Recently, I had an opportunity to visit “The South” for the first time in my life while on a business trip to Chattanooga, TN. Chattanooga, for those who may not know, is a small city in the southeast-corner. The population is about 150,000 people, which is about 5 times smaller than Seattle, but Chattanooga is much older than Seattle and has a lot of history. More on that later.
One of the first things I noticed (and loved) about Chattanooga was how friendly people were. Coworkers from the South had told me that people there love to chat, and it was true. When I went to rent my car, I asked the staff about good places to visit in Chattanooga, and they pulled out a big map, and carefully drew sites and suggestions all over the map. It was a lazy afternoon and we talked for maybe 15-20 minutes about Tennessee and Seattle (one of the staff lived there as a child).
Southern food of course is famous, but I never had genuine Southern food in Seattle, so on my first night, I stopped at the nearby Cracker Barrel (which I also enjoyed in Phoenix, AZ) and had a huge dinner:
This is Chicken and Dumplings with potatoes, green beans and corn.1 I had a glass of pink lemonade as well. It was a huge meal, and really delicious. One of the things I like about Cracker Barrel is that they have a store next to it, where you can buy things like Pancake mix (which I did, also delicious), traditional hot cocoa (which my daughter liked), etc. Great service as always. Since there are no Cracker Barrel stores in Seattle, I try to visit when I can.
The following day was 13 hours of hard work at my company’s facility, but my co-workers were kind enough to buy us lunch: Southern barbecue.
Normally I am not a barbecue person, and Southern barbecue is hard to find in Seattle anyway, but I will say it was really good, and SPICY. My coworkers explained that each state in the South had it’s own style of barbecue sauce. For example, in Georgia they tend to use vinegar, if I recall right. It was tangy and delicious. After walking for hours back and forth, I was grateful for the meal.
The third day was the flight home (it was a brief trip), and I had a little time to spare. I decided I had just enough time to see Lookout Mountain, which is a famous mountain overlooking the Chattanooga valley. The drive up there was pretty easy, about 30 minutes, and was very scenic:
On top of Lookout Mountain is a small city called Rock City, which had many nice views of the valley below:
But the main attraction for me was the Battlefield Museum:
Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga were part of the Chattanooga Campaign of the Civil War. Because I grew up on the West Coast which was not involved in the Civil War, it was a new experience for me. I had seen famous battlegrounds in places like Japan or Vietnam, but never in the US.
Here’s a view of downtown Chattanooga from the museum grounds:
And here was a large monument in the middle, which commemorated the Union and Confederate soldiers who died there, and told the story of what happened during the battle of Chattnooga:
During the Battle of Lookout Mountain, the Confederate troops were on top of the mountain, while the Union soldiers were below in the City of Chattanooga. These were Confederate cannons used in the battle as Union troops climbed up the mountain through fog and gunfire:
and a close-up:
Also, I took a brief video of the scenery and uploaded to Youtube (no words):
And here’s the slope where most of the Union troops climbed up:
As depicted in a famous painting:
It was hard for me to imagine thousands of men shooting at each other at that very spot. It was probably terrifying for men on both sides. For the Union troops, they would have been afraid of being shot from above, while the Confederate troops would have been afraid of being overwhelmed by the larger army.
Interestingly, decades later, the veterans of that battle, both Confederate and Union, gathered together for a reunion to remember the battle and share stories. By this time, America was no longer divided, and the soldiers could meet together as friends. A plaque at the battlefield museum had a quotation by President McKinley:
The quote reads:
“Reunited — One country again and one country forever.”
Atlanta, GA. 1896
I was very happy to read that plaque, to be honest. The death and destruction of Lookout Mountain was very tragic, but I was also happy to see that Chattanooga eventually healed, and old enemies could become friends.
The battlefield museum itself was very solemn, but very lovely too. If you ever have a chance to visit Chattanooga, definitely see the museum if you can.
My sincere thanks to the wonderful people of Chattanooga, TN as well.
1 For vegetarians, Cracker Barrel does offer vegetarian options too, I was pleased to see. But you have you ask, because many Southern vegetable dishes are stewed in meat broth, so you have to check first. Their menus also clarify this too.