Study group tracks Bragg's route at Chickamauga

Sometimes the placards along the paths at Chickamauga Battlefield just aren't enough.

Members of the Chickamauga Study Group came from as far away as Ohio and Illinois for a weekend of intense focus on the route of Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg.

David Powell started the Chickamauga Study Group seven years ago. He is the author of "Chickamauga Maps" which chronicles a month of troop movements in 320 pages.

"I think for a lot of people it doesn't really come alive until you've been to a place," said Mr. Powell, a Chicago resident. The group visited Lee and Gordon's Mill, Chattooga Academy and other sites around Walker and Catoosa counties Friday. The tour continues today.

Jim Ogden, historian for the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, began the tour by describing Gen. Bragg's circumstances on the south side of the Tennessee River in September of 1863. The Cumberland Mountains blocked his scouts' view of the Union Army, his commanders had inferior maps and units were scattered from Kingston, Tenn., to Tuscumbia, Ala.

"So now put yourself in the mindset of Braxton Bragg," Mr. Ogden said before sending the group to the tour bus. "You're confused and you don't know what's going on."

Mr. Ogden said the park sees plenty of Civil War and college groups each year, but the Chickamauga Study Group is unique.

"They really are here trying to further their already considerable knowledge about the battle or campaign," he explained.

Don Barnes flew in from Chicago for the event. He and a friend often travel to Gettysburg and other battlefields to take "deep dives" into specific topics. When they heard about the Chickamauga group online, they decided to dive in.

"Most tours are very general," he said. "This is a chance to get in-depth on a segment."

By noon Friday, this year's trip had already changed his opinion of Gen. Bragg.

BRAGG RESERVATIONBragg Reservation on Missionary Ridge, a unit of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, is where Army of Tennessee commander Gen. Braxton Bragg had his headquarters during the siege of Chattanooga, October-November, 1863.Source: National Park Service

"I've always thought he was a bumbling idiot but now I know he had some intelligence," Mr. Barnes said.

Harvey Scarborough, of Ringgold, Ga., said this was his third or fourth study group and there was something new every year.

"There's so much to talk about," he said, wearing a hat with a logo reading, "I'd rather walk Civil War battlefields."

"We've been to some of these same places before but talked about different things because we were looking from a different perspective," he said.