Tennessee: Fall Civil War Cruises Set

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — After an unusually wet summer across the Southeast, everyone is looking forward to drier fall weather. Soon brilliant colors will decorate the mountains surrounding Chattanooga.

Passengers can take a riverboat tour of historic Chattanooga landmarks. / Submitted

Passengers can take a riverboat tour of historic Chattanooga landmarks. / Submitted

The Tennessee River Gorge is a favored leaf-peeping location. “The narrow, winding nature of the Gorge makes this one of the most scenic cruise routes in the eastern half of the U.S.,” said River Gorge Explorer Captain Pete Hosemann. “When the fall colors start appearing, the views are simply breathtaking.”

Once again, two-hour “Awesome Autumn” fall color cruises will be offered daily aboard the River Gorge Explorer beginning in October. The Tennessee Aquarium also has two new cruises for those who want to experience the entire 26-mile length of “Tennessee’s Grand Canyon.”

On Saturday, Nov. 2, A three-hour, (downstream) “River Gorgeous” cruise will depart at 10 a.m. from the Chattanooga Pier bound for historic Hale’s Bar Dam. At noon, guests registered for a second (upstream) cruise will board a bus at IMAX to meet the boat in Marion County. Disembarking passengers will then ride the bus back to Chattanooga. Tickets are expected to sell quickly for these special cruises that include lunch, music and bus transportation. To reserve seating go to:http://www.tnaqua.org/Events.aspx

This fall will be a particularly good time to cruise the Gorge as Tennessee officially commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Battles for Chattanooga.

Being on the river during the Civil War Sesquicentennial helps people today connect to the history that unfolded here during the Battle of Chickamauga and the Battles for Chattanooga in 1863.

“A Civil War cruise on the River Gorge Explorer is a great way to get a deeper appreciation of the Chattanooga area’s complex terrain,” said Civil War historian Jim Ogden. “Terrain that made the area such a crossroads and gateway over time, which resulted in some of the most significant fighting in our nation’s Civil War.”

In addition to daily cruises highlighting historic points of interest and fall color, several special cruises have been scheduled to focus on specific Civil War events that changed the course of history.

Civil War Cruises

• “Over the Plateau,” 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7

This special Civil War cruise brings to life the troop movements of the Army of the Cumberland. Discover how soldiers endured the elements and traversed the rugged local terrain to play a key role in the Battle of Chickamauga in the late summer of 1863.

• “Sharpshooters and the Siege,” 12:30-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5

You can feel as if you’re traveling 150 years back in time with Tennessee Aquarium Naturalist John Dever aboard the River Gorge Explorer. On this Civil War cruise you’ll learn the intriguing history related to the actions of Confederate sharpshooters in the Tennessee River Gorge during the siege of Chattanooga in October of 1863.

• “Brown’s Ferry Raid,” 9:30-11:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 27

Join Chief Historian of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Ranger Jim Ogden, on the day of the 150th Anniversary of the Federal Strike against Brown’s Ferry. The raid successfully established the “Cracker Line” and was the major turning point in the Battles for Chattanooga.

• “Sherman’s Crossing,” 1:30-3:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23

During this Civil War Sesquicentennial cruise you’ll venture upstream from downtown Chattanooga to where The Army of the Tennessee and General William T. Sherman crossed the Tennessee River at Chickamauga Creek. Learn how the subsequent Battle of Missionary Ridge ended the Battles for Chattanooga in 1863.



Mississippi: Civil War Re-Enactors Embrace Teaching Role

IUKA, Miss. —  There could be any number of reasons as to why people from all over the Southeast work together to do Civil War reenactments.

For some, it’s an opportunity to honor those before them who were involved in the deadliest war in United States history.

“People need to know what their ancestors did, what they put up with,” said Charles Morrison, reenactor. “I do it primarily to honor the ones that did it the first time.”

What’s very important to these reenactors is that younger people get a better understanding of what transpired on and off the battlefields between 1861 and 1865.

“If they don’t know their American history, they are lacking a great portion of their own self identity, of who they are, what their people before them were, what they stood for [and] what their morals their beliefs and creeds were,” said Dennis Bagwell, reenactor.

For the people that participate in Civil War reenactments, not only are they doing this to teach the next generation about history, but they say that they learn something new each time they put on a uniform and step out onto the battlefield.

“It’s always a learning experience,” adds Jimmy Steppe, historian/reenactor. “You’re never going to learn it all and that’s one of the reasons we are here, to learn and to teach as well.”

“I learn something new every day, and especially in the areas [dealing with] what took place, the time period during that time [and] how people lived,” added Sylvia Hall, vendor.

Another key aspect as to why people donate their time and talents is to make sure what really happened is portrayed as accurately as possible, because some stories do tend to become farfetched.

“There are a lot of untruths because naturally, to the victor goes the spoils and the right to tell the story,” adds Morrison. “They’re telling the story the way they want it.”

Besides the reenactment on the battlefield, the Battle of Iuka also featured a concert, a memorial illumination and various education seminars along with roll calls and presentations.



North Carolina: Brusnwick County Launches Civil War Roundtable

The first monthly meeting of  the Brunswick Civil War Round Table will be Tuesday, Sept. 3, featuring popular guest speaker Brian S. Wills, director of the Civil War Center and Professor of History at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga.

The title of his presentation is “The Rock of Chickamauga,” according to a press release from the Civil War Round Table.

The “Rock” is Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas, a career U.S. Army officer and a Union general during the American Civil War and one of the principal commanders in the Western Theater. Despite his heritage as a Virginian, he won one of the first Union victories in the war, at Mill Springs, Ky., and served in important subordinate commands at Perryville and Stones River. His stout defense at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863 saved the Union Army from being completely routed, earning him his most famous of three nicknames, “The Rock of Chickamauga.”

Wills has authored numerous works relating to the American Civil War, including a new biography, “George Henry Thomas: As True as Steel.” Among his many other writings, including “A Battle From the Start: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest,” and an updated edition of the James I. “Bud” Robertson, Jr. piece, “Civil War Sites in Virginia” (Virginia, 2011), appearing just in time for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.

This Round Table meeting will be held at Trinity United Methodist Church at 209 E. Nash St., Southport. Registration for the Sept. 3 meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. The visitor fee is $5, which can be applied toward the $25 annual membership dues.

Everyone is invited to join the more than 550 members of the largest Civil War Round Table in the country. For more information, contact president Wally Rueckel at (910) 253-7382, or email to wrueckel@questor.com. The Round Table’s website is brunswickcivilwarroundtable.com.



Kansas: Kansans to Re-Enact Battle of Chickamauga

WICHITA, Kan. — Buried in soldiers’ graves, the men of the 8th Kansas Volunteer Regiment have not been forgotten.

Kansas Civil War re-enactors portraying the 8th Kansas Volunteer Infantry at the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga in 1999. The photo was taken at the Kansas monument. Courtesy of Ken Spurgeon

Kansas Civil War re-enactors portraying the 8th Kansas Volunteer Infantry at the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga in 1999. The photo was taken at the Kansas monument. Courtesy of Ken Spurgeon

One hundred and fifty years after the Battle of Chickamauga, more than 30 Civil War re-enactors from Kansas are scheduled to go to Georgia the third week of September.

“Chickamauga saw a terrible battle where the 8th Kansas, our state’s busiest Civil War Unit, lost 54 percent of its men and four flag bearers,” wrote Ken Spurgeon, a Kansas historian and filmmaker in an e-mail to The Eagle. He will be among the re-enactors traveling to Georgia.

The 8th Kansas was nicknamed the Kansas Greyhounds, in part because of its speed as an infantry unit at traveling across country, wrote Civil War historian Bill McFarland of Topeka in his book, “Keep the Flag to the Front: The Story of the Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry.”

The regiment was organized in 1861, months after the start of the Civil War. It was to be a Home Guard Unit but was soon called elsewhere.

In the end, it would suffer some of the highest losses of the war and be the last Kansas regiment to be discharged. The 8th Kansas was in 17 battles, including Perryville, Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge.

The Kansas Civil War re-enactors, Spurgeon said, plan not only to participate in the battle’s re-enactment but to also hold a memorial service at the 8th Kansas monument there to honor where the unit experienced its worst moment.

“They were caught off guard and overpowered by Confederate forces,” Spurgeon said. “At one point, the unit fell back and Capt. Edgar Trego, for whom Trego County would be named for, is at the front giving water to the wounded and dying. He is physically picking up men and carrying them off the field. He then is mortally wounded as he is carrying one man away.”

Trego, Graham, and Thomas counties are named after men who died at the Battle of Chickamauga.

The morning of Sept. 19, 1863, — the second day of the three-day battle — the regiment marched eight miles in double-quick time, according to McFarland’s book.

Union military officials stationed troops at what would be the Confederate flanks — the center, they predicted would be ineffectual. Instead, it turned out to be at the heart of the battle, where the Kansas 8th was positioned.

“The Eighth Kansas had five captains, three lieutenants and over one hundred and fifty men shot down in less than half an hour,” McFarland wrote.

“As a Kansan, this is our biggest moment — it wasn’t Gettysburg or Vicksburg,” Spurgeon said. “Kansas Civil War soldiers were rarely in the thick of the big fights. Here, we were alongside all of the Eastern troops.”

Chickamauga was also a place where Kansans died far from home and were buried in the nearby Chattanooga National Cemetery.

“In that day and age, no family member would have gone there to put a flower on a grave,” Spurgeon said.

“In this day and age, we have the blessing and luxury of going there. Those graves need to be visited, marked and memorialized … especially now.”