The Battle of Chickamauga was the second largest battle of the American Civil War in terms of casualties, second only to Gettysburg. It was a vicious battle fought for possession of the key to the Deep South, the city of Chattanooga. It has all the key elements of a great battle; personality conflicts abounding, interesting and unique units, reinforcements arriving from several theatres, reinforcements arriving in the nick of time to save the day, and of course, a fateful order that nearly destroyed an army.
Despite all of this, Chickamauga gets little attention. Since the end of the war, only three or four book level studies have been published about the battle. The disastrous rout of the Union center and right, and the valiant stand of General Thomas on the left on the second day of the battle get the vast majority of attention. The first day of battle is hardly ever mentioned, more often as merely a prelude to the second day’s fight. The two armies and the soldiers that fought in the deep woods of northwest Georgia that autumn deserve better.
The battlefield is in great shape today. While not perfect, it generally looks much like it did in 1863. The forest has reclaimed many of the smaller farms and fields where little action took place, but the main scenes of action remain relatively unchanged. There are plenty of monuments to mark the presence of units, and good maps are available showing the terrain and unit locations. The Visitor’s Center is small but well laid out, with a great map showing how the battlefield looked in 1863. The Claud E. and Zenada O. Fuller Collection of American Military Shoulder Arms in the Visitors Center also deserves a good look. The park is also just a fun place to hike and spend a day out in the woods.
Come in and take a virtual tour of the Chickamauga battlefield. The maps will help sort out the confusing fight and troop movements of September 19th and 20th, and the pictures and video will give you an appreciation of the terrain in which the armies fought. Also, don’t forget to view the detailed Order of Battle for each army.
The battlefield is easily accessible from Chattanooga. Just take US Hwy 27 south through Rossville. From Atlanta or north Georgia, take I-75 north to exit 350 and turn left (west) on Battlefield Parkway. Turn left at Lafayette Road and you’re there.
All images, text, and video © Historic Imagination
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