From Ireland to Tennessee

The Chattanooga Choo Choo Terminal Station complex was entirely deserted as we rolled through on our bikes. ©2020 Derek Henry Flood

Chattanooga-Ka-Bloosh and I arrived in southern Tennessee-his home state and my familial bucket list destination-without a hitch. As a child, my father told a story of a distant relative from County Cavan, then part of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland before Ireland was liberated, who had fought with valour in the American Civil War as a leader within the 27th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. McAloon commanded the 27th against the Confederate Army at the Battle of Missionary Ridge until he was martyred on 25 November 1863. After his death, a battery on the Tennessee River was named in his honour. McAloon was catergorised as a ‘Pennsylvania volunteer’ but to be more literal he was an Irish volunteer. An immigrant fighting in wartime America. He is described as both a Major and a Lieutenant Colonel. It is my thinking that he may have been posthumously awarded a higher rank from the former to the latter.

Upon arriving in Chattanooga I had initially had a hard time getting a motel room as there’d been a tornado just two nights before and residents who lost power had filled up local accommodation in the interim. Accordingly, the room prices seemed to have been jacked up. The following day we set out to try and locate where Battery McAloon had stood. It was described at being “on the spur overlooking the low lands near the mouth of Citico Creek” in or adjacent to what is present day referred to as the Battery Place neighbourhood.

We surmised-though without precise certainty- that the recreational Rowing Center facility may have been the location of Battery McAloon as it sits at high point above to mouth of Citico Creek by cross referencing various Google Books entries and Google Maps..
©2020 Derek Henry Flood

The following day we went to find the monument to McAloon’s regiment. This search ultimately brought us to an unkempt park known as Orchard Knob Reservation in the city’s Orchard Village neighbourhood. Again turning to today’s ubiquitous search engine, we located an elegant granite pillar from the end of the 19th century dedicated to the 27th regiment basking warmly in the late day sun. A feeling of closure set in as the visible history displayed before us came to life expressed in angular stonework that I had heard about during family gatherings in childhood. My father’s decades-old stories were now animated by carved stone and the southern sun. The Pennsylvania monuments were incredibly modest compared to the nearby New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Maryland columns that towered above and that suited me just fine.

The monument to McAloon’s regiment stands in Chattanooga’s Orchard Knob Reservation park.This granite totem was erected by the state of Pennsylvania in 1897 to honour its war dead who fought to defeat the Confederacy, and thus abolish the continued enslavement of west and central African peoples. ©2020 Derek Henry Flood
The massive columns of other Union states on display at Orchard Knob Reservation were far more ostentatious than those of Pennsylvania down below. ©2020 Derek Henry Flood

As my time in Chattanooga blissfully wound down, I set off for Corona, Tennessee having no idea of what to expect.