Resaca Battlefield Historic Site, up north a little ways in Gordon County, is a hiking destination I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. From what I’d heard, it had a lot going for it — history (lots of that), a variety of hiking opportunities, and the fact that it’s literally right off I-75.
As it happened, a few weekends ago, that’s exactly where I found myself.
I hadn’t really set out to go hiking. Instead, and despite rain in the forecast, I’d driven up to Tennessee for the day to indulge in another hobby of mine, ham radio. My destination was a “hamfest,” a gathering of ham radio enthusiasts. This one, I’d heard, included what was said to be a pretty good flea market that was sure to be filled with all sorts of radio treasures from years gone by. Yeah, a lot of it would be antiquated by even the most generous standards. But that’s okay. Some days my knees feel kind of antiquated, too, and that hasn’t stopped me yet.
“Have fun!” said Wife of Mine as I headed out the door, “and I hope you find something good at the flea market. After all, we can’t have too many ancient radios.”
See? She understands.
The hamfest flea market (we hams call it “the boneyard”) was indeed a good one, and the rain held off while I browsed. I found some honest-to-goodness treasures, among them a spool of wire that I plan to use as a portable antenna someday. I already had lots of wire, but when it comes to wire, one can’t have too much. Can one? Besides, it only cost me 50 cents.
There were other treasures too — a few vacuum tubes, a connector, a switch, that kind of thing.
But then (are you ready?) came The Moment when the heavens opened up — not with rain but with a single brief ray of sunlight. It landed right in the midst of the boneyard, and in that gleaming celestial beam what should I see peeking out from under the corner of a table but an honest-to-goodness World War II radio transmitter that had once been used in a tank. Yes, in a tank. Imagine that. If I could strike a deal, I’d have my very own tank transmitter. Maybe you already have one, but I did not — at least until I forked over $10 and it was mine.
“Such a steal!” my wife said later. “And for just $10. Imagine that.”
Ahh, that’s why I love her so.
Anyway, I was thinking about my tank radio as I headed back to Atlanta on I-75. I found myself wondering what it would have been like to ride around in a tank while everyone on the other side did their best to blow me to smithereens.
That got me thinking about other battles, including the one that took place near Resaca back in the middle of May 1864 as Union Gen. William T. Sherman began his push toward Atlanta. Roughly 160,000 men fought in the battle, which transpired after Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston was forced by Union forces to withdraw from Dalton. Johnston’s forces took a stand at Resaca and withstood Sherman’s onslaught for two days. They say that more than 30,000 were wounded and about 6,000 died. According to the historic marker at the site, it was “the [first] major battle of the campaign which ended with the capture of Atlanta.”
Lo and behold, I was approaching the Resaca Battlefield exit. I followed the ramp off the highway, and in just a minute I was there.
I parked the truck and put on my hiking shoes.
The battlefield site preserves a portion of the battlefield. Several trails — designated Red (1.5 miles), White (0.7 miles) and Blue (2.6 miles), plus a short (760 feet) loop — let you explore the area and understand what went on. Numerous interpretive signs tell the story of the battle as you go.
One thing I especially like about this site is the fact that it also features interpretive signs designed specifically for children. These will make the site much more interesting for your kids or grandkids.
I enjoyed hiking the designated trails, but my favorite thing turned out to be what I’ll call “freeform hiking” in the large field that runs the length of the site. Wandering the field more or less randomly allowed my imagination go to work, and it wasn’t hard to conjure images of what the battle must have been like. It wasn’t too hard to picture the soldiers, some in blue over here and others in gray over there. With just a little effort I could almost hear the sharp crack of the long guns and the deeper boom of cannon. And sometimes, if I listened really hard, it seemed that I could just make out the yells and moans of the men who had gone to work there those two days in May all those many years ago.
It’s funny how that works, how old battlefields somehow sharpen one’s senses, if only for a little while.
The sky had grown darker while I wandered, and somewhere in the midst of it all it started to rain. I was soaked by the time I got back to the truck. Thank goodness I had brought a change of clothes.
Later, back in the warm cab and heading on home, I got to thinking about my tank transmitter.
There were no tanks at Resaca, of course. But as the rain continued to fall, the drops bursting like tiny liquid bombs on my windshield, I realized that in one way Resaca was like every other battlefield. Tanks or no tanks, the end of it all was pretty much the same.