Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tennessee to Missouri (Day 10 - 12)

Day 10 - Perfect Timing for Chickamauga
Re-enacters firing the cannons during the 149th Anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga 

Our final days in our Civil War tour east of the Mississippi found us at the "Gateway to the Deep South".  Chattanooga, TN and nearby Chickamauga, GA were the scene of several battles, including the second bloodiest battle of the war. In 1863, Union and Confederate forces fought to control Chattanooga, and on September 19 and 20, the Union suffered its most significant defeat in the Western Theater, with the second highest number of casualties in the war during the Battle of Chickamauga.

We just happen to be there the weekend before the 149th anniversary, and were fortunate enough to catch a little action while there.  Re-enacters shot off cannons as part of the commemoration of the battle that saw over 35,000 men either wounded, killed or missing in action.  We talked with a park ranger who indicated that they were not allowed to actually re-enact the battle in the park itself.  She did not give a specific reason, and we have yet to find one.  Plans are underway for a large remembrance event next year for the 150th anniversary, and we were told a re-enactment would be held nearby the park.

This was a must see on our tour.  The Chickamauga National Battlefield Park in Fort Oglethorpe Georgia has some 1,400 monuments and historical markers and a well put together driving tour.  We recommend this stop for all history buffs, and it's a great learning experience about some of America's darkest hours.

Boyhood Home of John Ross, Rossville, GA
Just down the road, back toward Tennessee in Rossville, GA, we found the two story log house that was once the boyhood home to Cherokee Chief John Ross.  Although only part Native American, Ross was elected "Principal Chief" of the Cherokee Nation for 40 years, and an advocate for justice for 57 years.  He voluntarily chose exile with the Cherokee people as they were forced onto the Trail of Tears, losing his wife along the way.

Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel
Back in Chattanooga TN, we made our way downtown for a quick peek at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. The first train pulled into this Gateway Terminal Station in 1909, with the depot growing to serve nearly 50 passenger trains a day.  With the decline of travel by rail, traffic at the depot slowed nearly to a halt by the 1960's, and after almost 61 years in operation, the grand old building was closed in August of 1970.  Local businessmen reopened it in April of 1973 as a unique vacation complex, and in 1974 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places..  The Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel is considered one of the city's first historic preservation projects.

Craven House on Lookout Mountain
A few miles away, we found ourselves on Lookout Mountain.  During that bloody fall of 1863 as battles raged for Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain played key roles for both Union and Confederate forces. Both sides used the Craven House as an observation post and headquarters at some point, we a complete view of Chattanooga below.  The mountain had seen action before during the Summer and Fall of 1794.  It was then that American Settlers fought the Cherokee in a decisive success, now known as the "Last Battle of the Cherokee" during the Nickajack Expedition.
View from Lookout Mountain

On November 24, 1863, the Battle of Lookout Mountain during the Civil War saw a majority of hand to hand combat near Craven's house halfway to the summit.  On the day of the battle, fog descended about halfway down the mountain, leading to the event being called the "Battle Above the Clouds".  It would play a key role in the Union's ultimate victory for Chattanooga.

New York Peace Memorial,
Lookout Mountain
There's plenty to see and do here, with the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, Ruby Falls Cavern, City of Rocks and Point Park.  We stopped at Point Park, which was completed by the Corps of Engineers in 1905 and dedicated to the Union and Confederate soldiers that fought there.  Inside the park you will find the New York Peace Memorial, standing 95 feet high and 50 feet wide at its base. On top of the shaft a Union and Confederate Soldier shake hands under one flag, signifying peace and the unification of America after the war.

It was a good day of touring without the camper in tow, so after a nice meal we headed back to our KOA campground to plan the next day.  Unfortunately, the forecast looked like it would plan it for us.

Day 11 - The Rain Out

Rainy day in Nashville :(
We got up Monday knowing that there were several inches of rain predicted for most of Tennessee.  After seeing that no matter which way we went we would be in rain, Kathy and I made the hard choice of moving north toward Nashville in hopes of getting out of the weather system.  It wouldn't be until we were past Nashville that it would finally slow down enough for us to do anything.

Abandoned business in downtown Adams, TN
We did find some bonuses (at least what we would call bonuses) along the way.  Adams Tennessee isn't a Ghost Town, but this small town of 600 appears to have lost their downtown businesses and the buildings provided some good picture opportunities. Just outside of Adams we wanted to see Bell Witch Cave, but unfortunately it was closed. The Legend of the Bell Witch dates back to the early 1800's. The story of farmer John Bell, settling in the area with is wife and children in 1804, starts around 1817 when members of the family began experiencing strange looking animals around the property, and late night sounds that were unexplained.  As time pased, Bell's account of what was happening at his home attracted many to come investigate.  Soon after, the noises became a voice which is said to have been a witch named Kate, bent on killing John Bell.  Bell died in 1820, some say by the hand of the witch.  Strange things have been reported here and in nearby Adams since. The cave has its own stories, and is said to be where the Bell Witch lives. Privately owned today, tours are given during the summer and October.

Guthrie, Ky
Down the road we stopped for more picture opportunities in historic Guthrie Kentucky.  Home to Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Penn Warren, author of "All the Kings Men", and the only person to have won Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and poetry, Guthrie currently has around 1,500 residents. Established in 1867, the town saw major decline in the 1970's and reportedly had high poverty levels segregating it from its parent county. In recent years new plans for the future have been put in place  to revitalize the city, including a Guthrie Transportation Museum.

Cleaning up abandoned buildings
in downtown Cairo, IL
We kept pushing down the road, deciding we would go ahead and cut our RV adventure short and move closer to home.  Along the way we stopped in Cairo Illinois to revisit it's downtown.  Right at the convergence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, this town once had a lot of promise, but racism and corruption would be its death.  Kathy was here a few years ago and since then we found that they are starting to demolish many of the abandoned buildings downtown as part of a revitalization effort.  We will be updating Kathy's very extensive story on Cairo soon.

That would be our final history related stop of the trip as we landed for one more night in the RV near Sikeston Missouri, still over 300 miles from home, and drove straight through Southern MO on Day 12 headed back to Warsaw. Despite the rain ending our adventure in Tennessee early, we did learn that the RV/Camper life is one we would enjoy immensely, and had a pretty good, easy stay at Town and Country RV Park near the intersections of I-55 and I-57.  Thankful that Kathy's sister Kristy and her husband Geno allowed us to use their camper, we are already planning to get our own, especially for our much needed Winter trips to the South.

Be sure to see the pics of our final days in our Facebook photo album Tennessee Back to Missouri HERE

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