Chattanooga area organizers, businesses like Civil War reenactment, but that mud ...

Chattanooga area organizers, businesses like Civil War reenactment, but that mud ...

September 24th, 2013 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Suttler coordinator Andy Fulks, right, and his daughters Ashley, center, and Kayla, from the Fall Creek Suttlery in Whitestown, Ind., pack up their supplies before leaving Mountain Cove Farms in Chickamauga, Ga., on Monday, one day after the end of the Battle of Chickamauga 150th anniversary re-enactment. Most of the re-enactors have left the farm, and cleanup of trash and other leftover articles has begun.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

After the Battle of Chickamauga, the second-bloodiest battle of the Civil War, about half a dozen soldiers lingered. They stayed behind to scrub from the field the remnants of war.

There, at Mountain Cove Farms in rural Walker County, Ga., the men discovered the typical supplies left in a soldier's camp. They found bacon, beans and firewood. But the soldiers also found other, unexpected items.

In the fields next to where uniformed men rode horses and fired cannons the day before, those who stayed behind scooped trash from picnic sites.

They also discovered leftovers from vendors who came to the battle representing places like the Georgia Winery and Chick-Fil-A.

"We're back to the modern times," event coordinator John Culpepper said from the field Monday, 150 years after the Battle of Chickamauga and one morning after a two-day reenactment of the event.

For years, Culpepper helped plan this reenactment. He and others involved said Monday they were pleased with how the event unfolded. They loved the backdrop of the North Georgia mountains, and they loved the participants' dedication to authenticity, the fleeting feeling that they were all, in fact, stepping two centuries back in time.

But others weren't so pleased. A storm brought about 2 inches of rain Saturday, and the rain brought mud, and the mud brought panic. Event organizers planned for spectators to park at the entrance of Mountain Cove Farms, but the grass lot was ruined, and any cars that drove there would have gotten stuck.

Instead, organizers steered traffic to dry hills, slowing the stream of cars entering the farm. Some said this ruined their day.

Deb Guffey, of Mentone, Ala., wrote on Facebook that she waited in traffic for two hours. When she finally arrived, members of the Georgia State Patrol told her she could only stay 45 minutes before they would start directing spectators to leave.

Larry Pujol, of Canton, Ga., wrote that he ran into problems earlier than that. He said the directions he found on the event's website took him to the wrong address. And once he found the right location -- and waited long enough to reach a parking lot -- the battle was over.

Organizers do not yet know how many people came to the reenactments Saturday and Sunday, but they suspect the first day's storm affected the overall attendance. Mark Way, the event operations manager with the Blue Gray Alliance that ran this reenactment, said he won't know the final figures until he can crunch numbers given to him from volunteers who worked the ticket gate, and until he can look at how many reenactors signed into the event's registration book.

A truck carries bags of trash away from what was formerly the Confederate Army re-enactors' camp Monday after the Battle of Chickamauga 150th anniversary re-enactment at Mountain Cove Farms in Chickamauga, Ga. Most of the re-enactors have departed the farm, and cleanup of trash and other leftover articles has begun.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

On Monday, though, he estimated that 6,000 reenactors attended the battle and about 15,000 other people came to watch. This event drew more spectators than the one that the Blue Gray Alliance organized at Gettysburg in June. That reenactment drew a crowd of about 5,000 people, in part because it competed with another Gettysburg reenactment that unfolded the week after.

Clear skies or cloudy, the Battle of Chickamauga still brought plenty of people -- and business -- to the area. Tommy Sprayberry, who runs an embroidery company in LaFayette called Pigeon Creek, printed event T-shirts.

He was happy with the amount of shirts he sold. He doesn't know the actual numbers yet, but he thinks he sold more shirts this weekend than he did at the Gettysburg event in June, when about 1,500 people bought clothes from him.

Visitors also packed Walker County hotels and restaurants.

Amanda Laveck, a manager of the General Bragg Inn and Suites, said all 31 of her rooms were full from Sept. 17 through Sunday night. On a typical weekday this summer, she said, visitors occupied about 15 rooms, and on weekends that number jumped to about 22.

For the first time in the hotel's history, horses stood tied up in the parking lot. And inside, reenactors filled the halls, the men in uniform, the women with their hair up.

"Just old fashioned, awesome, cool-looking stuff," Laveck said.

But she also said several travelers called asking for help. They were on their way to the event, and they wanted to know where spectators could park. Others called telling her that the event website's directions misled them, and that they needed help finding the battle.

Laveck could not help. She only moved here from Cadillac, Mich., about two years ago.

"I was more confused than anything," she said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com.