Sept. 19-20, 1863
THE BATTLE: In the summer of 1863, the Union Army of the Cumberland pushed deep into the Tennessee Valley, and in early September seized Chattanooga, a symbolic and strategic Confederate stronghold. The Confederate forces fled south into Georgia, regrouped, and met the Union army near a meandering creek, the West Fork of the Chickamauga. Two days of fighting left more than a quarter of both armies—about 30,000 men in all—either dead or maimed. Only Gettysburg produced more casualties. The Confederacy won the battle, but the bulk of the Union force escaped to fight another day.
THE PADDLE: The primary put-in for the Chickamauga Blue Trail is Lee and Gordon’s Mills, where the Rebels hoped to entrap the Union army. The run’s main takeout is 10 miles downstream in Tennessee. But the City of Chickamauga, pop. 2,500, has worked with other towns and counties to insert access points along the trail. Along the way, paddlers can view wildlife and enjoy the river. But it has another purpose: to transport tourists along one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battlefields.