- The Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga and the Organizations Engaged, and: A Chickamauga Memorial: The Establishment of America's First Civil War National Memorial Park
The upcoming sesquicentennial of the American Civil War is forcing historians, both professional and amateur, to reevaluate the events of the war and the creation of America's memory of the events. Especially important is an understanding of how those who participated in the war chose to commemorate it. Not only did they honor their own memory and the memory of those fallen, but they offered a new interpretation of the Civil War, which became part of a greater American story. The University of Tennessee Press has added greatly to this conversation with the publication of two very fine works, A Chickamauga Memorial: The Establishment of America's First Civil War National Memorial Park, by Timothy Smith, and the reprint of three books consolidated into one volume, The Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga and the Organizations Engaged, by journalist and Civil War veteran Henry Boynton.
Boynton's work is well known to historians of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga battles. Published in 1902, it offers details on troop movements, relative strengths, and the significant battle engagements of those troops involved. Boynton argues effectively that the Chickamauga and Chattanooga battles were the most significant engagements of the war. It was also where he was wounded, while storming Missionary Ridge, as a member of the Thirty-Fifth Ohio Infantry. This fact may be a significant reason behind his argument.
The most important part of the reprint of this book is Timothy Smith's introduction. Smith singlehandedly returns Boynton to a significant place in the historiography of the battle. He accomplishes this task by placing Boynton in context, exploring deeply significant portions of his career as a journalist and Civil War 'memorialist.' Smith honors Boynton with no less a title than "dean of battlefield preservationists" for having conceived and almost creating by himself the Civil War Battlefield Memorial Park system (xiii). According to Smith, Boynton was a tireless researcher and writer, not afraid to draw into question the established legacy and military genius of such notables as William Tecumseh Sherman. His research and writings often brought him into conflict and even into court where he defended his work. [End Page 86]
In A Chickamauga Memorial: The Establishment of America's First Civil War National Military Park, Timothy Smith explores Boynton and others' efforts to create this first national battlefield park. The simplest way to describe the effort is as a tide which was led by one man, but swept the very nation into a new way of looking at the Civil War, its causes, and the significant events which took place during the conflict. The new Chickamauga Battlefield Park was created to celebrate the "bravery, honor and courage of white Civil War Soldiers," while ignoring the political and racial issues of the war (31). Both Union and Confederate soldiers would be honored at the park, which was the intention of the memorial from the beginning.
Most importantly, Smith argues that the Chickamauga Park established the model for many of the parks to follow, many of which borrowed heavily from the park's enabling legislation and governing framework. The fact that the legislation, largely written by Boynton himself, passed the U.S. House and Senate with very little debate in record time is a testimony to its universal appeal to the leadership of the nation. The establishment of the Chickamauga Park, dedicated in September of 1895, ushered in a new phase in the staging of American memory. The park promoted a rose-colored memory, free of racial and regional strife, where all Americans, North and South could look to be proud of their fighting men.
A Chickamauga Memorial is a significant work by a historian working at the...