Archives of Catoosa County

Archives of Catoosa County
From the editors of
Roadside Georgia
Established in 1853. Named after Catoosa, American Indian Chief, the area was created from portions of Whitfield and Walker Counties and was originally part of Cherokee County.

Early Native Americans of the Woodlands period, predating the Moundbuilders built a stone wall on Sand Mountain in Catoosa County similar in many aspects to the one constructed at Fort Mountain.

Around 1000 A.D. a Moundbuilder culture known as the Mississippeans lived in the area. The Creek then controlled this area until the westward advance of the Cherokee forced them furthur west and south.

One of the earliest encroached areas of the North Georgia Mountains, the city of Dogwood or Dogwood Campground, (Catoosa's future county seat, Ringgold) lay at the intersection of 3 major trading routes in the territory. The old Federal Highway from Savannah met the roads to Knoxville and Nashville here. The land in the area around Ringgold was highly prized in the 1832 Georgia Land Lottery, in part because of the proximity to the Federal Highway. By the time the Cherokee lost control of the land in 1835 the city of Dogwood was the largest town from Knoxville to Savannah. It would hold this title until bypassed in the 1840's by Cassville, a town in Bartow County and Chattanooga. About the time that Ringgold was losing that title the Western and Atlantic Railroad built a depot to serve the large number of warehouses that had developed. The town expanded during this time to handle the increased number of workers in the area to build the tunnel at Tunnel Hill.

During the Civil War, the Great Locomotive Chase ended just north of Ringgold. The area saw much of the early fighting in north Georgia. In 1863, the county, along with Walker County was home to the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War, Chickamauga. After the disastrous loss at Chattanooga, General Patrick Cleburne defeated a much larger force under the command of Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker at Ringgold Gap. During the winter of 1863-64, General George Thomas, the "Rock of Chickamauga", made headquarters here for his Army of the Cumberland and it was from these quarters that he launched a protective strike against Dalton Dalton, Georgia historyin February, 1864. By the beginning of The Atlanta Campaign in the spring of 1864 close to 50,000 Union troops were stationed in the area.

The familiarity with the Chickamauga battlefield, its remote nature, and easy access by railroad made it an excellent training area for various groups of the military. As early as 1866 training was being conducted on and near the site of the battle. For the next 35 years this area gained favor with many high-level military men.

Efforts to create a national park to honor the men who died at Chickamauga were successful, and between 1890 and 1907 the United States acquired the majority of the land for what would eventually be called the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park. Men who fought in the battles helped historians mark and categorize the site starting in the late 1880's. Many dignitaries attended opening ceremonies on September 19, 1893, including Grover Cleveland, President of the United States.

The famous "Buffalo Soldiers", a black cavalry unit that had served their country on the frontier for 20 years were shocked by the Jim Crow laws in the county(and state) that restricted them to a second class citizenship during their stay in Catoosa.

In 1902 the federal government decided to upgrade the cavalry outpost on the Chickamauga battlefield and created Fort Oglethorpe. Barracks, stables, and marching grounds surrounded the officer's quarters, which still exist today (Barnhardt Circle).

Among the notables who were stationed here were General John "Blackjack" Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I and Captain Dwight David Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander during World War II and President of the United States, 1953-1961.

The incursion of the boll weevil in the early 1920's destroyed virtually all cotton, the major cash crop in the county. While the county had developed a fledgling tourist industry thanks to the Chickamauga battlefield and had additional economic support thanks to Fort Oglethorpe, the majority of Catoosa County was still an agra-business economy. The entry of the boll weevil devastated the county as a whole.

Catoosa County Courthouse, Ringgold, Georgia
In north Georgia the route from Chattanooga (and points north) to Marietta was called "The Old Spanish Trail" because it continued on to Spanish-held Florida two centuries before. Even when automobiles were first introduced the road was known by this name. In response to the rising use of automobiles and the regional depression because of the destruction by the boll weevil, the State decided to improve this path as part of a federal project to create roads over much of the nation. Much fabled in story and song, U. S Highway 41, the modern designation for The Old Spanish Trail ran from Copper Harbor, Michigan to Miami, Florida, through the heart of Catoosa County following the same route south of Ringgold.

In the 1930's the Booker T. Washington Civilian Conservation Corps camp was located near Ft. Oglethorpe. These young men worked on many local projects, including extensive work in the Chickamauga battlefield.

After World War II the county began a diversification of sorts. Although it is a bedroom community of Chattanooga, Tennessee, the county still has a booming agra-business flavor. The commercial centers of Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe provide much of the growth of the past 20 years.

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Catoosa County links


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