Loyal readers of Seeing the Scenic City, and family and friends know that I love Civil War history, or any type of U.S. history, really.
My parents visited a few weekends ago. My dad loves Civil War history as much as I do, so we always try to find time to check out a local site. This time we decided to see Brown’s Ferry Tavern.
Brown’s Ferry Tavern is the oldest standing structure in Chattanooga, constructed in 1803. It was established by John Brown, a prominent Cherokee businessman.
One of the Trail of Tears routes passed by the tavern. Brown and his family were removed from the site during the Trail of Tears. He returned to the site afterward.
The tavern was also witness to the Battle of Brown’s Ferry, which occurred on October 27, 1863. This Civil War battle ensured the opening of the “cracker line” or the supply line, for the Union troops.
To read about the Browns Ferry Federal Road hike on Moccasin Bend that visits the opposite end of this battle on the Tennessee River, click Here .
The property is preserved by the American Battlefield trust, but Brown’s Ferry Tavern is private property, so you are not able to walk up to the building and peer inside. We skirted around the edge of the property, and took various photographs from our vantage points.
I am happy to say that, as a train lover, I have finally taken a ride on the Tennessee Valley Railroad.
A few weeks ago we rode the Missionary Ridge Local, which is a one hour train ride that travels through Missionary Ridge with a stop at the East Chattanooga Depot.
I am not quite sure what happened the weekend we were there, but there were some amendments to our trip. For starters, the steam engine is supposed to run on weekends, but we ended up with a diesel engine. This disappointed me, but this is just another excuse to go on another train ride someday. There is also supposed to be a short tour of the shop, next to the East Chattanooga Depot, but this did not occur on our ride. I am not sure why.
One thing I did enjoy was the turntable demonstration at the East Chattanooga Depot. The conductor was knowledgeable and explained the whole process while the engine turned around to prepare for the trip back. The conductor told everyone that this turntable is one of only a few in the United States. I was giddy when hearing this, because I know of another one, in Frostburg Maryland, in use by the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, which my parents both work for.
The train passed through some neighborhoods, as well as over Chickamagua Creek and through Missionary Ridge Tunnel, a tunnel dated to before the Civil War.
Commentary was provided throughout the trip about the local history and what we were seeing through the windows.
Chattanooga has a rich railroad history, especially during the Civil War. The area became a railroad hub in the 1850s. During the Civil War, both sides recognized the importance of holding onto the city, for its railroad lines. There was the infamous “Great Locomotive Chase” during the Civil War, organized by civilian James Andrews, in which he and Union soldiers captured a locomotive, The General, in Georgia, in order to destroy as much of the Western and Atlantic Railroad on the way to Chattanooga. They were eventually captured, and now there is a monument and grave sites dedicated to those men in Chattanooga’s National Cemetery. When Chattanooga was captured by the Union in 1863, it was called the “Death Knell of the Confederacy,” undoubtedly because of the importance of the railroad.
The train depot from where we left, Grand Junction, has a nice gift shop and a deli as well.
After the train ride, we walked through the collection of train cars and engines that are on display.
I admit, I’ve been on better train rides. Maybe I’m spoiled because as a kid, I’ve frequently rode in the First Class Parlor car, the Marian, on the Strasburg Railroad. However, I still enjoyed this trip. I am looking forward to longer rides, such as a dinner train, or the Chickamauga Turn, which is a six hour ride with a layover in Chickamauga.
Today I learned about the Little Winters of Tennessee. Almost all of the meteorologists were calling the next few days a “redbud winter.” I had no clue what they were referring to.
Apparently Tennessee (and some other states) have what are called little winters, or cold snaps. We are getting a cold snap at the end of this week, and we might even see some snow!
The redbud winter is going to occur later this week because the redbud trees are blooming. The redbud winter is the first of the little winters. They go as follows:
Redbud Winter, Dogwood Winter, Locus Winter, Blackberry Winter, Whippoorwill Winter and Cotton Britches Winter.
The terms are coined because of the things that are in bloom in the time, or for example, when you can first hear the Whippoorwill birds, or when it’s time to put your wool away and wear your cotton britches!
The farmers used to track the five different little winters to ensure it was not too early to plant crops. Isn’t that interesting?
On Thanksgiving morning, we visited three Civil War sites, one for each battle.
The Battles of Chattanooga lasted over three days, from Nov. 23-25. The first was the Battle of Orchard Knob. The second was the Battle of Lookout Mountain and the third was the Battle of Missionary Ridge.
Our first stop was Cravens House on Lookout Mountain. We have already been here once, starting a hike from this point. You can read more about it and see more pictures here.
The Battle of Lookout Mountain included fighting around the Cravens House. The house was used as headquarters for both the Confederates and Union.
Then we went to Orchard Knob, which is a grassy hill that spans for two blocks, and is filled with monuments. On Nov. 25, General Grant stood on top of Orchard Knob, and watched the Battle of Missionary Ridge unfold. There is a great vantage point of the city from Orchard Knob.
I enjoyed this spot in particular, because by seeing Missionary Ridge, you can picture and understand what it was like for General Grant.
Our last spot was the Sherman Reservation, at the very north end of Missionary Ridge. This area preserves the spot where Sherman’s troops fought against Confederates at Tunnel Hill. The Sherman Reservation features a small walking trail through a wooded area to get to a grassy area with monuments and plaques.
There are still so many sites to see, particularly along Lookout Mountain, with more trails to hike, and more reservations along the length of Missionary Ridge. I am glad that we made the time to see some new sites, and tick some boxes off.
This past weekend Derek and I headed up to the town of Soddy-Daisy to check out their Pioneer Day event. A thank you goes out to the Chattanooga Times Free Press for publishing an article with the weekend’s events, otherwise I would have had no idea this was happening! It is helpful to follow local news!
Now, I will admit, with no fault to Soddy-Daisy, that the living history event was, well, a bit dinky. This feeling of mine only stems from many, many years of reenacting at very large living history events! Still, I was glad to get out and do something new and different for an hour.
Pioneer Day was held at Poe’s Tavern Historical Park, next to City Hall. Poe’s Tavern was originally constructed in 1817, with a replica on the original foundation now.
According to soddy-daisy.org, Poe’s Tavern was Hamilton County’s First Courthouse and County Seat. The tavern was also used as a hospital for both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War.
At Pioneer Day, there was a woman in a historical outfit cooking cornbread on the fireplace. Everyone got free samples.
There were also booths showing historic rifles, locally found arrowheads, basket weaving, coal mining supplies and an 1800s cider press, which I got to take a turn on for a bit.
The big draw for me was a Civil War set up, presented by the Tennesseans for Living History. We were treated to some music by a banjo and fiddle player. I really miss reenacting sometimes!
There was a Robert E. Lee impersonator there, but I only wish I hadn’t seen him walking around the grounds with a can of beer — or soda, I’ll try to give him the benefit of the doubt — in his hands!!!
As I am writing this, everything in my lower body hurts! Yesterday Derek and I did a hike on Lookout Mountain. We picked the trail from Cravens House to Sunset Rock, which is 3 miles out and back.
Derek and I like to hike, but 3 miles is the longest we have ever hiked here in Chattanooga. Usually we stick to 1-2 mile trails. This is also the hike that I have wanted to do the most since first hearing about this particular trail.
A sign at the start of the hike says to allow one to two hours round trip, but it took us almost four. This included at least 45 minutes out at Sunset Rock, though. We also took our time on the way up, stopping for lots of photos along the way.
We went on a beautiful, cool October day, which means that the trail was busy. We had to step off to the side many times to let other groups come and go.
The scenery was gorgeous on the trail. About half way to Sunset Rock you walk alongside towering rock cliffs. We even saw some rock climbers!
The trail starts out quite easy, which can be deceiving. I think that the closer you get to Sunset Rock, the harder the trail gets. If you come here, make sure to wear good hiking shoes, and always look down while walking! The trail is extremely rocky in some sections. The last section of the trail is a set of very steep stone steps. It wasn’t so bad going up, but coming down was much harder. My legs felt like jelly after that!
Sunset Rock is the end goal of this hike, 1.5 miles from Cravens House. Sunset Rock is a large flat area of rock on the side of the mountain, offering some fantastic views.
“In late October 1863, Confederate Generals James Longstreet and Braxton Bragg stood on Sunset Rock on the western side of Lookout Mountain. Below was the Union Army, attempting to open a supply line through the valley. Longstreet and Bragg planned their attack, which culminated in the Battle of Wauhatchie on October 28-29, 1863.”
Sunset Rock was very crowded while we were there, but everyone was respectful of each other, and even though we had to wait at some of the areas, everyone got their turns to check out the different views and take pictures.
Derek got some fantastic pictures of me. I am excited about how they turned out. Yes, they do look a little daring, but I felt safe the whole time. Well, I did freak out a tiny bit thinking Derek was too close to the edge getting some shots of me.
I would think that to avoid a crowd at Sunset Rock, you would either have to hike early in the morning, or maybe in the wintertime. However, the Sunset Rock area is large enough that everyone had their own little sections to themselves.
The hike back is considerably easier, and faster since it’s a gentle decline.
Back in the parking lot, we checked out the Cravens House, owned by Robert Cravens, which was there during the Civil War. Some fighting during the Battle of Lookout Mountain occurred by the house on Nov. 24, 1863. After the battle, the Union troops used the house as headquarters.
I am currently reading The Smoke At Dawn by Jeff Shaara, which is about the Battles of Chattanooga, one book in a series about the Civil War. It was thrilling to have just read about that battle taking place on Lookout Mountain, and then to be there the next day!
I am counting down the days until cooler weather arrives, because I am looking forward to resuming hiking.
I have been Googling Chattanooga area hikes, and I am curating quite the list. It has been frustrating to discover all of these wonderful places, and know that it’s just not the best time to attempt a 3 mile hike.
This morning I was looking at hikes on Moccasin Bend. I found the Browns Ferry Federal Road Trail, and I got so excited about it, that we had to go right NOW.
The weather has been cooler all weekend because it has been raining on and off, and it was mostly cloudy, keeping the sun at bay. I had found the trail early in the morning, about 9:30, and convinced Derek to go. We were at the trail parking lot by 10 a.m.
The reason why I just couldn’t wait a few weeks is because the trail is a historic one, and I love history.
Browns Ferry Federal Road was a road in use since the early 1800s. A “trace” of the road on Moccasin Bend, as noted by signage on the trail, was discovered by LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), as well as the use of old maps. The trail opened up to the public in 2013.
In October 1863, the city of Chattanooga was under siege by the Confederates. The Union troops were starving, with no way to receive food supplies. The Union devised a plan to open up the supply line.
On Oct. 27, in the early morning hours, the Battle of Brown’s Ferry occurred.
Brig. Gen. William Hazen — fun fact, my last name is Hazen, no relation though, at least we think — commanded groups of men who floated down the Tennessee River in pontoon boats from the city of Chattanooga. They sailed around Moccasin Bend to the crossing site, Brown’s Ferry landing, which was in Confederate hands.
Sailing in the pre-dawn, they achieved the initial element of surprise and were able to cross the river, but were soon discovered by Confederate troops who fired upon them. Union troops were also waiting on the opposite bank (where we stood on the end of the trail) as reinforcements. Ultimately, the Union forces outnumbered the Confederates, who drew back to the south.
This allowed the Union to gain control of the road and open their supply line again. This supply line, and part of the battle became known as the “Cracker Line,” after the hardtack crackers that the soldiers ate.
It was exciting to stand there and picture the men coming up the river in the pontoon boats, as well as the man waiting in position on the shore, and imagine what they must have been thinking.
To see a map of the battle, and to read more about it, visit these two websites:
I own Jeff Shaara’s Civil War novels, one of which, The Smoke of Dawn, is about the Battle of Chattanooga. I have read them before, but not since moving here. I remember there being a chapter about the Cracker Line and the battle of Brown’s Ferry. I am looking forward to rereading this book again, even more so now.
In addition, Browns Ferry Federal Road was also an original segment of the Trail of Tears, or the removal of the Cherokee. This happened in 1838. The Cherokee also gathered around the same spot as the Union soldiers did, crossing the river.
The trail is a 1.2 mile out and back hike. It is mostly woodsy, with some open areas. We actually got lost. There was a section of the trail that looked like it went to the right, but it quickly became overgrown and it was obvious we went the wrong way. Looking at the AllTrails app put us back on the right track though.
It was a little muddy when we went, but that is probably because it has been raining all weekend. There are sections of the trail that have elevated boardwalks.
We saw some interesting flowers, butterflies, spider webs and even a couple of fresh deer prints. The trail ends at the river. A barge came through while we were there. We stayed there for a bit, enjoying the view, and imagining the history that occurred there.
After we finished blueberry picking in LaFayette, we were kind of hungry, and a drink was due. Derek Googled coffee shops in the area. He asked me if we had been to either Ringgold or Chickamauga before, and which town would I rather go to. I said no to both, and to pick whichever.
And so we ended up in Ringgold for a couple of hours. The town surprised us in a good way. We will more than likely go back there again.
We had a light lunch at Caffeine Addicts. I did not take any photos here, oops! I always get a chai wherever I go, since I do not like coffee. Usually chai doesn’t change too much from place to place, however, Caffeine Addicts featured toffee nut flavored syrup, a flavor I had not seen before. My go-to is usually hazelnut syrup. It was so good! I would definitely come back just to have that syrup.
Also, the people who worked there were wearing masks, and every other table was closed off. We were there before noon, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
We headed a few doors down to the cutest store front, A Fern and a Feather General Store. Derek bought moonshine jelly and muscadine cider (non alcoholic) and I bought a spoon holder for my tea that says “Today’s good mood brought to you by tea.”
If you’ve been reading for a while now, you probably know I love Civil War history. The Great Locomotive Chase ended in Ringgold. A group of Union men, led by civilian James A. Andrews, stole a train with the intention of running it to Chattanooga, damaging the railroad tracks in the process. The locomotive ran out of fuel in Ringgold, and the men fled on foot. Many of them were later put on trial and were executed.
We checked out the Ringgold Depot, which was closed at the time. We waited for a few minutes to see if a train would come through, but no luck. We drove about a half mile down the tracks until we came to the General monument. The General is the name of the locomotive that the men stole. I’m glad I texted my dad that we were there, and he gave us directions to the monument!
We will definitely come to Ringgold again, because someday I hope to do an entire Great Locomotive Chase day trip, stopping at each of the railroad stations and towns along the way.
Our last two stops in Ringgold were two antique shops that were next to each other. The one was called Cotton Gin Antiques, named for the business that was established by the Callaway brothers in 1929. The outside of it was so cool looking! It is a treasure trove for people who like to hunt for old items.
Ringgold Feed and Seed Antiques was next door. We were on the hunt for a basket to put on our table by the front door; a place to put our masks and hand sanitizer. We found one that looks great with our overall house decor. By the way, while we were there, that was when the train chose to come through! Oh well.
Ringgold is a nice little town, and there was plenty more that we did not check out during our time there. Because it’s only a half hour away, I am sure we will come back sometime for a half-day getaway.
I love Civil War history, so a visit to Chickamauga National Military Park was a must. My co-workers had said that the park had opened back up, and they had enjoyed their time there.
Let me just say … the beginning of our visit was a disaster! One co-worker told us about these trail maps that had questions that corresponded with the monuments and sites, almost like a scavenger hunt.
We printed one out for the General Bragg Trail and on Saturday morning, we set off. And we immediately got lost. So lost in fact, that we walked half a mile out of our way, one mile round-trip. Not to mention that Derek had already drank all of his water. So we went back to the car, bought a 24-pack of water and more snacks at a grocery store at the entrance of the park and started again. And we got lost again … and again.
It made me feel really stupid, especially because my co-worker had done that exact trail a week before, and she said the map with the turn by turn directions really helped her. What were we missing? We saw the marker for the trail where it started, but then we immediately lost the trail after the first monument.
There was a lot of arguing and a few tears that threatened to come out, but we managed to salvage the day. Eventually we just gave up on trying to find the General Bragg Trail, and we got into our car and saw everything by driving around.
The park is beautiful and easy enough to get around (unless you’re like us and can’t read a map apparently). There were a lot of interesting monuments with beautiful relief details. I enjoyed seeing the different cabins, some that were turned into on-site hospitals.
We were there all morning, and we only saw about half of the park. I would like to come back and explore more. Plus, the Visitor’s Center was closed, so I’d like to see that next time.
The Battle of Chickamauga was fought September 18–20, 1863. The Union lost, but they retreated to Chattanooga, where they would win a series of battles in November.