Though Fort Sanders has a reputation for seedy behavior and risky business, it may just be the safest neighborhood in town – if zombies attacked.
Before you go watch that episode of Walking Dead idling in your Netflix queue, consider the events of a battle that will turn 150 years old on Nov. 29. As the Civil War began to turn against the Confederacy, 780 rebel soldiers reportedly died in the 1863 assault on Fort Sanders. Rumor (read: Wikipedia) has it that the boys in blue only suffered 13 casualties, and even the National Park Service estimates that the North suffered only 100 casualties.
The lopsided affair lasted 20 minutes. First, Confederate soldiers tumbled over telegraph wires tied between tree stumps. Then the attacking brigades tried to cross a 12-foot wide, 10-foot deep trench dug by the North. Hundreds of men never managed to climb out, decimated by Union forces firing from the higher ground that is now the area around Laurel Residence Hall. Forget shooting fish in a barrel; this was shooting rebels in a hole.
The massacre secured East Tennessee for the United States, and ole' Honest Abe had Fort Sanders to thank for protecting these hills. If Barack ever has a World War Z on his hands, he should remember this historic military victory; Fort Sanders would be an equally strategic defense from a zombie attack.
As students, we take for granted the absurdly steep hills in our beloved Fort. Over the years, countless sorority women have bemoaned the heinous hike up Laurel Hill after a long day down on Rocky Top. Their moans are justified; Fort Sanders Hospital stands nearly 700 feet higher than the Tennessee River side, and much of the steep incline begins just north of Cumberland Avenue.
But when we inevitably need protection from a zombie apocalypse – as pop culture so desperately and profitably manifests – we must remember the dreadful ascent we face daily would be deadly against the dead's invasion. Laurel Residence Hall sits on the ideal location for a fortified defense, a benefit Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside successfully used a century and a half ago against real live soldiers.Those hills would be even harder to manage for the drooling undead – imagine one of those stiff-legged creeps struggling up 16th Street.
Today, the Fort has gained an ironically dangerous reputation. The recent history of hold-ups and drug trafficking has tarnished its once-victorious status, and generations of college students have turned it into a veritable graveyard of beer cans and bad decisions. The neighborhood even experiences its own sort of zombie invasion every Saturday, when tens of thousands of drunken college football fans descend to frenzy and grill hot dogs. Despite its own brand of madness, however, Fort Sanders is an excellent location to prepare for the end of the world. With plenty of houses to hide in and alleyways to dart through, evading zombies would be easy; Walmart and Publix will be finished soon, providing storehouses of supplies just a few minutes away; two major interstates – escape routes – are immediately available.
The Fort has even gained another tactical defense in the years since Gen. Burnside's victory over the South: college parties. While some survivors could take turns firing shots into the encroaching zombies, the rest of the Fort Sanders' alliance could enjoy themselves taking shots of a different sort. So, if the current zombie zeitgeist concerns you and you need a place to live, consider making your stand in the Fort. It's where America took a stand and where countless college students have taken keg stands before you.
At the very least, Fort Sanders is only a short, downhill walk to class. When you're feeling like a zombie yourself on Monday morning's hungover commute to school, that journey may very well make you feel alive again.
R.J. Vogt is a junior in College Scholars. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This content appeared as a part of the fall 2013 housing guide.