Chickamauga Battlefield is full of two things: monuments and hiking trails. There are over 1,400 monuments and at least that many historical tablets that show troop movements and locations of regiments during the three days of the battle. Chickamauga was the first National Military Park in the United States, established in 1890 at the urging of the the Civil War veterans of both sides. In 1895 the veterans and their families camped on the battlefield and celebrated the dedication of the park. Soon after the dedication, monuments started to appear. It was the desire of the veterans that the monuments be to the men that fought here, not the generals or individual heroes. So you won’t find any monuments to individuals. Instead, the states paid for monuments for regiments, divisions, and corps.
In 1895 some of the states were wealthy and could put up many monuments or several large and spectacular monuments. Some of the states were very poor and could not afford monuments. There are no Mississippi monuments here, although Mississippi regiments are prominently featured on many of the historical tablets.
Tom and I love to check out the monuments on our hikes around the battlefield. There are over 50 miles of trails and there are monuments along all the trails, as well as in the fields and along the roads. Every new trail we take helps us see beautiful and detailed monuments. Because the veterans of the battle of Chickamauga were so instrumental in the design of the park, the troop movements are well detailed and most of the monuments are placed where the regiments fought. We never know what gems we will find as we hike along trails we haven’t taken before.
One of our favorite monuments is the Wilder Monument, put up by the veterans of Wilder’s Lightning Brigade (see previous post). It is a tower with 136 steps. From the top you have a wonderful panoramic view of the southern end of the battlefield. Monuments to the regiments of Thomas’s 14th Corps have an acorn on them, because “they stood like oaks” on the battlefield. All the Georgia monuments are shaped the same so they are easy to spot all over the battlefield. The carved detail on many of the monuments makes them spectacular works of art.
Chickamauga Battlefield is visited each year by thousands of people. The park has people in it from dawn to dusk, even on the worst days. Hundreds of people walk, jog, and ride their bikes in the park every day, using the hiking trails and admiring the monuments. Monuments and hiking trails ensure that this park will continue to honor the soldiers who fought “on this hallowed ground.” (quote from the visitor center movie).