Friday, August 1, 2008

Fields of Death

So why in the world did I backtrack to Nashville? Just down the expressway, right outside of Murfreesboro, is the Stones River National Battlefield. “Only” 24,000 men were killed or wounded here, making it the sixth bloodiest battle of the war. Only a fraction of the actual battlefield is a part of the National Battlefield. The rest is privately held. During the final phases of the battle, 1,800 confederates were killed or wounded in less than one hour. It seems their commander was a idiot and, despite his initial protests of the commanding officer’s orders, thought it would be a good idea to send his men across the ford at Stones River, up a hill and into the face of 45 cannon parked hub-to-hub. Other deadly spots included "The Slaughter Pen" and "Hell's Half Acre." One can easily imagine what happened there.

After this tactical draw, the Union General Rosecrans led the construction of fortress Rosecrans around Murfreesboro. Some of the embankments, like those around Corinth, still exist.

As with so many battlefields, the memorials to the fallen are really quite impressive. The size or the details in stone can just be stunning knowing most people (myself included) can’t make a good snowman. This battlefield has something a bit different. The oldest monument. Hazen’s Brigade came back just one year later (1863) and constructed a stone wall, around a small cemetery and memorial. It still stands. Interestingly enough, Hazen stayed in the service and ultimately spent time as a commanding officer at Fort Davis. More dots!

What was unquestionably the weirdest moment of the trip happened here. I started the battlefield tour on my one in the cemetery. So many soldiers are unknowns, so they have small simple stones at their grave. One stone, amongst the smaller stones, was taller and wider. I walked up to it. Jasper Quigley. Now, I’m sure that name means nothing to many people, but to me I recognized it. Well, part of it anyway. My mom does the family tree thing. Unlike so many people who have families that “came over here” in the early 20th century, parts of my family have been here far longer. I have ancestors from the Civil War (both Union and Confederate) and even the War of 1812. Quigley is a name I know from my mom’s work. This man easily could be a relative. Very very……Twilight Zone (-doo-doo-DOO-do doo-doo-DOO-do-)

By this point, I realized that I needed to start making my way home. Sure, south-central Tennessee to Detroit can easily be done in a day’s drive, but I didn’t want to get all crazy with it. So, I plotted a course for Mammoth Cave National Park. Before I got on the expressway, I saw not one, not two, but THREE antique malls all next to each other. I put myself in “coffee mode” and blasted through all three in less than 45 minutes. I have a few more coffee tins for my efforts.

Once on the expressway, I had a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher cross the road in front me. Remember, south-central Tennessee. While they wander after breeding, that’s a good bird here!

Really bad rain prevented me from possibly camping at Mammoth, so I just continued onto to Cincinnati. Hooligan’s was the recommended place for dinner. They say they have award winning ribs. Yeah, right, everybody says that. THEY MEAN IT! I have never had ribs this good. It was not so much the sauce, but the meat texture. Stab it with your fork, twist it gently 90 degrees, and it drips right off the bone. I ate it with a fork and knife. I never picked up a rib. Amazing.

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