Drizzle turns parking areas, roads slick and slippery at Battle of Chickamauga reenactment

Drizzle turns parking areas, roads slick and slippery at Battle of Chickamauga reenactment

September 22nd, 2013 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News


What: 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga. The battle action starts at 2 p.m. and features Longstreet's breakthrough, Snodgrass Hill and Forrest's attack on Steedman.

Where: Mountain Cove Farms, 838 Dougherty Gap Road, Chickamauga, Ga.

Admission: $10

Website: www.150thanniversarychickamauga.com

What to bring: Blankets for seating, cameras and binoculars, umbrellas, sunscreen and insect repellent.

Notes: Parking areas designated. Backpacks and bags subject to search. No alcohol or illegal drugs allowed.

Mike Schaller pours a tub of water into a collection tin at the Confederate campsite.

Mike Schaller pours a tub of water into...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Bonnie Pinkerton drove 220 miles from Bowling Green, Ky., to the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Chickamauga on Saturday and promptly got stuck in the mud.

Her husband's two-wheel-drive Chevy pickup couldn't handle the sloppy, mucky mess that was the parking lot at the reenactment.

"It got stuck big time," she said, gesturing to her mud-splattered clothing. "I had to push it out."

By the time the rain let up at 2 p.m., her legs and feet were caked in mud and she was soaked despite her plastic raincoat. Her brother's four-wheel-drive truck got stuck in the mud, too.

The morning's slow drizzle and on-again, off-again downpours caused delays and headaches for organizers of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga as 5,000 reenactors set up at Mountain Cove Farms in Chickamauga and about 6,500 spectators poured in.

"The rain has been a problem," said Randy Camp, Walker County fire chief. "It's making everybody slide."

Dirt roads and grassy parking lots turned slick. By noon, a line of cars stretched about two miles out the gate, bumper to bumper, some waiting as long as two hours to get inside.

"What caused the backup was the parking area being so wet," Camp said. "A car slid off, so they were trying to get it back and get some gravel over there. It took a little while to do that, and it caused a long delay."

Organizers ended up redirecting traffic to a backup parking lot that was higher on a hill and -- they hoped -- less muddy. But that funneled a long line of cars and buses through the middle of the main pedestrian area.

"The logistics would have been great if it had not poured down rain," said Richard Barclift, Chickamauga tourism director. "But we're dealing with it."

He hopes organizers won't have to use the backup lot today, because the weather is expected to be better.

When the rain finally stopped, spectators who had been huddling under pavilions and umbrellas emerged and milled around the reenactment site, watching blacksmiths work or ducking into an old-fashioned general store.

The major battle started at 4 p.m. with a long volley of cannon fire. Most spectators sat on a hill overlooking the reenactment to watch the cavalry, infantry and artillery duke it out.

But Stephenia Crowder, wife of the reenactment's Union general, got as close as she could to watch the action, pressing up against a fence at the groundlevel. She and her family have been camped out for a week and said they are having a terrific time.

"I think it's been laid out really well," she said. "There's a store, we can rent a cabin, we can take a shower, there's a covered pavilion for the ball -- they've spoiled us to death."

There were a few hiccups during the two-hour battle. A few reenactors suffered from heat exhaustion, said David Ashburn, Walker County coordinator. And early on, a Confederate reenactor fell from a horse while crossing a narrow footbridge. Camp said the horse fell on top of him and the man was taken by ambulance to Erlanger.

He said a few injuries are always expected when so many people gather in one place.

"There's 10,000 plus people here, so it's really a small town," he said.

That small town hit the two-lane road away from the reenactment in full force after the 4 p.m. battle ended around 6 p.m. Several law enforcement agencies directed traffic, which moved at a crawl.

Overall, many spectators said they enjoyed the day's events. Pinkerton said the mud and rain didn't dampen the fun. One of the family's great- great-grandfathers fought at the Battle of Chickamauga, and Pinkerton said she was glad they made the trip.

"We knew we'd get wet," she said. "We're still having fun."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.