Battlefield Tour a Success

The Patrick Cleburne Society held its first battlefield tour on March 10-11, 2000. Headquartered at the Radisson Read House, a historic hotel in Chattanooga, we boarded the bus on a rainy Saturday morning and headed out to discover the details of Cleburne's military talent at two very important engagements. Jim Ogden of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, and historians Lee White and Keith Bohannon were our guides. Our group numbered about 17 members, among them the Irish Patrick Cleburne Society of Ovens, County Cork. Three descendants of Cleburne's men were also in our group, representing the 10th Texas and great-nephew of Cleburne's adjutant, Capt. Irving Buck.

After a brief stop at Orchard Knob where Jim Ogden set the stage for the Federal assault, we wound our way along the crest of Missionary Ridge to the position on the Confederate extreme right, where Cleburne held the ground. The weather provided authentic atmosphere, as it was very similar to what that November 25 of 1863 was like. Upon arrival to Cleburne's position, five men of the 10th Texas Volunteer Infantry living history group were holding the line of battle in front of Thomas Key's battery. They gave us first person accounts by soldiers who fought under Brig. Gen. James Smith on this same ground. It was a unique experience for all involved to be in the exact same place where Cleburne was personally prominent in the battle, and where ancestors and soldiers of the 10th had seen such carnage and intense combat nearly 137 years ago.

From Tunnel Hill we followed the route as nearly as possible by modern day highway, that took Cleburne south, through Graysville, Georgia to Ringgold. I had put the General in charge of the weather, and evidently he wanted us to experience it authentically. It was rainy and gray just like that day. Even the creeks were swollen and swift, reminding us of what Cleburne and his men had to overcome on this rearguard retreat.

We reached Ringgold where a box lunch awaited us at the Old Stone Depot, itself a survivor of the war, scarred by fire and rebuilt later. We were joined once again by the 10th Texas for a few personal accounts from the men they portray. Then Lee White and Keith Bohannon took us around Ringgold to a few vantage points, following the Confederate army as it passed through town, and then the Union pursuit into the gap. We stood on the ground where Cleburne defended the mouth of the gap beside Goldthwaite's two Napoleon cannon. Then we ascended the steep road where Lowrey's Brigade held in reserve until the Union assault on Cleburne's right brought them up the incline at the double-quick to meet the threat.

From the crest of Taylor's Ridge (now called White Oak Ridge) we looked out over the valley below, to the same view that Cleburne and his men had. The defensive position clearly revealed the excellent tactical and strategic advantage Cleburne held and utilized. It once again reinforced his exceptional talent for command.

Click to Enlarge Image
The seminar group gathers for a photo at the Old Stone church, in Ringgold, to end the day of battlefield touring.

Our last stop was the Old Stone Church that was used as a hospital after the battle, and later on in the war. It is a landmark often referred to in Battle reports. We returned to the hotel, and met at 7 pm for dinner. We were then treated to a slide program by Donal O'Flynn of the Ovens PCS, about the places where Cleburne grew up and lived in Ireland. Our weekend was a success, but we need a better attendance to raise money to donate to preservation. I hope future tours will net a bigger profit. No other battlefield seminar group concentrates heavily on one significant portion of the field for a commander, especially for Cleburne. We intend to visit sites usually overlooked for the more popular and better known places. The PCS will only do these tours every other year. Our next one will concentrate on Perryville, Ky. The part of the field where Cleburne fought has just recently been acquired into the preserved battlefield property, and it is in pristine condition.

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