Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, there was a prologue:
Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.
For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.
Longtime MCC readers may recall Anne is the historian in our family. It’s largely what she did in college. Meanwhile, my high school curricula consistently ran out of time every school year and never taught me much past the late-19th-century carpetbaggers. Our travels have taken us to a number of significant old places across the country, from which we’ve learned quite a bit. The takeaways from these opportunities have allowed Anne has to deepen her expertise in specific personalities and events, and have dramatically improved my performance when playing along with Jeopardy! at home.
(That’s not even a joke. Anne will testify to this. It’s been surprising how many times I’ve Slumdog Millionaire‘d a few questions whose answers I never would’ve known if not for our vacations.)
Our last two road trips took us to such famous battlefields as Gettysburg and Antietam from the American Civil War, as well as Saratoga Springs from the days of the American Revolution. Anne’s part of this year’s vacation research naturally turned up another one right along our path. I’d never heard of it, but I refuse to feel bad about my ignorance. With at least 384 recognized battles in our Civil War, I’m pretty sure most average citizens can’t name them all. I’m also fairly certain we are not visiting all those battlefields. But I’m okay with an occasional stopover. If nothing else, they give us an excuse to get out of the car for a few minutes on these long, long drives.
Thus our first tourist attraction on this journey would be the comprehensively named Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, not far down the road from Lookout Mountain. One of the first four national military parks established by Congress in the 1890s, C&C was made possible through joint efforts of veterans from both sides of the war, according to the literature on hand at the Visitors Center. First billed in the name, the Battle of Chickamauga (September 18-20, 1863) saw the Union and the Confederacy fighting for control of the then-tiny town of Chattanooga, strategically located on the Tennessee River deep in the Appalachians, the intersection of four railroad lines. Over 34,000 casualties included nearly 4,000 fatalities at the sometimes nicknamed “River of Death”, making it one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles.
I was a bit upset to read all the way through the park brochure only to discover the shocking twist at the end: officially the South won Chickamauga. That victory was short-lived, though — next came the Battles of Chattanooga, which took place between September and November 1863. Troops from all over the USA and CSA met once more and waged war in this critical area. For the grand finale, our side brought in the big guns, by which I mean Grant and Sherman. With their decisive victory, Grant got his big wartime promotion to General and Chattanooga would become the Union staging ground for Sherman’s famous, fiery 1864 march to and through Atlanta, which I’m surprised no one has turned into a $200 million Hollywood prestige drama in modern times.
Like all those other battlefields we’ve seen, a plethora of monuments — some 705 in all, built between 1894 and 1976 — stand as testimony to the regiments from other states, some from farther away than others. We saw a fraction of those on display as we moseyed along on our self-guided, 7-mile driving tour of the park.
To be continued!
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