One of the prime duties of the Commission lay in the acquisition of land for the park. The act of establishment authorized the United States to acquire title to the road approaches from the States of Georgia and Tennessee. The Secretary of War was authorized to mark the boundaries of the park once this was accomplished. He was further permitted to enter into agreements with landholders who desired to remain on their property under agreements whereby they could sell to the government then lease the land "upon condition that they will preserve the present buildings and roads, and the present outlines of field and forest. . . ."  The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was to consist of the following tract:
Efforts made by the commission to obtain the required property proved to be frustrating, though not unsuccessful. Some years earlier a post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in Chicago had obtained options on much of the land at $25.00 per acre with an intent similar to that of the Chickamauga Memorial Association. The GAR members were unable to raise the funds needed to effect the purchase, however. In the meantime a railroad was built along the west side of the proposed park tract which increased the economic potential of the land.
Fruit and vegetable farms were established, and coal and iron ore were discovered to exist in the area.  By the time the commission undertook acquisition of the land, its value had risen considerably. Compounding the problem was the fact that more than 200 parties had to be negotiated with, many of whom lacked record titles. Moreover, some owners had traded tracts without recording deeds. Others had died intestate with their lands proportionately divided among family members without legal formality. Some records had been destroyed by fire years earlier and others had been lost at the time of the battle. Attorneys for the commissioners had a difficult time straightening out the land matter before purchase could even be attempted. 
Many of the landowners, aware of government interest in their land, now asked exorbitant prices. This necessitated the implementation of condemnation procedures through the U.S. Circuit Court. The proceedings often were lengthy and complicated, involving the appointment of appraisers to estimate the value of properties and the setting up of courts at Crawfish Springs to hear testimony on land values. Most landowners wanted at least $70 per acre for their property. Ultimately, under condemnation the government secured most of the battlefield lands. 
Purchase of the tracts began in 1891 and were highlighted by the visit of Secretary of War Proctor and a party of congressmen and military officials to Chattanooga in March. 
At the Commission's request, former Congressman Judson C. Clements, a Georgia lawyer knowledgeable about the battlefield area, was appointed by Proctor to examine all titles and to negotiate with the landholders. By May he had acquired approximately 1,400 acres despite encountering difficulties in completing his duty.  Throughout the proceedings, wrote Chairman Fullerton, "the most difficult object to surmount was the exaggerated ideas of values that had possessed the land-owners." 
Nevertheless, by autumn of 1891, land acquisition was proceeding relatively smoothly, with condemnation well underway.  A year later the commission could report that
The Commission reported that about 1,000 more acres were to be acquired, along with forty miles of road, to meet the requirements of the act establishing the park. 
Most of the land obtained thus far figured significantly in the battle and included such place names as Snodgrass field, Horseshoe Ridge, and Dyer field. By this time, the Tennessee legislature had ceded jurisdiction over the road approaches on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge and around Chattanooga.  Additions in 1892-93 thus included ground around Chattanooga, notably the sites of Bragg's headquarters on Missionary Ridge, Orchard Knob, the DeLong Place, and Sherman's earthworks. Total expenditure stood at $401,485.63 out of $575,000 appropriated by Congress.  Most land yet to be acquired lay at the north end of the designated park boundary. Fully nine-to-ten square miles of the battlefield were in government possession by the end of 1893.  Some property holders on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain held out for such exorbitant prices that the commissioners in 1894 recommended that efforts to secure these lands be abandoned. 
Soon after the essential tracts were obtained the Commission proceeded to authorize the erection of seventy-foot-high towers at the location of Bragg's headquarters, Delong Place, and Tunnel Hill on Missionary Ridge. Another was planned for Orchard Knob. These structures, raised principally on the Confederate positions, afforded visitors and students unobstructed views of the terrain in all directions and constituted the first interpretive facilities to be located in the park.  At the same time, preparations were made for the War and Navy Departments to deliver to the park certain condemned artillery and other ordnance for use in marking the battlefield.  While most of the property central to the park was now in government hands, certain parties, including Boynton, continued to press for the inclusion of the area at the north end of Lookout Mountain, purchase of which remained contingent on the disposition of concerned owners to part with the tracts at reasonable prices.  Furthermore, as of 1895 no appropriations existed with which to effect such transactions.  In the meantime, laborers continued clearing brush and establishing roads in the area enclosed by the park. 
Another task of the National Commission lay in soliciting support for the park project from the twenty-eight states whose soldiers had fought at Chickamauga. The commissioners presented an appeal for participation to the legislatures in session or to the governors of the states, requesting that each state provide a commission to work with the National Commission toward establishing the park. First to extend the desired aid was Ohio, which had had the most volunteer units in the battles of 1863. In 1891, Governor James E. Campbell appointed a commission and the legislature responded with a generous appropriation of $90,000 for monuments to Ohio troops at the park. Minnesota, Massachusetts, and New York followed shortly with similar appropriations for the purposes of monumentalization. 
Throughout the months preceding and following enactment of the park legislation the community of Chattanooga remained well-disposed towards the project. A local judge termed the idea "one of the grandest ever conceived" and predicted "incalculable" advantages for the city.  The park would be easily accessible; Missionary Ridge could be reached in steam or electric cars for a fee of five cents, and cable cars and a broad gauge rail line went to Lookout Mountain. Since 1889 a railroad had been chartered to run from Ringgold, Georgia, to Chattanooga, via Chickamauga battlefield, and construction was to begin in the autumn of 1890. A branch line was scheduled to be built from Snodgrass Hill south to Crawfish Springs.  The park commission opposed the efforts to build railroad tracks across park land, however, and closely monitored any development with an eye towards condemnation proceedings should the line significantly threaten the field. Another railroad, the Chattanooga, Rome and Columbus, cut across two corners of the park but did not interfere with the designated battle lines. 
With rapid progress in the acquisition of land for the park, officials prepared to present the battlefield to the visiting public. In the spring of 1892 Secretary of War Stephen B. Elkins, who had succeeded Proctor, authorized the use of civilian fee-charging guides on the field. Camping was to be allowed only on permission of the park superintendent and in areas he might designate. Expenses for operating the park were to come from the rents charged occupants who chose to remain on their former property, from certain lands leased for agriculture purposes, and from fines levied against owners of straying cattle. 
Clearly, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park represented a concept that was most timely. The site drew increasing numbers of visitors during the early 1890s, and the presence of the park attracted mercantile traffic into Chattanooga. In September, 1892, the Society of the Army of the Cumberland convened its annual reunion at Chickamauga Park, where representatives of the Ohio and Pennsylvania state commissions also appeared. "Horses and vehicles" were available for touring the sites, and all attendees were requested to "register at the headquarters," located at the Park Hotel in Crawfish Springs and in Chattanooga.  While the National Commission maintained its offices in the War Department building in Washington, direct administration of the park became the responsibility of "a resident assistant superintendent, two guardians or rangers, a book-keeper, and a clerk. . . ." All were Civil War veterans. In addition, the park staff included two civil engineers and their helpers who were involved in road construction and in preparing topographical surveys of various properties. 
Development continued through 1893. Early in that year commissions for Tennessee and Minnesota were created and their members visited the battlefield helping to locate state troop positions and selecting sites for monuments.  Still more state commissions were appointed later. As work progressed in this regard, the National Commission issued regulations directing the placement of monuments and markers on the battlefield; essentially, all such structures required approval by the commission before they could be erected.  During 1893 several monuments to regular army forces were placed on the field, becoming the first of many formally erected. The first bronze interpretive tablets were also placed along the roads. 
Some administrative changes occurred in 1893. Under the new Democratic administration Daniel S. Lamont became Secretary of War. Lamont was sympathetic to the park idea and his "intelligent attention" along with the executive work of his Assistant Secretary, Joseph Dee, gave impetus to the park's establishment.  Another personnel change more directly affected events at the park when Commissioner Sanford Kellogg was detailed as military attache to the American Legation in Paris. Major Frank G. Smith, who had commanded a battery at Chickamauga, succeeded Kellogg. 
Direct control of affairs at Chickamauga was the duty of William Tillman, a former army officer. His principal assistants were Atwell Thompson, civil engineer in charge of construction, and Edward E. Betts, civil engineer in charge of topographical engineering and the erection of monuments. Laborers hired by the Commission were all Civil War veterans, with appointments equally divided between ex-Union and ex-Confederates.  In 1893 an additional $100,000 was appropriated by Congress for continuing the establishment of the park.  By the end of the year the Secretary of War could report the following:
In August 1894, $75,000 more was appropriated for continued work on the park. Particularly, this sum was to pay for road construction, the building of foundations for state monuments, and the purchase of lands at the north end of Missionary Ridge and near Glass's Mill. 
These items the commissioners were desirous of accomplishing soon, so that plans could be made for the formal dedication of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, already postponed a year in order that the park be as fully established as possible.  On advice from the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, it was agreed to dedicate the park on September 18 and 19, 1895, the thirty-second anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga, Twenty thousand dollars was allotted for the ceremony. 
In January, 1895, at the behest of Secretary of War Lamont, Congress agreed to take part in the dedication of the park and nominated a joint committee to plan its participation. In March, a concurrent resolution announced the appointment of numerous Army and Navy delegates to attend the ceremonies.  By summer formal plans were in order. Invited participants would include the President, members of Congress, the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, and the governors of all the states. A general invitation was extended to survivors of the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga. The public was also invited. National Commission Chairman Fullerton was designated grand marshal and placed in charge of the proceedings. Fullerton was responsible for the procurement of all required services and supplies and managed the expenditures for the event scheduled to begin at noon on September 19 at Snodgrass Hill. On the following day attendees were to assemble under a large tent in Chattanooga to hear orations by leading battle participants.  Legislatures of the principal states, Georgia and Tennessee, also passed resolutions for their respective participation in the ceremonies, and the Tennessee National Guard was directed to hold its summer encampment at Chickamauga Park to coincide with the dedication proceedings. 
At the park, work proceeded earnestly. In March, 1895, another $75,000 was appropriated by Congress for "road work, memorial gateway and designs therefor, maps, surveys, iron and bronze tablets, gun carriages, [further] land . . . purchase. . . ," along with compensation for the two civilian commissioners and their sundry assistants.  In a summary statement Chairman Fullerton described the condition of the park preceding its dedication:
Much time was spent by the Commissioners in meeting with the various state commissions to ascertain accurate locations for the erection of state monuments.  State interest in the park remained high. The Massachusetts commissioner visited twice in conjunction with the erection of that state's monument. New York's entire commission toured the ground on two occasions. The commissions of Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota all spent lengthy visits helping to establish troop positions and preparing to build monuments to their soldiers.  Many of the state commissions also arranged for their chief executives' attendance at the dedication ceremonies. 
Public interest in the Chickamauga Park mounted as the dedication approached. Henry V. Boynton, credited with the park idea, energetically promoted the project in the media, writing numerous columns for various publications, including the popular Harper's Weekly and The Century Magazine.  "The park itself is something entirely new in military history," he wrote, "and would be an impossible scheme in any other country."  Its dedication "is without parallel in the world's history."  Meantime, Chattanooga anticipated the moment; the city stood to benefit greatly from the presence of the federal park, and city fathers envisioned a profitable future. Editorialized The Daily Times:
Thus, the community was cleaned up and the population was urged to extend all courtesies to city visitors. When the time arrived, more than seventy special trains were cleared into the railroad yards, and regularly scheduled trains were overcrowded. So great was the influx of visitors that tent cities were established around the city to accommodate them all. Makeshift restaurants were set up, and water fountains were placed at convenient spots.  Last minute preparations at the park included adding more cannon to certain gun batteries on the field, erecting rostrums for the state delegations at their respective monuments, constructing booths and stands on Kelly Field to serve food, and completing work on a well near the grandstand. 
On September 18 the dedication began. An immense throng assembled at Snodgrass Hill on the Chickamauga Battlefield to hear addresses from the dignitaries present. Members of The Society of the Army of the Cumberland staged their annual reunion to coincide with the events, and many members of the United Confederate Veterans also attended. Some 800 officers and men, composing twelve companies of United States infantry and artillery, three regimental bands, and a medical detachment, joined the celebrants in officially inaugurating the first national military park in the country.  The first day was spent in dedicating the eight state monuments already raised in the park, those of Michigan (Snodgrass Hill), Missouri (Brotherton's), Ohio (Snodgrass Hill), Illinois (Lytle Hill), Minnesota (Snodgrass Hill), Indiana (Cave Spring), Massachusetts (Orchard Knob), and Wisconsin (Kelly Field). That evening the reunion of the Army of the Cumberland commenced with some 10,000 members on hand. Many members of other Union societies attended the meeting, as did a great many Confederate veterans. Familiar orations were delivered by Mayor George W. Ochs of Chattanooga, Boynton, and Nebraska Senator Charles F. Manderson. Patriotic addresses won frequent applause for Army Commanding General John M. Schofield, Secretary of the Navy Hilary A. Herbert, and retired Major General Grenville M. Dodge of The Society of the Army of the Tennessee (Union), among others. 
Next day the Chickamauga field was dedicated at Snodgrass Hill with more than 40,000 persons attending. A forty-four gun artillery salute started the proceedings at noon. Later in the day a tactical exhibition was presented by the regular army units present. Distinguished visitors watched from the platform: representatives of the three branches of the federal government (the President did not attend), prominent officer veterans of the Union and Confederate armies, officials of the veteran societies, and fifteen state governors and their staffs. Vice President Adlai Stevenson delivered the opening remarks, and principal orations were given by former Union Major General John M. Palmer and former Confederate General John B. Gordon. Short speeches were then made by the several governors present. Many of the battle survivors spent the rest of the day trudging across the battlefield while attempting to locate by memory their old positions. That evening a general meeting of survivors of the Union Army of the Tennessee and the Confederate Army of Tennessee convened in Chattanooga. Several veteran officers addressed the group, including Major General Oliver O. Howard and former Lieutenant General Joseph Wheeler, with remarks provided by Colonel Frederick D. Grant, son of the late general.
On September 20, the regular troops paraded with the militia to lively martial airs through Chattanooga. Another salute was fired from guns at Orchard Knob, marking the opening of dedicatory exercises for the Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain, and Chattanooga parts of the park. In the afternoon, Mayor Ochs delivered an address in the tent in Chattanooga, followed by a speech of Representative Charles H. Grosvenor of Ohio. Stressing the patriotic emotion of the moment, Ochs called the park "the symbol of the nation's second birth,"
Grosvenor touched upon the importance of preserving the park, reiterating the necessity
Later in the day the Massachusetts monument at Orchard Knob was dedicated, and in the evening a joint meeting took place of Chattanooga Battle veterans of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac. Principal speaker at this event was former Lieutenant General James Longstreet. 
With the dedication of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the preservation of American battlefields was begun. Chickamauga was seen as the "pioneer park, as a historical memorial," and the model for similar programs at Shiloh, Antietam, Appomattox, and even Gettysburg, which only recently had acquired federal protection status.  As a direct result of the Chickamauga experience, the Secretary of War called for formalized procedures to govern the development of such parks:
Notably in the case of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park several important policies were established. First, the protection of battlefields in their original condition became a prime government concern, and the practice of buying property with conditional leaseback provisions accelerated public acceptance of the concept of battlefield preservation. Second, the practice of obtaining specialized historical knowledge of the areas was promulgated with the hiring of veterans--both Union and Confederate--to serve on the appointed commissions, and by the use of trained War Department cartographers to help prepare maps for use in monumentalization and interpretation. And third, the involvement-- aesthetically as well as financially--of the affected states whose troops fought on the ground gave an important boost to the preservation concept. Members of the state commissions, many of them veterans of the engagements commemorated, gave freely of their time in helping to locate positions on the fields, while the states absorbed the costs of erecting monuments to their organizations in the battles.  Thus, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park set a precedent for the federal government's involvement in the area of battlefield preservation, an involvement that continues to aid in the promotion and interpretation of the country's rich military heritage.
Last Updated: 18-Jun-2002