Visiting Chattanooga National Cemetery on Christmas Eve

My parents visited us in Chattanooga for Christmas. With the weather being unseasonably warm, we were looking for different things to do that would allow us to enjoy the outdoors.

My parents have never seen the Christmas wreaths at a cemetery, part of the national Wreaths Across America program.

We enjoyed walking around the cemetery, and we were in awe of how the graves looked, each with a Christmas wreath placed in front.

On Dec. 25, 1863, Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas issued General Orders No. 296 creating a national cemetery in commemoration of the Battles of Chattanooga, Nov. 23-27, 1863.

Wreaths Across America is held on a Saturday each December, and volunteers at about 2,500 participating cemeteries place wreaths at the graves.

Chattanooga National Cemetery16
Chattanooga National Cemetery17
Chattanooga National Cemetery19
Chattanooga National Cemetery21
Chattanooga National Cemetery24

Wreaths Across America

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.

Wreaths Across America6
The start of the ceremony.
Wreaths Across America2
Wreaths Across America15
Wreaths Across America19
People starting to unbox wreaths to lay at the graves.
Wreaths Across America21
The cannon belonging to Burrough’s Battery at the top of the cemetery’s hill.
Wreaths Across America28
Wreaths Across America30
Wreaths Across America36