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Lightfoot player John "Sole Man" Neal bats during the 6th Cavalry Cup Championship vintage baseball game at the Barnhardt Circle polo field.

When the main drag through town is called Battlefield Parkway, it's not surprising that Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., has a rich military past. While it became an incorporated city less than 70 years ago in 1949, the area that would be named Fort Oglethorpe (in honor of Georgia founder James Edward Oglethorpe) has a past, making parts of the town something of a history exhibit. The area's history takes in the Civil War, and the Army post around which the town sprung up served as a military outpost during the Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II.

The Army post's former polo grounds, encircled by stately houses built for officers, today are the site of holiday celebrations, and Fort Oglethorpe is home to the southernmost installation of Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park and the 6th Cavalry Museum, which details the area's military history.

Chris McKeever has spent the past 36 years in "Fort O," as it is called by many. She's the director of the 6th Cavalry Museum and one of her hometown's biggest fans when it comes to its remarkably lengthy military past.

"Our military history and heritage is from the Civil War through World War II. And there's not another community in the country that has that," McKeever says.

She bursts with a sense of patriotic pride when she thinks about the city's heritage.

"The military history of the city and beautiful architecture of the post buildings and Barnhardt Circle — every time the wind unfurls the American flag on the Post flagpole it reminds me how lucky I am to live in this great country and the debt I owe to our veterans," says McKeever.

But it's not all about guns and glory — people have to eat and play, too.

McKeever points to Fort O's extensive walking trails, which offer chances to experience nature, as well as history, on the same peaceful jaunt. Quiet places can be found "along the miles and miles of walking trails that let you get close to nature, the Black Branch Creek and the blue herons," she says.

Not enough speed or challenge? Check in with Battlefield Bicycles and Outdoors' community bike rides, which take visitors through the city and Chickamauga Battlefield.

Youngsters of all ages can wear themselves out at Gilbert-Stephenson Park, and when the crew gets hungry, hit Park Place Restaurant for some broasted chicken, barbecue and the salad bar, McKeever advises.

BY THE NUMBERS

WHO WE ARE

Local Median household income: $42,355

Population: 9,839 (2016 estimate)

» Among all residents, about 39 percent are between the ages of 25 and 54. The smallest group by age are those over 85 — estimated as 246 residents — and the next-smallest group are those between 60 and 64 — an estimated 390 citizens — followed by 15- to 19-year-olds — estimated as 484.

White: 89.5%

Black or African-American: 5.8%

Hispanic or Latino: 0.1%

Asian: 2%

American Indian: 0.04%

Native Hawaiian: 0.02%

*does not equal 100 percent because of overlap.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

WHERE WE LIVE

Median home price: $189,900 in January 2018; $149,900 in February 2015

Median gross rent: $763

Source: University of Georgia Terry College of Business, Realtor.com, U.S. Census Bureau

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Meg Mitchell creates a drawing with sidewalk chalk during an interactive art walk pop-up event at Gilbert-Stephenson Park.

OUR SCHOOLS

Battlefield Primary (preK-2)

Population: 575

Report Card (limited data; most recent year, 2014): Schoolwide grade A

Battlefield Elementary

Population: 454

Report Card: Schoolwide grade C (76.4)

» Overall performance is higher than 56% of schools in Georgia.

» Academic growth is higher than 71% of schools in Georgia and higher than the surrounding district.

» Among third-graders, 671.7% are reading at or above grade level target.

Lakeview Middle

Population: 764

Report Card: Schoolwide grade C (77.1)

» Overall performance is higher than 58% of schools in Georgia, similar to district.

» Academic growth is higher than 85% of schools in Georgia, similar to district.

» Among eighth-graders, 69.9% are reading at or above grade level target.

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High

Population: 945

Report Card: Schoolwide grade B (84.7)

» Overall performance is higher than 78% of the schools in Georgia.

» Academic growth is higher than 99% of schools in Georgia and higher than the district.

» Four-year graduation rate is 77.7%, which is higher than 23% of high schools in Georgia, though lower than the district.

» 52.4% of graduates are "college ready."

Catoosa Performance Learning Center

The goal of the Catoosa Performance Learning Center is to graduate students who possess the necessary skills for success in post-secondary education and the workplace by providing an optional, unique learning environment that is both caring and challenging.

The Performance Learning Center was created in 2004 to serve students in high school who were at risk for graduating from high school. The school began with 75 students and can now serve approximately 120 students.

The school's enrollment fluctuates almost daily, but the average number of students enrolled is 110. The staff consists of the principal, six core subject area teachers, one special education teacher assisted by a paraprofessional, and a full-time guidance counselor.

Source: Georgia 2017 School Report Card

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Justin Crosby rides his bike near Chickamauga Battlefield's Wilder Tower.

WHAT WE DO FOR FUN

Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park

The 5,300-acre Georgia piece of this internationally known federal military park, the Chickamauga Battlefield, lies in Fort Oglethorpe and mostly in Catoosa County, though portions of the park also lie in neighboring Walker County. The park preserves the battlefield where Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg and Union Gen. William Rosecrans faced off in the summer of 1863. There were more than 34,000 casualties in the three-day bloodbath that would become known as the Battle of Chickamauga, where the Confederates tallied their last major victory of the Civil War.

The Visitor Center is near the north entrance to the park at 3370 Lafayette Road. Open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the center contains museum exhibits as well as the Fuller Gun Collection, and an orientation film is shown every half hour. The battlefield has hundreds of monuments and markers telling the stories of Civil War action between the Union and Confederacy.

Visitors can tour the park on their own or join a tour guided by a park ranger. There are driving roads and foot, bike and horse paths throughout the park. 3370 Lafayette Road. Call 706-866-9241.

Gilbert-Stephenson Park

Offers walking tracks, tennis courts, swimming pool, playground and picnic tables. The park also has a public pool that opens the Saturday before Memorial Day. The pool can be rented for private parties. Corner of Van Cleve and Norris streets. Call 706-866-5045.

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The lieutenant's quarters at Barnhardt Circle are lit up during a Candlelight Tour of Homes.
Barnhardt Circle

Home to the city's historic district. Today, 21 historic captains' quarters built between 1900 and 1906 outline Barnhardt Circle, with the former parade grounds as centerpiece. There are five ballfields on the north end of the property. Located a block off of Lafayette Road at Harker Road.

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A worker at the 6th Cavalry Museum demonstrates the features of a 1944 Willys MB Jeep.
6th Cavalry Museum

Tells the story of the "Fighting Sixth" Cavalry, which traces its beginnings back to 1861 and was stationed at The Post at Fort Oglethorpe from 1919 to 1942. 6 Barnhardt Circle. Call 706-861-2860.

Source: FortOgov.com, Catoosa.com, National Park Service

DETAILS


BIG EVENT: Annual Christmas parade is held the first Saturday in December.

CITY SERVICES: The Fort Oglethorpe City Council is made up of six seats: mayor, mayor pro tem and four council representatives. The council meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6 p.m. City Hall is at 500 City Hall Drive and can been reached at 706-866-2544.

GET INVOLVED: The Kiwanis Club of Fort Oglethorpe meets every Friday at noon at Park Place Restaurant. Contact Paul R. Cook for more information at gagolfdawg@comcast.net.

HELP AVAILABLE: The Catoosa Prevention Initiative is a community movement dedicated to helping teens and children avoid problems related to underage drinking and prescription drug abuse and misuse in people ages 12-25. The initiative can be reached at 706-935-5018. The office is in nearby Ringgold.

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