If you ever find yourself on Interstate 24, traveling through Tennessee and Georgia, it is worth your time to stop at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. The oldest National Civil War Military Park, established in 1890, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga sites provide a host of things to do and sites to see.
The Battle of Chickamauga was fought September 19-20, 1863, and resulted in a victory for the Confederate Army, halting the Union push into Georgia, and driving their forces back into Chattanooga. Once in Chattanooga, Union supplies were cut off by the Confederates who maintained a chokehold on the Tennessee River and occupied the heights of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. In a brilliant bit of generalling, Ulysses Grant, who arrived with reinforcements, broke up the Confederate hold on the river and helped push the Union Army to eventual victory at the Battle of Chattanooga which took place November 23-25, 1863. It is worth noting that, partially as a result of his success in this battle, Grant became Lincoln’s most trusted general, which paved the way for him to take over the Army of the Potomac, thus leading the North to eventual victory.
The Chickamauga site is south of the Tennessee/Georgia border on US Highway 27 and is basically just the battlefield. The visitor’s center has maps which will help to guide you through the battlefield, as well as a museum with various exhibits and artifacts relating to the battle itself. When I visited, there happened to be re-enacters throughout the battlefield camped out and performing drill. It was fun to chat with some of them, and seeing them there gave the experience more of an authentic feel. Chattanooga, on the other hand, is more of a tourist destination with things to do other than just walking the battlefield. Most of these tourist items are centered around the major feature of the battle, Lookout Mountain, which is at the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Visitors can ride the Incline Railway up the side of the mountain which will take them to the park entrance. From there you can traverse the battlefield around the slopes of the mountain, do some shopping, or even take a tour to the center of the mountain where there is a deep cave and waterfall! The view from the top of Lookout Mountain is breathtaking, and it is said that on a clear day it is possible to see seven states from its peak. As you follow the battle markers along the slopes of the mountain you will be amazed at how two forces were able to fight at such an odd geographical location, and partially in fog no less!
While Chickamauga is off the Interstate a bit, the Chattanooga Battlefield is impossible to miss. Just look for the huge mountain looming over the city of Chattanooga. Once there, finding exact directions to Chickamauga is no sweat. Depending on how much walking you want to do at the battlefields, and how many tourist attractions you want to hit up around Chattanooga, a visit to the park could take more than one day. If you’re someone who just briefly walks the park to get a feel for it, then one day might suit you just fine. Either way, I would highly recommend it as a site to visit if you find yourself at the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains.
Here are a couple of resources located in our Travel Neighborhood which will give you more information about the battles, as well as some information about visiting the sites:
The Civil War Battlefield Guide – Gives a nice description of the exact events of each battle – includes maps displaying the opposing forces.
A Tour Guide to the Civil War – This book gives a small piece of information about each battle, and is organized by state.