NASHVILLE — The National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program has awarded the city of Chattanooga a $353,522 grant to support the purchase of 7.6 acres of land within the "core boundaries" of Chattanooga Battlefield fighting on and alongside Lookout Mountain during the Civil War.
The property, known as the Burns Tract, is on Garden Road, adjacent to the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center off Cummings Highway/Highway 41. It figured prominently in the 1863 fall effort to drive Confederate forces out of the area.
It is in the area where troops under Union Gen. Joseph Hooker launched a secondary attack that led to their taking Lookout Mountain from Confederate soldiers.
Christine Arato, program manager with the Battlefield Protection Program, stated in an email to the Chattanooga Times Free Press earlier this week that Chattanooga's role is supporting the acquisition. Once the property is acquired, Chattanooga's partner, the nonprofit American Battlefield Trust, will acquire a "fee-simple interest" in the property, which means it will own and control the property.
The trust is granting a preservation interest in the property to the Tennessee Historical Commission "to ensure its protection and preservation in perpetuity," Arato said.
That was scheduled to come before a subcommittee of Tennessee's State Building Commission in July. Efforts to reach Historical Commission Executive Director Patrick McIntyre and state architect Ann McGauran about what, if any, action was taken were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Funding from the federal grant program supports state and local agencies' ongoing partnerships with their nonprofit partners to preserve sites of historical significance while also conserving open space and natural resources. Awards are made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which reinvests revenue from offshore oil and natural gas leasing to help strengthen conservation and recreation opportunities across the country.
Jim Ogden, the historian for the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, said in a phone interview Wednesday that the latest action follows up on previous action by the nonprofit Reflection Riding to enter into a conservation easement so that if "heaven forbid, something developed where that nonprofit could not continue to manage and protect that property there that is Reflection Riding, it would not be lost to conservation."
Ogden said Hooker recognized Confederates were in position primarily overlooking where a road and railroad bridges crossed Lookout Creek at the base of Lookout Mountain where Cummings Highway and CSX rail tracks run today.
"What he realized was that they were susceptible to being flanked," Ogden said.
He conducted a demonstration on the slope between Lookout Creek and Lookout Mountain at Light's Mill, Ogden said. His forces succeeded with the troops sweeping from the south on north with his up-slope flank anchored some 1,200 feet against the bluffs and the line extending down the mountain.
Parts of that area belonging to Reflection Riding is being protected as well with conservation easements, Ogden said.
The Burns Tract covers some of the area, too, as well as Lookout Creek, where Union forces built a second bridge and joined their comrades.
"This 7.6 acres that is being protected is in the area where that additional crossing was made," Ogden said.
Scott Martin, administrator for Chattanooga's parks and 0utdoors, said in a statement that "Author Wallace Segner was spot-on when he said that 'The national parks are the best idea we ever had.'"
"Chattanoogans are privileged to live in a city that is part of this national park system. These national park landscapes are sacred lands."
He said "the city is honored to help the American Battlefield Trust acquire and preserve 7 additional acres of historically significant lands, upon which our nation's story was written."