While it is easy to see how lives changed for people during the Civil War, I think when learning the stories of indivduals like Robert Craven it truly brings how the war was not some far away battle in the Middle East or the Pacific that you thought about from time to time, for Robert Cravens, it was literally in his backyard and in his house.
Robert Cravens came to the former Ross Landing -Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1838. He came with plans to move cotton up the Tennessee River to the cotten market in Memphis.
Success with this was short lived because the cotton boom didn’t last after the railroad arrived. Cravens though had another idea up his sleeve and began the manufacture of charcoal iron. The business flourished and Craven built a home in 1856 on a Look Out Mountain which offered an amazing view over the city.
The view was so perfect that when the Civil War started, both armies would at different times use his home as a headquarters and observation point. After his house suffered from bombardment from Union forces trying to strike the Confederate forces, Cravens wisely took refuge in Ringgold, Georgia.
The home on November 4, 1863 was used as headquarters by the Confederate army of Brig. Gen. Edward C. Walthall. Placards at the site state, “On November 24, 1863, the Union troops stormed the foggy slopes of Lookout Mountain in the famed ‘Battle Above the Clouds’. Federal infantry pushed the outnumbered Confederates around the end of the mountain. as the Confederates fell back, the Cravens house fell into Union hands…”
The placards continued, “The skirmishing ended near here about dusk, and at 2 A.M. the Confederates short on men and ammunition, withdrew from the mountain. At dawn, Union soldiers climbed to Point Lookout just above here and planted the U.S. flag.”
According to some history I reviewed the house just suffered minimal damage during the battle, but then was destroyed in a drunken battle between Union solders afterwards. The placard history states that the solders took souvenirs from the home and used the house for firewood. When he returned home, Robert Cravens rebuilt the house in 1866. The industrialist rebuilt his home, his fortune, his business and his life.
After his death, he home and 88 acres were sold Adolph Ohs who later donated the land to the National Park Service.
The view from the home is absolutely amazing. It was fascinating to learn the history of Robert Cravens and see the valley from his viewpoint. We stopped by on our way down the mountain after riding on the Incline Railway. The house is located at Cravens Terrance Road. Call 423-821-6161 for more information.