Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Recalling the Civil War with 3 miles of electrical wiring and 650 lights

No, I'm not talking about the Electric Map that once told the story of the Battle of Gettysburg and is now being rehabilitated in Hanover, Pennsylvania.

I'm talking about the electronic display telling the story of the Civil War's Battle of Chattanooga. It was built in 1957 and was once housed at a place called Confederama at the foot of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

This undated brochure touts the oddly castle-like wonder that was Confederama, including its air-conditioned, walking-free environment. The reverse side of the brochure states:
"Mighty armies battled at Chickamauga and Chattanooga in 1863 in action that 'sealed the fate of the Confederacy.' See history come alive, re-created for your enjoyment.

"The sounds of battle and the strains of 'Dixie' and 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic' ring out over the three-dimensional, 480-square-foot reproduction of historic terrain — the world's largest battlefield display of its kind.1

"More than 5,000 soldiers (made especially for Confederama in South Africa)2 show where armies moved as guns flash in battle and cannon puff real smoke, accompanied by a shot-by-shot explanation of these historic conflicts."

"An intricate, electronic automation system activates more than 3 miles of electrical wiring and 650 flashing lights to make vital history real and exciting for the whole family. Our convenient location, dynamic exhibit, attractive souvenir and gift shop will, together with our helpful personnel, offer you a thoroughly enjoyable experience."

Alas, there is no longer a tourist attraction called Confederama and the electronic battlefield display is no longer at its original location.

But the electronic display still exists. It has new owners and has been moved a little further up the mountain, where it is now housed at The Battles for Chattanooga Electric Map & Museum. Here is some more about that transition from About North Georgia:
"By the early 1990's the museum had fallen into disrepair and the original owner died. Civil War enthusiasts realized what a loss it would be if the museum closed and backed efforts to save the famous landmark. A local business owner purchased the museum and all the contents. A grand refurbishing was begun. Each of the figures on the huge battlefield was removed and cleaned. Some were repainted. Wiring that in some cases was nearly 40 years old was replaced. A new, digital soundtrack was recorded."

Additional links

1. By comparison, the Electric Map at Gettysburg was/is 891 square feet.
2. Oh, there's some uncomfortable irony there.

1 comment:

  1. When I was a kid - 6-12 years old (1965-71) - my family would visit Chattanooga every summer. One of the reasons for this pilgrimage is that I was obsessed with all things Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. I remember my parents taking me to the 'Confederama' and thinking how cool it was! All those individually painted toy soldiers and train layout; wow!

    I AM 55 now and I'd love to see it again! I can then come home and play with my HO scale Civil War train 'The General' and some Civil War soldiers. It would be like being a kid again. Sorry Southerners, but I made sure the North always won. I think I'm the reincarnation of Lincoln who was the reincarnation of Benjamin Franklin.