Wednesday, April 30, 2014

US Hwy 70: Crossville, TN

Crossville is one of the larger towns on the Cumberland Plateau. Like many of the towns I travel through, it has two distinctly different aspects: A small, somewhat rundown "historic" district at the crossroads of the "old" US Highway, and a sprawling, somewhat manic "modern" area around the nearby crossroads with the interstate.

The latter has no interest to me at all, consisting of every kind of fast-food joint, strip mall and tacky commercial enterprise. The former doesn't have much to offer, with the exception of the a very tasty little military memorial museum.

I spent a delightful couple of hours with the gentleman pictured here, standing beneath an original "first Confederate flag" that is said to have belonged to Civil War notable Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Throughout our tour of the museum — a rich collection of memorabilia dating from the Civil War through "current conflicts" — we had a lively conversation about all manner of military history.

Though we differed at times about various facts and figures, our views on the causes and effects of "politics by other means" were remarkably well aligned.

Because of Tennessee's especially rich and interesting Civil War history, we spent much of our time delving into.

Here are a few facts of note:

A deeply divided state, Tennessee was the last to leave the Union and the first to return. As many as a fourth of its combatants actually joined the Union forces to fight, and vigilantism between "sides" at home was rampant and violent. It has the second highest number of battlefield sites (behind Virginia) due mainly to its importance as a transportation center and its location on the frontier.

More recently, I was intrigued to learn that Crossville was home to a WWII prisoner of war camp. The museum's excellent collection of the period includes a very nice scale model.

Opened in November 1942, it was one of the first POW camps in the US and eventually held over 1500 German and Italian prisoners, mostly from Rommel's North Africa Corps.

There are many artifacts from camp life and anecdotes about everything from attempted escapes to social interaction with the locals.

When the war was over, a number of the prisoners stayed in the area or returned to it.

I was disappointed to learn that nothing remains of the camp except one chimney, else you can be sure that I would have been all over it!

I'm not exactly sure why, but my favorite artifact is a collection of scrip from the camp.

In particular, you can see some scrip bearing the designation of "internment camp" which reflects the original intention for the facility to house Japanese-American civilians, a role which it never fulfilled.

I found another interesting thing in the area and will post about it soon... Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

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