The Campaign for Chattanooga: Death Knell of the Confederacy?
President Abraham Lincoln believed that taking Chattanooga was as important as taking Richmond. Why was a small town of 2,500 as important as the capital of the Confederacy? The small city lay on the banks of the Tennessee River where it cut through the Appalachian Mountains, allowing four major railroads to converge. If the Union captured Chattanooga, it could cripple Confederate supply lines and strike at the industrial heart of the Confederacy.
In the summer of 1863, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg and his Army of Tennessee controlled Chattanooga. But Union Gen. William Rosecrans skillfully moved his Army of the Cumberland south, across the Tennessee River and over Sand Mountain and Lookout Mountain, threatening the Confederates from behind. By early September, Bragg realized he had been outmaneuvered. The Confederate Army had no choice but to abandon the city and its remaining residents.
Rosecrans thought the Confederates were retreating toward Atlanta, prompting him and his army to pursue the gray-clad soldiers into Georgia. However, the Confederates had a surprise of their own. Bragg, now heavily reinforced, was not going to give up Chattanooga without a fight. At the Battle of Chickamauga, little went as planned and thousands of men lost their lives. Yet, it would be late November before the city's fate would be decidedand perhaps that of the Confederacy.
Gaining Control of the South
Armies in the western theater fought for control between the Mississippi River and the Appalachians. After Chattanooga, the western theater expanded toward the eastern theater, which centered around the Union and Confederate capitals.
Battle of Chickamauga
For thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers, their hopes hinge on controlling Chattanoogathe "gateway" to the Confederacy. Yet, in mid- September, they meet in the peaceful farm fields of north Georgia, along a tranquil creek named Chickamauga.
Siege of the City Begins
Battles for Chattanooga
In late October, the Union uses darkness to silently float past Confederates on Lookout Mountain. Then, in a rare night battle near Wauhatchie, they win control of Lookout Valley and secure their new supply route, the "Cracker Line." Chattanooga is still up for grabs.
The War Continues
Young men opposing one another across the battle lines fought for different reasons. Many from the North fought to preserve the Union or abolish slavery, while those from the South struggled to retain slavery or defend their homes and families. These convictions brought these soldiers here, where confusion and chaos reigned in the mountains and forests surrounding the battlefields. Often, soldiers reacted to the rather than following orders. When veterans later "suitably marked" the battlegrounds, they decided not to place monuments to generals. Instead, they honored the soldiers, whose actions decided the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga.
The campaign resulted in the fall of two commanders and the rise of another. Although Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg won at Chickamauga, he lost Chattanooga and had to resign. After abandoning his troops at Chickamauga. Union Gen. William Rosecrans was removed from command. When Gen. Ulysses S. Grant arrived in Chatanooga, he took command of Union forces and replaced Rosecrans with Gen. George Thomas, whose men had gallantly held Horseshoe Ridge at Chickamauga. Grant is shown facing his staff on Roper's Rock atop Lookout Mountain shortly after the battles for Chattanooga.
Rural Southern Farms
Taken from the Cherokee Nation in 1838, the rich lands alongside Chickamauga Creek became home to 24 families. They cleared the woods to grow crops of corn or wheat and planted rows of fruit trees. As battle loomed, the families fled before their farm fields became killing fields. Once the fighting subsided, they returned to trampled crops and fields littered with dead. Some repaired the damage and resumed farming, while others were forced to abandon their homes. Several of the familiesBrotherton, Kelly, and Snodgrassare immortalized today on the battlefield.
Change in Chattanooga
War transformed Chattanooga from a small town to a bustling, industrial city. During the siege, residents saw stately homes become hospitals, while local forests provided lumber for warehouses and forts. After the battles, they could see the ruins of the "white house" on Lookout Mountain, owned by local resident and iron master Robert Cravens. But they also started to see Union soldiers making improvements like bridging the Tennessee River, building a waterworks, and expanding the thriving railroad industry. Much like the city, Cravens rebuilt and prospered.
Soldering to Freedom
Union-held Chattanooga became a beacon of freedom for people escaping slavery. Camp Contraband, so named because escaped slaves were considered "contraband" or illegal property, protected more than 2,000 people.
In 1863, the US Army began recruiting former slaves. Hubbard Pryor, escaped slavery in Georgia to don the blue uniform of the Union Army at Camp Contraband. By war's end, Pryor and over 20,000 free men and former slaves had joined the United States Colored Troops.
Exploring Chickamauga and Chattanooga
Point Park is across from the visitor center; fee. Point Park Gate was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers and is a replica of the Corps insignia. Artillery marks a small part of the Confederate battery during the siege. New York Peace Monument symbolizes reunification and reconciliation. Even its materials, Tennessee marble and Massachusetts pink granite, carry the theme. From Garrity's Battery, Confederates tried to stop Union troops from crossing Moccasin Bend. During the Battle of Lookout Mountain, Van Den Corput's Battery attempted to fire on Union soldiers advancing on the slopes below. From here, you can walk down to Ochs Memorial Observatory via tiers of steps. Visit the observatory's museum to learn more about the Civil War and American Indians. Enjoy spectacular views of the Chattanooga area from the terrace. You can continue on trails to other scenic views on Lookout Mountain.
At the time of the Civil War, Orchard Knob was outside city limits. It offers clear views of Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and Chattanoogaexactly what Union General Grant needed to guide his troops during the battles for Chattanooga.
Seen here from Lookout Mountain, Moccasin Bend tells stories spanning over 12,000 years. During the siege of Chattanooga, Union troops opened a supply route across the bend, out of reach of Confederate artillery on Lookout Mountain.
Some Union and Confederate leaders were here in 1838 when the US Army forced the area's Cherokees to move to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). At least two groups of Cherokees traversed the bend and crossed the river at Brown's Ferry, leaving almost everything behind on their Trail of Tears. This removal was the final blow to tribes who first encountered the Spanish here three centuries before.
Today Moccasin Bend is a National Archeological District. It has a three-mile loop trail; other visitor services are planned.
This steep ridge stretches from Chattanooga to Chickamauga. North and South Crest roads follow the ridge to seven military reservations (parcels of land set aside to commemorate the battle) and the Phelps Monument. Highlights include:
Touring Chickamauga Battlefield
Throughout the tour, you will see monuments and memorials honoring those who fought here. You may also notice tablets, blue for Union and red for Confederate, that describe the soldiers' actions; they date from around 1890. You can reach the major points of interest on the seven-mile auto tour. Hear more details on your cell phone, 585-672-2619, or chch.toursphere.com; follow the prompts. Most stops follow the battle's final day, September 20.
The Battle Line
Mix-up in Union Command
Rout of the Union Right
Horseshoe Ridge and Snodgrass Hill
Planning Your Visit
In 1890, the US Congress authorized Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the first such park in the United States. It was dedicated in 1895 and has since served as a model for most national military and historical parks.
The park has two visitor centers open daily except December 25 and January 1.
Accessibility We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to a visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check the park website.
Safety and Regulations Do not climb cannons and monuments. • Federal laws protect all cultural and natural features. • Do not dig or use metal detectors. • Do not collect any objects. • Report suspicious activity to a park ranger. • See the park website for other regulations.
Emergencies call 911
Source: NPS Brochure (2016)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
A Socioeconomic Atlas for Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and its Region (Jean E. McKendry, Cynthia A. Brewer and Steven D. Gardner, 2004)
Administrative History of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (HTML edition) (John C. Paige and Jerome A. Greene, 1983)
Battlefields in Dixie Land and Chickamauga National Military Park (Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway, January 1928)
Chickamauga and Chattanooga Battlefields: Historic Handbook #25 (James R. Sullivan, 1956)
Chickamauga and Chattanooga Battlefields: Historic Handbook #25 (James R. Sullivan, 1956, reprint 1961)
Cultural Landscape Report, Chickamauga Battlefield (John Milner Associates, Inc., History Matters and HNTB Corp., September 2004)
Cultural Landscape Report, Moccasin Bend (The Jaeger Company, April 2014)
Cultural Landscape Report, Cravens House, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (The Jaeger Company, December 2012)
Cumberland Piedmont Network Ozone and Foliar Injury Report Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP, Mammoth Cave NP and Stones River NB: Annual Report 2010 NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/CUPN/NRDS-2011/219 (Johnathan Jernigan, Bobby C. Carson and Teresa Leibfreid, December 2011)
Dedication of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, September 18-20, 1895 (H.V. Boynton, comp., 1896)
Feasibility Study: Eradication of Kudzu with Herbicides and Revegetation with Native Tree Species in Two National Parks NPS Research/Resources Management Report SER-59 (Aaron Rosen, April 1982)
Historic Resource Study, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (Jill K. Hanson and Robert M. Blythe, January 1999)
Historical Museum Exhibit Plan, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (Kenneth B. Disher, Stuart Cuthbertson and George F. Emery, July 1935, revised May 1936)
Moccasin Bend National Archeological District Development Concept Plan/Environmental Assessment/Assessment of Effect, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Public Review Draft (June 8, 2009)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (Edward E. Tinney and Lenard E. Brown, November 1985)
Natural Resource Condition Assessment, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/CHCH/NRR-2018/1833 (Andy J. Nadeau, Kathy Allen, Hannah Hutchins and Andrew Robertson, December 2018)
Newsletter (The Battlefield Dispatch)
Southern Battlefields: A List of Battlefields On and Near the Lines of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway and Western & Atlantic Railroad (Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway, undated)
Handbooks ◆ Books
Last Updated: 22-Dec-2021