Madison Life and Times Summer 2016 - Page 26

TRAVEL | Chicakmauga National Military Park death-knell of the confederacy  Chickamauga National Military Park brings pivotal battle of Civil War to life STORY & PHOTOS BY KEN DE LA BASTIDE a fe miles off Interstate 75 few just south of Chattanooga, ju TTennessee, lies the site of one oof the most significant battles oof the Civil War. The battlefield at the Chickamauga National Military Park is a sprawling 5,300acre site of tree-lined fields, ridges, streams and hilltops that provide a sense of how the battle progressed. It’s the oldest and largest of the national military parks, and it includes walking trails and more than 700 monuments honoring Union and Confederate troops who fought here for two days in September 1863. Under the leadership of Gen. Braxton Bragg, the Confederates won the battle over Union forces led by Gen. William Rosencrans. Instead of pressing his advantage after the victory, Bragg allowed Union forces to reach Chattanooga. And when Ulysses S. Grant’s reinforcements arrived that fall, they drove the Confederates from the region, opening the door for Gen. William T. Sherman’s march to Atlanta. The battle was costly for both sides, with 16,000 Union and 18,000 Confederate casualties. Most people are familiar with the battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, which is recognized as the turning point of the Civil War. But the battle of Chickamauga and Chattanooga is referred to as the death-knell of the Confederacy. Then a small city of 2,500 people, Chattanooga, known as the “Gateway to the Deep South,” was the hub for three railroads that supplied many of the Confederate troops. While nearby, the Chickamauga battlefield is across the state line in Georgia. A young colonel with the 18th Battery, Indiana Light Artillery, Eli Lilly played a crucial role during the battle. After some skirmishes, a major two-day 26 MADISON This Union artillery stands as a testament to the Union forces that lined the ridge where superior Confederate forces broke through. battle took place when Confederate forces broke through a Union line at Reed’s Bridge. Col. Lilly’s battery helped slow the breakthrough, but Union forces eventually retreated north to Chattanooga. The 18th Battery was part of a command of Gen. John Wilder. The spot is marked by Wilder Tower, but includes a monument to Lilly and the Indiana troops. Visiting the battlefield, you can sense how infantrymen from both armies would courageously walk shoulder to shoulder across the open fields into cannon and rifle fire. The breakthrough took place at the Brotherton cabin site, where Confederate forces split the Union lines. Union soldiers repelled several attacks on Horseshoe Ridge. As one final assault was mounted at dusk by the Confederate troops, they learned the Union forces had retreated, ending a three-day battle. Unlike Gettysburg, where guided tours are available through private companies and the National Park Service, such services are not available at Chickamauga. But the visitor center includes an informative film amd detailed maps of the area. Park rangers are helpful in understanding how the battle played out. An excellent compact disc explains wellmarked spots around the battlefield and