Ringing in 149th Anniversary with CannonsSix replica cannons were fired at the Chickamauga Battlefield on Saturday in honor of the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga.
IF YOU GO
What: "Cannons Roar Again at Chickamauga"
Where: Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
When: Today at 10 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:45 p.m., 2:45 p.m.
To learn more: www.nps.gov/chch
Seven hundred men charged out of the woods at Poe Field on the banks of Chickamauga Creek on a day in September of 1863.
Just days after losing Chattanooga to Union troops, the men -- teenagers, brothers, friends, fathers -- fought to stop the Union advance into North Georgia.
They stormed out from the cover of the trees -- and came face-to-face with 18 Union cannons.
"They're marching up against hell incarnate, and they are just shot to pieces," said Chattanooga and Chickamauga National Military Park Ranger Will Sunderland.
More than 120,000 men fought at the Battle of Chickamauga -- the Confederates' last major victory of the Civil War. After three days, 34,000 were killed, injured or missing.
That was 149 years ago. This weekend, six cannons are being fired again at Poe Field.
"We want people to think about what would cause someone to charge across a field into these cannons," Park Ranger Chris Young said. "No matter what side they were fighting for, what made those men put their lives on the line day after day?"
Young acted as a Union captain in the park's "Cannons Roar Again at Chickamauga" event -- one of several re-enactments and tours aimed at commemorating the battle's anniversary this weekend.
Two dozen volunteers and park staff in Civil War uniforms loaded and fired the cannons during several demonstrations Saturday.
Fifth-grader Garrett Bliek watched one demonstration with his mom and brother. He's learning about slavery before the Civil War in school, but watching the cannons boom, shake and spout smoke is not the same as reading about it in a book, he said.
"It really helps me imagine all the men around here and all the guns firing," he said. "This is a lot different, because you are actually seeing it in real life instead of having to picture it in your mind."
At least 350 people attended Saturday's events, Young said. The cannons were fired with blank rounds and less powder than Civil War soldiers used, he added -- they would have been even louder in 1863.
"When this battle was fought, the Rome [Ga.] newspapers -- about 50 miles away -- printed that there was a tremendous thunderstorm occurring somewhere to the north," he said. "What they thought was thunder was actually this battle, 50 miles to the north."
Karen Tierney lives in Massachusetts but was in the area and decided to stop at the demonstration because she loves Civil War history.
"We like the perspectives of folks from the South," she said. "The victors write the history, so it's interesting to hear these perspectives. I don't think things were as clean as we like to think."
The free 149th anniversary events continue today. Visitors can watch the cannons fire, take guided walking tours of the battlefield or chat with the park's living historians about life in 1863.
Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...