Two days later my calves are still killing me, but it was worth it. My mom and I spent Thursday and Friday trekking across the fields and hills of the Chickamauga Battlefield during their 150th Anniversary event. What an experience!
We'd visited Chickamauga last spring, but didn't give ourselves enough time and didn't really get a good grasp of what occurred there. This time, we spent a full two days exploring the park and I now have a much better understanding of the battle and what my ancestors would have experience.
We started day one by watching the short video presentation at the visitor's center. It provided a quick overview of the battle that helped get our day started. We then went on a double decker tour bus ride, which helped us get our bearings on where the Confederate and Union forces were and how the battle proceeded.
Armed with a better understanding of the battle, we then went in search of the monuments that honored our ancestors. Chickamauga is covered with over 700 monuments and plaques. To help visitors find specific ones, there is a map in the visitor's center. We spent about an hour driving the park and visiting markers, though we weren't able to find all of them.
I have to say that after the first talk I was a little intimidated. It was very... military. Lots of "Stewart moved to the right" and "Rosecrans ordered Harker left." Um - who? But after a while it became easier to keep up, especially once we had attended a few talks (which built on each other). What also helped were the battle maps I had printed out from CivilWar.org. I'd left them in the car the first day, but made sure to bring them the second day. That way, when one of the rangers mentioned a general, I could consult my map.
During each talk, the rangers would walk us for what seemed like miles! But that was part of the experience. During one talk, we walked the same path that Longstreet's Corps did - the same path my my ancestors walked during the battle. I can't imagine doing all of that walking, and then having to march up numerous hills and then fight for your life. Walking the battlefield, combined with the information provided by the rangers, was an experience that really helped me connect with my ancestors.
If you have the chance to attend a similar event, I highly recommend you take advantage of the opportunity.