Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tennessee/Kentucky: Jeff King, Day 8

30 June 2009
Cleveland TN, Chilhowee CSA Monument, Chickamauga

Cleveland TN
Like Knoxville, Cleveland is a city with memorials to both CSA and Union troops. The UDC Monument is at the north end of downtown where Ococee (800 North) Street splits into one way streets (800 North). The Union marker is at the entrance of the Ft. HillCemetery on Worth Street just southwest of Third Street/Route 11.
Cherokee National Forest
There are few more enjoyable drives than Tennessee Route 64 from Cleveland to the Chilhowee CSA Monument. The road is being widened and development of mountain cabins is beginning, but it is beautiful. You pass various white water rafting tours and the site of the 1996 Summer Olympics Whitewater Event Center. The Ococee River is scenic.

Getting to the Chilhowee Confederate Memorial is time consuming, but more than worth it for someone like me who dreads being overrun at Gettysburg’s Little Round Top from the bus/tourist congestion. I’m not sure how many annual visitors get to this remote skirmish site, but I’ll wager it is 1,250,000 fewer than Gettysburg. Thank goodness. The vista views of the Cherokee National Forest are worth the trip alone, but the CSA memorial is unique and quite a gem for the Civil War Traveler. Plan on at least 15 minutes after you leave State Highway 64 on Forest Service Road 77 just past the Ranger Station. It is difficult to believe that Civil War action took place here, but it did!

After returning to Route 64, travel the extra 10 or so miles east to the Boyd’s Gap Overlook to see the Confederate Memorial Forest, and go another 2 miles east for the NPS signage.
Chickamauga National Military Park
This is the last of the NMPs that I have visited east of the Mississippi River, where the idea of preservation began -- the great Confederate victory of the West with its wasted opportunities. It will take several trips to absorb most of what happened here, but there is always that excitement of the 13-year-old deep inside of me when I first enter the gates of hallowed ground such as this.

The Visitor Center parking lot is running over on the busiest day of the year so far according to rangers inside. I estimate two-thirds of the vehicles have bike racks, and the battlefield is swarming with cyclists. The displays inside the visitor center are detailed and different from the other federal facilities. Nice information on reunions, especially the one at Crawfish Springs GA. The introductory film is informative, if a bit corny in its presentation. The bookstore has Travel Brains Tours CDs, which always have been worth the extra expense for introducing me to a battlefield. Ironically, new T-shirts arrived just this morning, and I am told I am the first to buy the latest design. I pick up a couple of battle maps for later study. Then on to where Forrest made contact!

Maybe it is because I was at the Wilderness just a week before, but the fields feel similar. Furious action developed in the farm clearings, and there are heavy woodlots on relatively flat ground. One of Longstreet’s men even said that the Wilderness was like Chickamauga -- except there was no rear to retreat to at the Wilderness. Of course, 60 miles of trails here far dwarf the 14 miles at the Wilderness.

The signage is similar to Shiloh with the cast iron tablets. I once spoke with Stacy D. Allen at Shiloh and he said one of the most difficult tasks is keeping up these tablets without lead based paint. Seems ironic that healthier lifestyles dictate more difficult NPS maintenance. There are also push-button speaker boxes like those at Gettysburg. Another similarity to Gettysburg is the sheer volume of tablets, monuments and markers. I stumbled over the 7th PA Cavalry and 75th Indiana monuments more by luck than by design. If you are looking for specific monuments, definitely buy a monument guide book.

The field is overwhelming for a detailed person such as myself, and five hours simply isn’t enough, but that is for other trips to come. Viniard Field, Poe House, the Brotherton Cabin, Rosecrans Headquarters, Hood’s injury spot marked by a finger sign, and of course Snodgrass Hill -- all are awash in monuments, plaques, tablets, and cannon pyramids. I stopped at each and barely scratched the surface of what happened on this hallowed ground. I hope I can do what I once did at Gettysburg and split the field into quadrants and walk one quadrant per day sometime soon. I guess my simple advise is double the time you plan for your visit here. You’ll need and enjoy it.

This concludes my notes from a trip of 3,400 miles in 10 days. I sincerely hope that this helps someone else enjoy their Civil War travels more richly. A huge thank you to Norma and Don Pierce of the website. Don told me a year ago during my South Carolina trip that I should do a blog, and Norma helped me do so. I can only hope I didn’t disappoint them or you the reader. May you have many enjoyable historical trips!

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