September again…

Today I am at Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park, and will be here for the next week. I will have the chance to roam the field on my own for a couple of days, and then at the end of the week I am thrilled to be a part of the Civil War Trust’s fall gathering, held this year in Chattanooga. I will be taking some preliminary groups around on thursday or Friday, and leading one of the bus tours on Saturday. Nothing would please me more than to be able to help turn the focus of CWT and of land preservation to these battles. There are opportunities to preserve core battlefield lands on both fields. I hope that we can encourage some preservation around the Reed’s Bridge area, an area of much crucial action on September 18th, 1863.

Jim Ogden and Glenn Robertson will be the lead guides over the weekend, and both will doubtless be busy arguing for that increased focus as well.

In addition to all that, of course, the park begins it’s annual commemoration in the coming week, extending up through next Monday and Tuesday. If you can spare the time, come see the CCNMP this weekend, and experience the programs and educational efforts the staff take the time to organize. The weather should be great (barring any new tropical storms!) and the field is in first-rate condition. Summer thinning efforts have left the woods in better condition than ever, and even the casual tromper can gain a much better understanding of the lines of sight, nature of the ground, and appreciation for the troop positions now visible.

Dave Powell

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9 Responses to “September again…”

  1. Brad Butkovich Says:

    Have they just thinned the wood’s deadfall, or have they done any clearing to restore fields to their 1863 appearance (like Gettysburg park)? Or both?

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Brad, The park has done a great deal of thinning to restore the period landscape. They have planted some trees in an effort to restore field size, but they have not done any cutting, which would be a much larger and more expensive process. Fortunately, most of the treelines in the critical areas of the battle are already in the right places, so only a few fields need more extensive restoration. Dave

      • Brad Butkovich Says:

        Thanks for the update!

        I have absolutely no knowledge of how these things work, but I wonder why a timber company cannot come in and clear cut areas, and just take the lumber as payment?

        It sure would be nice to have East Viniard Field the correct size, as well as Brock Field, though I can see where you can’t really replicate the recently cut trees north of the road. It would also be nice to see all the way from Snodgrass Hill to the Savannah Church and the McDonald fields.

        Hopefully one day I can make it to the March tours!

      • Dave Powell Says:

        Brad,

        First, there’s not that much valuable timber on the land, and virtually all of that really valuable timber (the mature hardwoods) is stuff that the park wants to keep, not cut. Second, the work needed to make a clearcut site “vistor friendly” again can be daunting, especially in grinding stumps and the like, all of which is labor intensive – effort that would also cut into any potential profit. Then there is the matter of policing the company – making sure they take the right timber, don’t overshoot their bounds, etc.

        I’ve let leases for timber-cutting on a property in Northwest Illinois, and had land management discussions with a Timber Rep (a guy who acts as your agent in such a transaction) enough to know that this all can get quite tricky if you aren’t careful. Having walked much of that land in the process, and having walked much of Chickamauga as well, I really think that any timber cut would produce only marginal revenue, not near enough to pay for the extra site cleanup a park site would need. Way too much soft wood pine, and too much of it dead, to really be of value.

        Dave Powell

      • Brad Butkovich Says:

        Thanks Dave! Good to hear the insight into clear cutting.

        I know at Pickett’s Mill they can’t cut the fields back to their original size because protected species of plants now live in the areas they would need to cut.

  2. James F. Epperson Says:

    Watch out for the Dermacentor variabilis 😉 (Remember them at Shiloh?)

  3. Mike Fincher Says:

    I understand that the Alexander Farm near Alexander Bridge was cleared field from the Alexander house to Chickamauga Creek in 1863. As long as I can remember (over 50 years), this area has been grown up and forested. It seems to me that clearing the woods and returning this area back to its wartime appearance would be a high priority for the park service. I wonder why it was allowed to grow up so much in the first place, unless it was already growing up during the 1863 to 1890 period before the park was established.

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Mike,

      the area grew up in between 1863 and 1890. There are now argument for and against clearing that area. While it was historically clear, re-clearing today would be a major undertaking, all for a part of the field that would get little attention past September 18th. The biggest argument against clearing, however, is probably the fact that now, all those trees act as a sound and visual barrier to the modern world on the other side of the bridge. There is a small housing development right at the curve, for example, that would suddenly become visible.

      In general, I think most would want it cleared, but it would touch off a complicated debate with the community.

  4. Paul Ghiotto Says:

    Have a great tour and time! Tell Jim Ogden that retired NPS ranger Paul Ghiotto (Chickamauga interpretive specialist,1975-78) says hello!

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