I spent last weekend at Chickamauga, doing some book signing, a little research, and observing the park staff conduct a variety of programs appropriate to the 147th anniversary of the battle. It was time well spent.
As noted in a previous post, the park tries to hold events every year. Usually they offer tactical demonstrations, a variety of rangeer-led 90 minute or 2 hour tours of critical aspects of the battle, and other similar interpretive efforts. This year they had a fine line-up.
For the artillery demo, They crewed three artillery pieces, and portrayed Bridges’ Battery, Illinois Light Artillery. Bridges’ position was at the south end of McDonald Field, several hundred yards south of the Visitor’s Center, and Jim Ogden captained a really nice presentation. The three demo cannon were placed on line with Bridges’ other guns to give the crowd a sense of the amount of space a full battery occupied, and rather than just run through a firing demonstration, Jim talked about the tactical situation the battery faced on the morning of September 20th and how they fared.
Jim had some nice visuals – the battery had received new colors (presented to them by wealthy friends of the battery back home in Chicago) that summer, up near Tullahoma, and had a unit photograph taken with the new flags to send home. Jim had color images of the flags, plus an enlarged copy of the photograph to show off.
This being the 150th anniversary of secession, there were also a number of presentations revolving around that crisis – a series of political speeches were given, and real stem-winders they were. Then there was a tour that examined the consequences of those speeches, following a number of men around the battlefield to examine their fates once secession turned into a shooting war.
This last tour was shrewdly done, looking at the likes of Breckinridge, States Rights Gist (gee, where do you suppose his father was at, politically?) James Deshler, and several others. It was held at dusk, and we ended up down in Viniard Field, with night closing in. I always learn something on these trips – this time I learned that States Rights Gist not only had an iconic name, but he was born in Union District, South Carolina – the irony of it all.
Gist was born, by the way, in 1831; the era of nullification and of Jackson vs. Calhoun, which explains his unusual moniker. He died in 1864, one of the dead generals of Franklin.
While we were finishing up, near Heg’s pyramid, it occurred to me that another whole program could be held right there: one highlighting how differing views on slavery and emancipation effected the Federals. In a previous post I discussed the 81st Indiana, Jefferson C. Davis, and his brigade commanders – Carlin and Heg. We were even then standing in their midst. I mentioned as much to Park Ranger Lee White, and I think he liked the topic. I hope they use it next year.