On Monday, April 25, several local residents and history enthusiasts will gather in front of the Bradley County Courthouse to commemorate an event that took place in Cleveland 13 days after the Ft. Sumter battle. Union supporters in Cleveland raised a 90-foot hickory pole in front of the Courthouse and hoisted a handmade 33-star American flag presented by Sally Shields.
When Confederate soldiers moved through the area by train in the summer they shot at the flag from the railroad tracks. A Confederate regiment passing through Cleveland demanded the flag come down. After negotiations between Unionists and Confederate authorities, the pole was taken down in July 1861. However, the same flag was raised again over the city on Feb. 10, 1864, after Union troops occupied Cleveland.
The raising of the flag on Monday will be the kickoff of several commemorations and re-enactments taking place in Bradley County during the next five years. These events will serve as reminders of our community's unique history. With the exception of the commonwealth of Virginia, Tennessee has more Civil War sites than any other state in the union. Many are located in Bradley County.
Bradley County's story is an important part of the nation's Civil War history and should be of interest not only to Tennesseans, but to visitors to our state. These stories are significant to our local heritage and little known facts about Bradley County's role in the war can be found on the Civil War Trails website at www.civilwartrails.org. There are many sites in and around Chattanooga, Cleveland and Charleston that link with the trail along Interstate 75. These sites give visitors a reason to visit our community and perhaps visit some of our restaurants and shops while they are here.
We don't have an amusement park, a beach or other attractions usually associated with a family vacation. However, our county's scenic beauty and unparalleled history provide tremendous opportunities for growth in our local tourism industry. We are proud of the partnerships and cooperative efforts with our neighboring counties and the state to promote our region. By working together we reach more visitors and create incentives to encourage them to stay longer. This translates into a strong impact on our economy.
Telling our story is important to our heritage. Attracting visitors is important to our economy. When visitors learn about our area, they stop for lunch and fuel or even decide to make Bradley County their headquarters to see sites all around Southeast Tennessee. As the Chamber of Commerce’s Visitors Guide says, we're “in the middle of it all” when it comes to enjoying all that Southeast Tennessee has to offer.
I encourage you to attend the commemoration on Monday at the Courthouse. Also watch for a schedule of events that will take place in the community over the next 60 months.
Whether it is special events, outdoor beauty and adventure or American history, Bradley County is “Tennessee at its best.” I am thankful and humbled to call this wonderful place my home.