A series of events are in the planning stages for the 150th commemoration of events leading up to the Confederate surrender and both the Union and Confederate presence in the area.
“This is a state initiative,” said Melissa Woody, vice president of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
The initiative, a part of the Civil Wars Trails program, is also a multistate project.
Three Civil Wars Trails markers currently exist in Bradley County.
One is located at the Museum Center at Five Points, one is in Charleston Park, on the grounds where Civil War encampments were located, and the other is at the Henegar House where Gen. William T. Sherman visited.
“The Civil War was fought in all our yards,” said Woody, “and the state is gearing up for events as well for this sesquicentennial.”
Tennessee has already developed a website surrounding history, as well as some of the planned events which will cover the period.
“Tennessee’s Civil War history is rich and complex, with the staggering effects of total war felt in every part of the state,” according to the tncivilwar.com site.
Events have already begun to unfold regarding how the war “evolved throughout the state and changed life for everyone.”
On Nov. 12, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen kicked off the commemoration.
Woody attended the event in Nashville.
In Alabama, it was announced this week that the state is publishing a new brochure highlighting some 47 sites linked to the War between the States.
The nation divided, and the state of Tennessee did as well.
Union sentiment as well as a strong Confederate presence in the South also divided Bradley County somewhat, but the county as well as most of eastern Tennessee remained loyal to the Union.
Beginning in the spring, events commemorating the involvement of both the Confederacy and Union are being planned.
Some of those events include:
- April 25, 2011 — April 25, 1861 — On this date 150 years ago, Unionists erected a 90-foot flag pole. Officials are in the planning stages of securing a pole and displaying a Union flag bearing 35 stars to commemorate the event. Some 150 years ago, the Confederates moved through town via train and shot at the flag. This was not the end of the story for the handmade flag sewn by Sally Shields.
- June 11, 2011 — Officials will rededicate the United Daughters of the Confederacy Monument. It will be the 100th anniversary for the monument, which ironically separates the north and south directions of Ocoee Street, or what was then known as Robert E. Lee Highway.
- July 24, 2011— July 24, 1861 — Confederate supporters celebrated the victory at Bull Run three days earlier and businesses and homes in Bradley County and Cleveland were lit by lanterns.
The event next year will be held downtown and speakers will be scheduled.
- Nov. 5 and 6, 2011 —November through December 1861 — The bridge burning in Charleston will be re-created using re-enactors dressed in period costume. Reports of Union troops were received that orders to take control of the rail system had been passed to the war front.
On Nov. 8 and 9, “Union sympathizers burned all rail bridges between Bridgeport, Ala., and Bristol,” according to Melba Lee Murray’s writings in “Bradley Divided.”
The “rail war” was on. The lines were a mainline for Confederate troop movement and communications. Confederates scrambled to the bridges to guard them from Union activists after two bridges were burned Nov. 9, 2011.
On Nov. 6, 2011, a lantern cemetery tour at Fort Hill is in the planning stages. Period re-enactors are also being incorporated.
- The war and area began to heat up significantly in 1863.
On Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29, 2013, Civil War re-enactors will be in Bradley County to commemorate the attack by Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The Confederates attacked the Union army for the first time in Bradley County on Sept. 18, 1863, causing the Union to retreat into McMinn County as the fighting advanced through the city of Charleston.
A Union raid on Cleveland happened after the battle of Missionary Ridge.
These events will be staged at locations which are still being sought, according to organizers of the events.
Incidentally, organizers are working to keep events as close to the dates history was marked 150 years ago, and a number of battles in Chattanooga and Chickamauga are within those dates.
- Oct. 27, 2013 — Another Fort Hill Cemetery tour is planned and again will focus on personalities associated with the Civil War.
- November and December 2013 (Dates to be determined) — Still to be announced is the exact date commemorating Civil War times in 1863 that Gen. Sherman camped his troops in Charleston while he stayed at the Henegar House. The Charleston-Calhoun Historical Society has tentatively planned Nov. 15-17 as a commemorative period and are working out details to hold a “Military Ball” in Charleston.
Encampments with re-enactors are also being sought for the project dates.
- Another encampment weekend is also being staged for sometime in early 2014.
During this time in 1864, tens of thousands of troops encamped for the winter in Bradley County communities.
A number of historical homes relevant to the war are also being eyed for possible inclusion in the 150th sesquicentennial tours.
- Feb. 10, 2014 — Feb. 10, 1864 — The Liberty Pole will once again be hoisted to its position at the Bradley County Courthouse.
In 1864, a ceremony was held with Union officers after Union troops occupied Cleveland.
Although the Union was a strong force, the war was ongoing.
- August 16-17, 2014 — Same time frame as August 1864 — Confederates raid Cleveland and Charleston and Union soldiers staged battle.
Re-enactments of several major confrontations are forthcoming, according to planners.
- October 2015 will coincide with events which occurred in October 1865 as Union soldiers returned to Cleveland.
Union supporters had a town barbecue which was held at Col. Stephen Beard’s farm, which is a location still being sought. Anyone having pertinent information can contact Woody at the Chamber of Commerce.
At that time in history, the barbecue cost a grand total of $77.
Plans are still tentative for this event which will close out the five-year commemorative effort.
The Public Broadcasting System and WTCI will be presenting “Robert E. Lee” on Jan. 3, and on Jan. 10, “U.S. Grant.” Both were leaders in their cause during the Civil War.
Programming is available at the WTCI website and is a part of “The American Experience” series.
U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp visited Charleston earlier this month and agreed the area is a prime location for a number of Civil War projects which have been planned for the future. The town is also known as the encampment at Fort Cass and Rattlesnake Springs and thousands of Native Americans who were moved along the infamous and deadly Trail of Tears.