Located on 9,000 acres within eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia near the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park commemorates the site of two seminal 1863 American Civil War battles, the Chattanooga Campaign and the Battle of Chickamauga. The city of Chattanooga was considered a major strategic battleground during the American Civil War, as its location on the Tennessee River served as the convergence site for four major railroads.
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Throughout the summer of 1863, Union forces under the command of General William Rosecrans advanced toward the city in an attempt to seize control of Confederate supply lines, causing Confederate General Braxton Bragg to abandon the city. Rosecrans assumed a Confederate retreat to Atlanta, and as such, ordered his men to follow the troops into Georgia. However, the surprise meeting and attack of the two battalions in the farming fields near Chickamauga Creek in late September, known as the Battle of Chickamauga, resulted in mass casualties for both sides, totalling in the second-highest number of casualties during the war after the Battle of Gettysburg.
After their defeat in the Battle of Chickamauga, the Union soldiers retreated to Chattanooga to plan a strategic campaign of maneuvers under the direction of Major Generals Ulysses S. Grant and George Henry Thomas. From November 23 through November 25, the seizure of Orchard Knob, the Battle of Lookout Mountain, and the Confederate retreat from Missionary Ridge into Georgia ensured the complete Union control of Chattanooga’s rivers and railways. The Chattanooga Campaign is widely considered to have signaled a “death knell” for the Confederacy, as Union control of Tennessee directly led to Major General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign of 1864, which precipitated the end of the war the following year.
In 1890, four military parks commemorating seminal Civil War battle sites were authorized by the United States, including the Chickamauga and Chattanooga site, the first and largest park in the series. Development of the park is credited to the efforts of Generals Ferdinand Van Derveer and Henry Boynton, who lobbied heavily for preservation of the battlefields. Supervision of the park was transferred to the National Park Service in 1933.
Today, the park preserves 8,973 acres of battlefield land throughout eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia, primarily within Hamilton, Catoosa, Dade, and Walker Counties. Two visitor centers serve the park, located at its western and southern ends. The Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center, located in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, serves as an entrance point for the attractions of Chickamauga Battlefield, and offers several Civil War exhibits, including the Fuller Gun Collection, one of the most noted displays of military small arms in the country, and the 26-minute Campaign for Chattanooga: Death Knell of the Confederacy orientation film. At the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center, located in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee near Point Park, visitors can see the historic painting The Battle Above the Clouds, painted by battle eyewitness James Walker. The nearby Ochs Museum, located inside Point Park, contains exhibits about Civil War photography, signal, and communications operations.
Four main historic battlefield areas are preserved within the park, including Chickamauga Battlefield, which may be explored via a seven-mile automobile tour loop. Major sites include Viniard Field, a major battle site on September 19, and Horseshoe Ridge and Snodgrass Hill, the site of the Confederacy’s final battle victory. An audio tour is provided via cell phone, elaborating on the history and significance of the battle sites. Visitors may also seasonally climb Wilder Brigade Monument for a full view of the battlefield area. Other battlefield areas commemorated within the park include Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and Moccasin Bend.
More than 80 miles of hiking trails are provided within the Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain Battlefield areas, including the five-mile General Bragg Trail, the nine-mile Memorial Trail, and the 11-mile Historical Trail, which serve as popular sites for scout and student group visitors. Bicycling is permitted on all paved roads within Chickamauga Battlefield, and several trails at both Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain are open to horseback riders. West Chickamauga and Lookout Creeks offer canoe and kayak excursions, and the Sunset Rock and Eagles Nest areas of Lookout Mountain serve as popular sites for rock climbing.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Curriculum-based field trip programs are offered for student and scouting groups, led by park rangers. A Junior Ranger program provides badges and certificates in exchange for completion of independent activities on the park’s grounds, and a Civil War trading card program offers collectible cards commemorating important historical figures and sites connected to the park. Periodic special events include guided hikes, biking tours, and canoe and kayak excursions presented in correlation with the Friends of Moccasin Bend and Outdoor Chattanooga organizations.
3370 Lafayette Rd, Fort Oglethorpe, GA 30742, Phone: 706-866-9241