Orchard Knob markers unveiled

Orchard Knob markers unveiled

August 6th, 2014 by Todd South in Local Regional News

Park Superintendent Brad Bennett introduces a new state park playing card during a rededication and introduction of new wayside exhibits at Orchard Knob Reservation in Chattanooga, TN on August 5, 2014.

Photo by Logan Foll/Times Free Press.

From the top of Orchard Knob, visitors turn in any direction and spot key battle points in the Civil War struggle for Chattanooga.

Stringer's Ridge, Missionary Ridge, Signal Point and Lookout Mountain are all areas where blue and gray bled. The ground beneath the feet of lifelong Orchard Knob residents and Civil War buffs once held that blood. Stone monuments dot the small, urban military park.

On Tuesday evening, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park's new superintendent, Brad Bennett, unveiled two "wayside interpretive exhibits" telling some of the story of the battles that mark the land and surrounding areas.

The exhibits show drawings and text titled "The Final Struggle Begins" and "The Miracle at Missionary Ridge."

Bennett took his post in June, and this was the first such unveiling he's overseen since arriving.

He swept his arm toward the noted battle sites, then at the details on the colored, graphic and text installations alongside the paved trail.

"We're standing in the real place where history happened," Bennett said.

At the time of the battles, Orchard Knob was a small community, established in 1835. It had been in existence for less than 30 years when the cannons roared and musket balls fired.

Orchard Knob Neighborhood Association member Michael Gilliland is a Chattanooga native but moved to the neighborhood with his wife two years ago, he said Monday.

The battle site is his front yard.

Gilliland said that lifelong neighbors recount childhood memories playing on the grassy hill and growing up alongside history.

A block party cookout was held with more than three dozen neighbors and residents after the brief dedication ceremony Tuesday.

Patrice Glass, executive director of the Friends of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, said the wayside exhibits offer a more modern telling of the story for visitors who are not able to relate to the intricate language of the 19th century that marks some of the other monuments.

Gilliland agreed. While the markers serve an important historical purpose, they have military jargon, noting the unit positions that might not be as understandable to show what the context of the battle was for those fighting and living it.

The new exhibits show "what was in the midst of what is," Gilliland said.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.