Friday, March 30, 2007
Yesterday, we visited the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Military Park which preserves a good portion of the areas where the battle for Chattanooga took place in 1863. These were crucial and viciously fought battles that ultimately saw the Union Forces prevail. The battles at Chickamauga, Chattanooga and Missionary Ridge were among those with the heaviest losses of combatants of the war for the number of those engaged. At the first engagement at Chickamauga, one Union Brigade lost more than 50 percent of its troop in two days of battle. One Confederate company was wiped out as it tried to assault a Union position equipped with muskets. It was its misfortune that the opposing Union troops happened to be one of the few equipped with the new repeating rifles that could fire seven times more rounds in the same time period compared to the musket. They refer to this as the fortunes of war.
In the end, temerity of the Confederate Commander and the vastly superior numbers of the Union forces finally defeated the Confederate forces at Missionary Ridge. This victory of the Union forces would soon allow the capture of Atlanta and control over much of the south by one of the Union Commanders at Chattanooga, General Sherman. He would become infamous in the South for his scorched earth policy. It would also be the beginning of the end for the Confederate Army led by General Lee.
Both sides suffered devastating losses in the battles fought around Chattanooga. After the war, veterans groups from both sides began erecting monuments. In all, over 1400 monuments are located on the battlegrounds. The U S Congress recognized the importance of preserving these sites and the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Military Park became the first of a number of such parks dedicated to the battles of the Civil War.
Even after 150 years, it is still possible to feel the immensity of these struggles and wonder at the commitment of the average soldier who fought and died for what they believed in.
As part of immersion in this trip, I have been reading a book entitled: The Personal Reminiscences of General Robert E. Lee. It is very interesting to read what General Lee and his senior commanders were thinking, as we visited the sites of the battles and have the advantage of historical knowledge of the outcome that they could not know.