Read more Chattanooga History Columns
- Gaston: Paul John Kruesi was Edison's right-hand man
- Robbins: The old Richardson's house and the Civil War
- Gaston: James Williams was a man of the world
- Raney: Mason Evans, the 'Wild Man of the Chilhowee'
- Gaston: The legacy of Adolph Ochs endures
- Martin: Ed Johnson said, 'I have a changed heart,' the day before his lynching in Chattanooga on 1906
- Thomas: The inventiveness of Judge Michael M. Allison
- Moore: Chattanooga's first Chinese community
- Summers, Robbins: Chattanooga's Tuskegee Airman - Joseph C. White
- McCallie: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 says so!
- Gaston: John McCline's Civil War - from slave to D.C. parade
- Raney: Exploring Chattanooga businesses in the Green Book
- Elliott: Remembering the Freedmen's Bureau in Chattanooga
- Gaston: Nancy Ward was a beloved, respected Tennessean
- Martin: Prohibition - the noble experiment
- Elliott: 'A shameful, disgraceful deed': The destruction of the Sewanee cornerstone
- Gaston: Robert Cravens was ironmaster, Chattanooga area's first commuter
- Robbins: Dr. T.H. McCallie's Christmas 1863
- Robbins: Journalist writes of a trip to Missionary Ridge in 1896
- Summers, Robbins: Mine 21 disaster - gone but not forgotten
- Elliott: Collegedale incorporates to avoid Sunday 'blue laws'
- Gaston: 'Marse Henry' Watterson's journalism fame began in Chattanooga
- Robbins: Orchard Knob battle recalled in 1895
- Elliott: Chattanoogans joined in an 'orgy of joy and gladness' on Armistice Day, 1918
- Thomas: Noted service, speakers are marks of Rotary Club of Chattanooga since 1914
- Summers and Robbins: Remembering noted Tennessee author North Callahan
- Raney: 'I auto cry, I auto laugh, I auto sign my autograph'
- Gaston: Sequoyah's alphabet enriched Cherokees
- Robbins: A look at Sam Divine's life during the Civil War
- Robbins: Memories of a Confederate nurse
- Robbins: More notes from Bradford Torrey's 1895 visit to Chickamauga Battlefield
- Robbins: Journalist in 1895 details visit to Chickamauga Battlefield
- Elliott: Telephone exchange firebombing was distraction for grocery store robbery
- Gaston: Worcester brought Christ's message to Cherokee at Brainerd Mission
- Robbins: 1896 travel diary: 'A Week on Walden's Ridge'
- Gaston: Elizabeth Strayhorn, WAC Commandant at Fort Oglethorpe
- Robbins: The history of the Friends of Moccasin Bend National Park
- Moore: Do you own a Sears Roebuck home?
- Summers and Robbins: Camp Nathan Bedford Forrest in World War II
- Gaston: Hiram Sanborn Chamberlain remembered
- Elliott: Daisy the center of tile, ceramic manufacturing in Hamilton County
- Gaston: FDR inaugurates the Chickamauga Dam
- Summers, Robbins: Interned WWII Germans had it easy at Camp Crossville
- Elliott: A war correspondent on Lookout Mountain
- Gaston: Chickamaugas finally bury hatchet in Tennessee Valley
- Gaston: Chickamaugas in Chattanooga
- Robbins: The history of the Riverbend festival
- Raney: Sadie Watson, the first woman elected in Hamilton County government
- Moore: Remembering Chattanooga's Hawkinsville community
- Elliott: Welsh coal miners transformed Soddy after the Civil War
- Gaston: Chattanooga's best-kept secret
- Elliott: Cabell Breckinridge loses his horse
- Raney: Martin Fleming is the people's judge
- Gaston: The amazing career of Francis Lynde
- Martin: Hamilton County's Name Sake: Alexander Hamilton
- Summers, Robbins: The crosses at Sewanee
- Bledsoe: The fiery truce at Kennesaw Mountain
- Moore: Talented architect's life cut short by tragedy
- Rydell: Chattanooga's place in soccer history
- Robbins: Tennessee Coal, member of the First Dow Jones Industrial Average
- Raney: In the barber chair
- Lanier: Becoming the Boyce Station Neighborhood Association
- McCallie: John P. Franklin: Living history among us
- Barr: Chattanooga's first railroad: The Underground Railroad
- Summers, Robbins: Charles Bartlett was a Pulitzer Prize winner, Kennedy confidant
- Rainey: 'We have seen it'
- Elliott: Feinting and fighting at Running Water Creek and Johnson's Crook
- Gaston: The Spring Frog Cabin at Audubon Acres
- Raney: Wauhatchie Pike was moonshine motorway
- Robbins: Oakmont was home of venerable Williams clan
- Summers and Robbins: Rebirth of the Mountain Goat Line
- Elliott: Bad investments led to Soddy Bank failure in 1930
- Summers and Robbins: Pearl Harbor attack left football behind
- Gaston: Jolly’s Island namesake had long ties with Sam Houston
- Return Jonathan Meigs, Indian Agent
- Moore: Did you know about St. Elmo's other two cemeteries?
- Summers: Orme - Marion County's almost lost community
- Davis: Spooky revival at Sharp Mountain in 1873
- Robbins: The story of Longholm
- Raney: Women labored to help the U.S. win World War I
- Even in the city, the 'wheel' changed everything
- Murray: Confederate dilemma after Chickamauga
- J.B. Collins — Newsman extraordinaire
- Robbins: The Story of the Lyndhurst Mansion
- Chattanooga artist and wife lost on the Lusitania
- Chattanooga History Column: Battelle, Alabama and the Battelle Institute
- John Ross, a founder of Chattanooga
- Hamilton County casualties in World War I
- Chattanooga Power Couple
- 'Somewhere in France'
- The Ray Moss family
- Battery B from Chattanooga
- Ulysses S. Grant, Clark B. Lagow, and the Chattanooga Bender
- Songbirds Museum Timeline
- Hamilton County World War 1 roster
- The Soddy Girl and the Memphis Belle
- Blues icon Bessie Smith was the Empress of Soul
- Women's Army Corps at Chickamauga
- Emma Bell Miles' life at the top of the 'W'
- The Tivoli Wurlitzer is one of Chattanooga's priceless assets
- Chattanooga in struggle for freedom during Civil War
- October 1918, Chattanooga paralyzed by Spanish flu epidemic
- Eli Lilly and the Ditch of Death
- One hundred years ago, Chattanooga goes to war
- The legacy of Anna Safley Houston
- Harriet Whiteside was ahead of her time
- Southern Adventist University
- Chattanooga native's writings aided Civil Rights movement
- Zion College, Chattanooga's only African American College
- The North Shore's hidden past
- Mayme Martin -- Businesswoman and community leader
- Thomas Sim's epic struggle for freedom
- Top of Cameron Hill was price of rerouting interstate
- Cameron Hill has rich history
- Temperance movement included Harriman university
- The sweetest music this side of Heaven
- Conquistadors at Chattanooga
- Chattanooga and the 'General'
- Chattanooga's first Thanksgiving, 1863
- Chattanooga's greatest flood caught city unaware
- Opening the Cracker Line
- European trip in 1900 enlightens Sophia Scholze Long
- Sophia Scholze Long spoke out when others were silent
- Little South Pittsburg and its big silent movie stars
- Lot attendant recalls hottest job in Chattanooga
- Chattanooga's Forest Hills is final resting place for known, unknown
- Burritt College -- Pioneer of the Cumberlands
- Chattanooga's nicknames trace city's evolution
- The 25th annual meeting of the Tennessee Press Association
- Clemons Brothers Furniture Store
- The Short Life of the USS Chattanooga
- Ellen Jarnagin McCallie lived a truly remarkable life
- Dr. Jonathan Bachman was a revered city father
- Second guessing the Confederate failure on Missionary Ridge
- Nancy Kefauver, ambassador for the arts
- William Gibbs McAdoo kept his Southern roots
- Chattanooga's Secretary of the Treasury
- Howard Baker remembered as a statesman/photographer who snapped history
- Tivoli's last picture show
- The history of one of Chattanooga's oldest businesses
- Chattanooga's roller derby skaters
- Myths of Coca-Cola in Chattanooga
- Chattanooga's neighborhood grocery stores
- The tale of the Scottsboro Boys
- The people's history of Chattanooga
- Howard School is Chattanooga's reminder of Reconstruction
- Elevator operator, painter, mystery man: meet Rice Carothers
- Raulston Schoolfield made enemies amid his rise to power
- Website lets users peer into Chattanooga's past
- The flood of 1917
- Chattanooga's 'wickedest woman' buried at Forest Hills
- History of Cummings Highway
It is almost impossible to walk through Chattanooga without seeing reminders of our city's past. Monuments, markers, tablets and cannons dot its neighborhoods. Signs mark the original route of the Trail of Tears. Places such as the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, the Hunter Museum of American Art and Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park showcase our rich history.
But in one of the city's most vibrant neighborhoods and popular greenspaces lies a largely forgotten and untold story, buried deep within the heart of Chattanooga's North Shore.
At the time of the Civil War, Chattanooga was a small town. Rail yards and light industry were the economic backbone. There were few of the large plantations that symbolized the antebellum South. Despite the lack of large farms and plantations, slavery had crept into the community.
The city sat along the route of the domestic slave trade extending from the upper South to the Deep South. Enslaved Chattanoogans worked in the local industries - railroads, docks, iron foundries and the city's hotels and taverns.
A few of the wealthiest Chattanoogans enslaved personal servants. However, African-Americans made up only a small part of the local population. By 1860, about 10 to 15 percent of Chattanoogans lived in bondage. That would soon change once the nation was ripped apart by the Civil War.
At the end of November 1863, the Union Army launched a series of attacks at Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge and drove the Confederate Army from this area. The Rebels retreated to Dalton, Atlanta and the Carolinas before surrendering at Appomattox in 1865.
With the Confederates gone, the Union Army controlled Chattanooga. Thousands of black people poured into the city under the promise and hope that freedom could be found under the American flag. They settled into a haphazard encampment along the north shore of the Tennessee River that became known as Camp Contraband. (As property, the African-Americans were considered contraband under the Confiscation Act - thus the name contraband camps.)
Camp Contraband was massive. Before the Civil War, only 2,500 people called Chattanooga home. But by the end of 1865, nearly 6,000 free African-Americans lived on the north shore in the new camp.
It was a Spartan life, at best. One visitor described it as a "village of huts on the north side of the river built of rails and mud." The work was hard. One woman living there in 1865 said her "husband was employed whenever he could get a job Sometimes he talks like he'd hire out, then like he'd sooner take land - any way to get into work. All have to support themselves somehow."
Many found work as laborers for the Union Army, while many young men enlisted into the United States Colored Troops. But slowly, a new world was born. A visitor to Camp Contraband noted that "its affairs are administered by a colored president and council chosen from among the citizens [who] were generally persons of dignity and shrewd sense."
Here on the banks of the north shore, people, who only a few years earlier were legal property, forged a new society and transformed the city of Chattanooga.
Over the years, Camp Contraband evolved into the community of Hill City. During Reconstruction, its residents, now United States citizens, found stable employment and enjoyed relatively widespread civic participation. By 1880, African-Americans made up 40 percent of the voting population of Chattanooga. But over time, those rights withered in the face of growing white supremacy and the hardening of Jim Crow laws throughout the nation. The old Camp Contraband faded away into another segregated neighborhood of the 20th century landscape.
But even that eventually changed. As Chattanooga grew at the dawn of the 21st century, revitalization efforts and gentrification transformed the site of Camp Contraband into a dizzying array of shops, restaurants and parks that help form the foundation of the city's identity.
Shoppers on the North Shore today walk down aisles where 150 years ago new citizens stood on the precipice of hope, looking across the river and imagining a future for themselves and their descendants.
Today all that physically remains of Camp Contraband is the reconstructed foundation of a Civil War era blockhouse in Renaissance Park, marked by a small wayside exhibit. But some of the first residents of Camp Contraband are still here in our city.
In Chattanooga National Cemetery lie members of the United States Colored Troops - men who came to Chattanooga and Camp Contraband in search of freedom, but ultimately sacrificed their lives to that cause.
Chris Barr is a park ranger at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. For more, visit Chattahistorical assoc.org.