Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park has hosted numerous commemorations, celebrations, and special visits over its long history. Such events, from veteran encampments to presidential trips to centennial observances, have highlighted the different eras of the park's existence and have contributed to the diversified character of its past. The earliest significant event was the conclave of Union and Confederate veterans held there in 1890 to aid in establishing battle lines. Throughout the following decade, as the park proceeded with its early establishment, numerous veteran groups, notably the Grand Army of the Republic and the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, held assemblies at Chickamauga. Occasionally state organizations, such as veterans of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, held their reunions at the battlefield.  All of these groups helped immensely during the early years; without their enthusiastic participation in assisting the National Commission the entire concept would have failed.
The veteran assemblies continued into the twentieth century, but the park also witnessed the arrival of several notable personages, including two presidents. Early in 1902 Prince Henry of Prussia toured the battlefields of Chickamauga and Chattanooga during a trip to the United States. A year later the park was honored by the visit of President Theodore Roosevelt, who, reportedly, was so taken with the inscription on the Kentucky monument that he had an aide transcribe it. And on October 10, 1911, President William H. Taft toured the park with the Commissioners.  An event of a detrimental kind occurred on April 24, 1908, when a tornado struck the park tearing up thousands of trees, destroying numerous buildings, and washing out roads. The damage required rebuilding a barn, stable, carriage house, and wagon shelter, plus the removal of all the felled timber. 
In 1913 two groups, the United Confederate Veterans and the Grand Army of the Republic held their annual encampments in Chattanooga. The UCV reunion took place in late May, during which time the Thomas A. Edison Company made a motion picture of the military park.  The forty-seventh annual encampment of the GAR was held in September and thousands of Union Army veterans made pilgrimages to Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge. Parades of regular troops and of veterans of the blue and gray marching arm-in-arm went on in downtown Chattanooga, while on the battlefields to the south an elaborate reenactment occurred using members of the Seventeenth U.S. Infantry. Rest tents were set up at different points around the fields and Chattanooga citizens voluntarily served as guides. 
Military activity at the park during World War I, and the continued use of the park for maneuvers afterwards, precluded much civilian use except for tourism. One of the first events under National Park Service administration was observance of the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga held on September 20, 1933. Ceremonies took place in Snodgrass Field with the Sixth Cavalry Band from Fort Oglethorpe playing a concert of patriotic music and several prominent speakers addressing a large crowd. One veteran of the fighting attended the commemoration, as did a woman, Mrs. J.K. Reed, who as a child had fled from her home during the 1863 battle. So successful was the commemoration that it was decided to make it an annual event.  In 1936 the observance brought a crowd estimated at 700 to ceremonies that because of rain had to be held in the lobby of the Administration Building. Amplifiers were installed to carry the program to people parked outside in their automobiles. The following year Georgia Governor E.D. Rivers delivered the principal address to some 1,200 people. 
But it was the seventy-fifth anniversary of Chickamauga and Chattanooga that received the most attention. Congress appropriated $35,000 to defray costs of the observance of the battles and simultaneously "commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the removal from Tennessee of the Cherokee Indians. . . ."  A national commission of Chattanooga citizens was appointed that received cooperation from twenty-eight state governors in making the projected ceremonies national in scope.  The National Chickamauga Celebration as it was called, opened September 16 and lasted through September 25, 1938. The City of Chattanooga sponsored a huge historical pageant entitled "Drums of Dixie," while other features included parades, horse shows, prize fights, and air circuses. Ceremonies at the park began September 18 with wreath laying at some of the state monuments and memorial services at Point Park for the battlefield dead. About twenty veterans, mostly Confederates, attended. Next day Governor Rivers of Georgia and Governor Gordon Browning of Tennessee addressed a group at the Administration Building. A reenactment of part of the battle then proceeded at the Dyer Field with 700 soldiers from Fort Oglethorpe participating. September 20 was "President's Day," but President Franklin D. Roosevelt was unable to attend; instead a memorial program was held in the Administration Building, with each of the veterans present giving a short talk. Music was again provided by the Sixth Cavalry Band.  Two months later, on November 21, Roosevelt did visit the park in conjunction with a tour of facilities of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Accompanied by Mrs. Roosevelt, Governors Rivers and Browning, and several U.S. senators, the President toured Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge before departing the area. 
A special event connected with the National Cemetery occurred on Memorial Day, 1939, when a program dedicated to American patriotism was presented there. A number of speakers addressed hundreds of attending Chattanoogans. One of the orators was future Senator Estes Kefauver, who spoke about "dangers to freedom." The Memorial Day observances at the National Cemetery took place annually thereafter under National Park Service auspices until the cemetery reverted to War Department control in 1944.  Another event occurred at the cemetery in March, 1940, with the formal unveiling of a monument erected to German World War I prisoners interred there. Baron von Spiesel, the German Consul-General from New Orleans, officiated at the ceremony.  In June, 1942, thirty-six Confederate veterans gathered in Chattanooga and toured the military park by automobile caravan. 
During the years of World War II several noted persons visited the park and the troops stationed there. On April 17, 1943, President Roosevelt made his second appearance at the park and his first at Chickamauga Battlefield when he arrived to review the WAAC complex on South Post. Superintendent Dunn described the President's visit:
Later visitors to the park included Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, Mary Churchill, daughter of the British Prime Minister, and movie entertainers Bing Crosby, Walter Pidgeon, Al Jolson, and John Payne.  After the war several dedicatory exercises were held. One occurred in 1948 when the Signal Mountain Garden Club donated a three-acre tract to the United States. In 1949 an open house was given in the Administration Building as part of a program commemorating the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Department of the Interior.  In May of that year the park welcomed yet another dignitary in the person of President Eurico G. Dutra of Brazil who spent some time at Point Park admiring the view and listening to an interpretive talk of the Civil War battles. 
The 1950s saw few events out of the ordinary happen at the park. An early highlight was the acquisition of the Fuller Arms Collection, appraised at $250,000, in 1954. In that year an assembly of 500 Boy Scouts met on the battlefield to reenact the 1863 fighting around Snodgrass Hill using flour in cheesecloth to simulate the smoke and dust of battle. Some 750 spectators viewed the presentation.  Four years later, in September, 1958, Mississippi Governor James P. Coleman visited the park and laid a wreath at a Mississippi battery monument. Perhaps the most notable event late in the decade was the tornado that hit the park on January 21, 1959, knocking down nearly 2,000 trees and necessitating their removal. 
As the centennial of the Civil War approached personnel at the park began making plans for observing the hundred-year anniversaries of the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga. Contacts were established with the local Civil War Centennial Commission and with the Civil War Round Table associates looking to insure proper commemoration of the events. During the early 1960s numerous political figures from surrounding states came to the park and delivered remarks at the appropriate state monuments. At the 1962 observance of the founding of the park seventy-two years previously, Superintendent Cook waived the admission fee at Point Park for the day. Many local citizens visited the park and guided tours were conducted on the Chickamauga field. Later a party was held for park employees and friends at the superintendent's residence.  In 1963 Superintendent Cook joined with Park Service personnel and a local citizens group in planning the centennial program. The Georgia and Tennessee Centennial Commission, as well as the National Park Service, issued invitations to all states with soldiers at Chickamauga or Chattanooga to rededicate their monuments on the battlefields.
The first state to participate was Indiana. On June 8, 1963, "Indiana Day" was held at the park and a delegation of members of that state's Civil War Centennial Commission met to rededicate the Wilder Monument.  A succession of state days followed between Florida's, on July 28, and Georgia's, on September 20, with delegates from Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Michigan, and South Carolina all observing exercises at their respective monuments. The ceremonies were usually followed by speeches, concerts, receptions, and recreational activities. At least one state's representative, Alabama's Supreme Court Chief Justice James E. Livingston, used the opportunity to comment politically on the issue of states' rights then prominent. The anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga, September 19-20, was marked by numerous events, including horseshoe pitching contests, sack races, log sawing contests, and an outdoor concert performed by local musical groups. The Tennessee and Georgia rededication exercises took place over these two days.  In November, the centennial of the Battle of Lookout Mountain was planned to include ceremonies at Point Park and a public showing of Cravens House, which had served alternately as headquarters for Union and Confederate forces during the fighting. U.S. Army Rangers were to reenact the Union assault on the mountain in November, 1863. But the death of President John F. Kennedy forced the cancellation of all scheduled activities except for a tea at Cravens House. 
In 1964 the park celebrated its seventy-fourth anniversary. On August 19 interpretive activities were increased and the admission fee at Point Park waived as a means of attracting visitors from the local area. In September park personnel cooperated with Fort Oglethorpe city officials in planning "Post Days," during which the role of Chickamauga Park in the Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II was emphasized. Highlights of the activities included speeches on the lawn behind the Administration Building and a concert by the Third Army Band. Similarly, the park participated in Chattanooga's diamond jubilee in September, 1965.  In August, 1966, the park scheduled a program to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service. Cannon firings were held at Point Park and a special slide presentation on the National Parks was given at the Administration Building Visitor Center. 
The 1970s produced a number of park programs geared to youth-oriented activities. In 1972 1,500 boy scouts helped mark the tenth anniversary of establishment of the Blue Beaver Trail up Lookout Mountain by hiking its 10.5-mile length. That year the park sponsored a program of activities for inner-city children from Chattanooga at the park and at Russell Cave National Monument. So successful was the program that it was repeated in ensuing years. In February, a Volunteers in Parks program got underway, providing valuable assistance in interpreting historical features to visitors. Yet another notable occasion was the mailing of first-day covers to Friends of the Park, using a specially prepared cancellation die proclaiming 1972 the National Park Centennial Year.  During 1976 several activities occurred to commemorate the Bicentennial. One was the July appearance of "People of '76," a National Park Service-sponsored living history group that displayed the dress and crafts of the colonial era, presented a play, and reenacted a battle.  In September the 113th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga was observed with the presence of the Nineteenth Infantry Regiment and ceremonies at Wilder Tower. A time capsule containing pertinent memorabilia was placed in the tower with instructions for its opening during the Nation's Tricentennial in 2076.  During the following year a Snodgrass Family reunion was held at the restored Snodgrass House, and in 1978 a special postmark was used to commemorate the 115th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga on mail leaving the towns of Fort Oglethorpe and Chickamauga.  Demonstrations of modern parachuting and military combat techniques were presented in August,1979; three months later the anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Lookout Mountain included historical rifle-musket-firing and marching drills performed by members of the First Tennessee Volunteer Infantry, a Civil War reenactment group.  Events marking the park's ninetieth birthday in 1980 included another postmark to cancel outgoing mail and the donation of General John T. Wilder's Spencer rifle used at the Battle of Chickamauga.  Another acquisition in the summer of 1981 was a photo-mural of James Walker's painting entitled, "The Battle of Lookout Mountain," unveiled in the Ochs Museum at Point Park. 
Last Updated: 01-Jun-2002