Chattanooga, TN Part III: Chickamauga Battlefield
Hixson, TN - Events of Friday, October 13, 2012
The other main part of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is located about 20 minutes south of Chattanooga just over the line in Georgia. It is here Union and Confederate forces clashed on September 19 and 20, 1863 prior to the Battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge that we reported on in our last post.
It was a good thing we went to Lookout Mountain on Thursday so we could enjoy the spectacular views because Friday morning was cloudy and rainy. Fortunately, the rain stopped before we got to Chickamauga Battlefield, but the clouds persisted.
Chickamauga Visitor Center has more extensive information about the battle including an excellent video. That and the fact the Battle of Chickamauga Creek took place before the Battle of Lookout Mountain are good reasons why it would have been better to see Chickamauga Battlefield first. However, we wanted to take advantage of the clear weather to see Lookout Mountain, so Chickamauga had to wait until Friday.
When we arrived, we had about 30 minutes until the next showing of the video, so we checked out the displays of battlefield artifacts in the small museum in the visitor center.
The visitor center also houses the Fuller Collection of American Military Shoulder Arms, which is a collection of 346 long guns, many of which are rare or even one of a kind.
An electronic map at the visitor center is very helpful in visualizing troop movements before, during and after the battle.
Following the Union capture of the city of Chattanooga on Sept. 9, 1863, the Confederate troops withdrew to Lafayette (pronounced la-FAY-ette), Georgia where they received reinforcements. The Confederates were determined to re-take Chattanooga, so they began to march northward on Sept. 17.
The Confederates encountered Union troops south of Chattanooga, and there were a few skirmishes on Sept. 18. Fighting began in earnest on Sept 19 near the banks of Chickamauga Creek. Both sides fought hard all day, and the Confederates eventually pushed the the main body of the Union forces back to Lafayette Road. The following day, fighting resumed, and the Confederates tried to maneuver themselves between the Union forces and Chattanooga to cut the Union off.
As the Confederates were trying to outflank the Union forces, a gap suddenly opened in the middle of the Union line due to a miscommunication on the Union side. The Confederates smashed through, and the rout had begun. Some of the Union forces withdrew to Chattanooga right away, and others retreated to Snodgrass Hill where they took a stand. The Union troops on Snodgrass Hill held their ground against repeated Confederate assaults during the day, but they also eventually withdrew to Chattanooga.
After we watched the video, we headed out on the 7-mile, self-guided driving tour around the battlefield. Most Civil War battles were fought in open fields, but this area is heavily wooded which made keeping track of troops and communicating very difficult. That may be what caused the the gap in the Union line that allowed the Confederates to break through.
The road shown below passes the main area of the Union lines. Most of the monuments in this area were for various divisions from Ohio and Indiana.
Over on the Confederate side, the Georgia had one of the largest monuments. That is only fitting since the battle took place in Georgia.
The largest monument in the Park is on Snodgrass Hill and is dedicated to the Union soldiers under the command of General Thomas who became known as "the rock of Chickamauga" because of the heroic stand he and his men took there.
Following the defeat of the Union Army at Chickamauga, the Confederates failed to follow through and capitalize on that defeat and re-take Chattanooga. The Union forces in Chattanooga were reinforced by October, and as we described in our last post, they eventually ousted the Confederates from Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge and most of the entire area.
The failure of the Confederates to re-take Chattanooga sounded a death knell for the South. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign, a.k.a Sherman's March to the Sea, was launched from Chattanooga the following spring. That campaign totally demoralized the South. General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.
On our way back to the motor home from Chickamauga Battlefield, we stopped at Qdoba in Chattanooga for a late lunch. Chattanooga isn't huge as cities go, but this is the first and only Qdoba we have ever seen in a downtown setting. They are usually in suburban strip malls.
With our bellies full, we headed back to the motor home for an evening of relaxation. We have one more report from Chattanooga. Stay tuned.