January 2012: Chickamauga Battlefield

Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia

In 1863, the grand military prize of the Civil War was the railroad center of Chattanooga, known as the “Gateway to the Deep South.” The Confederates carried the day in September fighting here but a flood of Union reinforcements that arrived a month later defeated the rebel forces in Chattanooga and set the stage for the devastating Atlanta campaign. In 1890 Congress authorized the establishment of the first four national military parks: Shiloh, Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Chickamauga & Chattanooga, the first and largest.

More than many battlefields Chickamauga has been developed as a recreational park with horse trails and hiking paths and picnic areas. There are over ten miles of trails, not including park roads and multi-use paths, with the Equestrian Loop circling the entire battlefield for over seven miles.

This is easy trotting for your dog through a gently rolling landscape. There are open fields but your canine hiking day will be spent mostly in the surrounding forests where most of the monuments and histrical markers are found (there are 1,400 in the military park). Much of this landscape is little changed from the days of the Civil War.

The Park Service has also designed self-guided tours ranging in length from five miles to the all-encompassing 14-mile Cannon Trail, which after completing will surely leave your dog a Civil War scholar. 

Before the Civil War George Thomas served as second in command in the 2nd United States Cavalry under his close friend and fellow Virginian, Robert E. Lee. With the outbreak of hostilities Thomas stayed true to the Union and was disowned by his family. During the Battle of Chickamauga, with the Union Army in retreat Thomas took command of the remaining Union troops on the field and pushed back Confederate assaults on Snodgrass Hill that permitted the safe withdrawal of the federals to Chattanooga. His actions earned Thomas the nickname “Rock of Chickamauga.” He was rewarded with the command of the Army of the Cumberland and two months later broke the siege of Chattanooga with a dramatic and decisive charge up Missionary Ridge.

Take Exit 350 off I-75 west on Highway 2 (Battlefield Parkway). In town turn left on LaFayette Road to the Visitor Center.