in Chickamauga - Chattanooga National Military Park
Area: More than 8,000 acres that include most of the important historical sites.
Today the cannon stand quiet guard on the site of the worst Union defeat during the War Between the States, a technical win for Army of Tennessee commander Braxton Bragg [CS, Jefferson Davis, who held the Chickamauga battlefield in spite of greater losses than his opponent, Army of the Cumberland commander William S. Rosecrans (US, Lincoln). Yet the concept of the park to commemorate this Union loss was the idea of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland. Even in concept, though, the idea was "not to honor one army, but both."
Arriving in Chattanooga in May, 1888 Ferdinand Van Derveer and Henry Van Ness Boynton went to the livery and headed south along dirt roads in a rented buggy. Both had been at Chickamauga, Van Derveer leading a brigade as colonel, Boynton as a lieutenant colonel. Boynton went on to receive the United States Medal of Honor awarded by Congress for gallantry a few miles north of Chickamauga, on Missionary Ridge.
Boynton and Van Deveer befriended a local family, purchasing a handful of Minié-balls from their young daughter. They scouted the land with the idea of preserving it for prosperity. The task was huge. Three months after the initial visit the society had formed a committee, comprised of officers who had fought in the battle. For a board of directors, the society turned to the governors of the eleven northern states who contributed men to the effort.
By November, 1888, preliminary mapping of the site had begun. Still, it was a Union effort. To counter this criticism, the society turned the idea over to the Chickamauga Memorial Association, which held its first meeting on Feb. 13, 1889. In July, the United Confederate Veterans held their first encampment on the grounds. In September, 1889 the Joint Chickamauga Memorial Association held a meeting in Chattanooga, led by Alfred S. Ochs.
A year later, on September 20, 1890, the association was formally organized at Crawfish Springs. John Wilder and Alabama Senator (and Confederate General) Joseph Wheeler served as president and vice-president of the committee. On December 4, 1890, the charter was granted by Walker County (GA.) Superior Court. Now all that was needed was power and funding.
Congress, loaded with Civil War veterans, responded quickly and favorably to the enabling legislation, and on August 19, 1890 President Benjamin Harrison, himself a Union veteran who fought in Georgia, signed the bill establishing the park. The work of creating the park began with a budget of $125,000. On September 8 Secretary of War Redfield Proctor appointed a committee to oversee the purchase of land and initial construction. Henry Boynton, who had grown the idea to fruition, was appointed historical assistant.
By all counts it was an incredible sight as hundreds of soldiers returned to the battlefield to find their position when a specific event occurred. When disagreements arose, a committee voted on issue after reviewing the input from all sides. All monuments had to be approved by this committee, but in January, 1893 only Tennessee and Minnesota had formed state committees to oversee their efforts. With the thirty year anniversary of the end of the war approaching, efforts began to increase dramatically.
Over the next two years monuments were approved and placed in the appropriate spots. Then, on September 18, 1895 an incredible mass of people met on Snodgrass Hill, site of General George Thomas' heroic stand on the final day of battle. Eight state monuments were dedicated that day, and more than 10,000 members of the Army of the Cumberland had arrived at the battlefield by nightfall.
In 1897 Henry Boynton's hard work paid off. He became chairman of the commission, in essence, in charge of the park. He would continue in this role until his death in 1905. Boynton befriended many of the local citizens, who named a town near the park in his honor.
With the death of the final commissioner in 1922 control of the park reverted to the War Department. For 11 years the department struggled with the logistics of managing this and other properties including the National Cemeteries. To manage the properties the federal government created the National Park Service in 1933.
During the 1930's two CCC camps played important roles in improving the parks. On Lookout Mountain they built Skyuka Trail, Fire Trail, East and West Bluff Trails, Whiteside Trail, Guild Trail, Hardy Trail, Rifle Pit Trail, Gum Spring Trail, Shingle Trail, and Glen (Falls) Trail. At Chickamauga they constructed the Bragg Trail, which connects the major historic sites.
Today the Chickamauga Battlefield is a cornerstone attraction for Georgia and Chattanooga, attracting nearly a million visitors a year. A multi-media presentation at the visitor's center tells the story surrounding the battles, and a driving tour takes visitors to the highlights of the park. Unfortunately, for the sake of brevity, many of the best places are long distance views if you don't park the car and get out and walk.
Chickamauga Battlefield is part of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Battlefield Park
P.O. Box 2128
Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia 30742
Phone: (706) 866-9241
For more information on the Battle of Chickamauga: About North Georgia's Battle of Chickamauga
Our Georgia History's in depth series on the battle:Battle of Chickamauga
Roadside Georgia Chickamauga Battlefield Tour
County: Walker County
Directions From Interstate 75: At Exit 350 take Battlefield Parkway (Georgia 2) west to Fort Oglethorpe. Turn left at the intersection of Battlefield Parkway and Lafayette Road. Go one mile on Lafayette Road to the park entrance and visitor center. Directions from Chattanooga: Take U.S. Highway 27 south (Rossville Boulevard) to Fort Oglethorpe. At the intersection of Battlefield Parkway, continue straight through the intersection onto Lafayette Road to the park entrance one mile ahead.
Attractions in North Georgia
The Civil War in Georgia
Beginning with the Great Locomotive Chase and the battle of Chickamauga, to the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea
Army of Tennessee
Army of the Cumberland
Battle of Chickamauga
John B. Gordon
United States Medal of Honor
War Between the States
William S. Rosecrans
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