When the Civil War raged throughout the Union and Confederate lands from 1861 to 1865, it ranged to Tennessee, from the fields of Shiloh to the town of 5,545 citizens at the time of the Great Rebellion along the bend of the Tennessee River, Chattanooga, and into the state just south, at Chickamauga.
Now interpreted at the national battlefield park that bears both names, the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, it almost seems fitting to twin these two names, the second of which stems from the first battle of Chattanooga when the branch of the Cherokee Indians, known as the Chickamaugua were moved west in the Trail of Tears from the area only two decades before.
The oldest and largest of America’s Civil War military parks, Chickamauga and Chattanooga encompasses land in north Georgia and south Tennessee.
In the fall of 1863, with the outcome of the Civil War still in doubt, more than 150,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought in a series of battles on the fields of this park. These battles were remembered as some of the hardest fighting of the war.
The Union campaign began in June and didn’t end until late November. When the battles were done, the Union had seized Chattanooga, and with it a gateway into the deep South. Chattanooga was a major railway center, and the following spring Sherman used it as his launching-pad to begin his march to Atlanta and the sea.
During the Civil War, Chattanooga was considered to be an attractive area for its railroads and location, earning the title of the “Gateway of the Deep South.” In 1843, battles broke out in various areas in Chickamauga and Chattanooga with both the Union and Confederate troops experiencing victories and losses.
The park is headquartered at Chickamauga, Georgia, about 9 miles south of downtown Chattanooga. We were impressed by the preservation of the national park and appreciated the amount of information available to visitors, both laid throughout the park and within the visitors center, home to several museum exhibits about the Civil War and campaign for Chickamauga. Also, inside the visitor center is an Eastern National Park bookstore, and the Fuller Gun Collection, an impressive collection of military muskets and rifles from the colonial era through the early 20th century.
Throughout the seven-mile auto tour we saw monuments and memorials honoring those who fought there. We also noticed tablets, blue for Union and red for Confederate, that describe the soldier’s actions; they date from around 1890 when the U.S. Congress authorized Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the first such park in the United States.
You’ll walk where Confederate and Union soldiers fought in the bloodiest two-day battle of the war on September 19-20, 1863.
In September 1863 the Union Army of the Cumberland was routed and the Battle of Chickamauga was over. In its wake were a broken Union army and 35,000 men killed, wounded, missing, and captured.
The victorious Confederates controlled the field, and soon followed the Union Army to Chattanooga. Over the next two months Confederate forces besieged the trapped Union army. In November 1863 the Union Army, reinforced by Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William Sherman, and Joseph Hooker, defeated the Confederates at Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge.
The Union army may have lost the Battle of Chickamauga, but they won control of Chattanooga and drove the Confederates south into Georgia opening the war for union operations into the Deep South. As one Confederate soldier ominously wrote after the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, “This is the death-knell of the Confederacy.”
This Park was the first Military Park of its kind. In 1888, former members of the Cumberland Army General H. V. Boynton and Ferdinand Van Derveer revisited the area, and were impressed to protect and commemorate the memory of the area. Two years later, this Park was established, and became the largest of the first four military parks, the others being Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg.
The Chickamauga section of the park is free.
Where to Stay: Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Traveling is almost like talking with men of other centuries.