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The Battle of Chattanooga played out on November 25, 1863 as Federal troops continued to scale the heights of Missionary Ridge, forcing the Confederates holding the high ground to break – a rout ensued! However, one Confederate officer and his men continued to hold firm – Major General Patrick Cleburne. General Joe Johnston, who worried over his ability to withdraw the Army of Tennessee away from the untenable position, and maneuver into northwest Georgia, would once again depend upon Cleburne, or as many people had started calling this officer – the “Stonewall of the West.” Cleburne did not disappoint; he seldom did when rallying his brave Arkansans, Alabamians, Tennesseans, and Texans!
One often reads in the annals of military history of units engaging in a rearguard action. Ringgold Gap, or as most soldiers referred to the high ground flanking the Western and Atlantic Rail Road and Chickamauga Creek passage – Taylor’s Ridge – exemplified the best of protecting an army on the fly, ensuring their ability to gain safe haven in order to refit and regroup. Cleburne’s quick reconnaissance of the terrain, and expert deployment of his brigades, enabled the outnumbered (one gray division against three in blue) Confederate troops to hold-off the advancing force of Major General Joe Hooker. Hooker acted quickly, perhaps too hurriedly, as he threw each arriving brigade into the attack in piecemeal fashion instead of waiting for a massing of his force, and his artillery. He believed he faced a Confederate army on the run, opening a path for him to move in for the knockout. Hooker’s hunch proved as false as his punch!
Each Federal advance met with a repulse, as Cleburne’s Brigadier Generals Polk, Lowrey, Granbury, and Govan masterfully maneuvered their troops into position to thwart the approaching Federals. When ammunition ran low, the Southerners threw rocks down upon the men attempting to scale the ridge. Hooker’s guns finally arrived around noon, and the resultant shelling made life along the ridge a little hotter for Cleburne. Soon, he began withdrawing his brigades; a move made in confidence after he received a dispatch notifying him of the Army of Tennessee’s safe departure from the area. Cleburne’s actions did not escape notice, as the Confederate Congress issued a Joint Resolution of thanks “…for distinguished service at Ringgold Gap.” Southern newspapers also praised the rising star of the west; The Confederate Union recounted the affair in their December 8, 1863 edition, proudly proclaiming, “The whole command behaved well, and especially that model solder, Maj. Gen. Cleburne, a true son of Emerald Isle, and his heroic division.”
Private Sam Watkins with the 1st Tennessee Infantry described what he witnessed on the slopes of Taylor’s Ridge. “The scene looked unlike any battlefield I ever saw. From the foot to the top of the hill was covered with their slain, all lying on their faces. It had the appearance of the roof of a house shingled with dead Yankees.” Many in the North criticized Hooker for failing to await the arrival of his artillery. A December 11, 1863 account from an Ohio newspaper, The Jeffersonian Democrat, typified the response to Hooker’s actions. “It was important to dislodge them, but madness to attempt to do it without the assistance of artillery to cover the assault.”
The fighting along Taylor’s Ridge lasted four hours, with each side suffering over 400 casualties, yet Cleburne performed his assigned task, and afforded Johnston the opportunity to move his army into winter quarters in Dalton.
 U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, vol. 31, pt. 2 (1890; repr., Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1985), 758.
 Sam Watkins, COMPANY AYTCH or a SIDE SHOW of the BIG SHOW: A CLASSIC MEMOIR of the CIVIL WAR, ed. M. Thomas Inge (New York City: Plume, 1999), 99.
Michael K. Shaffer is the Assistant Director and Lecturer for Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center , a Civil War historian, newspaper columnist, and author of ‘Washington County, Virginia in the Civil War.’ He is a member of the Society of Civil War Historians, Historians of the Civil War Western Theater, Georgia Association of Historians, and the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta. Michael also serves on the boards of the Civil War Round Table of Cobb County and the River Line Historic Area, and as a Civil War consultant for the Friends of Camp McDonald.
From early spring to late fall, the best-kept secret in Wednesday night entertainment must be track bicycle racing at Dick Lane Velodrome (DLV) in East Point. Built in 1974, the banked track is a battleground for shoulder-to-shoulder competition on brakeless fixed-gear bicycles, and the best part is that the Wednesday night racing is FREE to spectators. “It’s the best kind of bike racing to watch because you can see the whole race,” says Jeff Hopkins, DLV operations manager.
Why no brakes? There are a couple of reasons, but the biggest is that track bike racing is all about beating wind resistance. Riders draft inches behind one another at speeds greater than 40 miles per hour. The lack of brakes makes it harder to quickly change speed, meaning that painful pile ups are less likely.
One of just 26 banked bicycle tracks in the United States, according to the American Track Racing Association, DLV is the only one in in Georgia. Racers drive hundreds of miles weekly to compete on its concrete surface. Three weekends per year, DLV hosts racing festivals in which professionals come to town to do battle in a variety of events.
The track is a true community effort, relying on donations and volunteers to operate. Local athletes donate their time to keep the grounds clean and in working order. The East Point Velodrome Association offers classes for beginners and programs for kids. It also loans bikes, so anyone can take a spin around the track.
Check the DLV website at http://www.dicklanevelodrome.com for information on events, and head to East Point for some exciting bicycle racing. It’s the only thing like it in Georgia!
Jim Hodgson is a humor writer who enjoys going outside. He is the Editor in Chief of Atlanta’s own satirical newspaper The Atlanta Banana (atlbanana.com). His latest book is “How To Mount Aconcagua,” a mostly serious guide to climbing the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas. He can be found at jimhodgson.com, on twitter at @jimhodgson.
‘Tis the season for sparkle and glitz, a time to pile into the car and tour the myriad light displays around Georgia. Below is a list of the 10 biggest and brightest displays in the Atlanta area. Fill the thermos with cocoa, and dig out the holiday tunes; let’s hit the road!
Garden Lights at Atlanta Botanical Garden (Nov. 16 – Jan. 4): This Garden Lights adventure ignites all of your senses! With more than 1 million lights, the garden is alive with seasonal spirit. Orchestral Orbs glow harmoniously with holiday tunes. S’mores on the Twinkling Terrace and treats from the Glow Bar taunt your taste buds. This year, colorful figures from Imaginary Worlds join the Ice Storm Trees and Poinsettia Tower. Listed in Forbes “10 Dazzling Light Displays Around the World,” you’ll want to buy your tickets early for this monumental event.
Magical Nights of Lights at Lake Lanier (Nov. 15 – Dec. 31): Tune your MP3 player to Burl Ives, and drive six leisurely miles enjoying larger-than-life holiday light displays. Your adventure doesn’t end with the light show. Be sure to stop at the Holiday Village and enjoy ice skating, carnival rides, s’mores sticks and a few moments with Santa. Look for double coupon days in November, and fill the car with the entire family because tickets are by car and not by person.
Light Up the Holidays at Barnsley Resort (Nov. 30 – Dec. 30): Visitors (including those who are not staying overnight) are welcome to view more than 1 million lights and festive décor in the historic 1800s manor house ruins, surrounding gardens and English-style village. There is a small fee for the self-guided tour, but those with dinner reservations at one of the resort’s two onsite restaurants can tour the garden at no cost. For a truly special holiday experience, visitors can take advantage of the Light Up the Holidays promotion available for overnight stays from Nov. 30 – Dec. 30, 2013, with luxurious cottage accommodations and more.
Stone Mountain Christmas at Stone Mountain Park (Nov. 9 – Jan. 1): Two million lights, Christmas shows, Rudolph and Bumble create a night to remember. Don’t miss a five-mile excursion on the Singalong Christmas Train, featuring a satellite message from Santa’s elves and a track-side show, The Gift, about the very first Christmas. Be sure to grab a seat for the nightly Christmas Parade where you can see Santa and Mrs. Claus, and end your night with the magic of the Snow Angel flying high to create snow and fireworks.
Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City Gardens (Nov. 22 – Jan. 4): Although it is often associated with Chattanooga, did you know Rock City Gardens is actually in Georgia? Tour the gardens, aglow with more than 30 holiday scenes encompassing more than 1 million lights. Stop in the pavilion for nightly entertainment, gingerbread cookie decorating and warm fire pits. Special VIP tickets are available for Dinner with Santa and early garden entrance.
Global Winter Wonderland Atlanta at Turner Field (Nov. 21 – Jan. 5): Experience the transformation of Turner Field into a lantern festival and multicultural theme park. Debuting in Atlanta this year, illuminating lanterns as large as 50 feet tall and 100 feet wide depict landmarks from countries all over the globe. Families can delight in carnival rides and games, international dining options, live shows, and celebrations of holiday traditions and cultures from all over the globe. Single-entry or season passes are available, and prices include all rides and live entertainment.
Christmas at The Rock Ranch (Dec. 1 – Dec. 31): Guests to The Rock Ranch can cut their lights and slowly roll through the mile-long display of thousands of lights, all strung by volunteers and ranch hands of the property. Bring the family by Truett’s Barn for hot cocoa and apple cider, soups and other treats. Dec. 7 and 14, families can dine with Santa and pose for a keepsake.
Lights of Life at Life University (Nov. 29 – Dec. 31): Families are thrilled that the Light of Life show is back in Marietta after a brief hiatus. Priced by the carload, this light show is an affordable family excursion. Bring cash; no cards accepted. If you are looking for more than lights, visit on the weekend to ride a pony, take a turn on a mini Christmas train or pose with Santa. Concession wagons offer funnel cakes, s’mores platters, fried Snickers and more.
Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens (Nov. 22 – Dec. 30): Bundle up and snuggle tight for a Jolly Trolley ride, or drive your own car through this award-winning display of more than 8 million lights. Each of the scenes are custom built for Callaway, taking more than 3,900 man-hours to complete. Inside the Christmas Village, visitors can purchase unique gifts from Georgia crafters or nibble on specialty treats. Make it a special time for the family with the Fantasy In Lights overnight packages, which include accommodations, entrance to the gardens, and a special loading area for the trolley.
Holiday in Lights at Centennial Olympic Park (Nov. 23 – Jan. 20): Each evening, visitors to downtown Atlanta can stroll in the 21-acre park, relishing thousands of lights that illuminate the cityscape. While you are there, take a spin on Atlanta’s only outdoor ice skating rink or enjoy a treat from Googie Burger. A tour of Centennial Park is the perfect nightcap to a day at Georgia Aquarium’s Festival of the SEAson.
Lesli Peterson is Georgia’s Destination Expert for Trekaroo and founder of 365 Atlanta Family. She is a homeschooling mom to 2 young boys and bonus mom to two teenagers. From her home base of Atlanta, Lesli spends her time life-learning with the kids one road-trip at a time, and sharing her experiences along the way.