Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Wreaths Across America, a national program held at many different cemeteries at the same time, honoring veterans by laying wreaths at their graves.
I was familiar with this program, but I have never participated before. I was there to cover the event for work, but I still enjoyed it and I was glad I got to have the experience.
There was a ceremony at noon before the wreath laying, and it was moving. There was a man who played the bagpipes, which sounded amazing. The ceremony also featured two men playing echoing taps, which brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of my grandpa, who was in the Navy.
Chattanooga National Cemetery, which is where I was for the program, has about 47,000 graves. About 30 percent were able to be decorated with wreaths, which are sponsored and purchased by the public. I would like to possibly do this next year, sponsor a wreath or two, and then lay them at a Civil War soldier’s grave, because of my interest in Civil War history.
There is an interesting side note in this story.
A Civil War reenacting unit fired a cannon during different times of the ceremony. I got my hands on a program, and I realized with excitement that it was Burrough’s Battery.
A few years ago, while I was still reenacting myself, we fundraised to have a group from Tennessee with six horses come to Gettysburg to pull our original 1863 cannon in the 150th Remembrance Day Parade. I was actually got to ride one of the horses. And I guess you know where this story is going now. The group firing the cannon during the ceremony was Burrough’s Battery.
After the ceremony, I introduced myself to some of the members, some of which I recognized through my photos. They did not remember me, but they did remember that parade. They even tried to recruit me. I said, thanks but no thanks. I don’t even have my uniform anymore! I just wanted to say hi. But it was a small world to be in the same place that morning.
We walked around the Chattanooga National Cemetery on Friday. The cemetery was established in 1863, as a place to bury Union Civil War soldiers after the Battles of Chattanooga.
It was a beautiful, somber place. We have been to Arlington National Cemetery, and it felt similar, yet different because of the surrounding mountains.
We made a special stop to see the Andrews Raiders Memorial, which features a bronze statue of The General locomotive, featured in the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862.
From Wikipedia: “The Great Locomotive Chase, or Andrew’s Raid was a military raid that occurred on April 12, 1862, in northern Georgia during the American Civil War. Volunteers from the Union Army, led by civilian scout James J. Andres, commandeered a train, The General, and took it northward toward Chattanooga, Tennessee, doing as much damage as possible to the vital Western and Atlantic Railroad line from Atlanta to Chattanooga as they went. They were pursued by Confederate forces at first on foot, and later on a succession of locomotives, including The Texas, for 87 miles.
Because the Union men had cut the telegraph wires, the Confederates could not send warnings ahead to forces along the railway. Confederates eventually captured the raiders and quickly executed some as spies, including Andrews; some others were able to flee. Some of the raiders were the first to be awarded the Medal of Honor by the US Congress for their actions. As a civilian, Andrews was not eligible.”
I had only vaguely known about the Locomotive Chase up until this point. I am enjoying living in a new area, and learning about its history.