Historian James Ogden of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park highlighted how Cleveland, Bradley County and the surrounding areas were involved in the war during a presentation to the Rotary Club of Cleveland Tuesday.
“The fact important things happened in this region is indeed true,” Ogden said.
Copper from Copperhill and Ducktown and coal in the Cumberland Mountains were important to the Confederates during the war.
The copper was brought to Cleveland to be processed. Ogden said caves in Tennessee were also vital for minerals used in gun powder.
In 1863, the Civil War reached this region.
“There was that palpable sense that things were hanging in the balance,” Ogden said. “And as 1863 opened for residents of this region, there was news of important events, maybe even decisive events. Certainly events that could potentially shape their lives.”
From Dec. 31, 1862, to Jan. 2, 1863, the Union Army of the Cumberland and Confederate Army of Tennessee met in Murfreesboro in “one of the bloodiest, percentagewise, battles of the Civil War,” Ogden said.
The battle was part of the push to stop the Southern states from becoming independent and to rescue areas that wanted to stay a part of the Union. East Tennessee was one of those areas.
“Here in East Tennessee there was an event at the same time, which held potentially momentous importance. A long-distance Union calvary raid launched out of Kentucky ... on Dec. 26 (1862) thrust its way into Upper East Tennessee and on Dec. 30 burned two key railroad bridges over the Holston and the Watauga rivers. That raid — Carter’s Raid— was an important event because the railroad then, just as it is today, is an important, vital artery.”
The railroads brought important products into the area. Without these key bridges, citizens and soldiers could not get supplies, Ogden said.
For those in East Tennessee who were Union supporters, the event would have been seen as a victory for their side — a sign the Union soldiers were coming to help them stay a part of the Union.
The South had little industry at the time of the Civil War but as war supplies were needed, manufacturing increased. In the spring of 1863 the military complex of the Confederacy in Georgia and Alabama reached its peak of production. This area was seen as “the gateway to the Deep South,” according to Ogden. The work of this complex would need to be thwarted if the Union Army was to succeed.
Trains also played an important role for the Union. Union soldiers rode trains from Louisville, Ky., to Nashville and then to Chattanooga.
Ogden said during this time in the war, Confederate soliders were not fighting in rags. While theirs was not a universal uniform, the Confederate Army did supply uniforms.
Need for the area’s richness of natural resources led the armies to fight here.
These battles took place in the summer and fall of 1863. They were the Battle of Chickamauga and the Battle for Chattanooga.
“With this area changing hands in that campaign 150 years ago, much toward deciding the outcome of the war will have occurred,” Ogden said.
Ogden encouraged those present to attend the activities and happenings this year commemorating the 150th anniversary of Civil War action in this area.
Details on events being held in conjuction with the park can be accessed at www.nps.gov/chch.