Anyone who has studied American history during the Civil War era has heard of the Battle of Chickamauga even if they don’t remember much about it from reading their history books.
Union and Confederate armies fought here in 1863 in some of the hardest fighting of the Civil War. The fight was over control of Chattanooga (the Chattanooga choo-choo song came much later). But even in the 19th century, it was a major railroad center and was a gateway to the Confederate States of America.
You can read more about the battle and its importance in the article on the left hand side of the page.
The historical significance of the park was recognized by Congress. Between 1890 and 1899 Congress authorized the the first four national military parks: Chickamauga and Chattanooga, Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg. The first and largest of these parks was Chickamauga and Chattanooga. General H.V. Boynton and Ferdinand Van Derveer, veterans of the Army of the Cumberland, argued strongly for a national park to preserve and commemorate these battlefields during a visit to the area in 1888.
There is a problem though. Preventive maintenance and routine upkeep of the park at Chickamauga have been nonexistent or cut back.
The park has a budget of $2.2 million and it hasn’t gone down. But employees have gotten a raise and that money has come out of the park budget. In effect, while the budget has not gone down, the money available for keeping the park up has gone down about 5 percent.
The park manager said in a recent interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the budget went up in 2000 by $50,000 but the amount for maintaining facilities went down by $110,000.
The park consists of about 8000 acres is visited by about one million people each year but no work has been done on roads since 1996, hiking trails are overgrown and some of the monuments are falling into disrepair.
The budget has been hurt by the nation’s fight against terrorism according to a Park Service manager and money that would have gone to park maintenance is going to the new Department of Homeland Security.
According to the Times Free Press, the park has 666 stone and concrete monuments; 875 cast metal plaques; 255 cannon carriages; 48 miles of trails; 29 buildings and 27 miles of roads. The maintenance staff is down by three full-time positions and another three part-time divisions.
Employees at the park spend their time keeping up the areas of the park that get the most visitors so much of the needed repair work is outside the view of the public. But in some areas, monuments to an event no longer have a plaque to explain why they are there.