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Longstreet after him

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2nd Minnesota Monument Chickamauga Battlefield

A wounded soldier is depicted as part of the 2nd Minnesota monument on Snodgrass Hill in the Chickamauga Battlefield.

Tamara Wolk

This is a story from my series of locally-based fictional ghost stories. Enjoy...

September 14, 2012. Five days before the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia. Civil War, in case you’re rusty on your history. War Between the States, in case you’re particular about your terminology.

It’s a Friday, and I park my old white clunker in a little four-spot nook inside the sprawling battlefield dedicated to the conflict and set out on foot toward a favorite walking area.

The place is humming with preparations for the annual re-enactments. This year is rehearsal for next year’s giant 150th.

Aside from all the re-enactors dressed in outrageously hot, often wool, uniforms, there’s the usual assortment of spandex-clad joggers and cyclists, Bermuda-shorts-clad dog-walkers and strollers, and vehicled tourists pointing out their windows at every monument as if it was a world landmark.

And me, in my long, breezy dress, floppy straw hat and pink sneakers.

There’s a nice, steep hill in the park that goes by the name of Snodgrass -- after a family who lived in the vicinity before a couple of generals decided to wage a bloody battle on their farm. Longstreet and Thomas were the generals -- Reb and Yank, respectively.

Thomas was on the run, Longstreet after him, but Thomas did such a good job of turning Longstreet back down the hill over and over that he became known as the Rock of Chickamauga. Nevertheless, Longstreet won, but he didn’t get a nickname. Go figure.

Anyway, I reach the foot of the hill and begin the serious part of my evening constitutional. It’s a steep hill, flanked on either side by woods and for a space, on one side, by the field where most of the fighting occurred so long ago.

I take a deep breath and start my ascent, nodding at runners and bikers on their way down. More than a few folks pass me going up -- I’m no speed walker.

At the halfway point, I stop to catch my breath and watch a tractor rolling hay in the field that once ran with blood. It’s an odd field -- one big downward-sloping pasture bound on three sides by forest and on the fourth by the road upon which I walk, a small, eerie, empty cabin sits at its crest and very near the woods, just a few feet from the point I’ve reached.

Past the cabin, on up to the top, around the loop, down again. An easy pace… I find the hill one of the more peaceful places in the park – there’s a soulful quietness about it and I like to take the time to absorb it.

Dusk is setting in as I reach the foot of the hill. The flock of joggers and cyclists is thinning out, all on their way down. But I take a deep breath and prepare for round two. Up and down the hill twice is my minimum goal. I got a late start this day, but no matter… one more time it will be.

I make it back to the top in better shape than my first trip, which is strangely often the case. On my way down, a ranger passes me in his truck. He’s going up. He loops at the top and passes me again heading back down and waves.

Not until I reach the bottom do I realize he was doing a bedtime check -- a metal gate, just a bar, really, has been closed to block traffic till morning. But I’m not traffic and I’m on a roll, energized by my success and the solitude. I decide to go for a third round.

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