Great Locomotive Chase trip

This Labor Day weekend, in honor of it being a long weekend, and it being my birthday weekend, we wanted to do something special. We decided to take a day trip into Georgia, and visit some Civil War sites and museums.

I love Civil War history, and there is no shortage of it in Tennessee and Georgia. When we first moved to Chattanooga, my dad told me about the Great Locomotive Chase. He let me borrow a book about it, “Stealing the General.”

Here is a short history lesson: The Great Locomotive Chase (also known as Andrews’ Raid) happened on April 12, 1862. James Andrews, a civilian and scout for the Union Army, and volunteers from the Union Army stole a train, the General, in Kennesaw, Georgia, (back then known as Big Shanty). The train at the time was stopped to allow passengers to have breakfast at the Lacy Hotel.

The goal was to drive the train to Chattanooga, destroying the Western and Atlantic Railroad track as they went. Railroads were vital in the south and the Civil War. Gaining access to the railroads would cut off supplies to and from southern cities, and badly damage the south’s chances in winning the war.

Confederates gained access to different trains, including the Yonah, and the Texas, and pursued the General. Andrews and the Union soldiers made it as far as Ringgold, Ga., before the locomotive ran out of fuel, and they were captured. Some of the men were able to flee, but eight were hanged.

Our first stop of the day was Kennesaw Georgia, about an hour and a half drive away. We visited the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, which houses the original engine, the General.

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The General was the main draw of the museum, but we also learned a lot about the railroads and how they were used and impacted by the Civil War.

There was a neat section in the museum where you learned about the work in foundries, and what it takes to make a locomotive.

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The second Great Locomotive Chase and Civil War related stop of the day was in Tunnel Hill, Ga., where we visited the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center and Museum.

A major part of the Great Locomotive Chase was the chase through the Western and Atlantic Railroad tunnel. The Texas was actually chasing the General backwards!

As part of this tour, we rode on a golf cart the whole length of the tunnel, back and forth. This was really cool. The tunnel is no longer used, but the newer tunnel, built in 1928, is right along side of it. We were lucky enough to see a train come through while we were here.

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This is one of my favorite pictures I took on the trip. It’s the modern and the historical together. In the background, you have the modern train, and in the foreground is an original ruined railroad line. The union soldiers destroyed as much track as they could while on campaigns. They would bend them so they would be unusable.

We also got to see the Clisby Austin house, built in 1848. Austin was the post master in Tunnel Hill, and he also owned general stores. He was married twice — his first wife died — and he had 19 children! Austin was a Union sympathizer, so when the war broke out, he sold the home and left.

General Sherman stayed in the home for a week during the start of the Atlanta Campaign. Later on, after the Battle of Tunnel Hill, the home was turned into a hospital.

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One thing that I found interesting in this home was that the stairs were original. You could see the dips in the wood, from all of the people who have walked on it over time. I took the same steps as General Sherman!

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I enjoyed the Tunnel Hill Heritage Center and Museum, because it was a bonus to learn about Clisby Austin, and the home.

There were other stops on this day trip, so stay tuned!

Brown’s Ferry Tavern

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.

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Three Civil War sites in one morning

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.

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The view from the Cravens House.
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Orchard Knob.
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Lookout Mountain as seen from Orchard Knob.
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Missionary Ridge as viewed from Orchard Knob.
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The front entrance of Sherman Reservation. It’s a short hike from here to get to the monuments.
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Point Park

One of the attractions on top of Lookout Mountain is Point Park. It is part of the Chattanooga and Chickamauga National Military Park.

The Battle of Lookout Mountain was fought November 24, 1863. It became known as the Battle Above the Clouds. It was a part of a larger few months long campaign to take over Chattanooga.

It was important that Union forces take control of Chattanooga because Chattanooga was the gateway to the deep south, and many railroads converged there.

History aside, Point Park has some beautiful observation points that overlook the mountains and downtown Chattanooga. There are some hiking trails on Lookout Mountain, but the paths that we saw seemed more difficult than we were willing to take on.

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The New York Peace Memorial
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This bend in the Tennessee River is known as Moccasin Bend.
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An enlarged painting of The Battle Above the Clouds in the visitor’s center.