On the outskirts of Chattanooga, Tennessee, the battlefield of Chickamauga lies as a silent testiment to a battle where 36,000 men were killed, wounded or missing.
The battle of Chickamauga began when Union commander William S. Rosecrans began to run into stiff small arms fire in the vicinity of Chickamauga Creek on September 17 as his men came out of the gaps in Lookout Mountain. Braxton Bragg, moving west from the Western and Atlantic Railroad, crossed Chickamauga Creek north of the town of Chickamauga. At dusk on September 19th the Army of the Cumberland had been pushed back to a ridge running alongside the Chattanooga-LaFayette Road. The Army of Tennesse had pierced Rosecrans line at one point but eventually withdrew.
On the morning of the 20th, James Longstreet prepared to assault Rosecrans' line along a broad front. Roughly in the center of the line, John Bell Hood led a division attacking near Brotherton Cabin. Rosecrans' complex movement north left a gap that Hood exploited. As he broke through Hood pushed on rather choosing to consolidate his gains. Rosecrans and other top generals fled leaving George Thomas to defend against the massive Confederate Army.
Thomas created a line along Snodgrass Hill. A second line along today's aptly named Battleline Road was still holding. The only problem was the mile-and-a-half gap between the two. In Rossville, Gordon Granger could tell there was a problem merely by the sound of the battle. He advanced without orders and resupplied and reinforced the embattled Union line. Darkness called an end to repeated Rebel assaults and Thomas wisely withdrew.
After the battle what remained of the original occupants returned, farming the land until the 1880's. Union and Confederate soldiers who had fought at the battle began to organize for the 30-year reunion. The idea to purchase the land as a memorial was proposed by General H.V. Boynton and Ferdinand Van Derveer and since many at the battle now held high-ranking jobs in the government, the concept got a lot of political muscle behind it.
Bringing veterans who fought in the battle back to Chicamauga historians began to mark exact spots where major incidents happen. Rosecrans and Bragg's headquarters are both marked, as is Reed's Bridge and Jay's Mill. The site of the initial engagement, Hood's breakthough at Brotherton Cabin and Thomas's last stand are all documented with on-site interpretation.
Today, the 8,000 acre battlefield attracts not only Civil War buffs but families and outdoor activities enthusiasts from around the Chattanooga area. Part of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Battlefield Park, the battlefield is one of the Scenic City's major attractions, drawing over a million visitors a year.
Location:Between Ft. Oglethorpe and Chickamauga Directions:Take I-75, exit 350, Battlefield Parkway to Fort Oglethorpe. Turn left on U. S. 27. The park office is ahead on the right.