“This Was War and They Was Rebels:” African American Experiences at the Battle of Chickamauga

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Date: September 5, 2017
Contact: Kim Coons, 423-752-5213x139

Fort Oglethorpe, GA: On Monday, September 18, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, in partnership with the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, will present a free, 45 minute program on the experiences of African Americans who participated in the Battle of Chickamauga. This program will take place at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 East Martin Luther King Boulevard, Chattanooga, TN 37403. The doors open at 5 pm, and the formal program begins at 5:30 pm.
 
On the final day of the Battle of Chickamauga, Thomas Coles found himself filling water buckets for a Union artillery battery during the Confederate breakthrough. Terrified, it was in this moment that Coles, who just a few weeks earlier had been enslaved in Alabama, realized that “this was war and they was rebels.” He was not alone. Accompanying both armies were hundreds, if not thousands of African Americans. Some, like Coles, escaped slavery or been liberated by passing Union Armies. Others, like Silas Chandler, remained in bondage and were forced to accompany their enslavers into the Confederate ranks as laborers and personal servants. Regardless of their status, these men experienced the terror of battle and its gruesome aftermath. As part of the 154th Anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga, we hope you will join us at the Bessie Smith Center to explore the experiences of African Americans who participated in the battle.  
 
For more information about programs at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, contact the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center at 706-866-9241, the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center at 423-821-7786, or visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/chch.  
 



Last updated: September 5, 2017

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Fort Oglethorpe, GA 30742

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