More than a quarter of a century passed before active interest was generated towards preserving the Chickamauga Battlefield as a commemoration of the events of 1863 in that locale. In the meantime, the Government had taken specific actions which would contribute to the establishment of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park as well as lay the foundation for other such parks. In 1880 Congress granted the first appropriation looking to preservation of an American battlefield. Fifty thousand dollars was allotted for surveying the ground at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and compiling data relative to troop movements there. Several years later another appropriation was made to mark Union army positions on that field. Public sentiment supported these efforts, and in the South there arose a call for similar action in that region. Professor Jonathan J. Tigert of Vanderbilt University expressed the prevailing view thusly:
So far as the Chickamauga-Chattanooga grounds were concerned, the genesis of the move for preservation lay in the membership of a veteran officers' group, The Society of the Army of the Cumberland. In 1881 the Society held its annual reunion in Chattanooga. Fears were high among the veterans that there would be few old landmarks on the Chickamauga field to aid in their location of where important fighting took place. Their concern proved justified. "When we got there, there wasn't a man in the whole crowd that could tell a thing about it."  But little was done to rectify the situation until 1888.
In May of that year, two former officers who had served at Chickamauga visited the site. Former Colonel Ferdinand Van Derveer had led a brigade in the Army of the Cumberland under Rosecrans. Henry Van Ness Boynton had served at Chickamauga as a lieutenant colonel of the Thirty-fifth Ohio Infantry and had won a Medal of Honor for his gallant performance at Missionary Ridge, where he was badly wounded.  While touring the terrain at Chickamauga, the two men conceived the idea of turning the site into a military park. Boynton, Washington correspondent for the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, soon undertook a series of lengthy articles in which he set forth his ideas for "a Western Gettysburg," addressed chiefly to his fellow members of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland.  Extolling the virtues of preserving the Chickamauga site, Boynton wrote:
Thus Boynton made a unique proposal--that the veterans of both sides share in the project. Gettysburg had only Union monuments and markers. In September, 1888, at the Society's meeting in Chicago, the first formal step was taken with adoption of a resolution appointing a committee to investigate the possibility of purchasing the ground at Chickamauga so that it could be preserved in a manner similar to the Gettysburg Battlefield.
Members of this committee appointed by retired General Rosecrans were Henry M. Cist, Charles F. Manderson, Russell A. Alger, Absalom Baird, and Henry V. Boynton, all retired officers.  Creation of this committee marked the inauguration of the Chickamauga Memorial Association as an adjunct to the Society of the Army of the Cumberland. "The project," wrote Boynton, "is based upon the belief that the time has fully come when the participants in the great battles of our civil war can, while retaining and freely expressing their own views of all questions connected with the war, still study its notable battles purely as military movements."  He continued:
Plans were made to incorporate the association under the laws of the State of Georgia. Eleven Union states had sent troops into battle at Chickamauga, along with all the former Confederate states and the border states of Missouri and Kentucky. Governors of the concerned states would be asked to serve on a board of directors. 
Coincidentally with the organization of the formal movement, the Government was trying to correct errors in its war maps of Chickamauga in conjunction with the publication of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion series. In November, the War Department sent Captain Sanford C. Kellogg, a Chickamauga and Chattanooga veteran as well as the nephew of Major General George H. Thomas, to meet with veteran officers at the battlefield and to solicit their aid in determining correct troop positions. "Slight discrepancies" were reported between the maps and the recollections of the former officers.  Nonetheless, the joint effort was a valuable experience for all involved and provided important early Government linkage to the evolving memorialization project.
On February 13, 1889, the committee of the Chickamauga Memorial Association convened in Washington, D.C. Next day at the capitol the five members met with Captain Kellogg, General Rosecrans, and former Confederate generals William B. Bate, Alfred H. Colquitt, Edward C. Walthall, Joseph Wheeler, and Marcus J. Wright. All of the former Confederates, some of whom were now serving in Congress, subscribed to the objectives of the Chickamauga Memorial Association and agreed to cooperate in the formation of a Joint Memorial Battlefield Association. Shortly after this meeting Captain Kellogg agreed to solicit 100 prominent persons to serve as incorporators for the association, their selection from each state being made roughly proportionate to the state's representation at Chickamauga in 1863. 
Plans for implementing the Joint Chickamauga Memorial Association were consolidated in September, 1889, in a meeting of Union and Confederate veterans held in Chattanooga on the occasion of the reunion of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland. A local committee headed by Adolph S. Ochs led the proceedings, during which a committee of six was appointed to prepare an act of incorporation. Fifty veterans and civilians from each side were to be appointed to serve as incorporators of the joint association. In the course of the meeting, held in a large tent, Rosecrans, Boynton, and former Union Colonel and Brevet Brigadier General Henry M. Cist, among others, delivered stirring speeches to the crowd. Rosecrans called on the veterans for their support in a project "where men entitled . . . to . . . special veneration may have monuments erected to their memories, where the organizations who choose to do so can put up monuments to the heroism displayed . . . without criticism and with rather the feeling of comradeship."  Boynton got down to fundamentals: "We propose to go before Congress at its coming session and ask it to appropriate a sufficient sum to buy the entire field from Rossville Gap to Crawfish Springs. . . . This purchase . . . must be contingent on the State of Georgia ceding jurisdiction to the Government for the sole purpose of maintaining a National Military Park." The environs of Chickamauga, he said, served to elaborate the park's importance:
General Cist impressed upon the audience the purpose of the proposed park--not to honor one army, but both, "as a shrine for patriotic devotion for the future generations of American youth. . ."  To all of these speeches, and to the concept of the park in general, the crowd applauded enthusiastically. Next day, September 20, the Chickamauga Memorial Association was formally organized at Crawfish Springs at the south end of the battlefield amid a grand barbecue for some 12,000 people. After the feed, in the Baptist Church located on the battlefield, officers were elected. John T. Wilder became president of the association and Joseph Wheeler vice president. Marcus J. Wright was chosen as secretary and Joseph S. Fullerton as treasurer. Twenty-eight former officers of both sides were selected to serve as directors.  The elected officers agreed to accept the charter for the association on its completion. 
The charter of the Chickamauga Memorial Association was subsequently finalized and submitted to the Superior Court of Walker County, Georgia.  On December 4, 1890, the petition for charter was approved. The charter was to last twenty years. Membership in the association included the incorporators, the governors of the various states with troops at Chickamauga, the president and secretary of the Southern Historical Society, and the Secretary of War of the United States. (Following incorporation, voting membership was opened to all veterans and nonveterans for a lifetime fee of $5.00.) The objective of the organization was to preserve the battlefield and memorialize the valor of the soldiers who fought there. This was to be accomplished through "purchase, lease, devise, grant, or gift" of land, as well as the use of private property, "to erect and promote the erection . . . of suitable monuments and tablets." Future directors of the Chickamauga Memorial Association would be chosen from among its subscribers. 
In addition to the state volunteer organizations that served at Chickamauga, nine regular military commands participated in the fighting, and Boynton saw in their presence an opportunity to obtain federal assistance for the park. "The general government," he said, "will without doubt appropriate liberally, as it has done for the Gettysburg Field, to mark the positions of the regular regiments and batteries."  Because of the intense public interest shown in the project, the Association sought congressional aid in establishing the park. By this time, the scope had broadened to encompass not only the Chickamauga field proper, but Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and other significant component land features connected with the 1863 campaigns.  As envisioned by Boynton, the park would be under the control of the Secretary of War and would encompass the entire Chickamauga tract and approach roads, including those over Lookout Mountain and along Missionary Ridge. Actual authority in establishing Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, as Boynton conceived the name, would be vested in a commission to be appointed by the Secretary. With the aid of his numerous congressional friends, Boynton drew up a bill providing for these features. 
Boynton discussed the measure with members of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, then delivered the bill to Congressman Charles H. Grosvenor, former colonel of Ohio troops at Chickamauga, who in May, 1890, introduced it on the floor of the House of Representatives.  There it met minimal opposition.  The congressmen quickly saw the national import of Chickamauga. The field "has an importance to the nation as an object lesson of what is possible in American fighting; and the national value of the preservation of such lines for historical and professional study must be apparent to all reflecting minds."  Doubtless, too, they perceived the political meaning of the veteran-inspired legislation.
The bill (H.R. 6454) won speedy approval by the House Committee on Military Affairs. Chickamauga battlefield, amounting to approximately 7,600 acres, would be obtained through condemnation procedures, while the approach roads would be ceded to the federal government by the states of Georgia and Tennessee.  Following passage by the House in only twenty-three minutes, the Senate, seven members of which had fought at Chickamauga, considered and likewise passed the measure without opposition. On August 19, 1890, President Harrison signed into law "An act to establish a National Military Park at the battle-field of Chickamauga." A sum of $125,000 was made available through appropriation to implement the work. 
Significantly, the Congress in passing this legislation recognized "the preservation for national study of the lines of decisive battles . . . as a matter of national importance."  The action provided the foundation for the later classification of battlefields by the government in the 1920s and 1930s. It was the first piece of legislation authorizing the preservation of an American battlefield, preceding Gettysburg's enabling act by nearly five years. Most important, however, the act laid a basis for the concept of the national historical park in the United States.  From this concept future national battlefields, monuments, and memorials would owe much of their existence, for the legislation creating Chickamauga and Chattanooga laid the groundwork for historic site preservation in the country.
Section One of the act described the historical and physical dimensions of the park:
Three weeks after passage of the act, on September 8, Secretary of War Redfield Proctor appointed the National Commission. Its civilian members were Joseph S. Fullerton and Alexander P. Stewart, while its military representative was Sanford C. Kellogg. Fullerton was to serve as chairman and would conduct the negotiations regarding land acquisition. Stewart was placed in charge of construction. Kellogg, a regular army officer on active duty, was to serve as secretary of the body. Henry Boynton was appointed assistant in historical work. Duties of the Commission involved the opening and repair of roads for the park, the definite ascertainment of lines of battle, and the acquisition of property. Expenses were to be paid from the annual appropriation provided in the enabling act. 
Over the next few years these men dedicated themselves to the success of the park, acquiring land, building roads, clearing underbrush, and trying to accurately locate troop positions during the battles. Their efforts were not without difficulty, both in magnitude of the project and in the controversy it created. There was opposition to the park in some quarters, and the publisher of the Scioto Gazette in Ohio, for example, castigated the whole idea in editorials that charged land syndicates around the battlefield as bent upon profiting from the venture.  Furthermore, "it makes a true soldier's blood boil to think of having those battle fields covered with Rebel Monuments."  Organizations like the Society of the Army of the Cumberland tried to educate the public against such resistance with good result. 
The commissioners remained true to the purposes of the park. It was not intended for recreational use, but a theater for learning. Any aesthetic quality that pervaded the park would be well grounded in its meaning to thousands of veterans.
Ongoing efforts were made to correctly locate positions on the field using maps prepared by Kellogg and elaborated upon by Boynton, Often the Commission would request groups of veterans, usually ex-officers, to come and assist in this task and in choosing designs for monuments.  In July, 1890, for example, the United Confederate Veterans staged their first annual encampment at Chattanooga and the veterans assisted in the locating of Confederate positions at Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, and Lookout Mountain.  Sometimes disagreements developed among the veterans; when former Colonel John T. Wilder submitted a plan for a monument for his Indiana Troops to be placed in a selected position, it brought protests from other veterans from Wilder's home state.  On one occasion the Commission requested that members of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Regular Infantry Regiments be ordered to the battlefield "to correct mistakes heretofore made in locating their positions." Captain Kellogg, who had earlier selected what he believed to be the correct positions formally protested their change even though members of the concerned units favored others. The majority of the Commission voted against Kellogg in marking the location.  Much difficulty was encountered in establishing the lines and positions of the various units largely because the foliage on the terrain had radically changed the appearance of the field from what it had been almost thirty years earlier. Since the war a thick growth of oak, elm, willow, and pine had fairly transformed the scene.  At the request of the Commission, an officer of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey was temporarily detailed to the park to assist in the locating of lines. 
Last Updated: 18-Jun-2002