published Monday, November 25th, 2013

Cravens House celebrates 150 years of history

Actors portraying the 40th Ohio regiment sits at a campsite in Point Park on Sunday.
Actors portraying the 40th Ohio regiment sits at a campsite in Point Park on Sunday.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.

View our additional coverage of the Civil War 150th Anniversary

  • photo
    Diane Walker, portraying a nurse with the 40th Ohio regiment, sits near a campfire at Point Park on Sunday. The event was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chattanooga in November 1863.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
    enlarge photo

The group of weary foot soldiers marched around the bend at Cravens House, trudging through fallen leaves and following their leader on a brisk, autumn evening.

If not for the cellphones and cameras, the gathering of visitors could have been nearly identical to those who fought the Civil War battle there 150 years ago to the day.

Sunday afternoon, Cravens House on Lookout Mountain was the focus of a talk and tour on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chattanooga, which raged Nov. 23-25, 1863. The Chattanooga campaign was key to the Union army's eventual victory in the war.

Shivering as they hiked, tourists and locals alike paid homage to the Union and Confederate soldiers who suffered in an early winter battle of position and weather patterns.

"When the leaves fall, you can look up today and see our white pickup trucks from the bottom of the mountain," said Jim Ogden, historian with the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, who gave visitors a foot tour along the spine of the mountain and around the Cravens property. "This is an illustration of how thin the treetops are in the winter."

The sparing natural cover would play an integral role in the battle.

"Imagine 2,200 Union men, sweeping across the edge of the mountain," he said. "Do you think the Confederates would have seen them coming? Definitely."

The heated fighting between 10,000 total Union soldiers and 1,200 Confederate fighters on the sides and slopes of Lookout Mountain was dubbed the "Battle Above the Clouds" for the thick fog that enveloped the mountain's lower skirts.

Robert Cravens, who built the house in 1855, had a thriving iron business in Chattanooga at the time. Both armies used his house as a vantage point.

The Cravens House, which sat right in the middle of it all, sustained only minor damage during the fighting, but later was burned down by Union soldiers during a drunken brawl. The property would be renovated in 1956.

"I'm so winded just going up and down these hills," said John Marzyk, a visitor from Rossville. "I can only imagine having to fight for my life in the process."

Contact staff writer Jeff LaFave at jlafave@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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