Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park

If you are blessed with a day of near perfect weather, you could easily be distracted from the hallowed grounds that you are about to explore. Chickamauga Battlefield, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, is the site of one of the hardest fought and bloodiest battles of the Civil War which makes the location perhaps more graveyard than anything else.

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Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park

As part of our adventure routine, we make it a point to mix history and culture into our itinerary whenever we can. In fact history has been a big part of our adventure plans, since we started camping. As you can imagine Georgia, like the rest of the South, is rich with US history and it should come as no surprise that there are abundant Civil War locations to tour, even this far west. The things we learn as a family have led to a fuller understanding of our country's past and a better appreciation of the sacrifices that were made.

The Battle of Chickamauga, fought on September 18 – 20, 1863, between Union and Confederate forces in the American Civil War. Union and Confederate losses over the course of the 3-day battle amounted to near 35,000 men – hallowed ground indeed.

There are multiple parts to this National Military Park: the two major locations are Chickamauga Battlefield and Lookout Mountain Battlefield and each played an important part in the history of the Civil War.

Chickamauga Battlefield

  • Admission: Free
  • Address: 3370 Lafayette Road, Ft. Oglethorpe, GA
  • Military Park Hours: sunrise to sunset
  • Visitor Center Hours: 8:30am - 5pm daily; closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
  • Time Needed to Visit: 2-4 hours
  • Parking: Free
  • Prohibit: No drones and possession of a metal detector within park boundaries is a federal crime.
  • Courtesy:  Please respect the battlefield and those that suffered and died on it. Only use designated areas for picnicking or other recreational activities. No climbing on monuments or cannons.

Chickamauga Visitor Center Film

Our first stop was at the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center to watch the informative film "The Campaign for Chattanooga: Death Knell of the Confederacy. " It gave our family an excellent overview of the battle before our tour of the military park. The movie follows Union and Confederate soldiers through the use of historical records and letters with the actual filming taking place on the authentic battlefields.

  • Film: 26 minutes long; shown on the half-hour from 9am and ending at 4pm.
  • Caution:  Intense movie battle scenes - Battle of Chickamauga was the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War

Auto Touring Chickamauga Battlefield

We picked up the battlefield driving map and then used the cell phone for the seven-mile auto tour to follow eight key points of interest. Minimum time needed: 1.5 hours, but longer if hiking areas at the stops.

Stop #2: The Battle Line

Monuments mark Union positions along Battleline Road. The acorn symbolizes the 14th Army Corps firm stand, “like an oak tree,” during the battle on Snodgrass Hill.

Stop #4: Confederate Breakthrough at Brotherton Cabin

Through a confusion in communication, Union General Rosecrans sent troops to unknowingly fill a nonexistent gap, which, ironically, created a real gap in the Union line allowing Confederate troops to break through and split the Union Army. The topographic intelligence gained from Tom Brotherington, the long-time owner of the cabin, gave the Confederate troops a distinct advantage.

Stop #6: Lightning Strikes

Union Colonel John Wilder's "Lightning Brigade," armed with the superior Spencer repeating rifles, successfully halted a portion of the Confederate troops on the southern battlefield.

If you get a chance, climb the 85-foot towering Wilder Brigade Monument for a bird's eye view of the surrounding area.

Wilder Brigade Monument
The view from the top of Wilder Brigade Monument

Stop #8: Horseshoe Ridge and Snodgrass Hill

The last stop of the tour, it was here that the Union troops under General Thomas, later named "The Rock of Chickamauga," made a heroic stand against repeated Confederate assaults until ordered to retreat under the cover of the night to Chattanooga.

Ranger Guided Tours & Programs

During the summer season, a regular schedule of ranger-guided tours and programs are available. Check in at the front desk in the visitor center for the daily programs offered. We took part in a Living History Program held at the Brotherton Cabin where guides in period costumes assisted in learning about the life and times of the people who lived during the Civil War.

  • Car Caravan Tours: daily 10am & 2pm; starts at visitor center; minimal walking required.
  • Living History Programs: Fri-Sun 10:30am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm
  • Junior Ranger program: Need to visit both parks to complete booklet.

Lookout Mountain Battlefield 

After the victory at Chickamauga, the Confederate Army pursued the Union Army to Chattanooga, encircled the city from an elevated position, and laid siege hoping to starve the Union forces into surrender. However, within a few months, Union reinforcements had opened a reliable supply line, gained a foothold in the valley, and ultimately defeated the Confederates. With the Chattanooga victory, the Union now commanded the railroads and cut off  supply lines to the South thus crippling the Confederacy.

Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center

About thirty minutes from the Chickamauga Battlefield, we visited the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center outside the Point Park Gate. My daughter was able to finish her Junior Ranger booklet and happily received her hard-earned badge. We then viewed the Civil War exhibits on the Campaign for Chattanooga.

  • Admission (Visitor Center): Free
  • Address:  110 Point Park Road, Lookout Mountain, TN Hours
  • Visitor Center Hours: 8:30am - 5pm daily; closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
  • Parking: Pay at kiosk near Point Park Gate- need your license plate number (we paid $4 for 2 hours)

View the impressive large scale mural (13 feet by 30 feet), The Battle of Lookout Mountain, by James Walker. Union General Joseph Hooker (seen on the white horse) commissioned it for $20,000 to commemorate his victory in The Battle Above the Clouds.

Point Park

  • Admission: $7/adult (16 & up) at Point Park Gate; free with America the Beautiful or Annual 4th Grade pass
  • Hours: 8:30am - sunset
  • Time Needed to Visit both Visitor Center and Point Park: 1-2 hours
  • Rules: No climbing monuments or cannons. No using metal detectors or collecting of artifacts.

Point Park Gate

Using our 4th Grade Pass, we entered through the turreted castle gates of Point Park, built in 1904 by the US Army Corps of Engineers and a replica of their insignia. We followed the paved path through the ten-acre memorial park.

New York Peace Monument

Donated by the state of New York and standing at 85 feet, the New York Peace Monument is the largest memorial on the grounds and can be seen for miles around. This monument symbolizes the reconciliation between the North and South right down to combining Massachusetts pink granite and Tennessee marble. It is topped with a bronze statue of a Confederate and Union soldier clasping hands and standing next to the American Flag.

Moccasin Bend

Head to the north end of the park for unobstructed views of Moccasin Bend and the fine city of Chattanooga. While there, stop at the Ochs Memorial Observatory, a small museum featuring exhibits on Civil War history and local history of Moccasin Bend.

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