Visiting the first national military park

I’ve finished the fourth day of my Southeastern National Park swing. Because I didn’t have internet access for a couple of days, it feels like I just started this trip.

Chickamauga Battlefield in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia is much bigger than Chattanooga, with a modern visitor center.


First, I drove the seven-mile loop road, stopping at various places. This is always exhausting to me.

Stop, get out of the car, walk a few steps, and get back in.

The picture to the left is the boundary line between the two sides.

The park is bisected by a busy road, but so is the Smokies with US 441.

The park is full of monuments to both sides of the conflict. The Wilde Brigade monument stands out among all the others. It looks like White Castle, a tower with a steep circular staircase. I walked to the top and met a couple with a dog, thankfully on a leash. They were trying to encourage this poor animal to walk down the narrow, tight stairs. There are places where dogs don’t belong. The monument honored Indiana and Illinois troops, including Captain Eli Lilly of the 18th Indiana battalion.

The park has about 50 miles of trail. I walked the big seven-mile loop through the military park, past more memorials. Here is the Snodgrass cabin, which was used as a makeshift hospital during the battle.

I saw two hikers and four women doing a day of service on 9/11. They were cleaning memorials with a spray of water.

ChickChat was the first national military park, created in 1890. It was supported by veterans from both sides who recognized that preserving portions of battlefields, commemorating the deeds of their comrades, and honoring the men who had fallen would benefit the reunited nation. In addition to historic and educational values, the National Military Park was created as part of the healing process for a nation that had been torn asunder by war.

This was carefully explained in the visitor center. Am I the only person who didn’t know that? Most historians would say that it’s more complicated than that but I’m a history user. This also explains why the military units concentrate so much of maneuvers and tactics – the blue stood here, the gray stood there – instead of bigger questions of causes and effects of the Civil War.


One thought on “Visiting the first national military park

  1. I’m surprised that Chickamauga was the first national battlefield. I would have thought Gettysburg would have had that honor.

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