Monday, 22 October 2018

Tennessee Battlefield Tour : Summary

So I wanted to do a short summary of my trip in case you all were interested, but mainly for me.

Here is a map of the route and main locations I visited, the majority in Tennessee, but also Mississippi, briefly in Alabama and Georgia. For those interested in such a trip. The distances are not too great but America can be deceiving and it takes longer than you think to drive about. The roads are great and only busy in the major cities. Most of the Parks are free and accommodation is plentiful and cheap (or expensive if you want) Petrol is dirt cheap compared to the UK ! I walked as much of the battlefields as I could but you can do much of it by car. The weather was great October was a good time to visit I had been told that summer is a little too hot as much of the area is forest there is little in the way of wind/breeze to cool things down. Buy some really good insect repellant 🐝

I of course approach things from an open minded historical perspective but did feel slightly uncomfortable not so much at battlefields but in a number of towns where Confederate memorials did feel a little insensitive, many of course were put up about 100 years ago and I understand the conflict this has/is causing. 

I can see me returning in the future Nashville has a wonderful vibe and with or without the Civil War there is plenty to do. The battlefields are on the whole beautifully preserved, almost all have visitor centres and facilities but for some reason none sell food or drinks so don’t expect a cafe on site ? You might get a tin of coke or bottle of water but that’s it.

The companion book for the trip is Company Aytch by Sam Watkins, if you don’t know the book it is one of the most famous first hand accounts by a private who fought in the 1st Tennessee Regiment.
From Tennessee he joined up early and fought in almost all the battles on my trip, it is very much a first hand perspective but it makes fascinating reading when standing in the actual location he is writing about.

Well if you made it this far thanks for following. It will be back to usual soon with more wargaming and we will certainly be seeing some of the Tennessee battles featuring in the future 😀

Tennessee Battlefield Tour Day 10 : Stones River

Those faithful few who have made this far will be glad to know we are near the end and if you hadn’t twigged from the geography my final day involved the drive back North to Nashville via the Stones River battlefield at Murfreesboro. Like Kennesaw locates not far from a major city the park was busier than the more remote locations, it is also not a huge park as the town of Murfreesboro has encroached somewhat on the original battlefield, as I chose to walk it it still took a good three hours to get around....but then it was another lovely cool but sunny day.

Historically the battle took place over New Year 1862/63 with the confederates under Bragg as so often managing to snatch defeat from victory under Gen Rosecrans.
Another good visitor centre although the introductory film was a bit short and didn’t really give a proper run through of the battle
Some nice artillery on display with caisson for a change, nicely set up as I assume they would have been in battle
A shot from the other view these union cannon would have defended against the onslaught in the afternoon of day one
Looking across the cotton field to the south east
Rebels had pushed the union forces two miles back and reached this end of the cotton field before being held back but union troops on the Nashville Pike, 
Looking from the edge of the field, the Nashville pike is directly in the distance where the ground rises up
One of ces the Union Forces held out longest the slaughter pen, a very extraordinary and quite moving place, Union Forces held here for a long time before being pushed back, the cover in the rocks of course very good
Looking roughly south west out side the slaughter pen confederates attacking form the trees in the distance and from the left
McFadden’s lane, many Union troops had encamped along here prior to the first day remember it was the 30 December and very cold
Some good info signs across the battle field
More initial union deployments McFadden Lane in the background
Ok this has no particular historical significance but I am after all a Wargamer,  if you look carefully you can see four different types of fencing ! I have some more terrain to build
Moving over the Nashville Pike we have Hell’s Half Acre and to the left the Round Forest, this area formed the hinge where the union line had been pushed back on itself, but despite numerous assaults Hazen’s Brigade held out here. The accounts of the battle describe a grim scene with the whole area being literally covered in confederate dead at the end of day one !
The Hazel Brigade Monument, I hadn’t realised this was constructed in 1863 by survivors of the Brigade, to commemorate their fallen comrades, this is apparently the oldest civil war memorial obviously constructed well before anybody knew what the outcome would be.
I then walked north to the McFadden Farm
Some of the field preserved on the farm
The location of the ‘grand battery’ which put pay to the confederate assault on the second day of the battle.
The artillery monument on the farm 
Stones River itself by the McFadden Ford
Back on the Nashville Pike, the final defence line of the union forces
And finally I don’t normally photo cemeteries but this is a period location where they have a shot of the cemetery being created back in 1866, of course only Union troops historically confederates were buried in mass graves and not then relocated to National Cemetries.
So that was the end of the battlefields and I headed back to Nashville for a night out, highly recommended if you get the chance 😀

I plan to do one more summary blog of the trip.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Tennessee Battlefield Tour Day 9 : Kennesaw Mountain

For the third day at Chattanooga and with improving weather I chose to drive further south into Georgia (I think I forgot to mention in the last post that Chickamauga is in Georgia rather than Tennessee but the essence of the tour was of course Tennessee) to visit Kennesaw Mountain. It is a relatively easy drive of about and hour and a half pretty much main road all the way.

The battle is of course much later in the war in 1864 with Johnston and Hood attempting to hold back Sherman’s advance on Atlanta which is only another 20 or so miles south.
Having been to several locations where I hardly saw anybody this park was jammed, I think probably due to it proximity to Atlanta a mix of hikers and dog walkers and I am guessing that only about half there for the history. The park is in essence a large mountain/green space which has been pretty much surrounded by the urban development of Marietta
It was a treat to walk, the weather was great like a cool summer day in the Lake District with almost the whole area wooded
I chose to walk over the top of both Kennesaw and Little Kennesaw, this was a good walk of several hours the line of the walk heads along the crest and although the picture above doesn’t show it too well the Confederate defences are clear most of the way as a marked ditch
At the summit of Kennesaw they have recreated the 4 gun battery which was there
And you get great views of Altanta away to the south
Following the ridge line with Little Kennesaw in the distance
Not surprisingly the stretch between the two is the most heavily trenched with a really clear continuous line of trench’s just below the crest. This very helpful man pointed it out to me, it is quite a quiet location up on the ridge line away from the very summit of Kennesaw and you definately get a sense of the Rebels digging in
Another battery was placed on Little Kennesaw 
And the crest then drops down to Pigeon Hill, really and extension of the main mountains, still very steep on both sides. This was where Sherman sent one of his two main assaults
Very difficult terrain to attack across and it ultimately proved impossible to take the defences 
A period photo placed in the location it was taken from at Pigeon Hill
My walk then took me back to the car, so I then headed for Cheatham Hill the other most famous part of the battlefield, significant rebel defences including the battery above
This area is the site of the second main failed attack know as the ‘Dead Angle’
Union Forces attacked up this hill in the open and were cat down
The main rebel defence line is set back slightly
So as the history goes the remnants of the assault took cover in the dead ground around this sign, and started to dig a tunnel in an attempt to blow up the defences.

So a very pleasant day out in beautiful weather.....

Tennessee Battlefield Tour Day 8 : Tennessee River and Missionary Ridge

I had deliberately fixed this holiday for October so the temperature would be cooler, it had in fact been quite hot in the first week, but the autumn/fall change can be unpredictable. Anyway Day 8 was the only really wet day I had, again the benefit of a bit of flexibility meant I could adapt my plans rather than heading up Lookout Mountain which was entirely covered in cloud in the morning I headed into Chattanooga, better to be in a city when it’s raining.
The river front has had masses of re development, riverside walks, fountains etc pleasant even in the light rain but in several locations there are reminders of the Civil War history that took place all across the Area
I decided to take a boat trip as it felt right to experience just a little of the Tennessee river, the steamer we were on was slightly smaller than the one int he shot
It was quiet up on the top deck, a bit chilly but they had hot dogs, beer and great views
Trip I was on took about 3 hours, heading south under the watchful eye of Mountain
You do get a sense of the difficult nature of the terrain around the river, lots of steep bluffs and hills, quite a lot of very expensive houses built along the river edge
...but some great wildlife we saw several Bald Eagles
By the time we finished it was raining properly so I decided to explore Missionary ridge, there are a number of small parks/memorial locations along the road, lots of markers identify the locations of Regiments...these often appear to be in people’s gardens as the ridge is now expensive high end houses. The above location is at the north end where General Cleburne held back Sherman’s assaults
Another stop off.....
Perhaps the most interesting location called Bragg Reservation where the confederates famously broke and fled
What strikes you very much is how thin the ridge is
I took this shot on a different day, Missionary Ridge is the dark line behind the city running left to right, it really is a sharp thin line in most places the flat top is probably only 50 to 100 yards across with no way of creating any depth in a defensive position. So whilst it is steep on both sides it would have felt like a very thin line of defence when the attacks were made.