Sunday, September 12, 2010

Weekend Assignment: History

This week's Weekend Assignment is History...
We don't all live near the site of a battlefield or other world-famous event, but any place has its own history: political, cultural, even natural history. How aware are you of the past of the town, city or state where you live now? Share with us a story of local history.

I actually do live near the site of a battlefield (several, in fact), and I'm very aware of the area's history.  I live in northwest Georgia, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee.   The region's main moment in the historical spotlight happened nearly 150 years ago during the Civil War.  Chattanooga was an important railroad center, where several lines met that connected most of the South.  There were several battles fought for control of the town and there are historical markers and monuments scattered all over the region.

Braxton Bragg's Confederate Army of Tennessee occupied Chattanooga in the summer of 1863. Union General William Rosecrans sent his Army of the Cumberland around Bragg's flank, threatening Bragg's supply line from Atlanta.  Bragg withdrew from Chattanooga and headed south into Georgia.  The armies met at the Battle of Chickamauga.  The Union army was routed, but withdrew into Chattanooga, occupying the town.  Bragg besieged the town to try to starve the Federals out, but General Ulysses S. Grant arrived with many reinforcements and, after several battles, managed to drive the Confederates out of the area.

There are many, many interesting stories and anecdotes that occurred during this period.  It is hard to pick just one, but one of my favorites involves John Wilder.

Before the war, John Wilder was a successful businessman.  He ran a foundry in Ohio and invented many hydraulic machines.  When the war broke out, he joined the army as a private, but was quickly elected captain by the other men (a very common practice at the time.)  Although he wasn't a professional soldier, he advanced quickly and was a colonel within a year.

When Rosecrans's army first advanced on Chattanooga, Wilder's Lightning Brigade was at the vanguard of the attack.  He took a position on Stringer's Ridge, across the Tennessee River from Chattanooga, and began shelling the town.  His battery, commanded by Eli Lilly, who would later become very famous as the founder of a large drug company, succeeded in sinking two steamboats and causing a great deal of panic in the town.

Wilder settled in Tennessee after the war.  He built and operated the first two blast furnaces in the South at Rockwood, Tennessee.  Then he established an ironworks in Chattanooga to manufacture rails for railroads.  In 1871, he was elected mayor of Chattanooga.  That has to be an unprecedented achievement -- from shelling a town to mayor of the same town in just a few short years.

Enhanced by Zemanta

1 comment:

Karen Funk Blocher said...

I have to admit that I remembered when I wrote this one that you were near at least one Civil War battlefield, and was hoping you'd jump in with a story. Thanks for telling us about Wilder and Lilly!