America’s first national military park, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, was created in 1890 near Fort Oglethorpe in North Georgia to commemorate the Civil War battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga. The 5,500 acre Chickamauga Battlefield is the site of the last major Confederate victory of the Civil War and the park contains many monuments, historical tablets, wayside exhibits and trails. Visitors can drive along a 7 mile road to observe major points of interest and stop at the Visitor Center to see the Claud E. and Zenada O. Fuller Collection of American Military Shoulder Arms or shop at the park’s bookstore.
The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was officially dedicated to the public on September 20, 1895. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the Point Park Gate and the castle at the park entrance in 1905. Best known for building America’s most famous river dams, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the world’s biggest public engineering and construction management organization, and the Point Park Gate was their largest purely symbolic construction project.
The Battle of Chickamauga
The Union and Confederate armies fought with each other at Chickamauga in some of the heaviest fighting of the Civil War. The object of the Union Army’s campaign was to capture key railroad centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and open a military gateway to the South. In June of 1863, the Union’s 60,000-man Army of the Cumberland under the command of General William S. Rosecrans attacked General Braxton Bragg’s 43,000-man Confederate Army that was defending the main road into Chattanooga about 25 miles south in LaFayette, Georgia.
Confederate reinforcements arriving from East Tennessee, Virginia and Mississippi increased General Bragg’s army to more than 66,000 men and on September 18th, the Confederate Army was entrenched along Chickamauga Creek from Reed’s Bridge on the north side to Gordons Mill on the south side. During the night of September 18th, General Bragg ordered a major attack and one of North Georgia’s famous heroic fighters, Bushrod Johnson, captured Reed’s Bridge and then proceeded to advance along LaFayette Road. September 19th was the crucial day of fighting when the Union forces were routed at Jay’s Mill.
As the Confederate forces advanced, the Union Army’s lines crumbled and a massive retreat ensued. General Rosecrans and two senior Union officers fled the battlefield in disgrace. Only General Thomas remained with his troops to fight on for the Union and for his bravery, he became known as the Rock of Chickamauga. The outcome of the Battle of Chickamauga was that the Union forces retreated to Chattanooga to fight another series of battles under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant who led the Union Army to victory in Tennessee and opened a military gateway into the Deep South for General William Tecumseh Sherman’s infamous Atlanta Campaign.
One United States president fought at the Battle of Chickamauga. James Garfield served as General Rosecrans’ Chief of Staff and it is remarkable that President Garfield was assassinated on September 19, 1881, exactly two years after the end of the Battle of Chickamauga. Another officer in the battle went on to achieve fame and great fortune. Captain Eli Lilly, a chemist by trade, commanded a battery of artillery at the Battle of Chickamauga and after the Civil War he founded Eli Lilly and Company, which introduced Prozac during the 20th century and is one of the world’s largest and most successful pharmaceutical manufacturing companies.
Real estate in areas near Chickamauga Battlefield
The closest city to Chickamauga Battlefield is Fort Oglethorpe, with a population 6,940 according to the U.S. Census of 2000 and an estimated population of 9,559 in 2007. The estimated median home value in Fort Oglethorpe was $121,966 in 2007, having appreciated from $79,500 in 2000. The cost of living index is relatively low at 81.5 and most of the single family homes in Fort Oglethorpe were built between 1950 and 1990. More upscale residential developments are expected in Fort Oglethorpe because the demand for high value properties in the North Georgia Mountains has steadily increased.
In Fort Oglethorpe, the Best Western Inn and Super 8 Motel are available for budget minded travelers. Rustic private cabins and cottages can be rented by the week or by the month through local real estate agents or directly from owners who advertise their properties in local newspapers and on the Internet. Fort Oglethorpe also contains supermarkets, restaurants, antique stores, and art stores featuring a colorful array of Appalachian folk art from well known painters, potters and sculptors.
Cloudland Canyon State Park is located about 10 miles south of Chickamauga Battlefield. Cloudland Canyon State Park is one of Georgia’s most scenic state parks because it straddles a deep gorge cut into Lookout Mountain by Sitton Gulch Creek where elevations change rapidly from 1,980 ft. to 800 ft. The 3,485 acre park contains 30 walk-in campsites, 73 tent, trailer and RV campsites, 11 back country campsites and 16 rental cottages. Cloudland Canyon State Park also offers a wide variety of recreational activities such as swimming, camping, hiking, tennis, disc golf and picnicking.
One of North Georgia’s most popular tourist attractions is also located at Lookout Mountain. Rock City is a combination hotel and fantasyland that was created by Garnet and Frieda Carter during the 1930’s when Garnet built the world’s first miniature golf course to attract guests to their hotel. Frieda conceived of Fairyland Caverns where fairytale characters enacted popular scenes and after Fairyland Caverns had become so famous that Life Magazine featured Rock City on the cover, Mother Goose Village was added. Rock City is a major stopping point for tourists who come to the area to visit Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.