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Posts Tagged ‘guns’

The Sane

When I was 14, my buddies and I took a gun safety course over a couple consecutive weekends. We were all excited: the goal was that coveted prize known as an FID (Firearms Identification) card. With one of those babies, we could get a gun permit that would allow us to carry shotguns for hunting. It was one of the early “road to adulthood” milestones: I still have my original one, laminated & locked away in the same strongbox as my high school & college diplomas.

I loved hunting back then. I liked the small-game hunting, that was the really fun stuff. We hunted with our purebred beagles, awesome dogs. Repeated Kennel Club champions, they’d chase those rabbits all through the fields, trying to run them in front of us. It was our job to pay attention to the howling and predict where the fluffy little bastard would appear and shoot it as cleanly as we could without endangering the dog. That was a sport, and I loved it.

Our Hero

Pheasant hunting was great, too. We still used the beagles, but the dogs didn’t really give a damn about the birds. We just hoped the dogs would stumble across one, while they were sniffing around the underbrush, and flush the bird into the air so we could take a shot. We also had some friends with real “birder” dogs, that added a neat dynamic to it.

I was never that big on deer hunting. First, in the era before global warming, it was always friggin’ cold! Second, it was far too serious. People would prepare for months to go deer hunting, gathering & maintaining their gear, plotting out their vacation days, stocking up on food & firewood, getting supplies. We also took a nowadays-unconventional approach: we’d actually walk the woods and track the deer, which would lead us miles and miles into the woods where, if we did get a good shot, meant we had miles out of the woods to drag the ruddy carcass back to the truck. It could be hard work, and had dangers of its own, but I consider that true hunting. I’m sorry, modern deer hunters, but riding out in your ATV to sit in a tree stand with heat packs up your ass and a high-powered rifle with scope watching a known deer trail is for pussies. Get your ass out of the tree & track a deer for 12 miles and then I’ll be impressed. ūüėČ

Source: www.bowhunting.com

Wuss

I stopped hunting in my early 20s, partly because I had a falling out with my dad and partly because I found I enjoyed the “walking in the woods” part far more than I enjoyed the “blowing the little bastard’s head off in a clean shot” part. It just wasn’t my thing. But I still have absolutely nothing against hunters, even the tree-standers. Hunting is a sport, even though technology doesn’t make it that much of a challenge anymore. It also has real purposes. Deer really are vermin, even if they are adorable, and in the absence of predators they can get out of control and destroy forests & crops. Hunting also rewards one with food, and even though most of us “suburbanites” can head to our nearest Outback for sustenance, hunting is still an important source of food in our rural communities. I’ve been in some of these poor rural areas and listened to some of these folks, and they definitely hunt & fish to supplement a generally poor diet.

Hunting still has a real need, and although sometimes hunting may need to be restricted for biodiversity reasons, I’ll never support any gun control measures that curtail hunting. The same goes for other, legitimate gun sports like competitive shooting (skeet, etc.). Guns are needed in rural areas for protection from coyotes and what-not as well (asking an Alaskan to give up his rifle would be like asking him to jump off a tall building). So let’s leave these people be.

The Understandable

I can relate to hunters, but I do have trouble relating to the “personal protection” crowd. These are the people who buy handguns (and only¬†handguns, see next section) for protection for themselves, their loved ones, and their homesteads. Unlike hunting, I don’t have a good frame of reference or any experience in the matter. I’ve never hung out with cops, or took self-defense firearms courses, and I don’t study up on the topic. But looking at it from a distance, as objectively as I can, I see many reasons why a personal handgun won’t really help you.

Most robberies occur when no one is home, and the thing that’s most likely to be stolen is your handgun. Most owners don’t seek the training they’d need to really use the weapon defensively (range target practice alone is NOT adequate for that). And the circumstances where a handgun really would¬†help you seem to be narrow: you need to be awake, your gun needs to be handy, you need to have a shot, the criminal needs to be intimidated enough to run, etc. Plus you need to be cool and collected and professional (most people can’t even drive their cars professionally!).

Source: www.smosh.com

Yeah, that’ll work

I also see many more reasons where having a handgun in the house can be a really bad idea (when your depressed, drunken brother-in-law shows up out of nowhere and rummages through your stuff; or when your 5-year-old finds it where you left it when the dog distracted you by pissing on the carpet on gun-cleaning day); and only a few “perfect storm” moments where it will help you (you’re awake, the criminal sees you have one, and doesn’t have a death wish, etc.).

But, in the end, I may have an intellectual problem with the effectiveness, but I don’t have a philosophical problem with handguns-as-protection. It is entirely possible to own & use one appropriately and safely, and the risks posed by most varieties of handguns are at least counter-balanced by the risks they prevent. There are, undoubtedly, situations where a handgun can help you. There are anecdotes all over the place, and¬† some (often disputed but at least believable) statistics showing it to be the case. And heaven knows we live in a dangerous world full of rapists & murders. In the end, we do have a fundamental right to protect ourselves, and handguns can be one mechanism to do that.

The Bat-Shit Crazy

So I called this post “gun owners scare the crap outta me”, and so far have blabbed on at length about how gun owners don’t bother me. It’s because the first group are “hunters/sportsmen” and the second group is, hmmm, “cautious homesteaders”?? (gads, that’s awful.) The point is the prior two groups are not categorized by their gun ownership. It is not their identity. They are people who have other identities who happen to own guns for one reason or another.

“Gun Owners”, by contrast (and I’ll use the capital letters for clarity), are those whose very identity is tied up in their guns. These are the vocal, the loud, the proud, and (in my opinion) the friggin’ ridiculous. These are people so focused on their gun ownership to the point of obsession, fetishism, and being creepy as all get-out. It’s like the difference between a woman who keeps a few china dolls from her childhood, and a woman who has 8,000 of the freaky-assed things on every shelf, all of them staring at you while you’re trying to enjoy your corn flakes. One is kinda cute, the other is a get-me-the-hell-out-of-here, bat-shit crazy.

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Adorable

Source: http://www.urlesque.com

OMFG, What the Hell?!?

It is very easy to detect when someone has descended into madness, any kind of madness, either in whole or in part. All you have to do is listen to their logic and their justification for their position. You talk to the woman with 8 china dolls, and she’ll tell you where she got them, what favorite aunt bought her which one when she had her first Communion, and what not. You talk to the woman with 8,000 china dolls and she’ll tell you how they all talk to her when she’s sleeping. One is sane and one is crazy. Talk to a hoarder, and she’ll explain how she may someday need to save a drowning man with that bucket of gum wrappers and those Time magazines from 1987. Talk to an alcoholic and he’ll explain how “it really helps him relax and meet people” as he stares at you through yellow eyes while his Impala is wrapped around a telephone pole. Extremists come up with the craziest of ideas, stuff they certainly believe to be true but under no circumstances passes any sort of test of fact or logic.

This is how I feel about Gun Owners. I listen to their conversations and arguments, and I can’t help but think something is horribly, horribly wrong with them. Let me go through a few of my favorites.

“I Own an Assault Weapon”

So let’s just start here, and let’s not quibble about the definition of “assault weapon”. One of the biggest misdirections of the whole debate is defining that term (although I guess if you’re going to legislate it then you need to define it, fair point). But Gun Owners know full well what the rest of us mean: it’s any gun that is designed for the sole purpose of killing a shitload of people. Large-capacity clips, rapid fire, high caliber, silencers, etc., etc., whatever. All items worthless for hunting and way beyond the notion of personal protection (more on that later). These weapons have no other purpose than killing a bunch of people (actually, there is one other, but I’ll come back to that, too). They certainly aren’t meant for keeping squirrels out of the bird feeder.

“Suck on this, you nut-gathering bastards!”

If you own an assault rifle, you bought it for one reason: so you can kill a lot of people. Sure, in your head you may think up any reason you can, but the bottom line is you’ve bought a weapon designed to kill a lot of people and, deep-down, that’s what you want to do with it. You’re just egging for a fight, an excuse, and you’ll take it. Here’s why: sane people don’t buy things to not use them. I recently bought a Sawz-All to renovate my kitchen. I bought it to cut up countertops and cabinets. I didn’t buy it for “practice” or “because it’s my right” or “it looked good on my shelf”. I bought it to cut up stuff, and Gun Owners bought their assault weapons to kill people (in reality or “just in case”, it doesn’t matter). They shouldn’t insult our intelligence by making up any other reason.

“I Need It for Protection”

Another statement I can’t get my head around. When it comes to any form of protection, even things like sprinkler systems and door locks, you have to balance out protection vs. risk vs. cost vs. practicality. Home fire extinguishers are a great idea. Home sprinkler systems are available but also require maintenance and improperly done could flood your house. Wrapping the whole thing in asbestos is crazy. Same applies to personal protection weapons.

You want to deter or prevent the bad guy. Understandable. A handgun is concealable, pretty accurate in trained hands, and easily controlled. You can keep it in the nightstand or in your purse or under the seat. You can access it pretty quickly. And if something goes horribly wrong the caliber and capacity is low enough that it will be bad for you but perhaps not catastrophic to society. And if it’s stolen, well, that’s bad too but at least it’s only a 10 or 12 shooter and has a limited caliber & feature set.

So what do you do with an assault weapon? Can’t hide that in your purse! A good robber — one who waits until the house is empty — is gonna see that thing and steal it straight away. Unless you have it in a gun safe, but then it’s not much use as a personal protection device, eh? Oh, you’re going to be 100% careful to leave it available when you’re home and lock it when you’re out? And you’ve never locked your keys in your car either? And let’s say you do encounter a burglar/rapist in your house. Are you really going to light up the joint with 30, 50, or 100 rounds in a rapid-fire mode? Seriously? Hope your wife & kids aren’t in the next room. And don’t say “I can shoot it accurately”. You can shoot it accurately at a range under controlled circumstances, maybe. Unless you’ve had years of urban warfare training, you ain’t gonna be able to shoot jack when you’re walking through your dark house in your boxer shorts as you step on your kids’ Legos. There’s gonna be bullets flying all over the friggin’ place.

Source: http://www.kevinmd.com

“I’ve always hated that avocado tile in the bathroom anyway”

I don’t see any realistic home-invasion scenario where an assault rifle is better than a personal handgun for protection, and see plenty where the overkill is far more dangerous than not even having anything. And let’s not even talk about the ramifications if one gets stolen by a criminal or discovered by your drunken, pissed-off brother-in-law.

“It’s Our Right and We Must Use It”

This one really gets to me. It preys on our fundamental core values: our own liberties. It’s a cheap shot, actually.

First, let me point out the obvious. All our rights have limits. You can’t use your freedom of speech to slander another or cause a riot. You can’t use your freedom of press to libel another. You can’t use freedom of religion as an excuse to control, imprison, or defraud people. Liberty stops when exercise of that liberty harms another, even the Founding Fathers understood that.

But here’s the real deal. All rights should be exercised responsibly. Sure, you have the right to do stuff, but that doesn’t make it right. You have the freedom of speech, but sometimes you need to stop talking. You have the freedom of the press, but printing out 20,000 copies of your Kaczynski-esque manifesto and spreading it around town is just a wee bit ridiculous. Your freedom of religion doesn’t mean you should sacrifice live goats in the public square and paint swastikas in blood on your foreheads. Those behaviors are crazy and ridiculous, so is the Gun Owner’s desire to have weapons whose only purpose is to kill a lot of people. It’s ridiculous, and they damned well know it. This isn’t about “government squashing our rights”, this is about acting responsibly and keeping an entire class of weapons whose one and only purpose is killing a lot of people out of circulation.

Not only that, but by Gun Owners not acting responsibly and keeping these wholly ludicrous and dangerous weapons off the market permanently means that other bat-shit crazy bozos can also stockpile these things. So that means more and more, in a never-ending escalation, until everyone is at risk from everyone else!

Source: public domain (Operation Fast & Furious gun hoard)

Your Neighbor’s Living Room

Not acting responsibly is one symptom of mental illness. Just saying …

“We Have a Duty to Stand Up to Our Government”

That’s my reply when a Gun Owner says “we have a duty to stand up to our government” (or the U.N. or the CIA or whatever).

It leaves me absolutely speechless. This is an argument so patently ridiculous, so baseless, it cause a full-synapse reboot.

This is not Guatemala. This is not Venezuela. This is not the Congo or Afghanistan. For crying out loud, this is America! And hate it or not, there is no reasonable scenario where our Armed Forces or police forces are going to put us under martial law or anything. It’s tin-foil-hat wearing nonsense, utter and stupid.

And don’t go tossing out Ruby Ridge, Waco, or other, similar occurrences. These are people who instigated trouble and then fought it and they were slaughtered. The notion that you are going to fight a war with the police or the FBI or the National Guard and end up anything other than a puddle of moisture is ridiculous. I don’t care how many rifles you own. Also don’t toss out the “accidental arrest” situation, where the cops have the wrong address and break down your door. It happens and it sucks, but are you really going to start shooting at them? Have a nice trip to the afterlife.

Source: www.pestproducts.com

Even the crickets are speechless

Here’s the real deal: what is the greater likelihood, the real risk-benefit analysis? That the government is going to run roughshod over our rights in jackbooted fashion, and that you can fight back; or that the bozo next door with his cache of assault weapons — weapons that Gun Owners demanded remain on the market — is going to go nutso and shoot up the neighborhood because his girlfriend dumped him.

The latter is by far the likelier scenario.

What really gets to me is these folks are running around saying “it’s our right!” Well, what about my rights! The right not to live in a culture of fear where at any moment some nutjob is gonna freak out because Hostess stops making Twinkies and decides to shoot up a 7-Eleven on a lark. It’s bad enough having to tolerate handguns, at least those have a purpose and have reasonable limitations. Having all these outrageous weapons is just begging for trouble. Why should I have to face that in my own¬† life simply because the Gun Owners only care about their rights?

As a side note, I’ve found that the real Gun Owner, while defending his right to own whatever gun he wants, is also the guy who’ll tell you not to vote. Go figure.

“I Like My Guns”

Yes! Huzzah! Finally, if you get one to admit this is why they want a 100% free 2nd Amendment, you have an intellectually honest Gun Owner!

Of course people like their guns. They are exciting to shoot! It’s a rush, there is no denying. And, in the end, this is the only reason people own these assault weapons: they like the rush.

What else is a rush? Gambling. Methamphetamines. Auto-erotic asphyxiation.

This is another cause of chronic, illogical thinking: constant exposure to addictive substances or actions. It is my belief that some people are addicted to firing weapons, and continue to spout nonsense statements like these because of that addiction. They are hooked on the rush of firing these weapons. Call it what you want, it’s an addiction, and like all addictions, it’s harmful.

Source: www.guardian.co.uk

At least you’re only killing yourself

I grew up in an alcoholic family. I’ve heard so many addiction-inspired lies and nonsense from alcoholic parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, I can spot them a mile away. It’s a lie so incredibly shallow and so blatantly obvious it’s insulting to your intelligence that someone would try to pull it on you, but it’s a lie so believable in their universe because of the physical or psychology effects of addiction. It the type of lie that sets me off, causes me to tense up with such rage because it is so directly insulting. This is exactly the type of feeling I get from Gun Owners when they spout off the NRA’s talking points.

This is also why the gun lobby makes such little sense to us, but such¬†tremendous¬†sense to the Gun Owner: their only answer to anything is “let’s have more guns”. They are the pushers of this addictive substance. They’re making a lot of money from gun sales, and they know what sells guns: the rush of shooting them and the fear of other guns! Go ahead, Gun Owner. Ask yourself honestly “why did I buy this high-powered weapon”. It’s either a) you get a huge rush shooting the damned thing, or b) you are afraid that someone else has one and you wanted something that would kill them first. This is the real trap that the gun lobby has set, it’s insidious in its design: they sell the only product where selling more to person A guarantees more will be sold to persons B, C, and D. Normally drug dealers try to get you hooked to sell more to you, but the gun lobby tries to get you hooked so they can sell to someone else because that person is now afraid of you! This is a far more effective model than any drug or cult, with far greater marketing potential!

Don’t think for a moment the NRA and other groups are protecting the 2nd Amendment. They are funded by and working for the gun industry, whose only goal is to sell more weapons.

The Summary

And so now we come back to the title of this post: Gun Owners Scare the Crap Outta Me. It’s very simply summarized as follows:

We have an entire segment of the population who’s logic and sanity is in question because of an addiction-like fascination with very dangerous weapons.¬† And that scares the wholly hell out of me. Much more so than U.N. black helicopters.

How did we end up here??

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[This post will probably get me killed. Ah well, it’s been a good life. My will is up to date, and for your information, none of you are in it. :-P]

[Edit 2: it has been pointed out to me all the inner-city violence is linked to handguns, not to assault rifles. This is very true, and has definitely added more to think about. However, inner-city violence is a different animal and requires completely different solutions than the  random mass-shooting incidents that inspired this point.]

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Premonitions

Ford’s Theater is one of those few true “shrines” in our country. It marks a spot of such profound tragedy in our nation’s history, it stands in an august group with Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor, and Ground Zero.

When I think of Ford’s Theater, what comes to my mind isn’t the figurative or literal theatrics of Lincoln’s assassination, but of the premonitions Lincoln himself had of his own death. Now I don’t believe in supernatural precognition (folks like Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, Jeanne Dixon, and that freakish Jamaican hag from late-night TV make me want to vomit with force and intent), but I do believe folks who are trying to make a significant impact on the world know full well that someone, somewhere, is out to kill them for it.

Lincoln by Saint-Gaudens“About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers, ‘The President,’ was his answer; ‘he was killed by an assassin.’ Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.” — A. Lincoln

Now this is, indeed, creepy, but it’s not evidence of the paranormal. Lincoln knew full well that he was waging a war against fellow Americans, a war that not everyone in what remained of the Union supported. He knew that he was violating folks’ rights, that Sherman was burning great swaths of farmland in Georgia and the Carolinas, that hundreds of thousands of draftees were laying dead on the fields from Monocacy to Vicksburg. And he knew that someone, or many someones, wanted him dead. Even though he was doing the right thing, he was stomping on somebody, and that somebody would kill him. How sadly accurate his premonition turned out to be.

Lincoln Funeral in Ohio

A while ago, I listened to an interview of comedian Chris Rock, of Saturday Night Live fame. He’s a brilliant comic. Rough-edged and provocative, to be sure, but brilliant nonetheless (or, perhaps, because of). He clearly rattles cages, but he also makes people think about race, and class, and stupidity, and of other topics equally truthful but irritating. He told the interviewer (and I’ll paraphrase): “when I became famous, I figured I’d be dead.” Not because of drug overdose like other SNL alums like John Belushi or Chris Farley, but because someone would shoot him.

Isn’t that terrible? And I’m sure he’s not the only famous entertainer or politican who thinks that. How many duly-elected Representatives or Senators actually wondered “will I get shot today” when they went to all those raucous “health care town hall” meetings? I would question the sanity of any of them who didn’t think that. And why would they be shot? For trying to give more people health insurance? For being the target of an astro-turf uprising orchestrated by talk radio and billionaire media moguls with their own, selfish, ratings-raising axe to grind?

assault weapon (2)

It’s a sad state of affairs in this country that folks of vision (whether philosophical or political or economic or medical or scientific) can be intimidated into submission or silence not by the power of persuasion or debate or fact-driven decision making, but through threats — real or imagined — of force from the very populace they’re trying to reach. Is this what we have become? Is this what the great democratic experiment has wrought? A society where thoughts and efforts to improve the lot of the nation is met with violence? Are the recent events simply a blip, a blemish on the soul of the country, or are we heading down a steep slope to Somalian anarchy?

Lincoln, of course, didn’t back down. He continued on a path he knew was right. He paid the ultimate price for it. But although the aftermath was rocky, the nation reunited, got on its feet, and became the most powerful nation the world has ever seen.

But now, I wonder. Was it really worth it?

America??

[I don’t have many good pics of Ford’s Theater, so I didn’t post any. All of these are from public domain sources.]

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Links:

Ford’s Theater National Historic Site

Editorial

Best YouTube Video Ever!

Google map to Ford’s Theater

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It’s All About Terrain

One of the great moments for historians (amateur and, I can only assume, professional alike) is when they visit the landscape of a famous event and say “oh my God, I understand it all now!” For me, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is one such place.

Federal Camp by Tennessee RiverPeople tend to forget that old battles, battles before mechanized cavalry, helicopters, spy satellites, and unmanned drones, were all about terrain. Old strategies involved taking the high ground, controlling mountain passes, utilizing waterways for transportation and defense, and sneaking to the enemy’s position in the gloom of the morning fog. Entire wars from ancient Thermopylae to Pacific Ocean island hopping in World War II involved strategic uses of terrain to overwhelm and defeat an enemy.

In the American Civil War, Chattanooga was undoubtedly a terrain prize. It was the gateway to the Deep South manufacturing centers in Georgia. The Tennessee River was important to the transportation of goods and men, and acted as a natural defensive barrier against Union incursions. The lowlands around the river, and the natural passes through the Appalachians nearby, made it an easy place for railroad construction. Like the circulatory system of the human body, the Confederacy’s railroads were vital to its survival and its greatest vulnerability for defeat. Chattanooga developed into a great railway crossroad, and was the femoral artery of the Confederacy.

Chattanooga Battle Map

Surrounding this artery were the most famous ridgelines of the Civil War: Missionary Ridge to the east; and Lookout Mountain to the west, overlooking the Tennessee River. If anyone intended to take, and keep, the Chattanooga transportation hub, they needed to take, and keep these ridgelines. High ground is holy ground in armed conflict: gravity becomes your greatest asset. Your enemy needs to climb up to challenge you, an exhausting task by itself. In the days of the Civil War, with heavy rifles and, even worse, cannons and artillery, that task is nearly impossible. So a defender, perched high above, has an unbelievable advantage and an opportunity to rain hot death upon the enemy. Of course, having the high ground automatically makes you a target, and can button you in. Surrounding the base of the mountain traps the defenders, making them ripe for a slow death by siege. The holder of the high ground has increased chances for both life and death.

Train Depot and Lookout MountainI’m not going to recount the entirety of the battles surrounding Chickamauga and Chattanooga, there are resources out there that would do a far better job than I ever could. I will say these battles definitely revolved around the lay of the land, and actually being there brings that “eureka” moment. You can read in a book that Union soldiers raced up the slope of Lookout Mountain to chase out the Confederates, but actually going there, and seeing that side of Lookout Mountain is more of a cliff than a slope, really drives the point home that these soldiers were strong, and tough, and committed, and quite amazing. The feats these men (on both sides of the conflict) are truly mind boggling.

I enjoyed my visit to C&C. The area hasn’t been overdeveloped (although there are tony homes on top of Lookout Mountain – why do the rich, who would have bought their way out of service during the Civil War, now command America’s ridgelines? I sense a master’s thesis in there somewhere…). The ridges, of course, do have some terrific views of the countryside. The Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor’s Center has the best collection of American military rifles I have ever seen (definitely a must-see for gun enthusiasts). And it’s one of the few Civil War sites where an amateur historian can go and say “wow, now I really get it”, just by being there.

Span Over Tennessee River

[Sadly, I didn’t own a digital camera when I visited C&C. Public domain historic photos from the National Archives, map from the Library of Congress.]

Links:

Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park

Civil War photographs from the National Archives

Civil War maps from the Library of Congress

Description of the Battle of Chattanooga

Google map to C&C NMP (zoom in & switch to terrain view to get the point)

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