The Biloxi Mississippi Lighthouse at sunset on November 10, 2021. © Susan Alton, 2021

The Biloxi Mississippi Lighthouse at sunset on November 10, 2021. © Susan Alton, 2021
The Biloxi Mississippi Lighthouse at sunset on November 10, 2021. © Susan Alton, 2021

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Civil War Musings - Thursday, April 18, 2019

[Today's blog is by my talented, intelligent husband, Bob, who is really into history. Enjoy.]


On a beautiful day, I took time to do a ten-mile hike around the Chickamauga Battlefield which looks today very much like it did in 1864. See the many pictures attached. It is a strange feeling to be in such a peaceful setting where so many died.

Knowing that our epic RV trip this year would include many significant Civil War sites, I prepared by reading several books and studying up on many aspects of the conflict prior to leaving Texas. This guest appearance on travelbug-susan.blogspot.com's site will talk about the war in general, and specifically about two sites we visited in middle Tennessee and northwest Georgia, Stones River National Battlefield and Chickamauga and Chattanooga Battlefield.


Stones River Visitor Center.
(Photo by Susan Alton.)
Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center.
(Photo by Susan Alton.)
Overall there were three basic theaters in the Civil War:

Eastern, which focused primarily on Virginia and surrounding states and included the capitals of both belligerents, Washington and Richmond. Except for his one major offensive foray into Pennsylvania at Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee did the majority of fighting in Virginia and Maryland. We will address those battle sites when we arrive in Richmond at the end of April and in May when we visit Gettysburg.

Trans-Mississippi, which included any action west of the Mississippi. While there were many smaller battles in the West, there were no "major" battles fought west of the river. Union strategy from the beginning of the war was to control the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy, keeping them from resources in the West. This objective was accomplished relatively quickly with a superior navy by controlling major tributaries. 

As a side note, a few weeks ago we passed by Picacho Peak between Tucson and Phoenix which was the site for the westernmost skirmish between the armies when a rebel scouting party ran into Union soldiers from California in the Arizona desert. 

Middle Tennessee, where overland armies fought tenaciously over territory even when the outcome of the war was decided. These included battles at Shiloh in southwestern Tennessee (one of the bloodiest battles in the war), battles near Nashville (two different times) at Stones River and Franklin, and around Chattanooga. The campaigns set the stage for General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea after his sacking of Atlanta.

Nashville was the first Confederate capital to fall and soon Memphis and New Orleans were in Union hands. When General Ulysses S. Grant took Vicksburg the same day as the Union victory at Gettysburg, the North has surrounded the Deep South. This move, in conjunction with the blockade of southern ports, completed the "Anaconda" plan of isolating the South from outside resources.


The bluff overlooking the Mississippi River from
downtown Memphis. (Photo by Susan Alton.)
We got deep into Civil War history when we crossed the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee. Due to its strategic location, Tennessee saw more action during the war than any state except Virginia.  It was a bitterly contested landscape for its important river and railroad connections.

While in Memphis, Tennessee, at the beginning of April, we saw the bluff on the Mississippi River where many Memphis citizens watched the 90-minute naval battle between nine Union Ironsides and rams and what passed for the Confederate navy. While the South sunk one Union vessel, they were overwhelmed, losing eight "Cottonsides." The city became an important base of operations for Grant as he planned his Vicksburg campaign.

From Memphis, we traveled to Nashville, passing within several miles (on the freeway) of the Shiloh Battlefield. This early battle in southwestern Tennessee pitted Grant against General Albert Sidney Johnson and was typical of many encounters between the armies. The Confederates won the first day of fighting, only to lose their gains as better equipped and reinforced Union troops refused to yield and ended up forcing the rebels to retreat to Mississippi. Of the estimated 100,000 participants, over 23,000 were killed, wounded or missing in the battle, the most ever in any battle to that time (although eight more Civil War battles would surpass those numbers by the war's end).

A trend evolves in this battle which can be seen in most other engagements -- the focus on either water transport (in Shiloh, the Union navy kept the North supplied and provided firepower from ship-mounted cannons) or a reliance on the railroads. Control of the railways was always a primary objective of all conflicts throughout Tennessee.

While in Nashville, we toured the state capitol which was occupied by the Union army for most of the war. Tennessee was an interesting case as the state was split between northern and southern sympathies. It was the last state to secede from the Union and the first to return after the fighting. It sent troops to both the Union and Confederate armies. For a time, there were both Federal and Confederate governors. 

After Nashville fell to the north, it became the base for Union forays deeper into Confederate territory. About 28 miles south of Nashville, outside of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, along the Stones River, the armies met for a large battle in April 1863. Both Presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, were frustrated with their generals for their inactivity. Both General William Rosecrans for the North and General Braxton Bragg leading the South wanted more time to prepare, plan and train troops for battle, but were forced by political leaders to engage the enemy.


Stones River National Battlefield.
(Photo by Susan Alton.)
Enlarge to read this.
(Photo by Susan Alton.)
Approximately 76,000 troops clashed at Stones River on the last day of 1862. The Confederates gained an early advantage but the Union army defended their positions with heavy losses and the day closed in a draw. The combatants took New Year's Day off to tend to the dead and wounded. They resumed fighting on January 2. After another bloody day, Bragg, the Confederate general believed erroneously that Union reinforcements were on the way and retreated from the battle.

Considered an important victory for the North, the casualty count was extremely high, 24,000 or over 31% of the soldiers killed, wounded, or missing. For the rest of the war, Nashville was a secure Union base and provided support for future intrusions into the Deep South.


Hazen Brigade Monument at Stones River.
(Photo by Susan Alton.)
Stones River - U.S. National Cemetery.
(Photo by Susan Alton.)
After our time in Nashville, Susan and I drove southeast along Interstate 24 toward Chattanooga, past Tullahoma, Decherd, and Sewanee. These are sites of fighting as the Union army under Rosecrans forced retreating Confederates under Bragg back to Chattanooga on the Tennessee River. The armies fought along railroad routes between Nashville and Chattanooga. Both generals used the railroads to supply troops and provisions to the battlefields. This was a new innovation in wartime: the use of railroads to move troops from one theater of battle to another.

Chattanooga was a very important river port and railway hub for the South. It provided protection for Atlanta, 100 miles to the southeast, the major city in the South after Richmond. During the build-up to conflict, the Confederates reinforced their numbers with troops from Virginia that arrived by railroad. The North was being supplied from Nashville.

There were actually three battles for Chattanooga. The first, early in the war (1862) was a light bombardment of Union troops against the entrenched rebels and resulted in the Union army retreating after light casualties.

Then, in 1863, after Stones River and the resulting campaign for middle Tennessee, Confederates retreated to Chattanooga but could not hold the city. Rosecrans deceived southerners guarding the city by releasing construction debris upriver from the city to give the impression of a crossing at that location when, in fact, his army was crossing on pontoon bridges downriver from the city. When the Confederate General Bragg realized what happened, he retreated ten miles south to Lafayette, Georgia, where he established his headquarters with 60,000 troops. Union General Rosecrans assembled his 65,000 men in Chattanooga and marched south to meet Bragg in what would become the second bloodiest battle of the war at Chickamauga Creek. 

After several weeks of preparation, the actual battle lasted two days, spread out across a front of four miles. The Confederates earned a rare victory, sending the Union troops back to Chattanooga. The battle was won not by any grand strategy, but through very close fighting, often shrouded in gunsmoke hanging in the trees. Combatants were often on top of each other in the woods before they engaged.

The generals did not know the positions of their own men much less the enemy and had to make decisions without good information. This, coupled with poor communication, left a significant gap in the Union lines which several brigades of southern soldiers exploited. They could not rout the northern troops thanks to General George Henry Thomas (nicknamed "The Rock of Chickamauga") who held back the rebel thrust long enough for the remaining Union armies to retreat back to Chattanooga. The exhausted Confederate soldiers were not in a position to chase them. Over 34,500 men were killed, wounded, or missing in two days of fighting.

After the Union army retreated, Confederates took up positions on the high ground surrounding the city and began a two-month siege. This engagement was the third battle of Chattanooga. After General Grant opened up railroad lines to resupply Chattanooga from the north, the Union army defeated Confederates at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge and began what is known as the Atlanta Campaign in 1864. While these battles were smaller than the larger conflicts, they were dramatic affairs involving significant heroism from Union soldiers advancing against an entrenched enemy holding the higher ground.

The battle for Lookout Mountain (which towers 2,000 feet above Chattanooga) is called the Battle Above the Clouds as fog and low clouds obscured Union troop movements. 18,000 participants fought with very few casualties as northern soldiers surrounded the mountain and forced the southerners to retreat.

View of Chattanooga from Lookout Mountain.
(Photo by Susan Alton.)
Confederate position on Lookout Mountain.
(Photo by Susan Alton.)
Southeast of the city at Missionary Ridge, in a coordinated attack, 56,000 Union troops engaged 44,000 southerners in a one-day action. Several troops were commanded to storm rebel rifle pits at the base of the mountains and wait for further orders. No one knows why, but when the northern soldiers accomplished their goal of the rifle pits, they just kept storming up the hill and overwhelmed Confederates on the ridge and claimed victory.

There were many heroic stories that emerged from these battles which were fought by men from all over the country. As one of the first Civil War battlefields to be preserved, with many participants from each side attending multiple reunions, there ended up being 705 memorials, markers, and explanatory signs documenting the action, most erected by state governments commemorating contributions to the battle by their citizens.

Hiking trail at Chickamauga.
(Photo by Robert Alton.)
Creek crossing at Chickamauga Battlefield.
(Photo by Robert Alton.)
Woods to a meadow.
(Photo by Robert Alton.)
Monuments and signs all over.
(Photo by Robert Alton.)
More monuments.
(Photo by Robert Alton.)
Typical explanatory sign.
(Photo by Robert Alton.)
Monument at Chickamauga Battlefield.
(Photo by Susan Alton.)
Another monument at Chickamauga Battlefield.
(Photo by Susan Alton.)
More battlefield scenes.
(Photo by Robert Alton.)
There were cannons all over the place.
(Photo by Robert Alton.) 
Another monument.
(Photo by Robert Alton.)


Ohio Infantry Monument.
(Photo by Robert Alton.)
Refer to Susan's blog from Saturday, February 26, 2011, for additional information and photos.



Sunday, April 14, 2019

What's Out There Weekend (WOTW) in Nashville, Part 4 - Sunday, April 14, 2019

(Continued from Part 3...)


This is Part 4 of our Nashville "What's Out There Weekend" put on by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (tclf.org).

In between our tour of Clover Bottom Farm and Cheekwood Estate and Garden, we had time to drive around the lovely area of Nashville where the Cheekwood Estate is located. Bob dropped me off at Cheekwood Estate and Gardens. Right then, the wind kicked up and it felt like it was going to rain. I grabbed my umbrella for protection.

Bob isn't big on mansions and gardens, so he chose to find a sports bar and watch the Portland Trailblazers play the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs. The Blazers won so he was happy.

Our tour group met outside the Visitor Center of this 55-acre estate. Once again, spring is in full bloom here. This is a wonderful place to visit for a cultural landscape tour! Make time for this if you're in Nashville and love gardens and mansions.

First, let's start with the history of the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens from their brochures: "In the early 1900s, Leslie Cheek Sr. ran C.T. Cheek & Sons, a wholesale grocery distributor. In addition to his business, Leslie Sr. invested in the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company, the producer of Maxwell House Coffee, which was sold to Postum Foods for $45 million in 1928. Leslie's fortune quickly expanded, likely also expanding his plans for a new residence. During challenging and uncertain economic times, the Cheeks supported the local economy, hiring Nashville-based workers and craftsmen to work on their new home. The original residence consisted of a total of 12 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, with a small portion of these dedicated to servant's rooms. The original interiors of the home equaled approximately 30,000 square feet."

And from another brochure:

"Leslie and Mabel Cheek appointed Bryant Fleming, a landscape architect of Ithaca, New York, to design Cheekwood's structures, gardens, and interiors. The mansion is modeled after the grand 18th-century Gregorian estates of Great Britain. The house and surrounding grounds are considered to be one of the finest existing examples of an American Country Place Era estate, characterized by exemplary architecture amid spectacular natural surroundings."

The first stop on our walking tour was the Bradford Robertson Color Garden where we were greeted by these magnificent 19th-century European garden sphinxes. It was my first encounter with garden sphinxes and I must say, they are more delightful to me than a fairy garden. This is a matched pair, however, you will see that the faces, hairstyles, and flowing robes are not identical. 





This mythological beast combines a human and an animal, originally symbolizing divine or superhuman power. The most famous sphinx is the Sphinx of Giza in Egypt. In later cultures, they were guardians of cultures and decoration for thrones. Sphinxes with female faces became popular garden ornaments in the 19th century.

The color garden was between exhibits, but there were still some tulips remaining. We then crossed the entrance road to the Herb Garden and saw some flowers in bloom on the way in. 


Variegated Solomon's Seal.
Gold Collection Lenten Rose.
Lenten Rose.
I have included the interpretive signs for the different types of herbs in the Herb Garden.


A relaxing fountain graces the Herb Garden.

This is my favorite planter!


After the Herb Garden, we re-crossed the road and wound our way down the path, through a pergola, to the Shomu-En Pine-Mist Forest Japanese Garden. The garden is meant to transcend cultures and connect authentic eastern garden design with the native Tennessee landscape.








After spending 15 minutes in the peaceful surroundings of the Japanese Garden, we passed through a picnic area and water garden with a cascading stream and connecting ponds. The picnic area overlooks what was once a Cheek family swimming hole.




Cheek family swimming hole.
The next landscape feature was the Miller Perennial Garden and the Reflection Pool which were down a couple of sets of stairs from the mansion. Euphorbia was in full bloom in the Perennial Garden.


Reflecting Pool had a sculpture
at each end.
Euphorbia.
Stairs from the back patio leading
down to the Reflecting Pool.
More euphorbia.
We continued on around to the Swan Lawn at the back of the house. This area was used as an extension of the ballroom on warm summer evenings. A whole wall of the ballroom opened out to the back yard with a swan fountain.


Swan fountain (now dry).
The back of the house that opens out to the lawn
Also in the area behind the manse is the Boxwood Garden and the Carell Woodland Sculptural Trail. The sculptural trail was closed for renovations and enhancements while we were there. A couple of sculptures were visible from the back yard. 






The sculpture hanging from the trees above our heads is called "One Line Floating Horizontal Twenty Feet, 1994," by George Rickey (American). I called it "The Sword of Damocles." It moves around over your head in the wind.

"One Line Floating Horizontal Twenty Feet, 1994,"
by George Rickey
You can see the beautiful views that this estate has across the surrounding countryside. We finished up our walking tour in the rain and wind. 

The remainder of our landscape tour took us through the parking area on the side of the mansion, down to the front to see the formal curved drive leading up to the main entrance, and then down through the Carell Dogwood Garden and Terrace Garden. The dogwoods were in full bloom. What a treat!



An entrance from the side parking lot.
The grand entry drive circles around this garden
to the front entrance.


Glorious dogwoods!
Cherokee Chief dogwood.

I don't remember what kind of tree this is.

Armillary sphere (a type of sundial).
Terrace Garden tulips and pansies.
This concluded our What's Out There Weekend walks. I now had time to visit the mansion while Bob finished watching the Blazer game. 

Because this blog is already plenty long, I am going to continue it into Part 5!

(To be continued in Part 5...)