Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chattanooga Choo Choo, Lookout Mountain Tennessee

On the trip during this last month, a side distraction of historical interest, was The Lookout Mountain and areas of Chattanooga Tennessee.

Chatanooga History

  • This city is also the site of the historic train station Hotel
  • described in the 1941 movie 'Sun Valley Serenade', 'Chattanooga Choo-Choo'. This swing Band song in the later 1940's, was the first recording to ever go 'Gold' with over one million records sold.

    The story is about a train trip from New York to Chattanooga. A lot of people may recall the words about 'Track twenty-nine', 'Pardon me Boy' and the actress name 'Dorothy Dandridge'.

    Chattanooga Choo Choo

  • The historic train station at the old site of the 'Stanton' Hotel is preserved and associated with the 'Choo-Choo Holiday Inn. Many of the old rail cars are available as suites or rooms to stay overnight. Restaurants are numerous with some of the dining done in old dining cars. A pizza place is even in one car. Gift shops and special interest displays are all on the site along the boarding platform and the many rails.

    Chattanooga, as well as other parts of Tennessee have several Railroad related sites including a large model railroad museum as well as functioning restored lines. the Union Army controlled the railroad during the Civil War. 1849 was the start of their control and maintenance. Forts had to be built along it's length to keep up with the Confederates 'Insurgent' destruction. The control of the railroad was instrumental in keeping the Union forces resupplied as they extended ever further South.

    'The Great Locomotive Chase' resulting in Confederate States locomotive, 'The General' being stolen by Andersons Union Raiders and pursued towards Chattanooga, was an old 'Buster Keaton' film. The USA first Medal of Honor was awarded to each of the Union survivors of the botched theft and chase. Only 8 of the 19 volunteer raiders survived. The locomotive "The General" still survives today as a museum display.

    The historic Civil War Battles are commemorated at the 'Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park', the nations first and largest Nat. Mil. Park. 37,000 casualties within two days being oneof the Civil Wars hardest battles.

    The Lookout mountain peak is high enough to see four states. Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia. The rest including Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, are all too far away and over the horizon.

    Many names from US Civil War History are memorialized here. Lookout Mountain, Signal Point, Missionary Ridge, Generals Ulysses S Grant, Braxton Bragg, Sherman, Longstreet, Cleburne, Hooker, Rosecrans, Burnside, Thompson. While burying the dead soldiers, (37,000 casualties) Thompson was reportedly asked if they should be separated by States? He reportedly answered, famously, that they should not. "Mix em up, I'm sick of States Rights".

    The Battle of 'Chickamauga' was a disaster for the Union army. But during the following 'Battle Above the clouds', (morning fog) the Union soldiers were yelling "Chickamauga! Chickamauga! as they attacked the Confederate forces that were entrenched above them on the mountain. That attack then turned the tide and routed the Confederates.

    The three battles for Chattanooga, 1862/3, ended in the Southern States being opened up for the historic 'March to Atlanta' by General Sherman. That brutal 'Scorched Earth' Invasion, totally Demoralized the Confederacy and brought the US Civil War to a much earlier ending, therefore saving much additional bloodshed. The 'Burning of Atlanta' was memorialized in the Book/Movie "Gone With the Wind" (Rhett Butler and Scarlet O'Hara..."Frankly Scarlet, I Don't Give a DAM").

    The arrival of the Industrial Age was now very evident, as was the arrival of 'The Ironclad Gunboats'. The first 'Submarine', 'The Hunley'. The cannons used were basically 'Napoleon' types at the beginning of the Civil War. The Union was the first to use a cannon mount. It was during the battle for Chattanooga. The very large cannon was on a pivot surrounded by a circular rail for horizontal rotation in 360 degrees. A slide rail system allowed the cannon to be brought back to firing position for the following shot without completely re-aligning on target. 'Rifling' started to become common in the barrels of the weapons to spin the projectiles for more accuracy. The old 'Napoleon' type was now obsolete. Every shot was thrown out of alignment by the recoil. It was a wonder that any accuracy was ever achieved. The old 'Smooth Bore' was no help.

    Chattanooga Tennessee is a great place for tourists. When traveling near the area, visit the sights, The historic Walnut street Bridge over the Tennessee River (now the longest walking bridge in the world) the Incline Railway to the top of Lookout Mountain, Rock City made famous by the black and red birdhouses sold in gift shops all over the Nation as well as the painted Logo on barn roofs across the country for years, and Ruby Falls and caverns. The area is somewhat commercial with out being obnoxious. We enjoyed the days, including other previous trips through this area.

    Get out and see America. It's a Great Nation for freedom of all to experience. Learn about History so that we do not have to REPEAT IT!
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    USS CAIRO Gunboat

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    Tuesday, April 24, 2007

    Vicksburg Mississippi, the 'Cairo'

    Vicksburg Mississippi sits high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Vicksburg effectively controlled the river traffic from the Gulf of Mexico to Illinois during the US Civil War. The control was deemed totally important to isolate the Confederate South from all contact, by dividing it. Vicksburg was against the war, but reluctantly stayed affiliated with the Confederacy.

    Abraham Lincoln was the most hated President ever, in US History because of the Civil War. A prominent Vicksburg Dr. Richard Pryor, offered a vast sum of money for his assasination. While on this latest tour of the southern USA, this battlefield of the civil war was a drive through, tour worthwhile.

    All of the states involved in the battle/siege and brutal occupation of Vicksburg are represented by individual monuments throughout the National Park
  • A story of one attempt by a Commanders troops, to completely disassemble a cannon, manually haul all of the pieces up a big hill, reassemble it to fire upon the confederates entrenched nearby, only to fail to gain any ground, is told.

    Many famous names of Union Commanders are emblazoned on monuments as well as cemetery markers. Lower ranking Soldiers felled in the battle, are never named. No one ever recorded them. Talk about the 'Unknown Soldiers'. Confederates got little or nothing to indicate their deeds. Spoils of war I guess.

    As a school kid, I read about the historic Naval battle between the small maneuverable, Union Monitor, a relatively small Ironclad built in New York, with a pill box turret containing 2 cannons, the turret rotated to allow reload of one cannon while the other one fired, and The much larger Merrimack, (formerly The Virginia) a Confederate Ironclad sent to fight The Union Navy.

    This first ever, monumental battle between Naval Ironclads, brought the end to Wooden Sailing Warships forever. The great Wooden Ships ruled the seas for many hundreds of years. One small gunfight later, they were totally obsolete. I did not realize that the Union North had built seven Ironclads, All named after Northern Citys. All resembling the Merrimak of the Confederacy.

    Cairo (Kay-Ro) Illinois being the namesake for one Ironclad. We found the CAIRO Ironclad warship to be the most interesting display. The Museum is located near the exit end of the tour road at The Vicksburg National Battlefield. A huge, white, cable tensioned tent structure, covers the ship. Welcome aboard.

    This is a big boat, semi-restored, with it's big guns mounted. The CAIRO was the first ever, 'sinking by an electrically detonated device'. An IED (improvised explosive device) by today's descriptions. A five gallon glass jar filled with black powder and an electrical wire to shore. When the ship contacted the jar, the guys on shore applied an electrical charge. A big resulting explosion blew a hole in the port side below water line, sinking the ship in 12 minutes and in 36 feet of water.

    Covered by mud and silt, it lay there from 12 Dec 1862 until found in 1956 by a couple of determined historians with a compass (needle pointed towards the big Iron plates) and long iron rods to probe the mud. In 1977 the museum became a reality. read about the ship on;

    This is very worthwhile sightseeing. the number of artifacts collected is amazing.
    The loss of no lives during the sinking within twelve minutes, was noteworthy. They did indeed leave behind thousands of well preserved artifacts that are on display inside the museum.

    Vicksburg itself is a historical site as well. The massive levies to protect it from the Mississippi River floods, are a focal point at the dock area. Casinos are to be expected on Riverboats and such.

    A tornado destroyed a section of the old downtown area many years back, so a lot of the original buildings are a little shorter than historically constructed. Plenty of the old city remains though, to keep you touring the old neighborhoods. Music plays from the many flowerpots along the old mainstreet. It does take a while to get the meandering highways down in memory. It seems they still follow the old paths and roads around the hilly terrain.

    This Great Nation has a treasure trove of fantastic history and culture to see. The rest of the world is traveling to the USA for this fine sightseeing. I often wonder why so many of our own folks go abroad to get their vacation fix. Our own 'Coastal Dwellers' that are of the detached 'Elite' class refer to this part of our nation as 'The Flyover' They could not be more wrong.
  • Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    5,789 Miles, Eleven States

    Returned home today after visiting a few of the fine states in the USA. Texas is always a favorite. The state of Texas alone, is larger than a lot of countrys. A state mile marker on Interstate highway 10, from the Arizona state line, is around 1000 miles at the Louisiana state line.

    The highways in Texas are extremely well maintained for a state that large. Smooth pavement makes the ride more enjoyable so the incredible variations of scenery can be observed without the jarring of joints in concrete squares so prevalent in previous years of highway engineering. I truly believe the lobbyists for the concrete industry are promoting the use of that product. Not that the product itself is bad, the technology to lay it smooth has improved to the point that the joints no longer have to become irregular after time. The problem is that so much of the old 'expansion joint' engineering still exists across the entire nation. Hundreds upon thousands of BAM, BAM, BAM miles still are waiting to be replaced. Personally I still like the ride of a nice asphalt roadway with the top layer being 'pea gravel', NO joints and a nice reflective surface for night driving. The new highways being built are layered over more sophisticated foundations. Maybe the next generation will hold up better.

    The state of the nation is reflected in it's highways. I always like to see maintenance crews working and construction companies building new complex overpasses with the 'flyways' soaring above the many different routes intertwined with each other. Now trying to weave my way through these complex mazes with a 35 foot coach towing a Jeep during five o'clock rush hour is a bit daunting to say the least. My favorite co-pilot is doing the navigating while I steer around the temporary concrete barriers that are very unforgiving when a driver makes a mistake and gets a little too close.

    The speed of traffic always speeds up when an 'Interstate' highway goes through a city. the local drivers are trying to get to 'wherever' faster and faster. Usually the speed is about 70 MPH in extremely heavy traffic following at one car length or less, while doing the 'weave' to enter and exit at the various streets. the posted speed is about 55 but is totally ignored in the city 'corridors'. Out on the open highway with lighter traffic, 60 MPH is acceptable. The city life is faster so the drivers reflect that fast life in the speed of the vehicle they are driving. When a mistake is made, the results are catastrophic. The entire passageway is blocked for endless hours. emergency vehicles have to find a close roadway and the EMT's have to climb over barriers to get to the victims in many cases. Surprisingly few accidents happen, for the shear numbers of vehicles per hour moving through this high speed 'game' called the 'commute'.

    While crossing the Ohio river, we had the fortune to watch the 'barge' traffic pass below the old narrow bridges we were stopped on, while waiting in line for the 'one lane at a time' opening. Skinny lanes were a reminder of years past when vehicles were narrower. Add to that, the number of big 18 wheeled trucks with fewer than 12 inches between us, as we pass by each other at about 30 MPH. The water below did not look any too friendly for an unfortunate rail jump by a truck or ourselves. The old bridge ironwork and concrete barriers swishing past, were a mere couple of inches away from the side of the rocking coach. Prayer works.

    While seeing a 'shortcut' on the map through Eureka Springs' Arkansas, the decision was made to take it. Hours of first gear, up hills and down hills and around switchbacks that were designed with little old cars of the 1920's being the rule. The coach logged more first gear and steering wheel spins during that passage than a year of normal driving. My arms and wrists were feeling the wear as well. New modern highway is being built through the area to handle the heavy traffic from the area around Branson Missouri. The old highway is great for motorcyclists testing their skills. Maybe the Wild Hogs will make a new 'road trip movie. Only one other place was more intense to drive the coach through.

    The Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, Natchez Trace, and a night spent in an hour long, first gear accessable, high mountain, bear rich, campground built for tents and travel trailers. Morning brought rapidly falling snow so we left fast during the storm. A bad decision and a wrong turn brought many hours more of switchbacks and first gear until the road turned to gravel, narrowed and started down a very steep grade from which no return could be made by the big coach.

    I unhooked the Jeep, sent my co-pilot on ahead to scout the great abyss lying below the coach. Great news, the highway lay only three miles further down this old mountains little forest service road, which the 35 foot coach had blocked completely. Many back and forth 'man handling's later to work the tight switchbacks through the trees and ravines, brought us out on a blessed paved roadway to civilization. Hallelujah....What a great, exciting, nation.
    next post: Civil War History stories.