By Mike Steely
Last weekend my wife and I took a day trip to Chattanooga in search of two cemetery sites: one of Civil War soldiers who acted as spies in 1861 and the other of an almost forgotten national entertainment star. It took a while finding both as the city has grown so much that even our GPS system got confused.
The National Cemetery in Chattanooga holds thousands of graves beginning with Union Civil War soldiers and includes graves of soldiers from every war since. Men and women who died in action or passed away many years later are buried there. The site we were looking for was of Andrews Raiders, the group of Ohio soldiers who volunteered to accompany Union spy James Andrews into Georgia to disrupt Confederate supply lines.
I’ve written before about the “The General” locomotive that is exhibited today near Atlanta and the capture of that engine by the raiders. They were chased by an enemy train all the way to Tunnel Hill, Georgia, where they abandoned the engine and tried to escape. Some were captured, tried, and taken to Knoxville for court marshals. Those captured were then sent to Atlanta and hung.
After the war, the Union found the graves and moved the bodies to Chattanooga for reburial.
Today the men, many of who were awarded the Metal of Honor after their death, are buried in a semi-circle around a monument that is topped by a small version of the engine they commandeered.
The cemetery is located north of Interstate 24 at Bailey (MLK Drive) and South Holtzclaw Avenue, a bit hard to find among all the businesses and homes.
The other grave we were seeking was that of opera star Grace Moore, who died in 1947 in an airplane crash near the Copenhagen airport. She spent her childhood in my hometown, Jellico, and eventually relocated to Chattanooga when her father purchased an interest in Loveman’s Department Store there.
Moore grew up and went on to sing popular music, in addition to the opera, and to star in many movies. Moore was on her way to a performance when her passenger plane crashed.
The famous lady, who was known for her independence and rather wild youth, is buried in a simple grave marked by a small, flat gravestone, with her family buried nearby.
The Forest Hills Cemetery is located south of Interstate 24 just off of State Highway 17 at the intersection of Highway 58. Her childhood home in Jellico has long since been demolished and little remains there to honor her.
If you’re in Chattanooga and interested, you might want to tour both cemeteries. You may also like to visit Ross Landing while there or take a walk along the city’s nice River Walk. It’s a couple of hours to drive to Chattanooga but you can do all in a Day Away trip.