very same time the beginning of his freedom and development of his reason." ...Erich Fromm