While Tom and I have been at Chattanooga, I have been writing weekly posts on “The Civil War in a Nutshell” to give you some context for the work that Tom and I have been doing here. All together there have been 12 chapters and you can read them all (if you want to) by clicking on the Fridays or Saturdays on the calendar starting at the beginning of September. Today I publish the conlusion of “The Civil War in a Nutshell.”
When the fighting around Chickamauga and Chattanooga was finished, the Union army was firmly and finally in control of Chattanooga, “the Gateway to the Deep South.” The Confederate army had been driven back to Dalton, Georgia. Both armies spent the winter (December 1863 through March 1864) reinforcing their armies, stockpiling supplies, and gaining strength for what they knew would be the battles for Atlanta. 50,000 men had been killed or wounded in the fighting. Half of the wounded men would die from their wounds after the battles.
The Union army began building warehouses in Chattanooga. Labor was plentiful and cheap during the winter months. Soldiers and emancipated slaves worked side by side. Black regiments formed and drilled with the white soldiers. General Thomas bought 75 acres of land for Chattanooga National Cemetery, which initially was the burial ground just for the Union soldiers that died in the area. When a chaplain asked General Thomas whether the dead should be sorted and buried by state, Thomas replied “Mix ’em up. I’m tired of states’ rights.”
Chattanooga became the supply depot for Sherman’s Campaign for Atlanta and subsequent “March to the Sea.” Although there would be more battles in the western theater of the Civil War, Chickamauga was the final Confederate victory. Many Confederate soldiers saw the defeat at Missionary Ridge as “the death knell of the Confederacy” and desertions increased as Confederate soldiers returned to their homes and gave up on the war.
Today Chattanooga is a bustling, lively city with a wonderful climate and plenty to see and do. The battlefields are well-loved and visited by tourists, civil war buffs, and residents who ride bikes, hike, and enjoy the scenery. The battles are remembered by the people here with a sense of ownership and responsibility for taking care of what has been entrusted to them. As the movie at Chickamauga Visitors Center says (very dramatically), “this is hallowed ground.”