Chickamauga and Chattanooga
Administrative History
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Besides the monuments, numerous markers and tablets were erected at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Rather than simply memorialize a unit's or individual's participation in the battles of 1863, these structures clearly informed visitors about the history of the area and are thus more properly considered interpretive devices. According to the 1890 act establishing the park, the lands were set aside "for the purpose of preserving and suitably marking for historical and professional study the fields of some of the most remarkable movements and most brilliant fighting in the war of the rebellion. . . ." [1] The Secretary of War therefore received authority to "ascertain and mark all lines of battle . . . to clearly designate positions and movements . . . connected with the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga." [2] The procedures and programs for accurately conveying information to the public have all derived from this foundation of knowledge laid down during the park's early history.

Even before Congress established the park efforts of concerned individuals were directed towards correctly locating positions on the field. Henry V. Boynton and Sanford C. Kellogg were particularly interested in this project, and the latter was deeply involved in the preparation of War Department maps of the Battle of Chickamauga from which the identification of sites might logically follow. [3] Draft copies of the maps were made available to interested veterans who might visit the park and note any discrepancies with their recollection of events. When published early in 1890, the maps proved immensely popular with veteran groups. [4] (Eventually disputes arose over various locations on the maps that largely accounted for Kellogg's early departure from the park.) In May, 1890, a Blue and Gray reunion was held at the battlefield, one of the purposes of which was to settle questions over troop positions before any markers or monuments were raised. A formal committee on locating Confederate lines was organized by the Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp of United Confederate Veterans in Chattanooga under the leadership of its commander, Captain Joseph Shipp. Between May and July, 1890, this committee, in conjunction with aid from local GAR Post No. 2, worked to locate lines and solve perplexing questions about troop movements. [5] Soon after passage of the park legislation Historian Boynton began arranging for the manufacture of 200 iron tablets, "4 feet long by 3 feet high cast in sheet iron with raised white letters on a black background," which were to contain information on "every organization on both sides from the corps to the smallest regiment or battery. . . . " [6] Henry Boynton detailed the preparation of these tablets:

The historical tablets are of iron with the lettering cast as part of the plate. They are each four feet by three. They are of several classes--as, those for army headquarters, corps, divisions, and brigades. The first named show the corps which make up the armies with their commanders; the corps tablets show the divisions and their commanders; the division tablets show the brigades which compose them and their commanders; while the brigade tablets carry the organization to the individual regiments and batteries and their commanders in the battle. There are also staff tablets of uniform size with the others giving the names of the respective staff officers. The historical tablets each present from 200 to 300 words of text setting forth in condensed yet comprehensive form the movements at the points where they are erected. Both sides have equal attention in the erection of these tablets. The only distinctive mark is the letter "U" for Union in the upper right hand corner, and the letter "C" for Confederate. [7]

At the annual meeting of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, the organization which had spawned the Chickamauga Memorial Association, Commission Chairman Joseph S. Fullerton summed up the work marking the field:

We have been studying, and our historian has been studying, the positions of the troops. We have been on the field many times and I shall go down there next week to have certain lines determined. I think we have got the lines now fixed beyond dispute. We shall be able to show the position of every corps, every division, every brigade, every regiment and every battery on both sides. It is very extraordinary that we have been able to do this, but we have been able to do it by reason of the condition of the field. The fields and woods are just as they were when the battle was fought. . . . We have prepared tablets of bronze iron to be placed over the whole field. [8]

To further ensure accuracy in placement of markers, the different state commissions were urged to participate in the on-site investigations. [9] Ohio responded first, appointing its commission in May, 1891. Its members visited the park in May, 1892, and again in September of that year in conjunction with the annual encampment of the Army of the Cumberland held at Chickamauga. [10] At the reunion hundreds of veterans traversed the fields, read the prepared tablet texts, and aided significantly in the correct determination of positions. [11] By late 1892 the tablets were ready for erection; they described the battle action of Wauhatchie, Brown's Ferry, Orchard Knob, Missionary Ridge, and Lookout Mountain, plus the several days' engagements at Chickamauga. [12] Further interpretive aids to be constructed at the park included two relief models--one of Chattanooga, the other of Chickamauga--a number of steel observation towers, and positioning of condemned cannon at points historically occupied by artillery units during the fighting. Pyramidal monuments of old mortar rounds obtained from the War and Navy departments were to be raised at the sites where brigade leaders had been killed. [13] At the end of 1892 the National Commissioners could report that after "two years careful study . . . the fighting lines of all Divisions on each side have been ascertained with sufficient accuracy to justify the erection of historical tablets. . . . Many of the Brigade positions . . . have been definitely determined, and all of them are approximately ascertained." [14]

During 1893 the State of Ohio erected fifty-three historical tablets in the park relating to the action of her troops thirty years before. Other states now took an active role in developing the battlefields and many newly appointed commissioners visited the park, further helping to correctly locate troop positions there. [15] Occasionally their visits caused controversy; one of the most prolonged grew out of the claim of former Brigadier General John B. Turchin that his infantry brigade of Indiana and Ohio troops, and not Colonel Ferdinand Van Derveer's, had assaulted the Confederate position at the DeLong place on Missionary Ridge during the Battle of Chattanooga. On the basis of other first-hand evidence, however, the Commission and the War Department refused to credit Turchin's assertion. [16] In 1893 Henry Boynton compiled handbooks and maps for the use of visiting state commissions, and he continued his work with the historical markers. That year the iron tablets were cast by the Chattanooga Car and Foundry Company for $2.87 each. [17] The same firm furnished seventy iron gun carriages at $70.00 each, while the Commission requested from the War Department seventy-four condemned cannon tubes and 2,500 eight-inch shells for marking battery positions. [18] In December, 1893, the Commission adopted the regulations governing the erection of "monuments, tablets, or other markers." All such structures would be raised subject to the approval of the Secretary of War. [19] In 1894 New York State announced its intention to erect, besides its memorials, markers to the New York units and soldiers similar to those of other states. [20] Despite the newly-conceived regulations, it appears that the National Commission failed to adequately control the proliferation of state markers and monuments that occurred in the 1890s. Nonetheless, the campaign for accuracy in positions continued in 1894 with the appointment of a committee by the Society of the Army of the Potomac to aid in site identification at the park. [21] An attempt to locate the lines of South Carolina troops was temporarily frustrated when the governor's representative for that purpose "partook too freely of intoxicants." The governor generously offered to provide another veteran. [22] Work on the various states' locality markers was long and tedious, for a given unit's position at different times of the fighting had to be determined as precisely as possible. Ohio used granite markers three feet high by fifteen inches square to designate its troops' positions, while Indiana chose to use bronze markers. [23]

As the dedication of the park approached in 1895 more and more interpretive markers were erected. Besides the tablets, some 150 granite markers were to be in place on the field. In addition, the city of Chattanooga gave permission for monuments, markers, and tablets to be raised within the municipal limits. [24] More work was completed in locating troop positions, and in one case, that of Indiana, some questionable sites were reconfirmed by on-ground investigations of the state and National commissions. [25] By the time the formalities opened in September, five states had erected ninety markers. They were Ohio (fifty-three), Michigan (twelve), Wisconsin (five), Kansas (two), and Missouri (eighteen). Two hundred twelve iron historical tablets were in place, raised by the War Department through the National Commission. [26] In addition, distance markers and locality tablets were placed at crossroads and at prominent battlefield landmarks, such as houses, to further orient visitors. [27] And eight pyramidal monuments built of condemned artilleryshells were all in place, as were 100 of the 400 or so cannon received to mark the positions of batteries in the fighting. [28] The mounted guns, wrote Boynton, "are also of the same pattern as those which composed the several batteries." [29] So far as the observation towers were concerned, the Commission had originally selected seven sites for the structures, had contracted for six at $5,000 each, but only five had been built. Completed and delivered in 1893 by Snead and Company Iron Works of Louisville, Kentucky, the towers when erected late that year stood seventy feet high and measured sixteen feet square at the base. Three of them stood on Chickamauga Battlefield; one was near Hall's Ford where the Confederates assembled for the first day's battle, another was situated west of Reed's Bridge near where the fighting started, and a third was located at Snodgrass Hill. The two remaining were erected on Missionary Ridge, at the Bragg and DeLong reservations. [30] Subsequent to their erection such interpretive information as site names and distances were painted on signboards attached to the platforms. [31] To promote the park, a number of privately published guidebooks appeared beginning in 1895 for sale to visitors. Most of them locally produced, these paperbound souvenirs were heavily illustrated and contained minimal text. [32]

The work of establishing the park went on beyond the dedication. In 1896 and 1897 more guns were mounted in battery positions and additional marking of the lines occurred. The Commission adjudged several minor differences over its decisions, and also dealt with the Turchin controversy. [33] Generally, the members were pleased with their performance in locating the lines. "The battle field positions," remarked Fullerton, "are now so correctly marked that I am satisfied that not one of them on the fighting lines is as much as ten feet out of place." [34] Yet the work of the National and state commissions in completing the marking of lines was delayed in 1898 with the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. More than 50,000 troops assembled at Chickamauga Park, and it became impossible for the state commissioners "to get on to the ground to put the markers in position, because of the fact that camps were located and occupied on the very ground where most of the markers were to be placed." [35] In 1899 historical tablets were prepared for erection at Point Park and Missionary Ridge and in Chattanooga. More iron carriages were manufactured and shipped to the park so that by year's end 237 guns stood in thirty-eight Union and forty-eight Confederate positions. The historical tablets totaled 554, and distance and locality markers numbered 448. [36]

In October, 1900, the park was visited by more than 100 Civil War veterans who had fought at Chickamauga and Chattanooga. At the Commission's behest, they carefully inspected all markers and indicated on specially prepared forms where the texts might be inaccurate and the locations in error. [37] "While the ranks of the veterans of these fields have sorrowfully diminished," wrote Boynton, "enough remain to inspect and intelligently correct all errors, and thus assist . . . in insuring historical accuracy in the restoration of the notable fields. . . ." [38] More historical tablets ware erected during the year, along with guns for six artillery batteries, including two at Point Park and two in Chattanooga. [39] A few pieces of the ordnance were exchanged for other types at Shiloh National Military Park. [40] By the end of 1901 Chairman Boynton reported that:

There are now erected on the Chickamauga field 109 field guns, mounted on iron gun carriages to imitate the patterns in use during the civil war, marking 44 Union battery positions, and 94 field guns, similarly mounted, marking 39 Confederate battery positions. At Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and Orchard Knob there are 20 gun carriages marking 10 Union batteries, and 25 gun carriages marking 10 Confederate batteries, with two mountain howitzers mounted at park headquarters, making a total of 250 guns mounted. [41]

Still more guns were later mounted along Crest Road together with additional state and federal historical markers which were placed over its eight-mile length. [42] Other interpretive aids included the finally-completed Wilder Tower Monument, which was turned over to the park for use as an observation tower, and the relief model of the battlefields of Chickamauga and Chattanooga. The latter, planned for several years, was started in 1901 by Edwin E. Howell using survey data provided by Park Engineer Betts. [43] When completed in 1905 the relief map was assembled in the Commission offices in Chattanooga. [44]

In 1904 one of the obsolete unmounted cannons in the park was donated to a G.A.R. post in Nelsonville, Ohio. The Commissioners sent forty-nine more for use at Gettysburg National Military Park. But more ordnance of specific calibres was acquired during this period, too, to correctly mark Union earthworks and Confederate positions in Chattanooga. Other batteries were shortly marked with howitzers and Parrott guns at Point Park and Cameron Hill. [45]

Beginning in 1906 a major task proceeded in the correction and revision of some of the texts and positions of markers and monuments on the different battlefields. This project, supposedly conceived by Boynton, was directed by his successor as chairman, Ezra A. Carman. Carman described the relocation of several monuments and markers:

The work of removing monuments which were out of position in the Poe field has been accomplished. The Ninety-second Illinois monument and markers to the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Indiana batteries were removed and placed on new foundations in the Brotherton field, and the marker of the Seventh Indiana Battery was removed to Dyer's Hill, north of the Dyer house. Six gun carriages, with their guns, being two for each of the Seventh, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Indiana batteries, were removed from the Poe field to the Brotherton field line. [46]

Many of the changes that occurred during Carman's chairmanship met heated opposition, especially those that ran against the decisions of his predecessors, Boynton and Fullerton, both of whom were deceased. Likewise, the Commissioners were criticized for refusing to make adjustments in certain troop positions that they felt were unwarranted. These included the relative positions of monuments and markers for Turchin's and Van Derveer's brigades and for the Second Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, all of which had assaulted Missionary Ridge in 1863. The War Department in 1907 approved the majority report of the Commission which ruled against any removal of the concerned monuments. [47] But following Carman's death the controversy rekindled, and the Commissioners, cognizant of local support for the Boynton-Fullerton positions, decided not to proceed with the changes urged by Carman. The Commissioners recommended that "no further action be taken . . . and that no changes of monuments, markers or tablets, or of the location of monuments, markers, or tablets be made. . . " [48] One victim of the controversy was Commissioner Wilbur J. Colburn, who had disagreed with Commissioners Grosvenor and Cumming and had filed a minority report over the markers question with the War Department. Former Colonel John T. Wilder was appointed Colburn's successor. [49]

Meantime, further improvements were made at the park. Contracts for cast-iron historical tablets, distance-locality markers, and gun carriages were let with firms in Hagerstown, Maryland, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1908, 1910, 1911, and 1913. Most of these were erected on Chickamauga Battlefield, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge. [50] In 1910 the tablets for the Fifth and Twenty-ninth Ohio regiments were removed from Missionary Ridge to the Cravens tract on Lookout Mountain. Likewise, Bledsoe's Confederate Missouri Battery was relocated from near the Brotherton House to a point one-half mile northeast of Viniard's. [51] In 1914 the Commission requested that all monuments and markers be photographed so that a file of correct inscriptions might be managed. [52] Few markers and tablets were erected after that. Four years later, when the park was inspected during World War I, War Department personnel observed that the battlefields had been preserved to facilitate the telling of their story "Any changes, either in the topography of the fields or the extent of the woodlands would tend not only to confuse a student of history but would no doubt, in some instances, make the inscriptions on tablets and monuments meaningless." [53] As of that time park interpretive structures consisted of 245 mounted guns in batteries, 638 iron historical tablets, 360 distance-locality markers, 61 bronze historical tablets, 14 shell monuments designating Army and Corps headquarters, and 9 shell memorial monuments. [54] Visitors to the park could tour the battlefields over the several available roads and could gain overviews from any of five seventy-foot-high observation towers or the eighty-five-foot stone Wilder Tower. [55]

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Last Updated: 01-Jun-2002